Weekly Bento : WEEK ONE

this week's bento

We are midweek here in Japan, but since I have time and still plenty of leftovers to last me tomorrow and Friday, I thought it would be nice to just go over the bento of this week right now:)

As I mentioned previously, I will not be eating school lunches for personal reasons, so I will be making lunches each week. Hopefully I will be able to keep myself organized enough to continue making healthy ones.

So, let’s go over what all is in this bento, shall we? In the top box we have a green bean & fried tofu dish made with no extra oil (used the oil already in the fried tofu to cook it all), Japanese sweet omelet, bree cheese, vegetable eggroll, and two strawberries. The bottom contains white rice with a pickled plum in the middle and stewed eggplant, paprika, and salmon.

This week, I shall share one recipe with you, and that will be….

yum yum yum!

Stewed Eggplant, Paprika, and Salmon
2 salmon fillets
2 eggplants
1 red paprika
1 yellow paprika
1/2 cup of dashi
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
cooking wine

cut up the salmon into bite sized pieces and brush them with cooking oil
toast the eggplant and paprikas in a toaster oven for 5 minutes or until soft.
In a saucepan, mix together all wet ingredients (I actually added a bit of corn starch to thicken it a little)
slice eggplant and paprika into bit sized pieces and add to the saucepan for a few minutes.
grill salmon in the oven for 3 minutes and then add to the saucepan for another 5 – 10.

Rating out of 5

Flowering Viewing

While I did not get to do a proper Hanami this year as I did last year, one of my co-workers offered to drive me and two others to a man-made lake in Kawagoe where the cherry blossome were in full bloom and we had lunch. I took pictures with my regular digital camera, as well as some with my new phone that has different settings on it.


Another Light in the Heavens

I love you

Today, when I came home from work, I put my things away, called across the room to Hikari that I was home and then went about doing a few other things before I went to her cage to give her more of her favorite tofu.

When I did…I found that Hikari had already gone.

Her small body was still warm and soft, so she had passed away probably sometime after I got home…almost like she was waiting to see me one more time.

Hikari was everything that her name implies: she was my light. She kept me company when I was living alone and Jun was back in the States finishing his study abroad. She always came when I called her. Recently, despite her being unable to walk, she still always came to me and let me hold her.

She loved being outside in the sun, so Jun and I buried her under a tree in the front of the apartment complex. She is in her cupcake house that she loved so much with some of her favorite dried tofu. Now, she can rest knowing that she gave me so much.

Hikari, you were the best hamster I could ever ask for. You were always energetic and always happy. You really were my light when times were dark. Thank you and I love you.

To everyone who is like “SEPTEMBER 11?! That’s such a happy day” //end sarcasm//

It will be.

Consider, for instance, Pearl Harbor, which also had a huge impact on U.S. history. Dec. 7 is probably still a sensitive day for many Americans, but I think it’s good to realize that history doesn’t stop the march of time. Happy events do still happen on otherwise sad days, and life goes forward.

I am sure you are all familiar with the quote “time heals everything.” People are going to be born, get married, and there will be cakes and candles on Sept. 11, in spite of what happened on that horrible day in 2001. And as more and more years go by, people will keep celebrating, which won’t make Sept. 11, 2001, go away, but hopefully the happiness in the future will eclipse some of the tragedy from the past.

September 11th is a date. Just a date. That date in ONE year, something really awful happened. If you look hard enough you can find something bad that happened probably every day of the year.

I think it would be great to have something really positive and celebratory to associate with the date instead. Kind of making it about rebirth and hope rather than just tragedy. Celebrating the life and freedom that we have and honoring the heroism that was shown that day. It was an unthinkably horrible thing and a national tragedy, I think it would be good to reclaim that date as something positive and celebratory in life. I think it’s important that we remember as a nation and as people, but I don’t think it needs to be a day of mourning and sadness forever.

Doesn’t anyone else think it is time to take back the date? Remove the stigma attached to it? I mean, I highly doubt that people here in Japan are going to be looking at dates next year and be like, oh, March 11…big earth quake and tsunami…can’t do it then.

//end rant

Confused about Japan’s Nuclear Reactor? Here is something to help!

I know the subject matter may be laughable, but there is A LOT of truth in what is being presented.

This Month in 給食 – FINALE: March 2011

With this, my blogging about school lunch comes to a sudden halt. My school lunch ended on a high note as I was able to eat the 6年生の楽しみ給食 (6th grader’s special lunch) that consisted of apple jelly, fried chicken, two hashed potato star thingies, two sweet breads, and all in all yummy things.

I am not sure the reasoning exactly, although I think it has something to do with the power outages and not knowing if they would be able to prepare food as well as the gas “crisis,” but the city decided to cancel school lunch for the rest of the term. I am unsure what this means for the new school term starting in April, but we will just have to wait and see.

Distance from Power Plant

I am the blue dot

There, for those who think I am being naive and should be running for Okinawa or Kyushu right now, here is a map from the nuclear power plants to where I am located. Notice the nice big number up there with a 2 followed by some other numbers? I am well outside what even the United States is asking in terms of an evacuation radius.

What I find disturbing is that I woke up this morning, checked all my news sources, and read that hysterical Americans have bought up so much potassium iodide that there isn’t a crisis reserve left for Japan…

Not to sound mean and bitchy or anything…but…YOU PEOPLE OVER THERE ARE SAFE! THE RADIATION WOULD NOT CAUSE ANY DAMAGE EVEN IF IT REACHED YOU! There is a whole lot of ocean between Japan and the United States. Do Americans know that Japanese people are not rushing out to buy these pills despite them being in the immediate “danger zone”?

Update at 9:25 a.m. ET. You Don’t Need Potassium Iodide: NPR’s Jon Hamilton talks with experts about using potassium iodide to prevent cancer following radiation exposure. There’s been a run on tablets in the west, although there’s been no radiation danger there to residents. The Surgeon General clarified some comments she made on Tuesday; at first she described potassium iodide purchases as ‘precautionary’, now she says ‘she wouldn’t recommend’ it.

As I am sure you are all aware, the radiation levels are currently dropping. The radiation reading came to 279.4 microsievert per hour at the point roughly 1 kilometer west of the No. 2 reactor at 5 a.m. Friday, compared with 292.2 microsievert per hour at 8:40 p.m. Thursday, shortly after the Special Defense Forces discharged water from fire trucks, according to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

In other news, the power outages continue as well as the after shocks. I really do feel sea sick these days due to all the shaking – now partly being caused by really strong wind.

This Month in 給食: February 2011

This is rather late, but at least it is up now. I will try to get the March lunches up soon. Yes, I know that some lunches are shown twice, but between the 4 schools that I go two…repeats usually occur….which is disturbing considering that sometimes a lunch served one week shows up at another school the following week.

Just got power back after the scheduled outage. My area is in group 4, which meant that tonight the power was out from 6:30 to 10:00 in the evening. I ended up sleeping through it. All the silence was actually nice and I slept pretty well – which means I am wide awake now.

Earthquake/Tsunami/Radiation Update

I am going to quote a fantastic blog article that I stumbled upon this morning:

We seem to be in a situation where the global media coverage has caused more panic abroad than in Japan, which is remarkable. While the concern is touching, my fellow expats in Japan and I are spending a lot of time reassuring friends and family

You can read the rest of this blog article over here, but pretty much what they have to say is exactly the same for what is going on over here.

I am afraid that this may become long, but I will just give you all an overview of what has been going on here for the last few days.

The day that the quake hit, on Friday, I had thankfully taken the day off from work with all intention of taking care of wedding plans. Jun and I were on our way to City Hall to take care of some documents regarding my change in VISA status when it hit. At first, I thought that I was woozy from not having eaten lunch, but once I saw a table fall over, Jun and I hightailed it out of the building and to a parking lot across the street and waited for the ground, traffic light, and power lines to stop shaking. Every single bike in the parking lot fell over domino style. Shaking lasted a good while, and ended up being about a 5 in magnitude here.

After everything calmed down, everyone reached for the cellphones, but there was no service across the country. Jun and I decided to go back to the apartment to see if anything had fallen over and, this was mostly just me, to check on the hamsters. Thankfully, nothing all that big fell over – mostly things in the bathroom, kitchen, and photo frames, so we were able to clean that up easily. The worst was definitely my picture cards falling over…it really did look like a teacher’s room exploded. All my supplies were on the floor and that took a while to resort them.

Jun and I kept our eyes glued to the TV for the remainder of the day and late until the morning. Hardly got any sleep due to all the aftershocks and warnings on TV.

Once again, I am going to quote the blog that I used before.

Life here in Tokyo has mainly been affected by two things.

The first is a power shortage due to power plants outside Tokyo being damaged or taken offline. The nuclear plants in Fukushima are an obvious example. We are all being encouraged to be conservative with our electricity usage and for certain sections of the Tokyo area, scheduled power cuts are taking place. I haven’t experienced one yet. The biggest impact of the power shortage is on the trains. Tokyo’s trains do an outstanding job of transporting a phenomenal number of commuters every day. At my local station at rush hour, a train comes along every couple of minutes. The number of trains running was reduced dramatically on Monday meaning that crowding was severe and it was very hard to get into work. I’m very pleased to report that the situation has improved drastically and most trains are running very well today, two days later.

The second is a succession of aftershock earthquakes that continue to rock eastern Japan. There are a lot of these (maybe 30 a day?) and some of them are quite strong – we had one last night that was magnitude 6.2. They’re very unnerving but none of them have been as powerful as the first earthquake and none of them have caused any damage in Tokyo.

As a result of both of these things, people in Japan are buying all of the rice, noodles, bread etc. available in supermarkets and shops. There are empty shelves everywhere. As a friend of mine said, this is not a food shortage, it’s a food hogg-age. If you arrive at the shop at the right time, just after the shelves are filled, you can get anything you want. If you don’t, they empty quickly. I’m sure this is temporary and will end soon. We are still getting newspapers and deliveries to our house every day, even Monday. Everything works but demand for staples has shot through the roof and supply isn’t catching up.

The final thing I’ll mention concerns the situation with the nuclear power plants. Understandably, everyone is very concerned about this. Unlike an earthquake or a tsunami, the dangers are less visible. At the moment, the situation with the Fukushima reactors is not affecting people in Tokyo at all. There is an evacuation radius of 20km and Tokyo is over 200km away. I know very little about nuclear reactors and their dangers but I see no reason not to believe the official advice being given by the Japanese authorities.

Jun and I just went to the local supermarket, and here is what we found:

Yes, people are hording and it is rather sad considering we have plenty of food in this area. There is almost no bread in any of the stores as well as rice.

The other big scare is this radiation thing. Now, news all over the world is saying different things and I hope that all of you are ignoring the French because they are a bunch of idiots.

Once again, I refer to the blog. You really should all go and check it out. It puts everything better than I ever could.

The final thing I’ll mention concerns the situation with the nuclear power plants. Understandably, everyone is very concerned about this. Unlike an earthquake or a tsunami, the dangers are less visible. At the moment, the situation with the Fukushima reactors is not affecting people in Tokyo at all. There is an evacuation radius of 20km and Tokyo is over 200km away. I know very little about nuclear reactors and their dangers but I see no reason not to believe the official advice being given by the Japanese authorities.

I have heard some rumours that the Japanese authorities are playing down the dangers. Having spent a lot of time in Japan frustrated at the overly worrisome and cautious nature of the Japanese people on so many occasions, the idea that the Japanese authorities suddenly want to take risks with the lives of their people seems absurd to me. The Japanese are the most diligent, conscientious and cautious people I know. I often feel that they are overly so.

Nevertheless, it’s not just the Japanese who think that there is no reason to leave Tokyo or Japan. From the advice issued by the British Foreign Office:
# We are actively monitoring the situation at nuclear facilities and urge British nationals to observe the advice being given by Japanese authorities, including the 20km exclusion zone around the Fukushima facility and to remain indoors, keep windows and doors closed and not use ventilation if you are between 20km and 30km from the facility. This is consistent with the severity of the reported incidents across reactors numbers one, two, three and four, with the independent information that we have, and with international practice. We are keeping our advice under constant review, taking into account statements from the Japanese authorities and informed by independent UK scientific and health experts.

# On 15 March the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir John Beddington, spoke on the Today programme. He said that this was an entirely different situation from Chernobyl; and that: “the exclusion zone of twenty kilometres… is entirely proportionate.” He stressed that people should not go into the exclusion zone set up by the Japanese authorities. He went on to say that, apart from those living in the 20 km area around the reactor, there is no real human health issue that people should be concerned about.

So, I hope I have painted a better picture of my situation. So far, everything is alright and Jun and I are doing fine…minus a few things that have done some pretty emotional damage.

Number one being that the wedding has had to be postponed. Disney has made the decision for all weddings until April. Now, we have to wait for them to contact us and see what day we can have ours. At the earliest, we may get lucky and be able to have it in May…worst case will be that we will have to wait another year. I cried and cried about this as it came as a shock, an expected one, but a shock nonetheless.

The other shock is that Jun’s graduation ceremony has been canceled…not postponed…canceled. Furthermore, all the exchange students have been sent home – the same program I participated in in 2006 – 2007. I feel so sad for all these students who finally got the chance to study abroad, but now that has been taken away from them :(

School lunch has also been canceled for the rest of the term, so it looks like I will be starting those bento lunch posts sooner than I thought. I’ll try to get my final school lunch post up soon.


Just in case you were concerned, I am perfectly safe here in Saitama Prefecture. I will post a blog update about all this later.

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