30 foot High Bonfires

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the local elementary school, the scene of some of my recent posts.  As I prepped with the teacher, she asked me to finish my second class 5 minutes early.  Something about everyone going outside for dondoyaki.

Dondoyaki… hmm… what’s that?? I started processing it to try to figure out the meaning.

Takoyaki- Octopus batter balls

Yakiniku- Grilled meat

Yakitori- Grilled chicken

My best guess: grilled something.  Must be food. Grilled seafood of some sort?

After the first two classes, I came back to the office for my break.  One of the office staff encouraged me to grab my coat and head outside.  “It’s Japanese culture.”

Ok- new piece of the puzzle: it’s related to Japanese culture.  A New Years food perhaps?

In the middle of the schoolyard, there looked to be cherry-shaped bunch of pine-branches standing some 30 feet tall, with ropes holding the top of the “cherry stem” into the air.  Here and there were adornments and also at the bottom there seemed to be many pieces of paper with black calligraphy characters on them.

No sight nor smell of food anywhere.

After all the students gathered in a huge circle, a massive fire was lit and naturally everything was enveloped in flames.  Even from my distance, I could feel the wave of heat. Huge pops and cracks occasionally startled me, which I later found out was the bamboo cracking on the inside of the bonfire.  Clouds of ash rose to the sky and some students and moms collected some of the pieces of bigger ash that fell to the ground.

As I headed back to the office to wait for the students to pick me up for my next class, I knew it was time to do my research.  What was this that I’d just observed?

Dondoyaki is the Japanese tradition of burning all the New Year decorations and the lucky charms bought at the temple that hold the zodiac of the previous year.  Apparently it’s the only way to dispose of these things, as it’s extremely bad luck and bad taste to just throw them away.

Some even say that if you scatter the ash on your crop,that it will be more plentiful or lucky or such. And you’ll grow younger if you warm your hands by the fire.  Some people even roast mikans (mandarin oranges) and mochi by the fire.

So… see!  I was right– it did involve food in some aspect!

An Arm and A Leg and a Baby

Hello hello! Yeah, I’m behind.  This post was intended for last week, but you know how things go.  Part of it was that I wanted to get a few extra pictures for this post.  The other part was that I have another major task going on that has put everything else on hold.  But it’ll be done soon.

So, this week’s new adventure: learning how to ride a bike with a baby strapped to me.

Yeah.

But it wasn’t too bad.  I’ll admit, I was a bit wobbly at first, which is probably more from the fact that it’s been a long time since I’ve ridden.  BUT, goodness gracious, what a time saver!! In a land where a 30 second shortcut makes a difference, this is like a gold mine.  What?? A trip to the grocery store only takes 20-30 minutes?  Before, 20 minutes at least was just walking time, plus carrying all the stuff home!  Which, when you consider that you only buy what you can carry, means frequent trips to the store.

Happy day!  Besides the time factor, having a basket on the bike means that it takes a literal burden off my back.  Carrying an 18lb baby, plus my purse and sometimes her diaper bag and then another 20 lbs of milk, meat, and all that heavy stuff…  I think you get the picture.

Well, for this week’s non-serious post, I thought I’d take you along with me to the grocery store to kinda get a feel for what prices are like.  I get questions about prices all the time.  So, for all you who have asked, this one’s for you.

(So, after adding in all these pictures, it occurred to me that there are other things I could have posted the prices of, like fish, rice, etc. Maybe I’ll save that for next week.  Besides, I kinda looked weird snapping photos in the grocery store anyway. Also, I used today’s exchange rate for the price comparisons.)

 

6 slices of bread. Now, they are a bit thick; you can also get it cut in 8 slices for the same price.  At the current exchange rate, it's about $1.16

6 slices of bread. Now, they are a bit thick; you can also get it cut in 8 slices for the same price. At the current exchange rate, it’s about $1.16

1 Liter (Roughly 1 Quart or 1/4 Gallon) of milk.  $1.41 (or $5.64 per gallon) Also, I have no clue if this is 1% or 2% or whole milk. I know it's not soy by the kanji. But I'm still investigating for Rosalyn's sake when it comes time to give her milk (goodbye formula!!).

1 Liter (Roughly 1 Quart or 1/4 Gallon) of milk. $1.41 (or $5.64 per gallon) Also, I have no clue if this is 1% or 2% or whole milk. I know it’s not soy by the kanji. But I’m still investigating for Rosalyn’s sake when it comes time to give her milk (goodbye formula!!).

Butter (... or margarine?) It's like a butter spread. Right now there is a butter shortage in Japan (you can only buy one at a time), and the price makes me think this isn't the real thing. 2/3 pound = $1.73

Butter (… or margarine?) It’s like a butter spread. Right now there is a butter shortage in Japan (you can only buy one at a time), and the price makes me think this isn’t the real thing. 2/3 pound = $1.73

A Mango. Now, typically I don't buy these, but I wanted to give Rosalyn a break from the limited variety of apples, bananas and pineapple that's available right now. It was a special buy for us. 358 yen= $2.98 Now, for an average size apple here, it's not uncommon to pay about 82cents per apple.

A Mango. Now, typically I don’t buy these, but I wanted to give Rosalyn a break from the limited variety of apples, bananas and pineapple that’s available right now. It was a special buy for us. 358 yen= $2.98 Yup. For one mango. Now, for an average size apple here, it’s not uncommon to pay about 82cents per apple.

4 pieces of asparagus. I believe I paid about 82 cents for this.

4 pieces of asparagus. I believe I paid about 82 cents for this.

Garbanzo beans.  LOOK! English!  I spent a while searching for these. $2.37 a can.

Garbanzo beans. LOOK! English! I spent a while searching for these. $2.37 a can.

Ok, I didn't buy this. Sour cream. $1.98 for roughly a 1/4... CUP.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME??

Ok, I didn’t buy this. Sour cream. $1.98 for roughly a 1/4… CUP. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??

2 Decent chicken breasts. I can't always find them like this, a lot of the time they have lots of fat. So, 1 pound 2.5 ounces = $3.39

2 Decent chicken breasts. I can’t always find them like this, a lot of the time they have lots of fat. So, 1 pound 2.5 ounces = $3.39

Pork. 1/2 pound = $3.15

Pork. 1/2 pound = $3.15

Beef slices. 11 oz = $3.85  Seriously, meat prices make me want to become a vegetarian.

Beef slices. 11 oz = $3.85 Seriously, meat prices make me want to become a vegetarian.

Lastly, Flour Tortillas.  We usually only get tortillas from Costco, but it's nice to see them in the stores and know that at least they are becoming known. Corn tortillas forget about it.  They can only be found at the foreign food stores for a ridiculous price and they're not even that good. 5 medium size tortillas = $2.21

Lastly, Flour Tortillas. We usually only get tortillas from Costco, but it’s a comfort to see them in the stores and know that at least they are becoming known. Corn tortillas forget about it. They can only be found at the foreign food stores for a ridiculous price and they’re not even that good. 5 medium size flour tortillas = $2.21