Every time I visit Japan, Aya’s parents always ask if there is anything specific I’d like to do or try. They have done an excellent job at showing me Japan beginning from my very first trip fifteen years ago. I’ve tried all of the most popular Japanese foods, and even some of the not so popular ones. I’ve seen the scenic sights and the city sights. I’ve gone to the hot springs, and sang karaoke. I even saw my favorite enka singer in concert! After all that, it still seemed like I had a list of things that I wanted to try. During our previous trip, I requested the KFC Christmas chicken dinner (it’s a big deal there). But now, it’s getting harder to find things I haven’t tried yet. That was until I discovered matcha.
We were at the farmer’s market the other day and saw these huge blue colored squashes I had never seen before. When we inquired what they were, they said they were hubbard squash and they’re delicious. She also said since they are so big, it’s best to throw it on the ground to open it up. Hmmm, I love winter squashes and I love smashing things, so why not? Even if it tastes bad, it would be four dollars well spent just to smash it. I decided to make hubbard squash soup to start with.
Cue the Smashing Pumpkin’s song (or in this case Smashing Squash) and let’s break this thing open!
Six years ago I wandered into a bar in Kuki, Japan. I was giving Aya some alone time with her parents so I decided to set out on my own. Feeling a little overconfident and wanting a sense of independence and adventure, I hit the streets loaded with about ten Japanese words in my vocabulary and a digital translator dictionary that I had no idea how to work.
One very popular winter fruit in Japan is a clementine, or they call them, mikan (mē-con). Are they the exact same fruit? Honestly, I have no idea, but I can tell you they are pretty darn close. Back home in Michigan, I love to get a box of Cuties and eat them three at time. Here, you can do the same thing, except you can do a lot more than just eat them plain. There is mikan juice, mikan flavored yogurt, jam, cookies, dressing, and cakes, just to name a few. They are even used as part of the traditional New Year’s decorations. They are so common this time of year you can see them growing on tress throughout the neighborhood. Mikans are definitely a sign of the winter just as apples are to fall in Michigan. And just how we can go apple picking in Michigan, we went mikan picking here in Japan!