What is this I’m eating?

It’s amazing how many adventures come from very normal things. Like eating dinner.

I just got back to Korea 5 days ago. What’s the best way to get over a vacation, especially when you’re jet lagged? Go on another vacation of course! So I did, with my fantastic boyfriend that I missed very much.

Hold your horses, I’m getting to the food. First, some background material.

We went to Jeju, a volcanic island off the southern coast of Korea. Jeju is famous for a few things- black pigs, mandarin oranges, seafood, and many tourist attractions. First, to whet your appetite, let me tell you a historical story about Jeju black pigs.

We went to a traditional village while on Jeju. There, I learned all kinds of traditional Korean games, crafts, and old ways of farming. Perhaps the most difficult to wrap my mind around was the location of the latrine. Really fancy pit toilets were always located next to the pig pen. I hope you can’t see where I’m going with this because I want to surprise you: the pigs ate the poop! In turn, the pig poop was used as compost. The pig compost is put on the fields, which grows the food that the humans eat, which brings us back full circle. Nothing wasted. Oh, by the way, they’re called black pigs because of their color- not because of what they eat. Now before you’re grossed out, remember that Jeju black pigs are famous… because they’re really delicious. But these days the pigs have a different diet. Thank goodness because I ate black pork, and it was delicious!

For the next adventure, we’re going to head into the deep world of the ocean. Which is appropriate because we spent some time in the ocean before eating our dinner. I usually ask YongHyun what he wants to eat for a few reasons: (1)He knows what’s famous in the region that we shouldn’t miss out on. (2)He knows all the food names advertised on the restaurant windows. (3)He’ll eat more than me. So when he said he wanted to go for raw fish, I went along for the adventure. But it was a bigger adventure than my inexperienced sushi self was prepared for. I might have known when I saw tanks of fish outside the restaurant, including these guys.

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This is where I need your help. Who knows their little sea creatures? Let me know if any of our food looks familiar. Including those in the tank. We ate them.

YongHyun treated me to a traditional full course Japanese dinner. I’m going to try to use as few words as I can and just describe the pictures so you can experience the meal like we did!

This was the first plate they brought us:

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See that long, reddish food in the bottom right corner? It was moving. I ate it. It was chewy. So was the octopus, which is next to it along the bottom. The raw fish in the opposite corner was so delicious with soy sauce and wasabi- typical dipping sauce for sushi. The shell creature above the fish was soft and tender. The shrimp was delicious, but I didn’t eat the head like some die hard seafood eaters would. And see that flower? It’s a carrot. Next to the flower on the left is a small, chewy and tough ocean creature. It might have been cooked. Oh, and in the top right corner is fish skin. It tasted like nothing but had the texture of fish skin. I confess, I didn’t try that orange thing. It just looked slimy. But I’m proud to say that’s the only thing I didn’t try the whole meal! That about sums up my knowledge of this plate. What are those things?!

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With this, were little crabs, with the body about the size of a quarter. As per instructions, I ate the whole thing and crunched it shell and all. It was pretty good but hard to put the picture of the cute little crab out of my mind whilst crunching.

Next, we got a couple of plates together.

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Straight raw fish. Delicious.

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That same creature that was swimming outside is now at the top of this picture- on a plate. Underneath was ice to keep it cold.
More fish on top of rice, and kimbap- I think it had pork in it, not fish.

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Crab drowned in soy sauce. It had a good flavor, but too mushy for my taste.

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This was the last plate of the second course. I have no idea what anything here is, but it was all pretty bland. Which is why it came with it’s own strong dipping sauce of marinated onions.
I thought we were finished. Hahahaha, was I wrong.

Course 3 was the cooked course. This came out sizzling.

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Here you can see the shells, and when the shell is peeled off, you can see the creature upside down:

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I was a little apprehensive to eat it, and I even said it looked a little bit like a snail. But since it had been cooked quickly, the outside was crispy and the inside was like a mussel in texture. It was probably one of my favorite things of the whole meal.

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To continue with the cooked course were two fish. This one was sweet.

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This one was a little salty. Both favorite.
Also with the cooked course was donkas, or pork cutlet that is breaded with panko and fried. There was also tempura shrimp and sweet potato. These two things we didn’t finish because they’re greasy and not as special as fresh seafood. Plus I was stuffed at this point, but still eating. There was a soup too, but I didn’t eat much of it. It had vegetables and fish in it, with a spicy broth. I was too fixated on the two cooked fish to pay much attention.

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Last came the rice. The bowl it’s served in was hot, and fried it to a nice crisp at the bottom. I love the crunchy rice at the bottom. Those little orange things? Fish eggs. They kind of “pop” in your mouth. Like toned-down pop rocks. The rice was delicious.

Did I say last? I guess dessert doesn’t count. I was too full to take a picture, but there was patbingsu to eat. I think it’s Korean… anyway it’s shaved ice with sweetened condensed milk. Like a snowcone but better. Then, it’s topped with sweet red bean paste and sometimes rice cake and fruit. This one had pineapple and some other fruit, and the little rice cakes tasted just like marshmallows.

There you go, folks. Full course Japanese meal almost entirely from the sea. Yummy!

Don’t forget to guess at the identity of the dishes!

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Trip to Japan!

I recently went on a trip to Japan, and decided that it will be a great topic for my first vlog.  But first, I have to get beautiful.  Then, I have to edit.  Then, I will post.  But for now, I have my script that needs to be reviewed!  Any editors out there?

아녕하새요!  Hello everyone!

I recently went to Japan for 5 days.  It was an incredible experience, and I already want to go back!  Today, I’m trying out my first vlog to tell you about my trip.  I hate that word, vlog.  It gets stuck in your mouth, like at the back of your mouth and just sits there.  Maybe I’ll say video log instead.  Video diary?  Eh.  I need a cool name, possibly with a slogan.  I also have some very smart and imaginative friends, so please, help me find something better than vlog.

Also, before I start, I wanted to dedicate this video to my Gram. I haven’t skyped her in a looooooooong time.  And, she’s sick right now, so I just wanted to say 보고 슆어요, 사랑해요, and 빨리 몸을 회복하세요, I miss you, I love you, and get better soon!  That goes for you too, Auntie Bo!

So Japan!  I went to Tokyo for this particular visit.  Essentially, I left the 2nd biggest city in the world, to visit the 1st largest.

Let me assure you that just because Seoul and Tokyo are both huge cities in Asia, culturally, they are not even close to the same.  Please keep in mind I’m just going to be relating my experiences to the best of my perceptions and abilities.

After arriving at the airport, we took the express train to Shinjuku, which is kinda in the middle of Tokyo.  That’s where our hotel was.  We flipped a quick 180 at the hotel, because by the time we got there, it was time for dinner.

What does one eat while in Japan?  SUSHI !!!!!

Nothing against Korean sushi.  Sushi is sushi and it’s 맜있어요!!  Delicious!  But that sushi in Japan was amazing.  And it was a cute little place with the conveyor belt that goes around, and you can just pick off the plates that you want, and the sushi chefs are right there in the middle- It had 좋은 분위기!  Good atmosphere.

Later that night, we went back to our hotel, and I discovered we had our own hot pot and 녹차 (green tea)!  So of course I had tea before bedtime.

The next day, we went to the church.  This wasn’t a total holiday, we did have some work to do.  The reason we went to Japan was to renew our tourist visas in Korea.  Since we don’t make money, we have a 90 day tourist visa, which means my partner and I have to leave every 90 days.  By leaving the country and coming back, we automatically renew the visa.  But we also went to Japan to meet the congregation there, and see what another part of the Community of Christ is like.

After stopping in at the church, (more on them later), Renee and I took off to see some sights.  First stop: the Meiji shrine.  The Meiji shrine is a Shinto shrine.  Try saying Shinto shrine 5 times fast!  So I’ve done a little research on the Shinto religion, and here’s the nutshell that I got for you.  In Shintoism, the basis of their religion are spirits called kami: k. a. m. i.  This particular shrine is dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife.  It was originally constructed in 1921, but destroyed during the WWII air raids.  So they rebuilt it in 1958, with donated public funds.  So while it’s not an ancient history site, it’s very special to the Japanese people.  Because they paid for it!!!

So at the shrine, you wash your hands before you go in (if you’re a respectful tourist or a practicing Shintoist).  There are these huge walls that enclose this big open courtyard.  On one side, you can see inside where the spirits are supposed to be.  I didn’t really know what I was looking at, but NO pictures were allowed.  So I immediately had respect for that place, and I learned later that it was the spirit’s area.  In one corner of the courtyard, there was a place to write prayers/wishes/dreams on a board, then you could hang the board up.  There were all kinds of languages, and of course I read a few. All the while we were touring this place and snapping photos, there were people coming, bowing as they entered, and going up to the spirits place and bowing there.  It was a nice reminder that this place is holy to many and fully functioning.

Here are a few quick facts that were told to me to help me understand Japanese culture.  They widely claim to be unreligious, at about 67%.  Then there’s Buddhism that claims 22%.  Christianity boasts a whole 2%.  The rest are Shinto, Muslim, and other.  But Shintoism and Buddhism are so intertwined with each other and Japan’s history that they can’t be separated.  It’s not black and white.  For example, the majority of unreligious people in America celebrate Christmas.  They’re celebrating all right, but not Jesus.  Even many Christian Americans would say that they celebrate family, and getting together, and being generous, and love, instead of just Jesus’ birth.  It’s a part of the culture to celebrate Christmas in these ways.  Same in Japan.  Japanese Buddhism and Shintoism are so inbedded in the culture that the unreligious 67% are in this gray area where there’s much more religion then an outsider might think.

After the shrine, we went to Harajuku.  Harajuku is the young people’s fashion street of Tokyo.  This is where the magic happens.  Fashion is also one of the most striking surface differences between Japan and Korea.  In Korea, most people want to blend in with the crowds, be generally the same, and form the fashion culture of Korea together en masse.  In Japan, they want to stand out, they want to be seen, they want to show off individually.  This was definitely the place to buy your clothes to do just that.  I actually bought some socks there, these are my favorite.  And this scarf.

After harajuku, we went up to the observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building.  They say you can see Mt. Fuji from there, but by the time we got there it was dark.  So we didn’t see it, but the city was absolutely stunning at night.  The lights went forever in every direction.

Later in the week, we got to see Mt. Fuji anyway, so it was a win/win!

On Sunday, we had a wonderful church service.  The congregation in Tokyo is small, but God is definitely there.  I was blown away with the kindness I experienced.  I had my birthday in Japan, and they took very good care of me.  I also had the pleasure of getting to hear some of congregation member’s personal stories, and they were very powerful.  The kindness in that group really touched my heart, and I have to say they are certainly very precious to the Community of Christ and also to God. Thank you very much for your hospitality and kindness! Doumo arigatou gozaimas!

To wrap things up, I also saw Asakusa, a famous Buddhist temple, and the Tokyo skytree.  The skytree is actually the tallest tower in the world, and the second tallest structure.  It didn’t open to the public until May of last year, so it’s pretty new as far as world tourist destinations go.

That was my trip to Japan in less than 10 minutes.  Since I’ve been back, I’ve been drinking a lot more 녹차, green tea.  감사합니다, thank you for watching and listening!  Please, help me come up with a name for this project so I don’t have to call it my vlog.  There may be a prize involved for the winner, so leave your suggestions!

안녕히 계세요!  Goodbye!