Monthly Archives: June 2013

Japanese Food – Taiyaki

Taiyaki is commonly sold by street vendors making them fresh, a bit like doughnuts at the British seaside.

Taiyaki is commonly sold by street vendors making them fresh, a bit like doughnuts at the British seaside.

Taiyaki (鯛焼き) are one of the most famous Japanese sweets, and a basic description would be filled pancakes. They’re usually filled with azuki paste (made from sweet red bean, and shaped like fish (apparently the name translates as grilled sea bream…) although fillings have become more and more adventurous over the years, ranging from custard to sausage.

 

taiyaki

Tengu shaped Taiyaki, a speciality of Mt. Takao

Mount Takao – Tokyo

Mt. Fuji has just been granted World Heritage status, which is great and I’ll be writing about it again in the future; but it isn’t the only mountain worth visiting in Japan. Tonight’s (Wednesday June 19th 2013) Tokyo Eye was about a place that holds great memories for me – Mt. Takao (高尾山). We first heard about it on this same program before going to Tokyo on holiday in 2010, and I thought this is as good a reason as any to go through the old photos and put up a post.

Tengu statue at shrine

This Tengu statue is one of many outside the shrines along the mountain paths of Takao-San

The mountain is famous for being home to many Tengu, guardians if you like from Japanese folklore, taking the shape of anthropomorphic birds of prey. You can read plenty about Tengu from around the Internet so I’ll leave you to follow the link for more details, but one thing I always find interesting about them is that the more human a Tengu looks, the higher ranking they are and the more powerful they are. That said, even ‘human’ Tengu are recognisable by their huge Pinocchio style noses.

Any gamers among you reading might also be familiar with the miserab;y unfair final boss from Dead or Alive 2:

 

To get to Mt. Takao just hop on a traing along the Keio New line at Shinjuku. This is a private line and therefore not covered by a normal ‘JR’ pass, but it’s only about 370yen (about £2.50) at time of writing and the trip takes around 1hr 20 according to Google Maps. There might be better ways to get there and it’s becomming more of a tourist spot in recent years, but even in 2010 we had no problem finding our way there.

View Larger Map

It’s abundant in greenery and wildlife, and there are currently three trails that lead to the mountains summit. Along each walk there are a number of shrines, temples, statues and breathtaking views of Tokyo.

Also half way up the trail we walked is a rest area where they freshly prepare exclusive Tengu shaped Taiyaki (and yes, they are delicious).

So if you want to get away from the city for a while, or try somewhere of the typical tourist track, hop on a train and make a day of the mountain. Other people have written some great detailed guides to the history of the shrines and temples so I’ll leave you with a couple of links and a gallery of Diana’s and my own photos from our walk. I’ll be sure to update this post when we go back there later in the year.

http://aroundtokyo.net/blog/2012/11/20/mount-takao-hiking-in-the-tokyo/

http://www.japantoday.com/category/travel/view/mt-takao-a-fun-day-trip-from-tokyo

A festival of cute?

Watching NHK we often discover festivals and events we would otherwise miss. One of these was Kawaii Matsuri, a two day festival with music, fashion shows and a tonne of other stuff that falls under the banner of cute and cool. Kawaii is a strange word as not everything directly translates as cute, but more on that another time.

This festival took place in April, and hopefully we’ll get to experience it first hand next year!

Working in Japan and not teaching English

It seems everyone I ask that is travelling to work in Japan has the same answer – teaching English. First of all, I’ve nothing against this, I think teaching is a great way to propel yourself into a community and whether it’s kids, or adult that want to learn more, the people you teach are bound to be enthusiastic and will teach you plenty of things about the country.

That said, it’s not for everyone. My next post will be about how my partner and I have been searching for work, the barriers we must overcome, resources we’ve found and what we would love to do (hint, we both love music and are quite creative).

If you have worked in Japan, know someone who is out there at the moment or you currently reside there I would love to hear from you as I prep this post, especially if you’re not teaching English, and if you managed to land work without first having a degree.