Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Who Would Have Thought Barbecues Would Be So Big Here?

     As the busy season at KEEP approaches, each department likes to have a little party and celebrate with some fun before the real work starts. In true Japanese fashion, they have taken the American barbecue tradition and made it their own! Since I work within so many different departments, I was fed well during this season. When you think barbecue, you think hamburgers and hot dogs and potato salad, right? Not in Japan! This is time to break out the flat top and grill up some yakisoba noodles and kobe beef! The one thing that remains that does translate of course are the libations that are involved when work people get together off the clock.

     The first barbecue I got invited to was for Seisen-Ryo, the hotel here. Now the guys manning the grill weren't just some guy from accounting that thinks he is a grill master because he has a grill set at home he got for Father's Day. No, these were the people from the professional kitchen at Seisen-Ryo that were cooking up our food. Nary a burnt hamburger in sight, we feasted on some of the best 'barbecue' food I have ever eaten! The party went well into the night and after a few drink we all got to talking casually about things and of course people wanted to practice English with me. This was the first time I really felt at home here in Japan.

One of the front desk staff starting up the yakisoba.

The staff from the kitchen cooking up the most tender, melt in your mouth meat I have ever had. 

Not your every day hot dog--heavy duty, stick to your bones sausage over here.

Local Kiyosato sake--the bottle is now a flower vase in my room.
     In the international relations department, since there are so many American interns, we wanted to show our Japanese coworkers and the other interns from France what an American barbecue looked like. The provided us with sushi and we showed them things we either missed from home or we thought were musts at a cookout. The day also coincided with probably my favorite Japanese holiday tanabata--or the star festival. The story goes that tanabata

"celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively).The Milky Way separates these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar". 

Pretty romantic concept if you ask me. One of the customs for this holiday is to write wishes on strips of paper and to hang them from bamboo trees. You can see these trees all around the city, even the local grocery store and J-Mart. This year it rained on the holiday, so not only did we have our cookout inside, but legend has it the star crossed deities couldn't meet this year. Tough break--there's always next year, right?
Obi-chan manning the grill. We told them we MUST have corn on the cob--of course we didn't have it dripping in butter. We couldn't go full American.
Of course there must also be sushi, right? My first time trying uni, or sea urchin. Japan finally presented me with a food I am not a fan of.
Jonathan, one of the interns from France, with our wine and potato salad and guacamole in the back. The idea that a food item is used to bring another food item to your mouth just blew everyone's mind. "I take this chip, pick up some of this green stuff, and then eat all of it?!"
Talk about fusion food.

Gon-san, Zack, Jaimah and me preparing our tanabata wishes.
Putting my wish on the tree!
I know my wish will come true--it already is!
The best wish by far came from Kazu-san.
     I am a firm believer that food transcends all language barriers. You don't need words when "mmmm" works just fine.

Until next time, 


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