C’est la Saint-Valentin! Un peu partout dans le monde c’est l’homme qui offre quelque chose (chocolat, fleurs, lingerie, bijoux, etc…) à l’être aimé. Mais au Japon, la Saint-Valentin est plus particulière. Ceux sont  les filles qui offrent du chocolat, du chocolat et rien que du chocolat sous toute les forme possible et imaginable. Pourquoi? On est pas vraiment sûr de l’origine en faite. Certains disent que c’est à cause d’une publicité parue dans le journal anglais The Japan Advertiser par Morozoff (fabricant de gâteaux) en 1936 et d’autres pensent que c’est la publicité de Morinaga en 1960 qui incitait à offrir des chocolats à la personne aimée. Ou c’est peut-être les 2….  ?? Dans tous les cas, actuellement c’est le jour que choisissent les japonaises pour offrir du chocolat aux garçon et éventuellement aussi se déclarer.

Je vous explique en résumé la règle. Si vous êtes un garçon, sachez que ce n’est pas parce que on vous a offert du chocolat que la fille est follement amoureuse de vous. Non, pas du tout. (sauf si elle les a fait elle-même portant une grande attention à l’emballage et éventuellement le petit mots qui va avec…). Il existe donc plusieurs types de chocolat:

  1. Honmei choco: Chocolat qu’on donne à celui qu’on aime, dont on a des sentiments. Il est en général fait maison ou cher (d’un grand chocolatier), le paquet est vraiment soigné.
  2. Giri choco: Chocolat qu”on offre par obligation (à ces collègues, amis ou parents). Ils sont en général bon marché, sans une grande valeur sentimentale en général. Dans cette catégorie, on trouve donc les sous-catégories suivante:
  • Tomo choco: Le chocolat qu’on offre à ces amis
  • Gyaku choco: Chocolat qu’un homme offre à une fille
  • Fami choco: Chocolat qu’on offre à la famille
  • Jibun choco: Chocolat qu’on s’offre à soi-même car oui, on est jamais mieux servie que par soi-même! ;)

Messieurs, ne vous réjouissez pas trop vite à l’idée de recevoir une montagne de chocolat! Car vous allez devoir y répondre en retour! N’oubliez donc surtout pas de bien vous souvenir qui vous a offert quel chocolat, car ces demoiselles vont attendre jusqu’à la White day, le 14 mars, vous que vous leur offriez un petit cadeau en retour. Si normalement, il n’existe pas vraiment de règle à ce sujet, il est en général coutume d’offrir un cadeau dont la valeur est au moins le double (idéalement le triple) du chocolat reçu à la Saint-Valentin.

Au Japon, même si cette fête est considérée comme celle de l’amour pour les romantiques, commerciale pour les blasés, les japonais eux la considèrent davantage comme le moment ou on peut remercier ou exprimer sa gratitude envers les personnes qu’on apprécie.

Et là, comme je suis sympa, je vous offre ma recette de truffe au chocolat toute simple à faire. (également valable pour Noël! même si c’est déjà passé… lol )

チョコレートアーモンドトリュフTruffes aux amandes et chocolat

約(やく)3時間 – Préparation environ 3 heures
トリュフ約15個分(15こぶん) – Pour faire environ 15 truffes

チョコレート- Chocolat 170g
ココナッツクリーム- crème de noix de coco 140g
はちみつ大さじ2 – 2 cuillère à soupe de miel
アーモンドパウダー poudre d’amandes 60g
ココナッツオイル – Huile de noix de coco 30g
バニラエッセンス4滴 – 4 gouttes d’essence de vanille
無糖チョコレートパウダー – poudre de cacao sans sucre (pour l’enrobage)


Au bain marie, faire fondre le chocolat. A part, faire bouillir la crème de coco avec le miel. Quand le miel est bien fondu, faire une émulsion en 3 fois à la Maryse avec le chocolat fondu. Puis incorporer la poudre d’amande, l’essence de vanille puis l’huile de coco fondue. Laissez reposer au réfrigérateur 2 heures environ. Lors que la ganache est durcie, forcez les boules à la main ou avec une cuillère et roulez-les directement dans la poudre de cacao. Remettez-les au réfrigérateur jusqu’au moment de les servir.

Bonne Saint Valentin! ハッピーバレンタインデー



Et n’oubliez pas la White Day Messieurs! ;)



Setsubun & Oni

On February 3, 2015, in English, Life in Japan, by 04. chiarac

Did you see today’s Doodle? It’s Setsubun! Soooo I’ll take the chance to talk about something I really like, that is japanese monsters, and specifically about oni. Some of the readers could turn up their noses since I used the word “monster”, let’s just say that this is the most comprehensive term I found to describe japan’s tons of misterious beings and uncanny apparitions. The kanji 鬼 oni stands for demon, more anciently the word 鬼神 onigami meant a divine being. Japanese deities have the peculiarity to neither be good nor bad, but rather beyond ethics and moral, some of them brought prosperity to men, some other damaged them. But this later brought to a distinction, as Noriko T. Rider wrote: “Heaven and earth, mountains and rivers, trees and grasses, water and fire, stones and dirt, all sentient beings are yin-yang. The work of yang is called kami, and the work of yin is named oni…. Since all the bad and evil belong to yin, the souls of wicked people are called oni…”. Both were capable of doing things out of the ordinary, but while the deity was the object of fear and awe, the wicked spirits were feared but not respected.

Different studies have tried to demostrate how the introduction of Buddhism was probably the cause of the “decadence” of many powerful beings of japanese tradition into mere demons and wicked beings. In particular, oni were said to be able to change their appearance into anything in order to trick humans, and that’s how they easily started to be seen as the cause of illnesses, bad luck and such. This is the period in which the oni’s appearance was also settled into the one of a giant and extra-powerful being with horns and claws, dressed in tiger’s skin, carrying with him an iron rod called kanabō. They usually have red skin (赤鬼 akaoni) but also blue-skinned ones (青鬼 aooni) are often portrayed. According to Buddhism, oni guard Jigoku, ruled by King Enma (I know you’re thinking about Dragon Ball right now :P), where they monitor souls and inflict punishments.

Buddhism worked really hard into transforming the oni into evil beings not even worth of respect, in tales and performances oni were depicted as scarce brained and laughed at. In many 昔話 Mukashi Banashi (old tales) they transform into girls and sleep with the hero in order to eat him when he’s asleep and such, but the same stories show how a hero with “pure heart”, by following Buddhist teachings, is able to kill the monster. One famous tale is the one of Shutendōji, an oni that assaulted villages and kidnapped women. Here the hero Minamoto no Raikō with some followers, got to reach the oni and offered them sake, when the oni were drunk and asleep, Raikō could easily kill them and release the girls. This legend brings to another aspect: the oni was used from the rulers in order to channel people’s hate against specific groups of not welcome people. Minamoto no Raikō is a historical figure and some theories say that Shutendōji and his group of oni were in fact bandits living in the mountains, with a conduct that went against the ruler and buddhist teachings. One succesful way to make people not sympathize with them was depicting them as real oni.

But tales about oni don’t just depict them as mischevious beings, sometimes they can bring luck and prosperity, for example by losing a sack full of gold, then found by a poor. Another example is 鬼の念仏 Oni no nenbutsu, the praying oni, a reformed oni dressed like a buddhist monk, that became a popular souvenir sold in temples. 8D

Another example is Setsubun, a ritual where, as a tradition, men dressed up like oni got inside people’s houses, then the house inhabitants would chase them out by throwing beans at them and screaming oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi (鬼は外、福は内), meaning “demons out, fortune in!”, considered a good omen. Setsubun is celebrated many times during the year, for example right about in this very moment :P similar cerimonies are being held in Sensoji in Asakusa, Zojoji in Roppongi and such, with priests or important personalities throwing beans, people wearing oni masks, dances and other kind of performances. Of course, speaking of Japan’s sales’ streak, oni masks and beans can be found practically everywhere, from konbini, to 100 yen shops to supermarket, donky and such. Another typical food of Setsubun is called Eho-maki, a sushi roll that must be eaten facing the auspicious direction of the current year. I read this custom originated from Kansai but going back home after school today I saw they were actually selling those rolls (at a fairly high price xD) in front of 2 different konbini so I think they normally eat it here too.

The modern era has seen the birth of a new kind of oni, the good, kind one. This is especially due to modern literature, for example in the tales for children written by Hamada Hirosuke, and many traditional beings were re-invented during the post-war through the more and more popular manga. One of the most known oni-themed manga is うる星やつら Urusei yatsura by Takahashi Rumiko, published in the 70’s, where science fiction and aliens are combined with japanese tradition and oni. The hot demon-alien girl Lum (ラム in japanese) wears the typical oni-like dress of tiger’s skin, she has horns and sharp teeth, but the combination is sexy and cute, not at all monstrous as her ancestors. Nowadays anime, manga, movies, museums, souvenirs and such depict oni as funny and benevolent beings close to humans.

About うる星やつら Urusei Yatsura, did you know that the title is actually a wordplay? In fact the “sei” in urusei is written with the kanji for “star” and yatsura means “people, riffraff” so the translation should be “people from the star Uru” but since urusei is also a colloquial form for urusai meaning “noisy, loud” it could also mean “noisy riffraff” referring to Lum and her entourage :P


シェアーしよう! Condividiamo!

On February 2, 2015, in Uncategorized, by 03. ilaria

Da quando ho cominciato a lavorare part-time in un ristorante italiano ho scoperto che i giapponesi e il cibo hanno un rapporto particolare. Mi spiego meglio.

Innanzitutto, una delle cose che mi ha colpito parecchio è che i giapponesi, arrivati in un ristorante italiano, cominciano ordinando praticamente tutto il menù. Ora, da ignorante quale ero, la prima volta mi sono stupita dell’aver scritto tre foglietti fronte-retro di ordinazioni per un tavolo di tre persone, fra l’altro tutte ragazze magrissime!

Al momento del servizio però ho capito il trucco, ovvero lo “share”! Ai giapponesi piace tantissimo condividere il cibo. Ogni volta quindi si ordina un po’ di tutto e poi si divide, in modo da provare ogni pietanza. E questo non vale solo per antipasti, pizze e pasta, ma anche per le carni e pesce e i dolci!

Un’altra cosa che mi ha lasciato abbastanza basita è la velocità. In Italia io ero generalmente una delle ultime a finire di mangiare, appena arrivata qui, invece, mi sono resa conto che molti giapponesi sono moooolto più lenti! Capita spessissimo al ristorante di portare piatti di fritto misto di pesce o cotolette alla milanese che teoricamente andrebbero mangiate il prima possibile e invece…. al momento del dolce rimangono nel piatto da condividere ancora dei pezzi ormai freddi che vengono divorati nel momento in cui devono essere posizionate le nuove portate appena uscite dalla cucina e sul tavolo non c’è più spazio!

Ultimo ma non per importanza riguarda la resistenza del palato giapponese al caldo bollente al freddo ghiacciato. Vi è mai capitato di cercare di bere il brodo del ramen appena servito? Io ingenuamente l’ho fatto e come risultato mi sono trovata una bella ustione su tutto il palato che mi è durata una settimana abbondante! Ancora non riesco a capire come i giapponesi riescano a mangiare qualsiasi cosa super bollente senza ustionarsi! La stessa cosa accade quando escono i piatti dalla cucina: un sacco di volte sono stata ripresa perché per pietanze calde (come pasta, carne e pesce) portavo i piattini dello share a temperatura ambiente senza aversi prima scaldati in forno. Stessa cosa per il caffé: la tazza va prima scaldata nel fornelletto e poi va prima riempita di acqua bollente, in modo che la tazza stessa diventi bollente e lo diventi ancora di più una volta che ci viene versato il caffè super caldo.

Al contrario, invece, l’acqua e le bevande devono essere versate in bicchieri ghiacciati o comunque freddi e prima devono essere riempiti di 5 o più cubetti di ghiaccio (in base alla grandezza del recipiente). E notare che l’acqua contenuta nella brocca contiene già al suo interno del ghiaccio e che le altre bevande vengono tenute in frigorifero!

Ancora io rischio l’ustione e l’indigestione ogni volta che alterno pasto bollente e sorso di acqua ghiacciata! Avrò pure una 猫舌 nekojita (lingua di gatto ->sembra che i gatti non sopportino i cibi caldi), ma non riesco ancora a capire come i giapponesi riescano a sopravvivere ad un tale sbalzo termico!


Kittenssss @ neko café

On February 1, 2015, in English, Life in Japan, by 04. chiarac

I love cats! Who doesn’t? *^* They’re so fluffy and amusing and damn annoying xD

Some of you may not have experienced this before, so I’m sharing my experience in a neko café with you^^
I went a couple of times to a neko café in Takadanobaba. It’s near school of course, you can reach it in a 10-15 minutes’ walk! The place is really small, like 2 japanese rooms, and the price for 1 hour is 800 yen. I was told before that spending that much for 1 hour is too much, that it’s not worth it etc, but it must be considered that you have free soft drinks (there’s an authomatic machine) for all the time you decide to stay there, so if you drink something like 2 drinks you are repaid of the money you spent and you get to cuddle some really cuuuute nyanko. :D

All the cats have a name, there are many usual customers who come to cuddle their favourite ones (there’s actually a ranking, like in host clubs! xDD), I think it’s probably people living alone in apartments that don’t allow pets, so they “adopt” one or more of the cats in the neko café and end up going there many times. There are also people wanting to relax, like after a long day of work, once there was a girl who had brought a blanket and a book and was reading calmly on the sofa with a cat on her lap^^

As for the rules, I think they are more or less strict depending on the café. In general you take off your shoes before entering the rooms (you can ask for slippers), there are lockers in which to put your bag and jacket. Before touching the cats you will be asked to wash and disinfect your hands. It’s good custom to not disturb cats if they’re sleeping (some light caress is ok) and in general you shouldn’t forcedly approach them (for example following them and trying to catch them at all costs even if they’re visibly running away from you xD), in some café you can just cuddle them but not pick them up (the café I went into was fine with that). There are many toys to make the pets play and sometimes the owner dresses them up with little hats, ribbons and such xD Once you go away the staff will give you one of those rolls for pet hair removal, they really think about everything! :P

Many café have a free point card, if you reach a certain number of visits you get little prizes such as little bags with treats for the cats (so that they’ll submerge you with their fluffiness <- in order to steal food from you, of course) and such :3

And now….ready for the ultimate cuteness?? Here we go!

Here a tip for a funny day in Takadanobaba: go to Big Box department store, reach the game center and play some ufo catcher and games, do a purikura with your friends as a memento of the day; go to karaoke with free-time formula the whole afternoon, I usually go to the utahiroba near the neko café, the whole afternoon till 20 pm with non-stop softdrinks included is just 980 yen (sometimes they do promotions for students at 780 yen, check the notice at the entrance!) and you can also eat french fries, takoyaki and such for a ridiculous price; spend 1 hour at the neko café to relax with cute kitties :3


New Year + Hatsumoude

On February 1, 2015, in English, Life in Japan, by 04. chiarac

So I was telling you about Japan’s marketing streak, especially during festivities adopted from the West. We usually spend Christmas with our family, while at New Year’s eve we go out with friends and party all night long in order to celebrate. In Japan it’s quite the opposite, as I told you Christmas is especially meant for couples, except for the habit to buy a Christmas Cake to eat with family members on Christmas Eve..oh, did you know about the japanese comparison between Christmas Cakes and girls? Christmas Cakes are meant to be eaten on 24th, so on the 25th a big discount is put on the exceeding ones because on the 26th they would have gone stale and should be thrown away. In the same way, girls are marriable till they’re 25 y.o., after that they reach their “expiry date” and start tasting old. So sweet :333 T^T. But I was talking about something else…

..yes, New Year’s eve and New Year’s day, that’s it. These days are perceived as really important ones in Japan and they’re normally spent with family members. On New Year’s eve the family reunites and eat together, typical New Year’s food is お節料理 Osechi Ryouri, but since it’s really cold families also like to stay home all together around a Nabe (hot pot).
There’s also a custom to give money to children, depending from the age it may consist of pocket money or some thousands yen.

After midnight, the family goes for 初詣 Hatsumoude which means “first visit to the temple”, to pray and make wishes/aims for the new year, and to get their 御神籤 Omikuji, a fortune paper which predicts your fortune for the year in a really detailed way.

I was told by different people that the biggest celebrations for Hatsumoude are held in Asakusa’s Sensouji and Yoyogi’s Meiji-jingu; instead, I went to Zoujouji (増上寺) in Roppongi, it was also crowded but since we arrived there at 2 a.m. it was bearable!

As you can see there were also many food stands and such, my japanese friends ate Soba, it looks like it’s a tradition of the first day of the New Year :P The temple was open and the inside was very beautiful, this picture may help you figure it, although there wasn’t any notice I didn’t feel like taking pictures inside since there were people praying and such..

In the end we got our Omikuji, when we opened it we also found a little charm, everyone had a different one, I got 熊手 Kumade which literally means “bear paw” and is the name with which little bamboo rakes typical of New Year’s are called. Those rakes are said to attract wealth and that’s why, at New Year’s, everyone who owns a shop or has a business and such buy one, the bigger it is the more wealth will come. My pocket kumade was meant to be put in the wallet, it should bring money inside of it xD

Oh, I got 大吉 daikichi (big fortune), let’s hope it’s true! ;P