I guess you have heard of the “food shortages” we have here in Tokyo? To be brutally honest, there were a couple of days in the beginning of all this when it was hard to find cup noodles, eggs, bread and milk. Still, there were plenty of other stuff in most stores, flour, vegetables and meat for example. Even canned food, which as most of us know, is what you really want in an emergency. It didn’t take many days for food merchants to catch up on orders and deliveries and now we have plenty of everything again. Toilet paper was the last to be fully restocked but it became generally available after about ten days of waiting. Here in Tokyo, the only sign we have of this disaster when it comes to food is a 40% price increase in eggs, due to a shortage bird feed. The earthquake damaged storage facilities used to store it. I forgot the exact figure but apparently we import staggering amounts of bird feed daily in this country!
The day after the quake, I went outside to get something to eat, but I was met mostly with empty shelves in the stores. Staff at the convenience stores apologized and promised that stock should be back to normal levels in the coming days. I have never seen these kind of sell outs, as convenience stores in Japan are famously over stocked at all times. I do hope that they prioritize areas up north though. In the affected areas many stores lowered prizes, and seeing people able to stock up on almost symbolic prices all over the country was just one of the many ways in which the fantastic spirit of the Japanese people made itself known. If I could have helped in any way, I would have.
Please read and reblog, repost and tweet my open letter to foreign media published earlier today. I feel that it is very important we balance the reporting in foreign media over this whole situation. There are far too many rumors and useless doomsday prophesizing going on right now.
Last time I cheked in Tokyo, stores are open, we have gas, power and water. We are safe and well. Tomorrow I will go to work as usual. Life goes on. Stay safe everyone, and take this opportunity to reflect on how well you are doing and how useless and of little importance all the crap we surround ourselves really are when compared to what we really have to lose.
All of these images are offered under a CC (Creative Commons license, you may print, use, alter or publish these images as long as you attribute them to Tokyobling, this blog). Higher resolution images can be request through contacting me at my gmail account or in the account section. My email address is name of the blog @ gmail. Enjoy!
What would a festival be without festival food? Much healthier, for starters. The food we have at these festivals are great for setting the mood. Sure it’s a little bit pricier and difficult to eat (sometimes they have seat though) but we still love it. If you’ve ever been to a Japanese local festival (a matsuri) you’ll know most of the standard food stalls by heart: takoyaki, yakisoba, okonomiyaki, yakitori, yakiika, watame, etc. There’s a few more standards, please feel free to add some in the comments section! You might notice the common “yaki” in many of these food names, yaki is Japanese for “fry”.
The first picture show the entrance to the festival, you can tell it’s really local by the number of kids bicycles at front. Usually there’s a few police officers around at all times during a festival but for some reason there were no people in uniforms for this one! The first thing you do after entering a shrine is to wash your hands and then proceed to the shrine to pay your respects. As you can see from the second picture, even the Gods got some nice treats this evening, sake bottles and (probably) grape fruit.
After that it is time to head to the food stands and check out what they have. Yakitori perhaps ? The chicken on the third and sixth pictures looks great, but by far the most appetizing smell was from the yaki-ika (see the fourth picture), for some reason fried squid smells fantastic. The girl was busy scraping the frying table when I passed by. I loved her t-shirt which I saw on sale at probably the most popular t-shirt store in Japan (at least with foreigners) Jeans Mate. Every time I have foreign friends in Japan I casually walk past their store in Shibuya and get about 20 minutes of rest time while waiting for my friends to finish shopping.
Back to the festival. Fifth picture shows beef and onion on a stick, fried to perfection. Well, the beef they use is not exactly tenderloin quality so it took some chewing but the choice of salt sauce or tare sauce makes it worth it. Tare sauce is easily one of the tastiest sauces in Japan and you owe it to yourself to try it at least once. You’ll be hooked. People normally use it on meats but if you are a vegetarian this is the perfect sauce to add to your barbecued veggies. A good opportunity to turn some meat eaters perhaps?
One of the stands had these pretty plastic festival decorations, you might notice the Japanese/Chinese character for festival in there. But festivals are not all about food and art, there’s games too! I think I have written about the “kingyousuku” before, the name roughly translates as “save the goldfish”, a very apt name. For 300 yen you get a plastic or wooden handle with a thin piece of paper attached. You task is to scoop as many goldfish (or sometimes, as in this case, turtles or crayfish) into a bowl. Usually the paper disintegrates in about 1.2 seconds, but some kids seems to have a magic ability to make it last. This girl got at least 6 or 7! I have never gotten a single one but the guys running the stand usually takes pity on the clumsy foreigner and give me a goldfish as a consolation price.
The last picture shows a takoyaki stand run by what must be a very dedicated father-daughter team. Takoyaki is octopus in batter, fried into a ball shape. It is easily one of the most popular Japanese fast foods with foreigners in Japan. But take care eating them, they are always too hot!
There is one adjective above all that currently sums up all things Japanese: “kawaii”, cute. In Japan, everything must contain a certain amount of cuteness or it is bound to fail. There’s even cutified dolls dolls in the likeness of the present prime minister! No celebrity (in Japan strangely enough called “talent”), no character, no company, no product, no food, no place can prosper without a certain dose of “kawaii”.
So I guess it was only a matter of time before McDonalds finally got the memo and jumped on the kawaii bandwagon. Their previous campaigns have been received very cooly by the dragon of Japanese consumers: high school girls. I wonder what their reaction will be to the new line up of kawaii McDonalds characters? Sorry for the lousy picture, my 20mm Nikon f2.8 lens wouldn’t go any closer.