Noriko Goes To Seoul (노리코, 서울에 가다)
Country of origin: South Korea
Director: Lee Gyo Wook
Noriko Goes To Seoul is a made-for-television, feature length drama that aired on KBS in 2011. In short, it is the story of a Japanese housewife who travels to Seoul in order to finally make something of herself, becoming part of one family, and healing her own. Of course, this being a ‘drama’-type production, there are many issues that our leads have to contend with; including the obligatory illness, a fight resulting from a love triangle, family issues and deceased relatives.
Our protagonist, Noriko, leaves her husband and troubled daughter for a few weeks to embark on a trip to Korea to meet her beloved ‘Hyun-chan’, a famous idol singer who will appear as a judge on the final of a televised talent show. At the audition she meets Min Ha, an obnoxious and talented young man intent on stardom, who makes money from ‘teaching’ others how to sing. The two become entangled with each other when Noriko begs Min Ha to take her on as a student, and despite the many dramas that befall our unlucky duo, somehow they manage to get Noriko into the final of the contest, and help each other with their demons along the way.
I have to start this entry with apologies, as usual. Although I know nobody reads this blog I’m still sorry for not updating more often. Recently my work has just exhausted me in every way - though I’m getting over it now.
Anyway, enough excuses. What I really want to talk about is my recent afternoon in Shin-Okubo. Shin-Okubo is the ‘Korea Town’ of Tokyo; a veritable haven selling idol goods, cosmetics, multimedia, and cheap, delicious food. While it may be strange for me to encourage any visitors of Japan to head to a place that celebrates a completely different country and culture, Shin-Okubo is well worth a look, even if just for a unique shopping trip.
Hello Kitty Hotspots in East Asia (Part 1)
While I’m more of a Rilakkuma fan myself, I can’t help but splurge on Hello Kitty items from time to time. For some reason, an oblong face topped with a cute little bow has attracted millions of fans from all over the world. Thanks to its immense fame and ubiquity, Hello Kitty merchandise can be found globally, but for the full ‘experience’, devoted fans have to head to Tokyo and other East Asian cities. Here are the best ways to enter ‘Hello Kitty Heaven’, from the truly wonderful to the utterly bizarre.
A list of Hello Kitty tourist attractions would not be complete without a mention of Hello Kitty Mecca, ‘Sanrio Puroland’ - an amusement park built just outside of central Tokyo that combines rides and entertainment shows under one very large roof. All of Hello Kitty’s friends are there for young children to enjoy, and of course older fans can go shopping for something cute.
For more information, click here.
And now for something a little different - Sanrio have created a Dental Clinic that pays homage to their most famous creation, kitted out in pink hues and with Hello Kitty herself peering cutely out of the window. The idea was to make going to the dentist less scary for patients, particularly young children, but of course, anyone can make an appointment to get their teeth fixed ‘Kitty Style’.
Their website fits into the pink theme in a big way.
My level: Beginner
Now I know that this is an English language blog, so you guys probably aren’t going to be that interested in an article on the benefits of studying Korean in Japanese. But hear me out, because if you already know some Japanese then learning this way seems to help comprehension immeasurably. (And of course, this applies to learning Japanese in Korean as well.)
1. Korean grammar is much more similar to Japanese than any other language.
When I was learning Korean using an English language book, I felt like I couldn’t fully grasp what I was being taught. One of the main pitfalls of self study is that you really have to learn on your own, so there is no one to explain tricky things to you - even basics such as the difference between 운/눈 and 가/이. I had a feeling that they were probably comparable to は/が in Japanese, but without confirmation I felt a bit lost. As soon as I used a Japanese textbook, everything became a lot clearer, and I can now use these particles a lot more easily.
[Another language that fits well with Korean vocabulary-wise is Mandarin, as the sounds and syllables of Korean words seem to match those of Chinese (and Japanese as well). However, basic Chinese grammar is subject + verb + object, so they may not fit as well grammatically. However, the way of describing and counting objects in Chinese and Japanese/Korean is very similar.]
Beef Stew Teishoku
My Dad made Beef Bourguignon with Roast Potatoes tonight. As much as I am a Carb Queen, I am on a semi-diet at the moment (aren’t all diets semi-diets? Unless you’re Gwyneth Paltrow or Madonna…) so I decided to have rice and salad instead, with miso soup on the side.
Since my parents have put away my Japanese rice somewhere where they have since forgotten, I used normal long grain rice, but that still worked really well mixed with the stew. The salad was a quick mix of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber, with balsamic glaze and olive oil. I also added a bowl of Miso soup with some wakame seaweed. It was so easy (because I didn’t have a stew to make, haha) but also delicious. And fairly healthy. Until my Mum and Dad came into the living room with thick slices of chocolate cake made by my brother’s girlfriend, which I couldn’t say no to….
In conclusion, then, I am still a fat pig. But also, you can turn something carb heavy and stodgy into something you’d find in a quaint Japanese cafe - with only a few basic ingredients. Even simpler if you buy sachets of pre-made Miso paste and seaweed.
Anyway I took a picture with my phone, so I apologise for the poor quality. But here it is anyway:
Disclaimer: So I wrote this article ages ago for my other blog, and I never updated Part 2…Bad Alice…I thought it might be more relevant to repost here, and I may finally get round to updating Part 2 on this blog as well. I hope it helps some people who are making the scary step abroad.
The original post can be accessed here.
Things To Pack When Going To Study/Work In Japan (Part 1)
Last year, as part of my degree, I spent a year living in Nagoya, Japan. It truly was one of the best experiences of my life, and I’d recommend it to anyone. However, when you are there for a long period of time for study or work, it can be kind of bemusing to know what to pack. I know there are many guides out there that are probably much more comprehensive than mine, but I’d thought I’d share anyway; if it helps just one person then it was worth writing. (Oh and it’s going to be really long, so I apologise in advance…)
First, different packing rules apply to different people, so this is just a rough guide. I’m writing this from a personal perspective; if you think I can add more things that I may not have considered, please don’t hesitate to let me know!
Daiso Charcoal Make-up Cleansing Cream
I lived in Japan for some time, but it was only recently that I realised that ‘Daiso’ - particularly the branch on Takeshita Doori in Harajuku - was a 100 yen store. To be honest, 100 yen stores didn’t hold that much interest for me, they were just places I would go from time to time to look for household goods that I would end up having to buy in the Aeon mall anyway. However, now I’m no longer living in Japan, every time I visit I just have to check out what treasures the 100 yen stores contain, trying to find a bargain or two. My recent acquisition was the above, a make-up remover cream that promises to remove make-up, “through the power of charcoal.” Of course it goes without saying that I had to try it out.
(A specialty from Nagoya, Japan)
This dish has been haunting me ever since I left Nagoya about 18 months ago. I return to the Tokyo/Yokohama region regularly for my job but haven’t seen this dish on sale anywhere. Besides, nowhere will be as good as the places I frequented in Nagoya, rumoured to each have their own special, heavily-guarded recipe.
So I have decided to try and make my own version, adapting this Japanese recipe for my own use. The recipe is below the cut:
Kamome Diner （かもめ食堂）
Country of origin: Japan
Director: Naoko Ogigami
Before I start this review I should mention that I absolutely love slow moving but aesthetically beautiful films where not a great deal happens. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you may want to move onto something else. But if you’re intrigued, please read on.
Kamome Cafe is essentially a story about three Japanese women who have left their own country in search of something else, and end up finding each other. It intricately tells their tale of living in a strange land, finding a piece of Japan in each other as well as the people around them. The main character, Sachie, has opened a small cafe selling rice balls and other Japanese delicacies in the heart of Helsinki, with only a Swedish Otaku as a customer. As the film progresses, she gains an employee (and friend), as well as a whole host of other customers who have their own stories to tell.