Being a Grown-Up: I guess every birthday is special…

Happy birthday to me.

Happy birthday to me.

So it’s my birthday again.  That happened fast.  It felt like it was only yesterday that I was complaining about it being my birthday (and a particularly cruddy one at that) and waxing poetic on the utter banality of celebrating being born.  But really, it turned out to be a year to the day.

I’ve always felt like the first couple of years of someone’s life shouldn’t be counted in someone’s age.  I mean, the first couple of years, you can’t even take a dump on your own, let alone tie your shoes.  Really, I don’t think we should count that years before someone has to start paying taxes against their age.  In other words, I’m actually five years old.  Someone buy me Power Rangers bedsheets.

Funny things, birthdays.  For the first ten or eleven years, they’re the greatest days ever (even though, for some reason, you always wound up bringing the cupcakes and stuff to share with class to celebrate your own special day, which I’m pretty darn sure is actually some sort of Stalinist brainwashing technique meant to acclimate us to socialized medicine and gulaugs, or maybe I’m just paranoid).  Then, at some unknown point in time, they suddenly turn into the worst days ever.   (“Oh god.  It’s my birthday.  I hope no one notices.  Well, I hope they don’t sing… Crap they’re singing.”)  Maybe birthdays stop losing their importance when they stop becoming massive goallines where you suddenly level up and are granted the ability to drive a car or drink a beer.  That isn’t to say that you can’t go for a joyride when you’re fifteen years and three-hundred-and-sixty-four days old. It just means that, for whatever arbitrary reason, you’re suddenly adult enough to do it without having the cops send you to juvie.  It’s not like you’re anymore mature on your sixteenth birthday than you were the day before.  It just means that some fatass bureaucrat in some cushy office somewhere looked at the calendar and decided that 16th birthdays were the perfect day to give someone the right to text behind the wheel.

You know what else I don’t understand?  The Happy Birthday song.  Who the hell is that for?  If I wanted to hear off-key singing and proclamations of how “dear” I am to someone (A little too North Korea-ey if you ask me), I’d just listen to the latest Taylor Swift album.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  I appreciate the fact you guys are singing for my benefit but at the very least put in a couple of practice rounds before you’re all making me go deaf.  If you really want me to have a happy birthday, you should all just shut the hell up and leave me alone with my cake.  Amnamnamnamnamnam <–  That’s my flat slob shoving food into his face voice, in case you found that too confusing.

And most of the time, “Make a wish!” comes off sounding more like a threat than a good-natured whatzit.  “Make a wish!” you all say as cheap-ass wax candles melt all over a previously perfectly fine cake.  Make a wish or what?  Are you going to just let the candles burn down to stubs, coating the entire top of the cake with melted wax in some S&M perverts wildest fantasy unless I make a stupid wish?  Are you going to think any less of me if I don’t make a wish but pretend I did?  What if I wished for something stupid?  I mean, solving world hunger is great and all but what kind of eleven year old would wish for something like that?  Find me a kid who says that’s what his wish was and I’ll find you a pair of parents that should probably have their kids taken away from them.  Being a kid means being a selfish asswad and promptly not getting whatever stupid piece of crap it was that you wished for.  I think we should just ban those sorts of wishes.  That way starving Ethiopian children don’t get their hopes up that little Johnny’s wish for world hunger to stop is going to magically make it so Africa isn’t a stinking hellhole anymore.

You’re five years old, kid.  What the hell are you wishing for a cure for AIDS for?  Two-faced lying bastard.

You know what birthdays are to me?  An excuse to be a fat bastard.  Let me preface this by saying that I have generally stopped drinking for my New Year’s Resolution, which means that I merely a fat bastard and not a fat drunk one, which would just be excessive.

Since I have to work Saturdays (Thanks, Obama!), most of my pigging out had to take place on Friday.  And, since I am a loser who doesn’t like to socialize, most of my pigging out took place alone  in dark, secluded spaces with me crying to myself and shaking uncontrollably like one of those “Vietnam vets” you see at Pier 39 who you’re pretty sure are half-tempted to buttrape you the second you turn the other way.  Okay, that may have been a bit of a fabrication at the end there but I digress.  I did eat alone though and with my earphones in because I live to eat in an isolated realm of flavor because I’m one of those douchey foodsnobs who thinks they’re better than everyone else.

Because I was coming off of a six day work week and because I am a night owl to the Nth degree (thank you American sports), my orgy of gluttony got off to a late start, with me leaving my apartment bright and early at 3 PM, after which I proceeded to Mito Station (pretty much the one happening spot in my entire city) and its Ramen Road, one of my main haunts mainly due to the fact that it is home to pretty much my favorite bite of food on the planet at this current moment: A bowl of tsukemen from Tsukemen TETSU, a branch of the mighty Tsukemen Tetsu based in Tokyo, one of the apparent originators of tsukemen (in which the noodles are served separately to be dipped into the ultra-flavorful condensed pork/fish broth).  Served with thick cut char-shu, bamboo, and the stunning ball of flavor and cholesterol that is an ajitama (seasoned soft-boiled egg), were it not for the fact that I would be dead after a week, I would eat here for every meal of every day if I could.

You know you want it.

You know you want it.

After that, I promptly got on a train and rode because what the hell else was I supposed to do with myself at 4 PM on a Friday?  After a good thirty minute ride on a train populated almost exclusively by noisy high school kids and old dudes who are probably rapists, I wound up in the town of Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture’s northern hub and, who would’ve guessed this, the home of the large Hitachi Corporation.  Sure I got there late but the sun was still up and a nice breeze was rolling in off the water (might be important to note that Hitachi is only 100 or so kilometers from Fukushima) and so I walked around and generally just looked like someone casing the city for a crime spree.  But hey, at least I took this picture.

Conspicuously positioned houses.

Precariously positioned houses by the same Pacific Ocean responsible for 3/11.

I didn’t eat in Hitachi because I was too scared to go into a store (and every single place seemed to be closed down).    And so it was back onto the train, this time packed to the gills with sweaty salarymen, weird people, and old dudes that were already blacked out drunk at six in the evening, getting their nasty unbrushed teeth breath all up in my grill all the way back to Mito.  Uncomfortable doesn’t even begin to describe it.

I got back to Mito and ate a bunch more crap that ranged between good and okay (but really everything pales when compared to the tsukemen object of my desires) but this post is getting really wordy and my writing muscles are getting tired and I’m rapidly approaching a brain strain and I may have had a bit too much birthday whiskey.  Needless to say, I lack any self-control and pretty much have to gorge myself at any given opportunity.  So really, who’s a year old now?  I still eat everything in sight like Baby Pacman.

 

This restaurant was literally abandoned.  I might have actually been served by ghosts.

This restaurant was literally abandoned. I might have actually been served by ghosts.

No birthday is complete without something that will take ten years off your life.

No birthday is complete without something that will take ten years off your life.

Stephen Eats Weird(ish) Japan: Mountain Dew Cheetos

Got a doozy for you guys tonight.  If you’re like me and have lived the typical life of a 18-24 year old American, you have revelled in many a night of eating way unhealthily and generally being up to absolutely no good.  In other words, there were many Cheetos and Mountain Dew type nights.  Well, in that case, I’ve got great/terrible news for you:  In Japan, some genius marketing department has decided to combine the two into one gloriously disturbing package.

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Behold, the chalice of misery

Me being the nice guy that I am, I decided to take one for the team and sample this strange exotic delicacy.  The result will not surprise anyone with any rational thinking skills:

It was absolutely disgusting, plain and simple.  While texturally Cheetos-y, the flavor of the corn puffs simply screamed “chemical disaster!”  I’d imagine that the genesis of this latest Japanese masterpiece was that one day a janitor at the Frito-Lays plant accidentally dumped his mop water into a vat of otherwise normal Cheetos and thus forced an entire nation to endure a simply dreadful snacking experience.

On the Mount Rushmore of arbitrary Japanese ingenuity, Mountain Dew Cheetos go up next to kendamas, washlets, and robot dogs.  The Mount Rushmore of arbitrary Japanese ingenuity would then promptly implode, leaving nothing but odd vaguely Mountain Dew-ey Cheetos dust in its wake.

If you encounter a cup of these things in a dark alley, I’d suggest that you run.  Run as fast as your stubby legs can take you.  And don’t look back.

-STEPHEN

 

Stephen Eats Weird(ish) Japan: Hangover Cure Tandoori Chicken Corn Snacks

So as I reported earlier, I bought a bag of a peculiar hangover cure-turned-snack-food-concoction from my local conbini (short for convenience store, don’t you know?).  Today, well technically yesterday since it’s currently two in the morning, I finally got around to tasting it.  Anyways, the video of me actively tasting it is as follows:

So after the relative high of the warm and rich Hokkaido Potato Buns, I was met with a resounding meh from the hangover crisps.  They weren’t bad per se but they weren’t all that awesome really, pretty much just weird Cheetos with an aftertaste and not much of the promised tandoori chicken flavor.

Now is this snack effective in warding off alcohol-induced pain? I don’t know… Can plain Cheetos cure a hangover?  If they can, then the answer is probably yes.  If not, well…

Anyways, I’ve got one other food item lined up for Stephen Eats Weird(ish) Food then I’ve either got to start looking for more stuff or simply wait for the next cycle of fresh funky flavors out of the Japanese food conglomerates.  (Japanese convenience stores usually rotate their special flavors of items every month or so but it usually seems like a day.)  If any of you, my faithful readers, have any suggestions for stuff I should eat or questions about Japan in general (“Will Fukushima radiation give you wings?”), hit me up in the comments section here or on youtube or you can reach me on Twitter @STEPHEN TETSU.  Things will only get better if you guys pitch in because I sure as hell don’t have the talent of skills to make this crap any good.

-Stephen

PS Ukon no Chikara is meant to be ingested before the night of drinking so that the turmeric (the main ingredient in the magic elixir) can kick in before the booze wreaks havoc on your insides.  I’m assuming that the situation is the same with the corn snacks as well.

Stephen Eats Weird(ish) Japan: Hokkaido Potato Butter Steamed Buns

Sometimes I see something and plan and plan to try it.  Sometimes things randomly appear in the hot container while you’re waiting in line at the convenience store and you decide on a whim to try it.  Tonight, while waiting in line to buy something that I also intend to test later, I came across a rather interesting choice for the contents of a Chinese-style steamed bun (bao): Hokkaido potato butter.  Hokkaido, for the uninitiated, is the northernmost main island of Japan and known as the bread basket of the nation.  Potatoes are tubers that grow in the ground and are in everything and apparently make you fat.  Butter is the stuff you put on bread.

Anyways, quickly shelling out the 126 yen cost for the little round bread thing, I quickly dashed (okay, I walked) back to my apartment and dug into the surprisingly tasty vegetarian (as far as I could tell) bun.

The potatoes were somewhere in between mashed and cooked, some in a more solid state that others and tasted strongly of pepper and butter.  There were also bits of minced carrots in there and, the theme of this bun being Hokkaido, a couple kernels of corn (Hokkaido cuisine in Japan is usually generalized as being butter and corn in everything).  But the prevailing flavor was the unmistakable starchiness of taters which actually was a good combo with the sweetish bun bread.

So my final verdict on this one is a buy.  Is it mind-glowingly awesome? No.  Is it good for odd convenience store steamed buns?  Yes.  In fact, I think it’s better than the standard Sunkus niku-man (pork bun) that they usually put out there.  So if you happen to find yourself in Japan and in a Sunkus convenience store, go ahead and try the Hokkaido Potato Butter Bun.  There are tons of worse things you could spend your 126 yen on.

-STEPHEN

P.S. Any suggestions, comments, inflammatory comments?  Please share them with me, either here in the comments section, on my youtube channel, or on twitter @STEPHEN_TETSU.  Thanks!

A tandoori chicken flavored hangover cure?

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Found this in my local convenience store. Ukon no Chikara is a Japanese supplement that supposedly prevents any hangovers if consumed before a night of hard drinking.

What you see here is apparently Ukon no Chikara turned into a Cheetos-type corn snack. Additionally, Japanese snack food rules dictate that it must also be tandoori chicken flavored.

This could be awful

Expect the video taste test up in a few days. Until then, pray this stuff doesn’t kill me.

Stephen Eats Weird(ish) Japan: Kyushu Soy Sauce-flavored Cheetos (チートス 九州じょうゆ味)

So, as anyone who has ever seen a picture of me can attest, I am a fan of food.  Thus, one of the primary benefits of moving to Japan is the opportunity to eat the bevy of bizarre junk food the country seems to churn out on a regular basis.  Just in my first three months in the country, I’ve encountered such delicacies as Mountain Dew-flavored corn snacks, salty fruit drinks, and more weird chip flavors than you can shake a stick at.

Today’s discovery is Cheetos’ special flavor making the rounds in Japan, Kyushu soy sauce-flavor (九州じょうゆ味).  Me being me, I of course decided to try the flavor on video.

Now, in the video, I said that these tasted like Cheetos with all the cheese sucked off of them but that’s not entirely true.  It took a while for the flavor to get to me but when it did, I actually quite enjoyed the subtle sweet and salty savory tones to the processed corn snacks.  Not trying to get to flowery here but I think I might have enjoyed this flavor more than the original cheese ones. (They still have a ways to go before even approaching the genius of Flaming Hot Cheetos, however.)

Anyways, if you guys have any suggestions for odd Japanese foods I can try or a desire to feed me something so disgusting it makes me puke, share it with me in the comments section below (or on youtube) or on my twitter feed @STEPHEN_TETSU.  I love to eat and I’m down to try just about anything (well that kinda read like a dating advertisement).

-Stephen