As I mentioned in my New Years post, I went back to school. So far it has been great: Class is a challenge, but not too hard. Homework is enjoyable. I’m meeting funny new people, and they’re Korean and we’re forced to talk to each other in Japanese. I’m loving it.

They like Stevie Wonder and I like grilled meat, so we have a mutual respect for one another. We can’t say much, but friendship is more than words. Friendship is also teaming up against your teachers to pelt them with beans.

Friday was Setsubun 節分 in Japan, and being a student means I get to experience all holidays with the enthusiasm (and comprehension) of a 5 year old. Setsubun is the welcoming of Spring and the casting out of all things bad. According to tradition, you can keep the demons out of your house by throwing roasted soybeans at them out the door while singing おにはそと!ふくはうち!“Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!”

♫  Get out you bad things! Welcome in, good luck!  ♫

Another Setsubun tradition is to eat a giant makizushi roll while facing the year’s lucky direction. A compass is printed on the packaging to help you out.

We did our part, throwing beans and eating our lucky makizushi. Good thing, because I’ll need that luck for my test on Monday.

Cooking Party

Last weekend we went to a cooking party with some new friends.  We rented a large demonstration kitchen in a community center and all prepared the meal together.  Perhaps not the sort of thing to show up in a guidebook, but it was a perfect rainy season afternoon.

The theme was local and organic vegetables.

Both Dan and I were amazed by the burdock’s sticky-slimy demeanor.

On the menu: fish cooked with miso, makizushi (rolled sushi) with deep-fried vegetables, soup made with dashi (fish stock), cabbage with kombu (dried kelp), and steamed vegetables with avocado-mayo and sesame dipping sauces.

After the dishes were done we wandered across the street to a famous sweets cafe.

Oh kakigori season, how I love you so.

Kakigori is a summertime dessert made from finely shaved ice, topped with sweet syrup and occasionally, sweetened condensed milk.  This shop is famous because they get their ice from a glacier in the mountains (maybe?).  Don’t you dare call it a snow cone.

Clockwise from the top left, in varying degrees of meltyness: Fresh strawberry, very berry, honey milk, and fresh mango.  Please notice how this photo caught Dan in the act, stealing my mango ice.

If you’re near Kugenuma kaigan station be sure to stop by Kohori Noan kakigori shop. 3-5-11 Kugenuma kaigan, Fujisawa, Kanagawa