Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Shrinecastle Holiday Tradition

Now that Thanksgiving is over and everyone is still full of turkey (or pork), it's time for me to dust off my old story about the Japanese tradition of going crazy for Kentucky Fried Chicken during the Christmas holidays. 

"Kentucky," as KFC in Japan is known, encourages customers to place orders early for buckets of its finger lickin' good product so everyone can enjoy this holiday tradition. There are even commercials about having Kentucky for Christmas, as in this CM from 2006:

Here's a video of a guy searching for chicken at different KFCs throughout Tokyo last Christmas Eve, only to find long lines wherever he went.

This holiday season, a new wrinkle has been added to the Kentucky for Christmas craze. Japan Probe reports that McDonald's is now in on the act, offering a "Christmas set" that includes chicken nuggets, two juicy chicken selects, and two shaka shaka chickens, whatever that is. 

Which fast food chain will win the hearts and stomachs of the Japanese this Christmas?

Thanksgiving Is Turkey Day, but I Prefer Pork

On Thursday Americans celebrated Thanksgiving Day, an observance that involves the mass consumption of turkey and other fixings. While turkey is enjoyed by one member of the Hamaker household, I deemed it unnecessary to spend the entire day thawing, prepping, roasting, and basting a large bird that only one of us will eat. We're not exactly traditional, given our past Thanksgiving feasts: In 2008 we made yakitori skewers; last year we ate our weight in beef at Gyu Kaku. This year, I made rafute, an Okinawan delicacy of glazed pork belly.

Pork belly (front) and neck bones
First, we went to our neighborhood Western Beef, which has a great selection of meat. We picked up a huge slab of pork belly and neck bones to boil in broth.

After boiling for an hour
Even though the meat looks a little gray after spending time boiling in water, it smells great. I know it will be delicious.

After glazing
Once the pork belly is mixed in a skillet with soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar, it takes on a nice glaze. This is what bacon should be like, except our cholesterol levels would rise exponentially. However, this makes me wonder what rafute would taste like with scrambled eggs . . .

Raftute and Okinawan soba
When it tops off a giant bowl of Okinawan soba with kamaboko (fish cake) and scallions as a garnish, rafute makes a delightful – if not traditional – Thanksgiving meal.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Posting in the Postseason

It's Thanksgiving Day, and while football is on TV, baseball is in the news. One of the most interesting Hot Stove topics – at least to me – is the ongoing saga between the Oakland A's and Rakuten Golden Eagles ace Hisashi Iwakuma. The posturing by both sides should lead to a revision of the posting system whereby a player can transfer from Japanese baseball to MLB.

I write every month for Baseball Reflections, and this month I wrote about what's going on with the stalled negotiations and gave a general overview of the posting system. You can read the article here.

Kleenex Miyagi Stadium - Sendai, Japan
Will Iwakuma pitch here again next season?

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Verdict Is In: 2 out of 2 Koreans Think I Might Look Half Japanese!

For the most part, I'm happy about who I am and how I look. However, I dive into a deep melancholy when people don't recognize that I'm part Asian. Every time I open my door to greet a delivery guy, invariably he speaks to me in Spanish. Then he's shocked when I tell him I don't speak Spanish. Which has inspired me to learn a little Spanish: No Habla Espanol.

No one thinks I could possibly be half Japanese; most people peg me for being Spanish (see delivery guys anecdote above) or Native American (although I haven't had to learn any Native American yet). Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I want my Okinawan heritage to be obvious to everyone, especially to the Japanese and other Asians.

I encountered several people of Japanese descent this week at a fantastic meeting for Japanese Americans in NYC. None of them thought I looked remotely Japanese.


Well, tonight, just mere moments ago, I had a breakthrough. The ojisan at the Merci Market asked me where I was from. (Okay, he's "100% Korean," he said, but I don't know how to say ojisan in Korean.) Anyway, I told him my mom is from Okinawa. What he said next was music to my ears.

He. Said. I. Look. Like. I. Might. Be. Half. JAPANESE!

So he said "might," but I consider it a small victory. My Merci Market guy joins my Park Hardware Deli guy (It's really called Chelsea Gourmet or something like that, but it used to be the Park Hardware Store. My husband and I can't bring ourselves to call it anything but Park Hardware.) as the only Asian people on this planet who think I have Asian features. Yay!

Several Places at Once

I'm not sure why I made the decision months ago not to work this upcoming weekend, but I'm glad. It's going to be a great weekend for people who are, as I am, obsessed with Japanese culture. So many things are happening across different platforms and genres.

As it is, I want to be in several places at once. Just when I think I have my itinerary planned, I read something on Twitter or in a text message with another event.

Here are the highlights:

Nobuko Otawa in Onibaba © 1964 Toho Co., Ltd.
Yes, yes, Halloween was two weeks ago, but Onibaba is a spiritual film! There are references to one of Zen Buddhism's Six Realms of Existence. Read all about it here.

This might be a lowlight, based on the gravity of the program. Nonetheless, Love & Peace 2010 ~ Revenge to Forgiveness ~ is an important event. It's a poetry reading, and the poems were written by people who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. Pretty powerful stuff. You can read more info about this and a related event here.

Unfortunately, the above event coincides with the one below:

Max Gimblett © John Savage
The artist Max Gimblett is leading a sumi ink workshop at the Japan Society. It's in conjunction with oxherding, his exhibit that is currently on display there. I'm not an artist, but I'm curious about this particular art form. Since I'm leaning heavily on attending the poetry reading, I'll probably check out Max Gimblett's website and this video produced by the Japan Society instead:

There will be music . . .

. . . from a veritable carnival of Japanese performers at The Eighth Annual Amnet New York Japan Arts Matsuri . . .

DUMBO Arts Center
. . . to hip jazz with the Japanese band Robin's Egg Blue and Alexandra Honigsberg accompanying on viola at the closing of an exhibit at the DUMBO Arts Center in Brooklyn.

Two documentary screenings at roughly the same time on Sunday afternoon:

Cineminga filmmaker Naomi Mizoguchi discusses training and working with indigenous people in Colombia on film projects.

Hiroshima Nagasaki Download makes its New York premiere.

I'm still debating on whether I'll attend the movie involving Hiroshima, but I'm definitely looking forward to Hiroshima style okonomiyaki on Sunday evening:

If you don't know what okonomiyaki is, you'll find out next week on this blog.

For more info on they myriad Japanese-related events happening at the same time this weekend, please click here.