AKI MATSURI and MAKING YUKATAS

The kids go to a Japanese immersion school as their primary school. In addition to learning the Japanese language, they also get to participate in cultural events. One of those events is called, “aki matsuri,”or Fall Festival. For half the day, we convert the school into different games popular in Japan during these festivals. At the end of the games, the kids parade around the school with decorative floats, chanting, and dancing. One thing that is very common for people to wear at the fall festival is a yukata. I’ve been told it’s like a casual kimono. The girls really wanted to wear one, but even after all of our trips to Japan, we had never bought them one. The basic garment is constructed similarly to a bathrobe. It looked simple enough, so I decided to make them one. I mean, I made an Elsa dress for Halloween before, I could handle this​, right? In the end, I was right. But getting there, that was the tricky part.

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MY KUKI FRIENDS: PART THREE

The much awaited part three of a story that started eight years ago…

Eight years ago I met some people in a random bar in Kuki, Japan while I was out on an adventure-seeking-night by myself. I got the adventure I was seeking both while I was out, and when I got home. (You can read about that here).

I had exchanged e-mails with my new friends and a few years after later I met them again at the same bar and almost got lost and in big trouble… again. (You can read about that story here).

And now, after originally meeting them eight years ago in Japan, I welcomed them to Detroit with my family, and into my home!

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HELLO KITTY STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

My mom always made specially decorated cakes for my brother and me for our birthdays. That is one thing I wanted to learn and do for my kids as well. As I have gotten older, I have become less of a fan or your classic American birthday cake with either butter cream frosting or the Crisco based decorator’s frosting. They look cool, but I’m not the biggest fan of the frosting. But I have become a huge fan of Japanese cakes. They typically have less sugar and a gentler, milder taste. I first made the Japanese strawberry shortcake a few years ago for Chloe’s first birthday and have been enjoying experimenting with variations ever since.

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Shyabu Shyabu

2014_12_15aI love shyabu shyabu! It’s like Japanese fondue. This was one of my first meals that Aya’s mom cooked when I visited and met her parents for the first time 12 years ago. Other than sushi two or three times and some miso soup, I had never really had much Japanese food before I visited them, and I loved everything!

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Yakitori 焼き鳥 (Grilled Skewered Chicken)

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Yakitori is grilled skewered chicken. It can be any part of the chicken. I’ve had liver (not my favorite), gizzards (not my favorite), cartilage (definitely not my favorite), and the regular parts like thighs, legs, breasts, and skin (not my favorite either, but Aya loves it!). It’s one of my favorites and I always make sure we get some when we visit Aya’s folks in Japan.

One of my first solo dining experiences in Japan was with yakitori. Aya’s parents suggested a place where I could just look at pictures on a menu and order by number. That way it would be easier for me since my Japanese vocabulary is very limited. But hey, I can count to ten!

When looking at the menu I immediately recognized yakitori and decided that is what I would order. The only way I’ve had yakitori is with sauce. And that’s the only way I thought people eat it. So when the server asked me questions after I proudly ordered “hachi”(number eight), I began to panic. Why is she asking questions? I told her eight! That’s all she needed to know! Oh, and I only know how to say numbers, “yes,” and “no thank you” in Japanese.

“Do you want salt or sauce?” she asked in Japanese(and I only found this out later when I was telling the story to Aya and her parents).

But all I heard was a bunch of unfamiliar syllables that sounded like a question. After a long awkward pause, I looked blankly at her and said, “hai (yes).”

She looked puzzled and asked again in Japanese, “do you want salt or sauce?”

I straightened up and looked at her more confidently and said again, “hai (yes).” Only this time I added a ‘yes’ head nod so she would for sure know my answer.

“Salt?” she asked in Japanese.

“Hai  (yes),” I nodded again with a proud smirk.

Little did I know I was agreeing to “salt” instead of “sauce” on my chicken and was thoroughly confused when the skewered chicken arrived with no sauce. Why is it do dry? I thought. It wasn’t until Aya and her family explained this to me while they roared with laughter at my story that I understood what was being asked. Now I know. And I also know that I like it better with sauce.

So with that in mind, I used two small chicken breasts and cubed them instead of slicing them thin. I also cooked mine under the broiler in the oven. If you use this method, I think soaking the skewers in water for at least a few hours beforehand might be a good idea. Mine caught on fire (oops).

I served this with miso soup, seaweed salad, steamed broccoli with sesame dressing, enoki mushrooms sauteed in butter and soy sauce, and rice. Not a bad meal.

Oh yeah, and I made the sauce to go with it too.

RECIPES:

Yakitori (Grilled Skewered Chicken)