Sunday, 30 October 2016

IKEA Salmon Fair

Yesterday, I went to IKEA with Yiyin for their salmon fair! They're having a course menu that lasts until next week, and if you're an IKEA family member, you can save about 500 yen! And while the four dishes are for one person, we found that it was more than enough for two (or maybe we just have really small appetites).

Photo spot to get you excited. 
 The "course" consists of an appetiser, a main dish, a soup (salmon and potato) and a dessert (custard taiyaki with chocolate mousse and jam).

There are two types of appetisers and two types of main dishes, but if you plan to get everything as a set, there are only two choices - Set A or Set B (at least in the Fukuoka store)

The food was really good and extremely filling. We were bursting by the time we were done, and we still had more food to eat! So while we're at it, let's take the time to appreciate how beautifully the meatballs are arranged.

We also took another dessert, because we vastly overestimated our appetites. This is a caramel-toffee cake, but it had a fairly strong taste of coffee for me, so it wasn't really my favourite. I liked the other dessert a lot better.

If you're in Japan and near an IKEA, you should definitely go for this!

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Pom Pom Purin McFlurry and other snacks

I have definitely been eating too much lately, and there's absolutely no defence for it. I mean, I didn't have to eat these, but I really wanted to.

So recently, McDonalds had this collaboration with Pom Pom Purin and released a Pom Pom Purin McFlurry!


It tasted very much like caramel, though (the caramel found at the bottom of most puddings) with marshmallows on top. Definitely a sweet treat(: If I pass by a McDonalds and they still have it, I might get it again.

The second thing I saw was bacon potato pie.

Let me repeat that:

BACON potato pie.

Sadly, the name is the best part. While it's a fairly nice savoury pie, it definitely doesn't taste like bacon. More like... onions? I don't know how else to describe it, but it was not very bacon-like.

Last snack to share: I went for this month's baking class and learnt how to make flamboise mille feuille!

This was definitely good :D

Monday, 24 October 2016

Can Foreigners Wear Kimono?

I watched a video on what Japanese people think of foreigners wearing kimono, and it got me thinking (especially the comments, where some users disagreed).

Is the act of wearing Kimono (or Cheongsam or any ethnic clothes not from your ethnic group) inherently disrespectful to the Japanese (or Chinese or whatever group it is?)

I think the answer is no, i.e. It's fine for foreigners to wear kimono.

Let me make it clear up front that I consider the Kimono and Cheongsam to be different from the Native American headdresses, which hold religious value to the community. I think the closest thing to a 'religious dress' for the kimono would be the Hakama for the Miko, but there are non-religious Hakama anyway so it's not a huge deal. Also, I'm assuming that the person wearing the kimono does not intend to be offensive, even if they don't know how to put it on the traditional way.

Oh yeah, and I started by thinking about kimono, but I have the same thoughts for Cheongsams so I put in my thoughts on it here and there.

First, watch this:

This video is basically an interview with several Japanese people, asking them whether they found Katy Perry's Kimono performance offensive, whether they think foreigners can wear kimono, etc. I highly recommend you watch it because the answers given are very thoughtful.

And then you have the opposing views, where Asian-Americans take the view that anyone wearing the kimono/qipao/ethnic dress incorrectly is somehow 'appropriating' their culture (quotes because the academic definition is a lot stricter) and that no foreigner should be allowed to wear them because even if they sincerely like the clothes, it's probably because they're exoticising it anyway. (This is a summary of the stuff I've read)

For me, I have to objections to this line of thought:

1. What right do Asian-Americans have to speak on behalf of Asians?

I understand that growing up/living in a country when they're a racial minority means living with a set of challenges that Asians in Asia don't necessarily face, but that still doesn't give them the right to prohibit foreigners from wearing their national dress, especially when this heritage is shared with the Asians still in Asia.

The kimono industry is located in Japan, and the cheongsam (and hanfu and whatever) is located in China (if it has switched to the US, that'd be different but as far as I can find, it's Shanghai/HK). If the Kimono industry is happily selling to foreigners (and they consider it to be one way to save the industry), then I don't see why someone else who's not related to the industry gets to step in and discourage others from buying their products.

Besides, it feels an awful lot like cultural colonialism when the argument is "I live in the West and therefore I have more right to speak about this than you" (which is what I was told once, by an Asian-American).

1.5. They're contradicting/hurting the Kimono Industry

To expand on the second paragraph.

The kimono industry has been struggling because of a decreasing lack of interest (plus the price, since Kimono has to be hand-made). As a result, the kimono makers are actually looking towards the foreign markets and by claiming that foreigners cannot wear kimonos because of "cultural appropriation" or whatnot, they are actually hurting the industry.

(Apart from the economic argument, most Japanese really do welcome an interest in their culture)

2. We live in a Globalised world

2.1. Taking an interest in foreign cultures is good

Do you want to know how to make someone The Other? You cut off all contact with them. You stop others from getting to understand The Other, and they stop being a fellow human being and start becoming a boogeyman. Wearing Kimono is one way of getting to know Japanese culture (and can lead to other things, like tea ceremony). It is not the only way, but it is a valid way.

And to all the people worried about foreigners changing the culture, I say "that might be a good thing"

Like one of the interviewees, I think that new cultures coming out of two cultures are awesome.

I mean, think about it, Peranakan culture is basically Chinese + Malay culture (in SEA). Would this have happened if everyone decided to just stick to their own little world? Nope. And if something similarly beautiful comes out of more cultures mixing, then the world will be a better place.

2.2 You can't tell if someone has 'no right' to wear a kimono just by looking anyway.

So let's say you see a non-Asian wearing a kimono/cheongsam/hanbok/etc. That doesn't actually mean anything other than "oh, she's wearing an (insert ethnic dress)"

Because of the way the world is now, you can't tell if the non-Asian looking foreigner has not spent significant time/grown up in Asia. Or if they don't have connections there (not that you need connections to appreciate another culture). Or if they have Asian heritage or not.

Of course, this argument is quite weak because it presupposes that only certain groups of people have the right to wear something, but I think it shows that those people who attack others based on photos have faulty logic because you cannot tell how Chinese/Japanese/Korean a person is merely by the colour of their skin or hair

Other Arguments I Saw

3. "But you're wearing it wrong!"

For kimono, yes, you can wear it wrongly. But this is a problem that even Japanese encounter - such as wearing a casual (but expensive) kimono to a formal event. In that sense, it's a matter of education rather than wrongness based on your skin.

There's also the 'putting it on wrong' argument, which I admit that I don't really get. There are actually quite a few schools of Kimono wearing. Right now, I'm learning the 森田明美流 (heard that term once), which is a comparatively comfortable style.

There are also kimono shortcuts, such as pre-tied obi, kimono variants (like the kimono + Lolita combi) and various others. So what is the "right" way of wearing a kimono? I've seen little girls in a kimono+skirt combination in Japan, is this the wrong way? I don't think so.

So unless it's very clear that the kimono is being worn in disrespect, I think we shouldn't be hasty to accuse someone of wearing the kimono wrongly.

I mean, even if you want to go the "slutty kimono" accusation, there is the Oiran style which is meant to look like that. So who's to say the wearer isn't riffing on it?

Oh and incidentally, I was talking about kimonos with my finishing school once, and all the ladies there (who own kimono and love it) were like "you can do anything you want. Turn it into a dress, into a top, anything. It's better than letting it sit in a closet, unused."

4. "Ok, fine. You can wear the kimono while you're in Japan, but not outside (or to non-Japanese events) because that would be disrespectful"

This is another argument that I'm reluctant to agree with because:

1. I don't really get how simply moving to another location makes turns something from acceptable to transgressive (again, I'm assuming that whoever is wearing this knows how to wear it and is doing it respectfully).

2. Personal experience.

I think most of you would have remembered that I wore my 訪問着 to my cousin's wedding in Singapore.

Before the wedding, I was already aware of some blog posts claiming that to be a non-Japanese and wear a kimono at the same time was very disrespectful so to be on the safe side, I asked:

- My kimono sensei (at least twice)
- The kimono shop I got the 訪問着 from
- Teachers from my finishing school

If it was appropriate for me to wear my 訪問着 to my cousin's wedding in Singapore.

All of them said yes, and were in fact very enthusiastic about it because it would be a chance for more people to know about kimono (I even got extra lessons so I had more chances to practice).

Their only concern about it was whether it'd be too hot since my 長襦袢 is for Autumn/Winter wear. (And I'm sure if I tried to wear something casual they wouldn't be happy but that is more on dress code than on me not being Japanese)

Apart from my personal experience (and vested interest), there is one more thing. My kimono sensei is basically trying to convince people that kimono is not just for special occasions, but is something that can be worn everyday, for any occasion. She would be thrilled if people wore the kimono out of Japan, as she has (and as I did) because she wants more people to love the kimono too.

Stuff I saw on the Japanese/Chinese Internet

Just for fun, I decided to google the phrase "is it ok for a foreigner to wear a kimono/cheongsam" in Japanese and Chinese.

The Japanese results were mostly on "foreigners like kimono isn't that awesome?", so it's safe to say that Japan isn't concerned about the awful foreigners stealing their culture.

I also found a post on a comment site about the video I shared with you! The comments are the most illuminating part (the article is a summary of the video and a translation of a few of the comments from Reddit).

The comments here are a lot more varied, but overwhelmingly, and there were differences - like whether they agreed with the kilt analogy or certain terms - but they all agree that there's nothing wrong (or discriminatory) with letting foreigners wear Kimono.

There was one commenter who disagreed with a term a commenter used but then continued "but there's nothing wrong with foreigners wearing kimono".

Quite a few were along the lines of "the more the merrier".

A lot of the comments mentioned how they couldn't see a problem with foreigners in kimonos.

Oh yeah, and not everyone thought the Katy Perry dress looked like a Kimono (some said it looked Chinese), but even those that thought it wasn't like a kimono didn't see a problem with foreigners wearing kimono in general. (I notice that I'm repeating myself quite a lot :p)

And one that I thought was interesting went along the lines of "I don't care if you wear it as long as the stuff that should be tied is tied. Also, I don't care if someone says "I made this in the style of the kimono", but I wish people wouldn't be like "this is an authentic kimono because I spent time studying in Japan" no matter how similar or dissimilar it is to the real thing."

The Chinese results were more mixed, but the negative pages (which was basically the same page on different sites) more along the lines of "Westerners are too big to fit into a qipao" and the rest were on "why do people like it/what else do they like". Didn't see anything on stealing culture or prohibition (although it wasn't unanimously positive).

The Sociology Perspective

Second, cultural appropriation is real, but for something to be cultural appropriation, it has to fulfil certain conditions. So not every (perhaps most) accusations are not valid.

For example, the Boston Museum of Fine Art's kimono controversy was probably not cultural appropriation. The kimono in question was commissioned by NHK (which you may recognise as Japanese). A lot of Japanese-Americans were fine with it. Most protestors were non-Japanese Asian Americans.

Katy Perry's Kimono performance is slightly more complicated. Most Japanese are fine. Japanese-Americans seem to be divided. So, who are you going to listen to?

Obviously, the topic is complex* and could go into things like white privilege and whether a localised issue (i.e. What Asian Americans feel) should have global effects, but at its core, I really don't see anything wrong with appreciating and participating in other cultures.

Do you need permission from every single member of that culture (however that's defined) to participate in it?

I don't think so. (Aka don't let dissenting voices stop you from pursuing your interests). Just relax and have fun. Unless you intentionally try to offend, I don't think you have anything to worry about.

*For example, my friend gave the example that most Western people participating in Japanese culture wouldn't have power over the Japanese (especially in Japan). But, if they became a master at it (be it Kendo or Ikebana or Karate or whateveR), that does change things as they move into a position of power. But does this mean that you have to prohibit all foreigners from mastering Kendo/Karate/Ikebana/etc (but letting them be amateurs)? To me, that's rather ridiculous.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Huis ten Bosch Part 2

Hello! Back with Part 2.

While we were at the wine festival, they had a bingo game! So two of us bought cards, since we were sitting there (and there were prizes to be won)

Not the winning card
Since there are five prizes, they gave them out randomly. The prizes were labelled A-E, and everyone chose one bottle. The letter at the bottom of the bottle is the prize you win.

 So... guess what we got for dinner?

Prize - everything but the garlic bread
 We also took a break from all the wine to look at the flowers!

My ticket doesn't give me entry to the Palace Huis ten Bosch, so I spent most of my time in the little market leading up to it!

I've already seen the gardens inside, so it wasn't much of a loss. Plus, there were gardens outside! This one is by someone who has a very similar Chinese name as me!

And for a minute, I thought I found the seven-league boots, but it turns out they were just huge pots.

The last thing I want to share would be the illuminations! I probably share these every year, but I really do love the photos.

Especially the difference between day and night! Umbrella street is pretty all the time, if you ask me

Do you dare test your drumming skills in front of the world?

Ok, this is really just a picture spam, but at least it's a pretty pictures spam. And for some reason, my brain is absolutely kaput after one driving practical lesson, one theory lesson and a few hours of accounting. So I shall leave you to the photos(:

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Huis ten Bosch Halloween and Wine Festival

Hi everyone! I went to the Wine Festival at Huis ten Bosch with my friends! We actually went there a few years back, but not everyone was of legal drinking age then, so we planned to come again when we're all over twenty. So here we are!

I've got quite a lot of photos (and not that much time), so this post will be a two-parter. Today will be about the Halloween and wine festival!

Huis ten Bosch is totally doing a Halloween theme right now (and a cheese festival too, oddly enough), so for lunch, we decided to go somewhere with a special menu.

and extremely cute decorations
One of my friends chose the cheese galette (part of the cheese festival thing)

And I chose this adorable black risotto! It's squid ink with cheese, and the flavour of the cheese was stronger than I expected (which is nice because CHEESE). The portion was just right too - I managed to finish everything and was pleasantly full afterwards.

After that, we walked towards the wine festival. And there were lots of interesting Halloween decor!

There's actually a beer festival going on (not to mention the fact that the wine festival is going on in two different places), but we were only interested in the wine.

There are basically three plans: The first two are the "all you can drink" plans. One is for the whole day, and the other is for three hours. Since we're all not very good drinkers, I got the whole day plan because I'm definitely not going to drink everything in one go (we decided to space it out).

My band. Got to show that every time I order
 The third, which is what my friends got, is a card that lets you sample 5 different types of wine. This is pretty good if you don't intend to drink very much (I definitely drank more than five glasses, and over a span of 6 hours so I made my band worthwhile)

And here we are! At the tasting session!

The wines were definitely tasty, although we stuck mostly to the sweet wines. (And mostly white too, for some reason, we didn't really get the red wines).

The last thing I want to share in this post (because I have to get some stuff ready for school but wanted to start writing because if I didn't this will never go up) is that I managed to try one of the Halloween sweets!

This is a pudding and while it's not as good as the salt pudding from Itoshima, it's pretty good. Plus the cup is adorable (though I didn't get to bring it back - I think you have to pay more for that).

Monday, 17 October 2016

Lupicia Grand Marche

Lupicia is a tea shop and they had their first Grand Marche in Fukuoka this weekend! Obviously, I signed up ahead of time and went in.

There were quite a few people there, but luckily it wasn't very crowded. There was enough space to move around and not get jostled.

This is the first time that it's being held in Fukuoka, and I hope the sales are good enough that it becomes a yearly thing.

Since I signed up ahead of time (like a few months ago, because this is tea OF COURSE), so I got a door gift! They are cookies (which look good) and tea clips, which is going to be useful when I open up packets!

Reservation is free, by the way, so you've got nothing to lose by signing up.

The Fair
The first thing I saw was this cute retro car:

And the second thing was this corner of exclusive teas!

Basically, Lupicia shops have regional exclusive teas, which are all available here, in a special size! They have teas from overseas (I saw America and Australian teas) and from around Japan.

I probably should have gone yesterday, because quite a few are sold out already, but sooooo many teas to sniff here. And I love the labels.

But I stayed strong and didn't buy anything from here because I have so much tea at home.

Next to the limited edition corner was a Turkish tea booth! It sold accessories and tea, plus you can try the tea. I was very tempted to buy something, and maybe I will if they ever hold the Grand Marche again. Right now though, I've got to watch my wallet a little (especially in view of what's going to happen this week)

When I saw this I realised that I can organise my life around tea. This tea is meant to be drunk after 5pm and is supposed to make you more beautiful and increase 女子力 (feminity).

The taste was only so-so to me, and since it's over 1000 yen (even after the discount) I gave it a pass.

They also had scones that are not available in Kyushu!! This, I could not resist. I ended up buying two - milk tea and rich cream. I've already had the milk tea, and it's pretty good, though a little dry (but I ate it without heating it up since I don't have a toaster)

They have also had Te Mari, the tea that unfurls in hot water:

My bro asked to talk to me (when I called my mom) and when I asked what tea he wanted, he said "anything that changes colour there?" Since it was no, the unfurling tea is his second choice.

Of course, in my brother's case, he likes to watch the tea, and then I'm the one that drinks it :p

They have a matcha section, and I liked the strawberry and Acai one so much that I bought it! It's really pretty too. The Apple was pretty good as well, though I didn't try the chocolate flavour. They also had a recipe leaflet which I took just in case.

Oh, and Lupicia had a tie-up with Meiji AND THE MILK TEA IS AMAZING.

It's sold in conbinis so if you see it you should totally get it. I haven't seen it in the conbinis that I've been to, though, so I hope it's not already sold out.

They also had the Halloween teas! But I don't know about my feelings towards pumpkin flavoured teas so I skipped it.

The weirdest tea section had to be the one about tea made from vegetables:

I saw mulberry (which is nice) and some weirder ones like corn and um... Onion peel. Yes, onion peel. I tried that one, and it tasted like a tea version of onion rings. Not terrible but definitely not for me.


Apart from the tea buying, they had some demonstrations!!

One was on how to roast tea leaves (top is before, bottom is after)

Apparently, Lupicia sells this tea-pot-like thing that lets you roast tea at home. And the handle is hollow, so you can get the tea out without making a mess.

And there was a Chai demonstration!! The guy was quite funny, he was turning left and right to pose while doing this. I quite like this because he also talked about how to make milk tea (while telling us how to make chai). Obviously, Lupicia sells a set where you can make the tea from scratch and a ready made version. There's a non-caffeine one that has ginger which is good for pregnant ladies, but my cousin says she doesn't drink tea nowadays so...

Got some hot chai to drink. Soooo yummy

Eat-In Corner

Ok, this is not a corner but more like a food court!

Lupicia has a snack and food corner. Most proper meals were already sold out, but the patisserie section seemed really popular.

There are a few sets and they seemed quite nice, but I was... A bit out of money when I saw it 😅

And they had a 'Tea Bar' to sell TEA COCKTAILS.

There's an alcoholic and non-alcoholic version.

My cocktail - Rose Royal base (one of my favourite teas!) with sparkling champagne. And some other stuff. They did also provide the recipes for the cocktails, so I guess I can try to make it at home too!

I wasn't going to buy it because I had just enough money for the things in my basket, but then my mom replied my message and I ended up having to withdraw money (ran like crazy to avoid the higher charge but still had to pay the higher fees) from the nearby conbini so I decided to get it.

The cocktail was SERIOUSLY GOOD

Lupicia Haul

I hesitate to say tea haul because a lot of it isn't actually tea. And I forgot to take the macarons out of the fridge (yes, there are tea macarons and they are amazing. I tried one with the champagne - there was a sale when I bought it and it's limited edition).

Anyway, only the matcha and food are mine. The rest of my buys is for others. I can't believe that even with me holding back, I spent enough to get a free membership to Lupicia