Bamboo Magic

Due to all the staying home and home-office as well, I had the opportunity to study the growth of bamboo this spring. lol. This is mostly a photo protocol rather than a blog entry. Bamboo grows so fast it’s incredible. You can virtually stand next to it and watch it grow. You can read all about bamboo in wikipedia, so I won’t repeat that here, but did you know that bamboo is not a tree but a grass? 😉 And a bamboo “tree” can live up to 120 years, but does all its growing in the first 60 days it said elsewhere.
Since the stuff is not growing where I grew up in Germany, to walk through a bamboo forrest always and still has a certain “wow” effect on me. The thing is though, you have to maintain a bamboo forrest in order to be able to walk through it. If you don’t then there is no walking possible 😉

In the park where all the following photos have been taken, a caretaker sees to it that things are not getting out of hand. A few meters down from the bamboo grove are some other trees and a bamboo shoot peaked out between them, but the caretaker ripped it out soon, otherwise, I suppose the bamboo would have taken over that tree grove. One way or the other, bamboo is a very “cool” plant from the European perspective and thanks to the enforced home-office and my walks to the park during lunch break, I documented bamboo growth for the first time in my 20 years in Japan 😉

April 10

April 17
May28 – that’s the top of that particular bamboo tree, it’ll grow leaves soon!

Adventures in Cooking

Let me say this right up front – I cannot cook at all and I don’t really like cooking either, although I unfortunately like eating, 😉 I do like baking once in a while with that home bakery thing I happen to own, but cooking? Uh… So a tiny bit of positive stuff has come out of the stay-at-home because of that bloody virus, since I have expanded the number of menus that I am (kinda) cooking and I’m a tiny bit proud of myself 😉
Until now cooking meant: frozen pizza on weekdays after work, or just some toast or bagels with cheese or ham or smoked salmon and an instant soup, if always with raw salad, and fruits for desert (I LOVE fruits).
On weekends cooking meant whatever form of spaghetti, gnocchi, potatoes, or pre-cooked rice packs that you throw into the microwave and whatever sauce or curry packages that you equally throw into the microwave. Occasionally I made pancakes but that was the utmost of effort.
I’ve been a vegetarian as a student (but I always ate fish) and even though I do eat meat these days, I never cook/fry meat at home. Maybe I eat a slice of ham or salami next to the spaghetti sauce, but slabs of meat I neither buy, nor cook, nor want to. Due to all the staying at home, I grew tired of my choice of meals and browsed about in the Internet for meals that you can make in 15 minutes, since I know myself and more time investment will not (yet) be on my radar. I also bought again a (tiny, cute) rice cooker. I had one in the past, but stopped using the thing after the discovery of pre-cooked rice packs you chuck into the microwave and threw my old, clunky, huge rice cooker away when I moved last time (3.5 years ago).
So, here are some new meals I “discovered”. Variate the noodles and chuck ramen noodles into a frying pan where you cook them and add a slice of cheese to them in the end. Those cheesy ramen give a bit of a new taste and variation from the Italian noodles.

A new spaghetti variation cooked in the microwave with eggplant chucked into it and some bacon. I never, I kid you not, cooked eggplant before in my life, lol.

I do like kitsune udon and made it for the first time myself, for the first time ever buying “hontsuyu” (the soup base) and atsuage (the fried tofu) to chuck it into the soup.

And the highlight, for the first time in my life, I kid you not, I threw a piece of salmon into the frying pan, which was very tasty, lol.

I am also enjoying rice made in the rice cooker again, it does taste better and more “real”, if that’s the word, than the microwave packages after all.
So, let’s see where else my cooking adventures will take me and what else I might try. For now I am quite happy with the additions to my menu, lol, and bon appetit!

Golden Week at Home

Japan has a collection of national holidays end of April/beginning of May, which are known by the name of Golden Week (GW). It also happens that the company I work for closes off for the entire week around those holidays (using other national holidays on which we have to work).
Golden Week is thus the perfect time for a little travel and it’s easy to extend the GW a bit by adding one or the other day of paid leave.
I have made use of GW extensively and the last time I spent GW at home was 2010……… Alas… 2020 will be spent at home as well! I had booked a trip to my beloved Okinawa, but now cancelled it all, following the #stayhome directive.
I am of the kind who of course remembers having been on a trip to country X or island Y, but I do forget which year I went where. As a remedy I am in the habit of writing a journal and now it came in handy. I checked my journals and made a list of where I went every year during GW since the last time I spent it at home in 2010. The list is lovely and I shall bicycle around the neighborhood lost in memories of happy travels and island visits!

2011 – that was right after the big earthquake in Japan and I ventured out on my pre-booked travels to the Netherlands and the UK for sightseeing and heavy metal concerts in Amsterdam and London.
2012 – one of my most adventurous remote island trips so far. I went to the Ogasawara islands, 1000 km straight south of Tokyo in the middle of the Pacific. These islands have no airport and can only be reached by ship. One way takes 25 hours. The islands are insanely beautiful and I saw whales and dolphins during boat tours and in the harbor of Hahajima I saw sharks and mantas frolicking about.
2013 – I went to the island of Izu Oshima, not so far away from Tokyo and hiked around its central volcano, Mt. Mihara, which was great, but alas, my hotel was super crappy and infested with cockroaches, giant spiders and centipedes and I fled it one night earlier than planned.
2014 – No tiny Japanese island this time but a bigger one – I went to Taiwan finally after postponing a trip there for many times. I had a great time in Taipei and Kaohsiung walking around temples, skyscrapers and having good food.
2015 – Miyakojima. I rode around there with a rental car, sweating my guts out because of my fear of driving. But it is a wonderful island and I grew especially fond of the neighboring islands of Irabu and Shimoji where there is a fantastic beach studded with black rocks. Every day after the driving session was done, I went to an ice cream shop and rewarded myself after the driving stress.
2016 – Ishigaki. That time I tried with a scooter instead of a car, but found that to be equally scary and ended up not seeing much of Ishigaki island at all but hopping on boats every day to go to the surrounding islands which I explored on foot, with busses or rental bicycles. There was Kuroshima with 2000 cows and 200 people, Hateruma with a dream beach, and my favorite, Iriomote island with mangrove boat tours and hiking to waterfalls through the jungle.

2017 – something completely different! I flew to Moscow and St. Petersburg for sightseeing and heavy metal 😉 It had always been a dream of mine to stand on the Red Square in Moscow and visit the Basilica and the Kremlin. I enjoyed every minute of the trip to Russia. So much history and great people, even if they don’t speak English 😉

2018 – island time again, but not a Japanese one. I made another long held dream come true and flew to New Caledonia. Before coming to Japan, I didn’t even know about this place. I stumbled upon a flight coming from Noumea, had to google where that is and ever since I wanted to go there. Noumea is a wonderful city. I flew with a small plane to the Isle of Pines where is one of the most fantastic places ever called Piscine Naturelle, a closed off beach, where tropical fish swim around your feet in shallow waters.

2019 – Kumejima. Another lonely Okinawa island to explore. I had given up on car driving meanwhile and went around the island by bicycle up and down steep hills. The island has great beaches and stunning cliffs, but unfortunately the weather was not so good and lots of rain hampered the enjoyment, but that’s of course not the fault of the island.

So… what a nice list. I made great use of my Golden Weeks the past decade. I hope I can make equally good use of GW in the coming decade after spending the GW of 2020 in bicycle radius around my apartment! #stayhome #staysafe #stayhealthy