More Kit-Kat! :)

As some of you may know one of my favourite things about living in Japan was discovering new flavours of kit-kat chocolates. Japan has an impressive array of kit-kat flavours. I was actually told that every Prefecture has its own flavour but I only came across a handful of them.

Right before I left Japan I came across 2 new flavours: pomegranate and blueberry cheesecake, neat right? I have tied them both. The pomegranate one has very tangy taste that I have never associated with chocolate, the colour of the chocolate is also yellow and while it was a very new flavour for me, I did enjoy it. The blueberry cheesecake one was just way too sweet for me. It did however taste like cheesecake, but nothing like blueberry. I don’t have a very sweet tooth so I wasn’t a big fan, but I can see someone who enjoys sweet chocolate liking this one.

I’m not sure if the pomegranate flavour kit-kat is from a particular region, but I know the cheesecake blueberry one is famous around the Mt. Fuji area. Even the box is in the shape of Mt. Fuji. If interested in finding different flavour kit-kat one can go to any grocery store in Japan. Every couple of months based on the seasons, flavours will change. Foe example, in the spring you can find sakura (cherry blossom) flavour, or in summer you can find watermelon flavour.

Have you found any other interesting kit-kat flavours? Would love to see how many flavours are out there!

Blueberry Cheesecake flavour Kit-Kat

Blueberry Cheesecake flavour Kit-Kat

The top of the box.

The top of the box.

Japanese presentation at its best. Mt. Fuji shaped box.

Japanese presentation at its best. Mt. Fuji shaped box.

Pomegranate flavour kit-kat.
Pomegranate flavour kit-kat.

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The most exciting city: Osaka (大阪)

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People dining in Osaka.

In March we went to Osaka to once again see the Sumo Spring Tournament. As I have mentioned before Thomas is a pretty big sumo fun, which even the Japanese find funny because the popularity of the sport among the general Japanese population is definitely dying. Most people in the crowd at the tournaments are over the age of 60. However, sumo is filled with traditions that date back to centuries and has many ritual elements that can be linked to Shinto Buddhism, such as the use of salt for purification. So, for that reason alone I also have enjoyed learning and following up with the ups and downs of the sumo world.

We went for 4 days as I still had some extra holidays that I needed to take before leaving Japan. On our first day we went to Universal Studios Japan or better known in Japan as USJ. I have never been a big fan of theme parks, maybe because I had never been to one before. In my mind they are places where you can easily waste your money on extremely highly priced food and toys (which they totally are, but they are so fun!). Thomas really wanted to go though and many of our friends said that it really was a fun place. So we went and yes they were right, it was a ton of fun and yes I was right too, we spent way too much money on Hello Kitty merchandise and Spider-Man pencils, but hey when else will we be at USJ again, right?

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At the entrance of USJ.

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About to start our day at USJ.

Our first stop was the Spider-Man ride. It was pretty old school but it was funny to see Thomas mention the names of all the villains… haha! Then we went to the Back to the Future ride and I was feeling pretty sick when we got out of there. Too much up and down movement for my liking. The most fun was the Jurassic Park ride, which included some dinos spraying water at us and a big drop at the end. I have to say though, waiting in those lines really took it out of me. That’s one thing I do not enjoy about theme parks, but people say is part of the experience so I went with it. My favourite part was of course the Snoopy area. I have been a Snoopy fan since my childhood and love the comic strips and the holiday specials, so yes, I was super excited when I got to meet Charlie Brown and Lucy! This area was particularly cute and super fun for the kiddies. We even spotted a famous Japanese singer in the crowd. It was a very fun day and I am glad we went but at the end of the day I was so tired that I fell asleep in the subway like a 3 year-old after a big day at the theme park.

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A Sesame Street themed stall.

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Back to the Future the Ride.

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Got to meet Charlie Brown!

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The doctor is in…

For the sumo tournament we met up with 2 of our friends who came to Osaka from Niihama. Being their first time at the sumo they spent most of their time photographing the event. However, last time I saw the sumo tournament it was also my first time and I spent 2 hours taking pictures, so this time around I sat down, opened my beer, and actually watched the matches. After the tournament we walked around the Dotombori Area of Osaka which is the entertainment district and enjoy the nightlife of Osaka.

Osaka is a very fun city, filled with young people, a lot of shops and lot of restaurants! The locals love their local food which includes Okonomiyaki (a sort of pancake made out of cabbage with different toppings such as shrimp and pork and topped with a sweet sauce and nori, seaweed) and Osaka’s famous Takoyaki (they are balls of dough with pieces of octopus inside, also topped with the sweet sauce of okonomiyaki and eaten with toothpicks. In Japanese the word for octopus is tako, hence takoyaki). I will write more about these 2 delicious dishes in a later post. But I will leave with some pictures from our trip. Enjoy!

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A sumo inspired izakaya (Japanese pub)

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The back windows of restaurants.

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The world goes up in Japan.

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Walking through the streets of Osaka.

 

 

Earthquakes – An inherent part of living in Japan

Last Saturday we were woken up at the unfortunate hour of 5:30am by the town’s earthquake warning alarm system. Let me just say that it is not the kind of thing you want to wake up to.

I actually didn’t even know the town had an earthquake warning alarm system. Thomas said that it was installed after the March 2011  Tohoku earthquake and tsunami disaster in Fukushima Prefecture. I must remember to ask him how he obtained this information because I certainly didn’t know. This new alarm system is a high-pitched noise and then a man begins speaking in fast Japanese, telling you basically that an earthquake is coming. After that all you got to do is wait.

Oh, but not also were we woken up by the town’s alarm system but also by our cell phones. Japanese cell phone companies have begun providing an emergency service that warns users of earthquakes. This is a very scary and loud alarm that is very high-pitched as well. At first I thought it was Thomas’ morning alarm to go to school, but then realized that his alarm doesn’t sound like that, so I asked him what was happening and then he said an earthquake was coming so we had been double warned and sure enough about 5 seconds later the whole apartment shook for a good 30 seconds. Being a 6.0 in magnitude and relatively speaking not very far, it was the strongest shake I have felt in my time living in Japan.

Being from a country where earthquakes are not common at all, I have to admit that the idea of earthquakes really worried me when I first arrived in Japan, but over the years I have learned a lot  about earthquakes and tsunamis so I thought I’d share some of my knowledge in case you are planning on visiting or living in Japan in the future.

First and foremost know your emergency exits. Even if you can’t read Japanese, follow the drawings and common sense. No elevators, use the stairs and most importantly do not panic.
Earthquakes last a very short period of time. I know in our minds they seem to last forever, but they really don’t. Most Japanese people will tell you that if is not a strong one, just wait for it to pass by. If is strong like the one in March 2011, go under a table, or a desk or a door frame. Also, know where your emergency meeting place is. Every neighbourhood in Japan has an emergency meeting place. If you don’t know, ask your landlord or ask at work and they should be able to tell you. In my neighbourhood, our emergency meeting place is the elementary school a block away.

One most also never forget that if there is one thing Japan is prepared for is earthquakes. In March 2011 the earthquake did relatively speaking very little damage, the tsunami on the other hand was devastating. Japanese buildings are designed to sway a bit if necessary and even sky scrapers in Tokyo are built this way. I saw videos of the earthquake in 2011 and it was very scary, but also incredible to see how much those building swayed around, yet none fell down.

Going back to the subject of tsunamis, the chance of a tsunami varies from place to place. I live in Ehime Prefecture and we don’t directly face the ocean. People have said that Ehime is one of the safest places to live because we have the Seto Inland Sea to the north and across the Seto is Honshu island. With the Seto Sea being so small, the chance of tsunamis are minimal. However, on the other side of Shikoku Island, where Ehime is located is Kochi Prefecture and they face the Pacific Ocean, so they have many more emergency plans in case of tsunamis. Once again depending where you are visiting or living, get informed. Ask your neighbours or co-workers what the emergency plan is and follow it accordingly.

Lastly, have an emergency kit at home. After the March 2011 disasters stores across the country began selling emergency kits with food, water, a flashlight, etc. Buy yourself one of this kits. Hopefully you may never have to use it, but better safe than sorry.

Remember the Japanese have dealt with earthquakes for centuries and from a very early age are trained on what to do in case of an emergency. While we may panic, they don’t. A rule of thumb I have come up with if we ever experience an emergency here is to follow the lead of my neighbours, whatever they do chances are is the right thing to do. Earthquakes are scary, especially if you are not used to them, but be prepared and informed and they will just feel like something that is ingrained in your everyday Japanese lifestyle.