Monday, January 03, 2005

My Big Fat Japanese New Year

Personally, it hasn't quite sunk in that it's 2005 already and it'll take me a while before I stop miswriting the year on checks and having to rip them up. So the full weight of the new year should hit me by April.

Still, I had an excellent New Year, which basically had me rediscovering my Japanese roots. What follows is the more or less condensed version of our New Year's festivities. [click here to continue]

The night of Dec 31, we start off with a few glasses of warm sake. Nicely buzzing, we're off to see Asobi Seksu. If you have not yet heard my new favorite band, you must visit the official Asobi site and check them out. If you don't trust me, perhaps you trust our friend at extrawack?

I've had the song "I'm Happy But You Don't Like Me" stuck in my head for the last week, though that might be because Maureen's been singing it after I burned the song onto a CD for her.

Well, like I said, we were off to Mercury Lounge. Of course, we got there a couple of hours before they were to take stage, after midnight. Still, it's been a while since I caught a live show and there were bands to be checked out. We liked Stylofone, the other two bands, um, I was pretty drunk.

Asobi Seksu was as good as I expected. They play a dreamy brand of pop rock - if you can imagine the Cardigans meeting the Sonic Youth on an NYC street and Nina Persson as a tiny Japanese girl named Yuki who sings and plays keyboard (and she is really, really tiny), that's what they sound like. Dreamy, bittersweet pop with heavy guitar action at its best. I didn't matter that half the audience didn't know what half the songs were about (songs are in Japanese and English) - the energy was great and Yuki commanded the stage nicely.

I liked everything I heard, and I shall be purchasing their album (link opens in iTunes).

Fast forward to the morning of January 1. This was my first attempt at making ozoni, soup traditionally served on New Year's Day in Japan. The recipe differs from region to region, even family to family. Based on the recipe my mom sent me, I used chicken thighs, radish, carrot, some random greens and white miso paste, a variation on the common western recipe. In eastern Japan, they use fish stock instead of white miso. Those wacky easterners. But the common ingredient anywhere in Japan is mochi, a sticky rice cake.

Despite my fears, my first attempt at I think my first attempt at ozoni came out rather nicely, thanks to help a little help from Maureen and mom (via email). Sure, it's not exactly New Year's back in Kobe, but it will do for this year. For now, a somewhat close approximation of home is enough and it's just not New Year's without mochi.

Happy 2005 y'all. Or as we say back home, akemashite omedeto.

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