10 Things I will ALWAYS miss about Japan

I spent almost exactly two years in Japan, and it’s impossible to describe the depth of my experiences there. Good and bad, I know that everything I’ve encountered in that country have made me a stronger, more confident person. I’ve changed so much that I’m not even sure I’m the same person I was when I arrived.

It’s been about a month since I returned to Canada. I originally planned to get this post written while I was still in Japan, but being back has given me some time to reflect on Japan and to adjust to my home country, and I think I’ve got a better perspective on this now.

Of course, I’ll always cherish the good memories of my time there. And in fact I’d like to share them. So here are the ten things I believe have made my journey to Japan worthwhile.

10. Convenience stores! “Convenient” is not a descriptive enough word to characterize the nature of Japanese conbini. You can do anything at the convenience stores here: banking, paying bills, making photocopies, ordering meals for holidays…and that’s just the services. The goods are a whole different story. I’m pretty sure it’s physically impossible for one store to actually contain everything found in a local conbini; somehow 7-11, Lawson, and Family Mart have managed to warp the time-space continuum for the noble aim of getting me whatever my greedy heart desires at 4:00 in the morning. Here is a list—and not even a comprehensive one—of what can be found at most conbini:
*snacks and drinks
*alcohol
*umbrellas
*fresh cut flowers
*stationary (pencils, pens, erasers, notebooks, envelopes, you name it)
*magazines
*books
*porn (I didn’t say I want it, I just said it’s there!)
*toiletries (razors, shaving cream, shampoo, conditioner, makeup sponges, and so much more)
*health supplements
*medical supplies (medical masks, cold packs for fevers, etc.)
*socks/nylons
*slippers

These are just what I can think of off the top of my head. And to top it all off, the customer service in Japanese conbini is pretty amazing. One time I overpaid by something like ten yen (about ten cents) and didn’t realize it. When I was leaving the parking lot the woman who was working at the conbini came running after me to return it. It was kind of touching. I don’t think anyone in Canada would have cared.

9. Trains! I’m pretty sure I lived in one of the most inconvenient spots in the country, with a train that only comes once every hour or hour and a half. And yet I still don’t feel that I could have complained. As someone who suffers from pretty bad motion sickness, I really enjoyed the option of fast, smooth travel. What’s more, even if the trains aren’t too convenient 100% of the time, they are always, always, ALWAYS on time. This is pretty mind-blowing for a Canadian. In my hometown you can bank on the buses being anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes late, so reliable public transportation was the best kind of culture shock. In Japan you also have the option of taking the Shinkansen, or Bullet Train, if you want to travel long distances. Depending on where you’re going, it can cut your trip in half for less than it would take to fly.

8. Year-round flowers! One of the most mind-blowing aspects of being in Japan was seeing new flowers blooming in the middle of December. Japan has a fairly warm climate, so unlike the Canadian winters that freeze the life out of every living thing, most plants can survive (at least in the area I was living in; I’m sure Hokkaido is a whole different story!). It was amazing watching the flowers bloom all year round, their colors shifting from season to season.

7. Traveling! North America, being its own continent and all, is geographically pretty isolated from the rest of the world. And Canada is such a large country that even going from Vancouver to Toronto or Montreal can get pretty expensive. Travel in and around Japan isn’t exactly cheap, but there are a lot of options available and there are a lot more countries nearby to visit. While living in Canada, it would have been pretty hard for me to make it to Taiwan or Korea. So for me, traveling to Japan also opened up the opportunity to travel to a lot of other places.

6. Daiso! Canadian/American dollar stores seem to be improving lately, but when I left for Japan the dollar store situation in Canada was abysmal. The products were cheaply made, pretty much always manufactured in China, and hardly seemed worth the price of their packaging. Daiso, the largest dollar (or hyakuen) store in Japan completely changed my outlook on the subject. Daiso not only has everything you could possibly imagine, but all of the products are made in Japan and are much higher quality than anything I’ve seen in North America. If you end up in Japan, make sure you also end up in Daiso!

5. The shortcuts! As you probably know, Japan has a much, much, MUCH lengthier history than Canada does. And as you may not know, one in every five people in Japan works in the construction industry. As a result, the nation is made up of millions of circuitous little pathways that cut through rice fields and residential areas, many of which are so narrow that two people aren’t even able to walk side-by-side. Anywhere I needed to go in my community had about ten different shortcuts to it because of this. I don’t know what I’m going to do without those little pathways…

4. Bike culture! I still can’t believe the volume of bikes in Japan, or the lengths to which businesses will go to accommodate them. Parking lots near large shopping areas usually have separate lots or special sections specifically reserved for bicycles, and there always seem to be at least as many bikes around as there are cars. If you care about things like your carbon footprint or getting a good workout, the bike culture in Japan makes your life that much easier.

3. Tea culture! I’m sure this is no surprise to anyone, but if you’re crazy about tea Japan is definitely the country for you. Every grocery store I’ve seen has an aisle completely dedicated to tea (usually green tea and matcha), and at restaurants you won’t get a class of water for free—you’ll usually get green or barley tea. Vending machines in Japan don’t tend to have snacks in them, and they don’t usually have that much soda in them, either. For the most part they have bottles of tea. In the summer there are all sorts of chilled teas available, and in winter they have a special heated section for warm drinks. Most of these beverages are sugar and milk free, so you don’t have to worry too much about your waistline. And, if you’re not too into standard green, barley, or black tea, there are websites like Lupicia where you can get countless kinds of flavored teas infused with fruit, flowers, chocolate, and anything else you can imagine.

2. The food! I’ve talked before about the irritating “Western food is fattening, Japanese food is healthy” stereotype. It’s a stereotype that’s often repeated here, and, depending on who you’re talking to, can lead to some fairly offensive generalizations about North Americans in particular. Having said that, though, I do love the variety of healthy food here in Japan. The unhealthy stuff definitely exists (you can’t tell me tempura is heart friendly!) but it seems like the opportunity to eat healthy is far more widely available in Japan. And even disregarding the health factor, the food is just plain delicious. Trust me, no one cooks like elderly Japanese women!

And of course, the thing I’ll miss most about Japan…

1. The people! Before coming to Japan, there was no way I could have imagined the friendships I would make or how the people around me would shape my life. I realize this is rather a cliché thing to say after having been abroad, but it’s absolutely true. I still can’t believe the kindness of my coworkers, my fellow foreigners, my neighbors, and everyone else who positively touched my life. Now that I’ve left Japan, I find that my fondest memories aren’t of the festivals I’ve been to, the temples I’ve seen, or the adventures I’ve had. That’s not to say that those aren’t great memories, of course. But the experiences that have touched me the most deeply, the greatest treasures of my time there, are without question the moments of kindness I experienced, often in seemingly small ways. Those are the memories that I know will stay with me until the day I die. And for that, I’ll always be so grateful.

And there you have it, the 10 things I will always miss about Japan. This has been an amazing experience, one that I never thought I would have the opportunity for. I’m so thankful to everyone who made it possible, and I’m so glad I went for it when I did.

Since I’m back in Canada now, this is probably going to be my last post on Nihonglish. Writing this blog has been a lot of fun and I really hope everyone who read it has enjoyed it as much as I have. Thanks to all my readers, especially those who left such nice comments! If I start up a new blog I’ll post a link here so you can find me. Thanks everyone! Sayonara!

10 Things I Will NOT miss about Japan

On of my coworkers is a fellow Canadian who used to teach English at a high school in Quebec. While Quebec is obviously part of Canada, she said that there were a lot of cultural differences between Montreal and her hometown in Saskatchewan. She told me that before she left she knew that she would really start missing Montreal, and so to alleviate the pain of separation she wrote out a list of things she knew she wouldn’t miss. That way, if she ever started to romanticize her experiences there or regret her decision to leave, she could consult the list and remember that there were hard moments as well.

I think this is a pretty good idea. Leaving a place you’ve lived in for a long time is always a painful and confusing endeavor, and as humans we tend to look back at the past with something of a selective memory. Often we remember a lot of the good times without stopping to remember the difficult circumstances that accompanied them.

I’ve experienced this myself quite recently. This last spring I thought a lot about my last year in Canada before coming to Japan and wondered how I ever could have let such a wonderful situation slip through my fingers. I was comfortable, I had my own place in a great part of town, I was near friends and family, and all seemed right with the world. Fortunately I had the good sense to stop myself and think, “wait a minute, wasn’t I constantly broke and stressing about money? And didn’t my bathroom have silverfish? And didn’t the guy above me always blast horrible party music at two in the morning? And doesn’t the public transportation system completely suck in my hometown?” (It does.)

So, to cope with leaving Japan, I’ve decided to follow in my friend’s footsteps and make a list of things I am definitely NOT going to miss. This is a no holds barred summary of my worst experiences and pet peeves.

10. Clothes shopping. This is always an ordeal. The average cup size for bras in Japan is A, and the women tend to be rail-thin, so the fashions are mostly design to drape flatteringly over such frames. If, like me, you’re a buxom lass with vivacious curves, you tend to look like you’re walking around wearing a sheet that you cut a neck hole into. The best place for most foreigners to shop in Japan is UNIQLO, which, although pretty great, isn’t that exemplary of my personal style. I’m looking forward to being in a land where the fashions are a little more diverse. I’ve actually heard Japanese women complain about the lack of diversity in fashion, too.

9. Weak medicine. Japan as a culture is not very enthusiastic about strong (or as I like to say, “effective”) medicine. The pills, teas, and syrups you find at the drug stores here don’t really do anything for a cold, and there is no over-the-counter medication for things like migraines. Pretty much, if you want to get effective medicine you have to go to the doctor, which means you have to miss work, and if you’re a foreigner it means you might have to inconvenience a friend or coworker to help you. A friend of mine broke his collarbone this spring and when I asked him if he was taking any medication he just shook his head bitterly and said, “the stuff they gave me does nothing.” I understand it’s important not to overdose on medication or make really strong stuff available to those who might abuse it, but I think it’s kind of ridiculous to withhold painkillers from people who are genuinely suffering. Just because I want some extra strength Advil doesn’t mean I’m going to try to cook up some meth with it, geez.

8. No online banking, and no credit cards. This one is a huge adjustment. Okay, so the bigger store chains will take credit cards, but Japan is a cash society, so you have to get used to walking around with hundreds of dollars in your wallet. Is this a bad thing? Well, no. It’s just different. But since I’m personally used to a different system, it’s still hard to get used to carrying that much on me. The credit card thing isn’t as bad as not being able to do banking online, though. Maybe some banks offer this service, but a lot of them give you a little booklet instead that you’re supposed to feed into the ATM, and it’ll print out all of your electronic transactions. It’s kind of like a bank statement, only you have to go to your bank or an ATM every time you want to glance at your current balance. It’s just kind of inconvenient.

7. No books! This isn’t so bad since I got my Kindle, and Amazon definitely helps, but bookstores typically have a minuscule English section, if they have one at all. Again, this isn’t objectively bad: it’s Japan, and Japanese is the language that’s spoken, so you shouldn’t expect loads of English books. But one of my favorite pastimes in my hometown was dropping into Mosaic Books and browsing for a while, or hitting up Chapters or a used bookstore. If you love to read, there’s nothing better than being surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books. And if you can’t understand any of them, it’s almost physically painful. “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink…”

6. Silence on the trains. This is a pretty big adjustment for a Canadian. When I was living in Canada I relied on the bus system, and it’s a noisy place. You get not only the roar of the bus engine, but usually several loud conversations between fellow passengers. You can hear interesting conversations (yes, I’ll admit I eavesdropped constantly), and quite often you can get into conversations with complete strangers. You meet people from all walks of life, some of whom you might otherwise never have come across. I’ve talked with people about plays they’re involved in, popular movies or books, even Methuselah at one point. It was great. But here in Japan it’s considered extremely rude to talk to anyone on the train, which is the primary method of public transportation. Even if you’re riding with your best friend, it’s polite to remain silent until you reach your stop. I really miss the opportunity to socialize during my commute.

5. No public trash disposal. Let’s say you get a bottle of water from a vending machine when you’re out with your friends. You drink it over the course of about an hour, and afterwards you have an empty plastic bottle. How do you dispose of it? In Japan, that’s a very good question. A very, very good question. See, in Canada, there are a lot of trash disposal areas in malls or on the street, so you don’t generally have to carry garbage around with you. Here in Japan, garbage cans exist inside restaurants, right beside vending machines, and outside of convenience stores. That’s about it. So if you wind up with trash during the day, be prepared to hang on to it until your get home—or until you happen upon a convenience store. This is really not the end of the world, but I’m definitely looking forward to ample opportunities to ditch my trash.

4. Summer styles. Before coming to Japan I would never think to describe Canada as “beachy” in any way. But after having lived in Japan, it now seems to me that Canadians have a very beachy attitude toward summer fashions and general behavior. Here in Japan there’s no differentiation between the concept of a suntan and a sunburn, and most people are terrified of both. Most women walk around in heavy layers, often with wide-brimmed hats, gloves, and parasols. Before coming here I had never seen anyone bundle up to go outside in the summer. (Interestingly, there’s a social stigma surrounding sunglasses—people associate them with gangsters, so very few people wear them.)

When I started looking into this, I realized that in terms of skin cancer prevention, this is a pretty good idea. Sunlight can cause cancer, and that’s what a lot of people are trying to avoid. On the other hand, a lot of people consider pale skin to be stylish, and I’m pretty that’s actually the main driving force behind all of this. But whatever the reason, I just can’t seem to get on board with it. To me summer is associated with fun and freedom, with shedding layers and soaking up the sunlight. I can never quite bring myself to fear the sun, and I don’t particularly want to, either.

3. The racism/nationalism. Let me be clear: wherever you live, there is going to be racism and/or nationalism. If you’re in the ethnic majority you may not notice it as much, but it certainly does exist. So when I talk about racism and nationalism in Japan, please understand that I know this is not a societal ill that’s exclusive to Japan. In fact, I’m pretty sure that being Caucasian in Japan is much easier than, say, being African American in Canada. But just because it’s not exclusive to one culture or not as difficult for one racial group in a more global context does not mean it’s okay when it does occur.

Racism here comes in many forms. Often when I try to speak to people in Japanese, they insist on speaking English, assuming that I won’t understand things in any other language. Once I went out to a Japanese-owned Korean restaurant here in town and the owner started making fun of my friends and I, in Japanese, to the people sitting at the table beside ours. I’ve also had people who have known me for a year and a half say things like, “you’re so good at using chopsticks!” It’s like no matter how long I’ve been here, some people have this idea that it’s impossible for me to adjust to even the most miniscule aspects of Japanese life. One time I said “konnichiwa” to a friend I’d known for over a year, and she freaked out over how good my Japanese language ability was. Like, seriously? You’re impressed that I know how to say “hello” in the local language? How thick do you honestly think I am?

You’ll also hear a lot (and I mean A LOT) about how healthy Japanese food is compared to Western food, and about how “Japan is a peaceful country”. I’m not going to respond to these here, because my opinions on these matters can get pretty politically-charged, but the point is that there’s a general opinion that Japan is just better than everywhere else. There’s nothing wrong with being patriotic, but when your statements start to imply that there’s something wrong with foreigners or their cultures just because they’re different, it gets pretty hard to swallow.

However, I’m going to qualify all of this by saying that, of course, not everyone thinks or acts this way. The younger generation here is especially open-minded compared to the elder, and some of my best friends here are people who resist that kind of thinking. And since living in Japan the racism and nationalism in my own culture has become a lot more apparent to me. The best way to handle this kind of experience, I think, is to learn from it and help it to make you a more sensitive and understanding person. I hope that’s something I can take from this experience.

2. The work culture. I’ve complained about this before, but it’s one of the main reasons I’ve decided not to continue my time here in Japan. Living in North America, I couldn’t even imagine how restrictive it is, and having spent two years here it’s gotten no easier to deal with. I’m not saying this to judge the culture or it’s people—quite the opposite. It really pains me to see people I respect and care about being worn down so drastically by the demands of their employers and their government. Last December a friend of mine asked me if I was getting any holiday time. I told him I was getting two weeks off, and he said that in the entire month he was getting only one day off of work.

I had a similar conversation with one of my ex-coworkers who got transferred to a government position this spring. We met last weekend for dinner, and she told me that she had been hoping a recent health check-up would reveal some kind of medical problem so that she could be transferred to a different position. She said that the people who work at the government office do so much overtime that, in order to leave work at 6:00 p.m., they would have to take a full vacation day. That means they’re working eight full hours of overtime every day. She even said that recently when she takes her dog for a walk, she starts getting panic attacks whenever she thinks of work. Hearing stuff like this just makes my hackles rise. I’m not opposed to overtime at all, but I think people should be free to have families and friends and to develop hobbies and to pursue spirituality if they so choose. I don’t think an employer or the government should have the right to tell a person they have to sell their soul to their job.

1. No insulation. This has to be the one negative topic that I bring up more than anything else on this blog. So, I’m sorry if I harp on it more than you’d like, but if you’ve ever experienced this you know how difficult it makes your life. Being exposed to serious heat and cold is something like chronic pain; it’s impossible to ignore, and it’s exhausting.

If you work in a high school in Japan, you’re going to get maybe four comfortable months out of the year, if you’re lucky. The rest of the time you’ll be either sweltering or shivering your way through your life here. And the dress code at work only exacerbates the situation. Sleeveless shirts are absolutely not allowed in the summer, nor are shorts in most cases, and of course skirts should be knee-length. To return to my friend who works in the government building, she told me that they actually turn the air conditioning off at five o’clock and open the windows instead to save money. Let me tell you, when it’s 30 degrees Celsius and 94% humidity, opening a window does not help you cool off in the slightest. And since we’re in the countryside, there’s the added bonus of giant bugs that are attracted to the lights in the office. Good times, I’m sure.

But the winter, in my opinion, is worse. You are always, always, always cold, whether you’re outside, at work, or at home. This last winter I was huddling in my tatami room and I noticed there was actually a breeze coming in through the crack in the door leading to the kitchen. Needless to say, it made me pretty angry. At school your classroom might have a heater, but often the teachers will open the windows, because kerosene can be dangerous in enclosed spaces, and the general idea here is that opening the window will reduce colds. Yes, you read that correctly. People open the windows in the middle of winter because they think that will cut back on colds. I’m still waiting to see any kind of peer-reviewed study that would support this theory.

And again the dress code comes up to bite you: this last winter we had a two-hour assembly in the unheated gym when it was about 2 degrees out. Our breaths were clouding around us as we huddled in our coats. I was wearing gloves and a scarf, but of course I was sitting still on the gym floor, so they didn’t do much to help. After the assembly was over, one of my coworkers came up to me and said, “Just so you know, wearing gloves and a scarf indoors is not the Japanese way.”

I’ve probably gone on about this insulation thing way too long already, but the point here is that it’s more than just being a little uncomfortable for a while. When temperatures this extreme are your everyday reality, it quickly begins to affect you psychologically as well. I remember in May when the air started cooling down I was stunned by easy life became. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well—I realized that my body’s physical stress from constantly staving off the cold had bled into my thoughts and feelings as well.

Alright, so not a very fun update. I’m not meaning to be down on Japan, just relating some of my honest experiences. If you’re planning to come to Japan—or even if you’re not—don’t let this color your idea of the country too much. Remember, it’s just my personal opinion, and your experiences might be totally different. Also, while there are some negative aspects to living here, there are definitely some positive ones as well. That’s what I’ll discuss in my next update, which will be my last post on Nihonglish: 10 Things I will ALWAYS miss about Japan.

Green Milk (Really!)

Everyone’s heard of green eggs and ham, but what about green milk? Call me crazy, but it doesn’t sound too appetizing.

Apparently it’s a pretty common thing here in Japan, though. A lot of stores sell little packets of powder that are loaded with vitamins and all sorts of good things usually found in vegetables. If you pour one into a glass of milk it will turn slightly green, the way milk turns pinkish after mixing with Fruit Loops and other sugary cereals.

When I heard about this I knew I had to try it. I mean, it sounds pretty interesting, right?

IMG_3684

Unfortunately, it was a bit of a letdown. For one thing, the milk is barely even noticeably green. I was hoping it would turn fluorescent green or deep green, like a kale shake. But it just sort of gently tinges the milk.

As for the taste, that was kind of a letdown too. I was hoping it would either be really delicious or really nasty so that I would have something interesting to say about it. In the end, though, it tastes exactly how it sounds—like a packet of vegetable powder has been poured into milk.

I guess I don’t really get it. I mean, sure, if you hate vegetables maybe it could be a way to get nutrients without having to suffer through a salad. But I doubt this is as healthy as actually eating vegetables, and frankly it doesn’t taste much better. It also left my throat feeling dry, which I feel shouldn’t happen after a glass of milk.

Long story short, of all the interesting things to do and eat in Japan, green milk isn’t very high on the list. I’d recommend some bacon wrapped French fries instead. (Sorry, I just can’t get over those).

Trash of the Titans

In the immortal words of Silent Night, Deadly Night 2’s Eric Freeman: “Garbage day!”

I’m not surprised that garbage disposal shows up in a horror film, even if it’s not really connected to the plot in any significant way, but I am surprised that there’s never been a Japanese horror movie based around the concept. Well, not that I’ve heard of, anyway. The point I’m clumsily trying to make here is that getting rid of garbage in Japan is a terror-inducing nightmare.

Actually, I take that back. It’s incredibly simple. All you have to do is follow your city’s clearly outlined chart that indicates how to sort your garbage:

IMG_3663

What’s that? You’re confused about the thirteen separate garbage categories that appear on the chart? Well don’t worry, dummy, all you have to do is consult the easily comprehended monthly garbage schedule!

IMG_3664

As you can see, for your convenience, every garbage category has been color-coded to correspond with differently colored garbage bags available at your local supermarket! And it’s perfectly easy not to be confused by the fact that one color sometimes designates several different garbage categories!

IMG_3669

So by now I’m sure you understand that white, or “burnable”, garbage is collected on Tuesdays and Fridays, while yellow, or “soft plastic” is collected on Thursdays. Of course, this is not to be mistaken with blue, or “hard plastic”, which is only collected once a month on alternating Wednesdays. And of course neither of these should be confused with plastic bottles, which are their own separate category—don’t forget to remove the labels and caps, though, because those obviously fall into the aforementioned yellow, or “soft plastic” category!

And by now it’s very clear that electrical appliances, PET bottles, metal objects, and glass bottles and cans are all coded “green” despite being completely separate categories and are collected on different days! Why are metal objects and metal cans not collected on the same day, you ask? The answer is simple: shut up!

If you’re so intensely stupid that you haven’t mastered this easy system yet, simply refer to your handy 45-page trash disposal manual provided by your local municipality. It offers simple guidance for all dullards such as yourself.

IMG_3667

IMG_3668

IMG_3666

And if you’re still struggling to understand, here’s a friendly little piece of inspirational advice: if you sort your garbage incorrectly, it might be returned to your doorstep!

Alright, that’s got to be the longest, most sarcastic diatribe I’ve ever indulged in on this blog. Don’t worry, it’s all in good humor, and I guess I should say a few things in defense of this often-baffling system. For one thing, my city has a reputation for being especially strict with garbage collection, so not all towns in Japan function this way. For another, while it does take a while to get used to, it’s pretty logical once you get the hang of it and you generally only need to keep track of about half the categories on the chart. I mean, how often do you really get rid of a bed or a motorcycle?

And finally, the whole reason behind this endeavor is environmental protection. The burnables are separated from the plastics so that the air isn’t polluted by burning Styrofoam. Appliances are separated from other categories so that they can be disposed of safely. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people to put a little extra work into protecting the planet.

If that doesn’t convince you that it’s not so bad, there’s another angle to this: a lot of people just ignore the chart and put out garbage on whatever day they feel like it. Today is supposed to be a burnable disposal day, but I saw loads of bags containing PET bottles and metal cans in the garbage bins this morning. Some people even ignore the sorting rules and toss everything into the burnable bags. I wonder if the city even expects this, since the white burnable bags also happen to be the only ones that aren’t see-through. And while it’s true that garbage sometimes does get returned to people, I’ve never personally experienced that happening, so I doubt it’s very common.

Well, that’s all I have to say about the garbage situation. Fortunately I don’t have to deal with it that much longer. Soon I’ll be back in Beautiful British Columbia, where we cram everything in the same landfill and hope for the best.

Crazy Kit Kats: Turn Up the Heat!

Welcome to our last edition of Crazy Kit Kats. Once again, this flavor has been brought to us by John, who not only suggested the flavor but also bought it for me when I couldn’t find it. Thanks again, John!

IMG_3648

This is a pretty special one, too, because it takes a little preparation. The packaging says “purin aji”, or “pudding flavor”, which seems pretty vague, all things considered. I’m assuming it means vanilla pudding since I tried one of the snacks and its very heavy on the vanilla. And it’s actually not bad! I’d say even without the special preparation this is one of the better flavors I’ve tried.

IMG_3649

But what’s with the special preparation, anyway? What can you really do with a Kit Kat? Well, my friend, according to the instructions on the back, you can bake it in the oven! Apparently you can even use a toaster oven if that’s your style. Bet you didn’t know there’s such thing as a grilled Kit Kat!

Unfortunately I have neither an oven nor a toaster oven. But I do have a little grill in my stove for cooking fish!

IMG_3657

I’m sure it’ll do in a pinch. I mean, what could possibly go wrong, right?

IMG_3658

Uh-oh. Apparently what can go wrong is that you can wind up with a wretched puddle of melted chocolate and wafer.

Hmm. Maybe the microwave?

I guess I have to try, but already I’ve hit a snag here. See, I don’t really understand what all of the buttons on my microwave do. Sure, they heat things up, but there are no number buttons that I can distinguish. All that’s on there are pictures of bread (which makes toast, and also makes the plate roughly as hot as the surface of the sun), sake, a squid, and what I assume are vegetables.

IMG_3660

Usually I just hit the sake button when I want to heat something up and it seems to work fine. Here goes!

IMG_3662

Hmm. This didn’t turn out much better. I guess the microwave’s not the way to go, either? According to the packaging, the bars are supposed to get a delicious-looking, crispy golden brown shell but I think it’s safe to say I failed to achieve that look.

How about the taste, though? Well, trooper that I am, I sampled half a bar from each heating method and I can say unequivocally that they’re nothing short of miserable. Perhaps unsurprisingly, melted Kit Kats taste exactly like…well, melted Kit Kats. I’m sure if you have a proper oven they’re a lot better, but the ones I came out with just taste like sadness and failure.

My one saving grace is that they do taste pretty good before they’re cooked, so I’ve still got a bag of these things that I can enjoy raw. Sorry, John, my kitchen is just unequipped to handle the pure glory of the grilled Kit Kat.

Addictions

As I’ve previously mentioned, I recently went to Rabbit Island in Hiroshima with some friends. These friends of mine are a mother in her mid-forties and her daughter who’s ten years old, and on the ferry back to the mainland they had one of the best exchanges I’ve ever heard between a mother and a daughter. I give you the full transcription, which I’ve had saved on my phone ever since:

Mother: “You like chocolate.”
Daughter: “I love, love, love chocolate.”
Mother: “You’re a chocoholic.”
Daughter: “Well, you’re a beer-aholic.”
Mother: “No, I’m an alcoholic. Not just beer. You’ll understand when you’re older.”