Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Countdown

Well, it's that time of year again - 御正月 (Oshougatsu - New Year!) The time of year where we look back and reflect on all that has passes in the past year: The great earthquake in Hokuriku, the epic collapse of the Red Sox in September, and the passing of Kim Jong-Il (or as reported in the North Korean news "Dear Leader Heroically Slain Single-Handedly Defending Our Glorious Paradise Against a Horde of 50 Meter Ameri-Bots")

And New Year's means eating and drinking until both activities seem repulsive to you at which point you continue to do both.

It all started with a trip to the Nishiki (錦) Market in Kyoto. This market is open year-round, but becomes more clogged that Uncle Phil's arteries after 55 years of triple cheese burgers around New Year's.

This picture completely undercuts my above statement, but you can just make out where the crowd starts beyond the shoe store, and you can see that there this isn't exactly a wide open passage that allows for throngs to easily maneuver.

Now after 8 years in Japan, I thought I had a pretty good handle on most of the culinary offerings of Japan, but my "I know what that is" ratio dropped to about 1:2 at this market. There was 海鼠 (namako - sea cucumber, though the kanji literally read as "sea rat"). There were half-quails roasted, white miso, pickled EVERYTHING, fish heads, dried fish on sticks, cod roe, pollack roe, herring roe, duck, sweets, $800 pots and pans, every form of seaweed known to human kind, green tea of all kinds, black bean tea, and my favorite - Octopus lollipops (Where the head was made of a boiled quail egg and the legs were the legs of a miniature octopus.)

This is the treat that kids were clamoring for at the market, while in the US our kids beg for cotton candy and orange soda...and guess whose kids will get early-onset diabetes, and whose will live to 142...just guess.

More as the night goes on...

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