My family came to visit Japan for two weeks in February on a whirlwind tour of the sites. Unfortunately, the city of Sendai is not know for its hospitable weather during this time of the year; however, subsequent visits to Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Tokyo were much more pleasant (and warm; I indulged in setting the hotel room thermostat to approximately Caribbean-esque temperatures, as I was neither paying the heating bill nor having to make do with only a space heater). As this was my family's first visit to Japan and they were unfamiliar with the Japanese cuisine, etc., I of course attempted to introduce them to the most unique of culinary creations. Regrettably, the beef tongue was a no go (as I was not attempting to cook this time, it probably would have been very tasty). The "American Dog" sold in the local 7-11--an ingenious creation consisting of a hot dog and fried potato croquet in a bun covered in sauerkraut, mayonnaise, corn, bacon bits, fish flakes, and topped with mustard--was likewise rejected. However, they were introduced to Hiroshima okonomiyaki (a pancake-like omelet covered in fried noodles), various types of sushi, Japanese style pizza (the corn and mayonnaise variety was passed over), dango, and other delights.
Kelsey and I attempt to learn origami from a guide in Tokyo...the final product almost resembled a crane. If you squint. From a significant distance.
Another highlight of the visit was the lunch between my former host family (from the previous study abroad at Kansai Gaidai) and family. It occurred to me, as I attempted to mediate three different conversations during the lunch, that sitting two groups of individuals who do not speak each other's language and were already somewhat nervous across from each other and expecting them to communicate independently was perhaps not the most effective way of arranging this meeting. However, both parties did an admirable job (although my dad was confused by my host father's talking electronic dictionary, which would interject English sentences about Japan--Japan has four seasons--randomly throughout the course of the lunch), and it was a rewarding endeavor.
In other news; two friends in Sendai taught me how to dye Easter eggs--WITH ONION PEELS. IT WAS EPIC. Forget boxes of colored dye. This is cool. Peter and Kamila (pictured below during the March celebration of Hina Matsuri, the Japanese doll festival, and dressed in traditional Japanese kimono) taught me how to paint eggs with melted wax and cook them in water with onion peels; the eggs are dyed brown, while the areas under the wax remain white. We may have found our calling--decorative egg painting experts.
Peter and Kamila!
IS THIS NOT COOL.
We also attempted to make dorayaki, a Japanese pancake sandwich filled with sweet red beans. These were not quite as masterfully done as the eggs (I believe was some discussion that one resembled Winnie the Pooh, while another shaped itself to resemble a pyramid rather than a circle), but they were tasty nonetheless! For those of you who want to try making these yourself, here is a good recipe: http://japanesefood.about.com/od/japanesecake/r/dorayaki.htm. Hit the local Asian foods store and grab a can of anko, and you're ready to go!
On the research front, I have recently been fortunate to gain several interviews from politicians/scholars in Tokyo. I just completed an interview with the former President of Japan's National Defense Academy, and will return to Tokyo in a week to meet with a former Minister of Defense as well as the head of Temple University Japan's Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies. While this is fantastic from a research standpoint...this also means absolute panic over the state of my Japanese skills; particularly the honorific vocabulary. Back to memorizing the paragraph summary of what, exactly, my research topic is, in the hopes of minimizing the number of potential blunders. More on this in the coming weeks!