Cherry Blossom Erotica

Cherry blossoms (AKA sakura) are fetishized in Japan. The way in which cherry tree seeds have been strewn across the landscape, creating avenues of white explosions, can appear like a virile obsession.  Yet they’re also the epitome of beauty and regarded in such a wondrous manner that one might think that they’re only seen once a century. Actually they bloom for one – two weeks in early April, and every year the mania sets in.

Let me explain. Not only are they dotted around in manga-style pictures, no doubt to add a touch of fragility to the already fragile virgins, but I even saw a guy publicly masturbating by them (post coming soon). Just like the rose came to be associated with the feminine form within European culture, maybe the sakura hold a more sensual connection in Japan.

The majority of people, fortunately, don’t whip down their pants at the sight of sakura – they whip out their cameras, their picnic rugs and several bottles of alcohol, and sit around outside at a hanami (literally, flower-looking) event. In reality, this is an excuse for many people to get wasted. I did plenty of hanami – minus the alcohol. And mainly minus the picnicking as well (it’s my duty to restaurant hunt, so I tell myself).

Scroll down for sakura saturation, brought to you from various locations around Kansai.

Section 1: Hikone-jo, Hikone, Shiga prefecture

Hikone Castle is situated in a park full of a thousand cherry trees.

Section 2: Maruyama Park, Higashiyama, Kyoto

Famed for a very grand Weeping Cherry Tree, a festival atmosphere settles across this park, and people eat and drink and be merry.

Section 3: Sosui, Yamashina, Kyoto

I’m lucky enough to live near a canal area, which has also been sprayed with sakura seeds. It also features some overgrown yellow plants, creating a spectacularly colourful, flowery effect.


Section 4: Around Kyoto

My camera’s been having a little trouble focussing on these snow-like scenes. Here are a few for your perusal:

The School Dinner Disaster and Dubiously Aged Schoolgirls

The LITTLE Mermaid is so 20th century America; now it's about 21st century Japan!

Although childhood can sometimes seem like the golden days of one’s life, I’m sure there are things that everyone is happy to leave behind. For me, one of those things is school dinners.

I was in school way before Jamie Oliver’s Turkey Twizzler revolution. The result is that I have vague memories of a square, grey block of “roast meat” being sliced by a crumple-faced, bad-tempered woman.

“Want some meat?” she crowed.
“What meat is it?” I innocently asked.
“It’s meat! Roast meat!” was the impatient response.

Senior school was no better, slopping up dishes that, quite frankly, resembled vomit. These “meals” were made by people who cared so little about food that they, either accidentally or intentionally, made quiche using sweet pastry. Cross contamination was common – we’d often find unidentifiable objects floating in the baked beans or custard.

Needless to say, at the age of 23, I never thought I’d be opting to eat school dinners again. But due to a lack of time, effort and creativity on my part, I’ve decided to eat schools dinners with the kids. At elementary schools, it’s supposed to be quite good and I’m supposed to enjoy the communal eating experience. I’m nervous about the meals at junior high schools having spoken to the teachers. I’ll update you when I know.

But, it just so happens that recently, I had a school dinner experience OUTSIDE of school.

The evening had not been going well.  Our friend Anthony was visiting and so we decided to go to the special exhibition at Kyoto International Manga Museum – “Eshi 100 – Contemporary Japanese Illustration in Kyoto.” We arrived just after 5pm, which gave us just under an hour before the place closed. It was going to be tight, but we could do it.

Marching purposely in, we found ourselves in ….a library. Because, the museum turned out to be little more than a large library. In disbelief, we climbed the stairs to the main exhibition.

It was obviously not designed for foreigners. The only thing I remember are signs that went along the lines of “Who decided the reading order of the boxes?” and “Who decided that a comic had to have pictures?”

We then found a small saviour of the visit – an exhibition called “Magnitude Zero”, a collection of artists’ responses to the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. There were pieces from artists all over the world, in a variety of styles – not all to my taste – but interesting nonetheless. I recommend visiting the exhibition and attending the book launch event on April 22nd.

This ray of sunshine aside, we stumbled upon the exhibition we’d actually paid extra to see. With 15 minutes to go, we raced in to the hall to explore contemporary illustration in Japan.

Now I was expecting illustration that portrayed a contemporary Japan. The artists were, after all, working with the theme “Japan.” However, it didn’t take a lot of examining to see that this exhibition wasn’t about contemporary Japan – it was about young girls waiting to be violated. Unless contemporary Japan is solely constituted of horny, not-so-innocent schoolgirls (which if you’ve ever seen an anime or Japanese adverts, you’d be more than prepared to believe).

From the walls, teenage girls gave us coy looks of desire combined with modest blushes as they tried to suppress their urges. A friend of mine encapsulated their “voices” perfectly: “Oh, oh [moan] ….my age is dubious and my panties might be showing…”

I'm waiting for you to rip off my uniform...But the cherry blossoms shall make our encounter romantic, and in no way carnal...
My skirt might blow up in this wind. Whoopsie!
I may still play with kids' toys but I'm ready to advance to adult toys - if you show me how. But gently!
How after school cleaning really looks - if you're a 40 year old paedophile
You don't know what this dragon does to me at night. He was really inspired by Hokusai's The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife (GOOGLE IT) And the sakura are working their magic!

Yep. There was nothing sophisticated about this exhibition, even if they did throw in some traditional garb for good measure. I enjoyed the art for the pop culture flick it was and laughed at the increasingly ridiculous representations and their balloon-sized boobies. For the record, there were two male manga characters in the whole exhibition – both of whom were lurking far away in the background.

The souvenir postcard selection was limited but I bought this more tasteful one, of a young school girl, listening to her IPod at a rural bus stop, because rural Japan really does look like this.

I also bought the picture below, because, supernatural manga-schoolgirl aside, I’m pretty sure that’s Fushimi Inari in the background and it brings back good memories.

Feeling more than a little ripped-off at our 1000円 entrance fee, we set off in the direction of home, hoping to discover dinner along the way. It began to drizzle. Shivering we discounted place after place until we were almost at Teramachi, the main shopping arcade in central Kyoto.

That’s when we spotted Café Reims, a faux-French cuisine café. It seemed popular enough and offered a Dinner Plate set at 950円, which is extraordinarily reasonable.

We should have known. It didn’t even make it to the bog standard faux-Western Japanacised food we were expecting.

I asked the waitress what the Dinner Plate included.

“Pie. Beef pie. Wrap. Pie. Pie!” She became more insistent, miming the wrapping of the beef in the pie. She explained that it also included duck, salad, and “fresh tart.”

I am very fortunate that I don’t have any photos of what was served to me on a large metal tray-plate. Just remembering it makes me feel ill.

Firstly, the beef pie wasn’t a pie. It was some poor quality piece of meat, with the thinnest layer of pastry over it, so thin that it was impossible to taste. It was slowly sinking into mashed potato sludge, which had clearly been made by the classic technique of adding water to powder.

The salad tasted like a Big Mac. Now, I haven’t eaten MacDonald’s since I was maybe 6 years old so this salad took me on a long trip into my memories. I thought I must have been mistaken when my friend Anthony piped up, and confirmed my suspicions. There were also some dried-out looking sardines on the plate, also covered in MacDonald’s sauce. I couldn’t bring myself to touch them. The duck could have been any kind of meat and was doused in sickly sharp and sweet sauce that tasted as artificial as the salad.

The fresh tart, apparently, was pretty poor too. I say “apparently” because it was one of those “death on a plate” moments for me, where I was served a double-whammy of kiwi and strawberry (I’m allergic to both!)

It was meal that made me want to rip out my insides and even my teeth, and start all over again.

And, to vindicate the age-old adage “It never rains but it pours”, it started pouring with rain as I cycled home alone.


I was so distraught by this nauseating dinner that I demanded that Calle and Anthony brought me a cake home. On their arrival back to find me still dripping, they presented me with a “chocolate mousse cake”.

“She said it’s chocolate mousse all the way through. Lots of chocolate!” Anthony claimed excitedly.


Fail again.

The Versatile Blogger Award

The Versatile Blogger Award is a community-nominated award.

I have been nominated by Susie of Susartandfood and I am a very happy blogger! Thank you, Susie! Everyone, please check out her blog for fun posts and great recipes! 🙂

The rules:

In a post on your blog, nominate 7 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.
In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.
In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
In the same post, include this set of rules.
Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

The seven blogs I nominate are:

1) Domestic Diva, M.D.
One of my favourite blogs which I’ve only found recently. Megs is hilarious – I really mean hilarious – and there are some great recipes to be found too!

2) Life in Kawagoe
Just as it says, it’s a window into one family’s life in Kawagoe. Simply written and with beautiful photos, it’ll please anyone with an interest in Japan.

3) Sifting and Sowing
Recommendations and recipes? This is top quality food writing – check it out!

4) Byron and his backpacks
Follow Byron on his journeys and life teaching in Asia. Insightful and humorous accounts that I definitely can relate to. See his post “Jumping through hoops” for a great rant of bureaucracy!

5) Tricia A. Mitchell
One woman on an enviable massive trip round Asia or “Asian sabbatical”, as she calls it. Fantastic locations, beautiful photos.

6) Waterfalls and Caribous 
A travel blog focussed on South Korea. Engaging writing/photos, and lots of food posts too!

7) Photosbotos
“One amazing photo every day!” Says it all. I follow just for the eye candy but there’s plenty of technical info provided for keen photographers.

Seven random pieces of information about me:

1) I love spiders. I used to feed ants to the spiders on the climbing frame. I named one “Hermione” and would check on her every day. Until she disappeared. Sometimes, if I found a spider in the house, I would put it in my bedroom. I also became fascinated by the superstition that if you spun a money spider around your head three times, you would become rich. I decided it would be better to keep them in my hair for extra luck. I stopped doing this when it occurred to me that I might accidentally squash a spider.

A Japanese beauty...with only 7 legs :-/

2) I live in Japan and I don’t like nori (seaweed used in sushi). I keep trying by you can see the results. This is primarily a food blog so I’m really ashamed.

Nori turns my stomach!

3) I was a hero among local police. When I was 10, my parents put me in a karate class because I was a wimpy kid who got bullied (unsurprisingly, see #4). They wanted to toughen me up and also to improve my coordination. (I was, and still am, infamously clumsy. The scars on my legs are a testament to how many times I’ve fallen over.)

I did  eventually get better at karate and I even made it to black belt, but my parents were afraid that I’d never be able to use it should a situation ever arise. But a situation did arise. My mum’s friend was assaulted and racially abused her by two thugs. She was bravely following them down the street to make sure the police came and arrested them. Unfortunately, they decided to walk past our house and, although we live in a very “white” area, my dad happens to be a 6ft2 half -West Indian – so they picked the wrong house to be racist outside of.

As it happens, my dad is possibly the most non-violent, passive, mild-mannered man you could ever hope to meet. So my mum yelled out to my younger siblings: “Quick! Quick! Get your sister!” I was fifteen at the time, dressed in a skimpy nightie and purple slippers. Unabashed, I ran out into the street. Things started to get tense and one guy lunged at my mum’s friend. Before I even thought about it, I blocked him and punched him in the face.

I was so fast that no-one, not even him, saw what happened. Because the next thing he did was to turn to my dad and say “I’m gonna have you for assault!”

To which, I promptly responded: “What?! You’re gonna have a fifteen year old girl in purple fluffy slippers for assaulting you?!”

He blinked in surprise.

The thug got 6 months in prison for this assault and another 1.5 years for beating up an Indian man in a local hotel.

Turns out the guy lost half a tooth but he wouldn’t say how he lost it. The police had great amusement at his expense and I apparently became somewhat of a hero amongst them.

I would like to say that that was the whole story and I really was a complete hero, but actually, I slipped on my way back into the house, tore my ankle tendons in half and incapacitated myself for two weeks.

On another note, I have accidentally broken my karate instructor’s nose, my dad’s ribs and my brother’s finger. Training a clumsy person in martial arts can be a bad idea.

Pretending to karate kick my friend Jerry (nr. Mt Fuji, August 2009)

4) I was a goody two-shoes child who never threw a tantrum, looked forward to going to bed and always did my homework. At age 9, I precociously asked my mum what the best university was and she told me that it was Cambridge University.  “Well, I want to go there to study maths and drama,” I informed her.

I did go there, but I didn’t study maths or drama. I also got less good at doing my homework.

I appreciate that I am neither pale, ginger or freckled, but I think this image screams goody two-shoes.

5) I once posed naked for a university kickboxing calendar. I kept trying to kick whilst covering my crotch with a glove. My coordination just wasn’t up to the task so those photos were scrapped :-/ The calendar bizarrely used both males and females from the club, so I’m not sure what market it was aimed at….except maybe martial artist bisexuals. We didn’t find too many of them.

6) I’m allergic to everything. You know those pills that you might sometimes take during hayfever season? I have to take 1 – 2 every day just to live a semi-normal life. I’m paranoid that most people secretly think of me as “The Tissue Girl.”

7) I can fit my whole fist into my mouth. Everyone has a party trick so I guess I just wanted to have one too. I’ve stopped doing it now, not only because it’s quite disgusting, but also because it attracts unwanted comments about the size of my mouth. Never good.

Halloween Music and a Banquet on Two Boats

Mountains of meat

I’ve been a little quiet on here recently due to  working a lot, a visit to Taipei (post coming soon), starting a new job and entertaining a friend from the UK. Gomennasai.

Last week was crazy on several levels. It was an “only in Japan” week. Imagine accidentally ending up at an exclusive yacht party…

As most weeks do, my week began on Monday – in fact, painfully early on Monday as I was still in Taipei. Calle and I caught the 4:30am bus to Taoyuan Airport, took our wonderful 6:55am flight and arrived in Japan a little before 11am. Needless to say I was shattered. I travelled in a zombie-like state in the train, mindlessly playing Angry Birds on Calle’s Iphone (I’m a bit slow on the craze but I have no desire to visit the theme park).

By the time, I had made it back to Kyoto, I had less than an hour until I had to go back to Osaka for my last day at an elementary school. This was one of my jobs where I was paid just to play with children in English. As a result, I have had to develop non-existent football skills and I’ve had to (re)learn to run fast. Because when playing tag, I am always the tagger. Cries of “Phoebe-sensei wa onii!” still echo in my ears.

On my arrival, I was surprised to find a leaving party had been organised. A little manga version of myself adorned the wall and I was presented with a beautiful leaving card, “signed” by all the children and adorned with photos of our time together.

Phoebe sensei

I was really quite moved by the presentation. The children said they wanted to dance. They had been practising, I was told.

Given the level of organisation so far, my expectations were fairly high. Then the kids shoved on a Halloween CD. A happy American voice boomed out “time for Halloween!” Some kids proceeded to wobble and a few kids just stood, twitching their arms and laughing. Then the animal masks came out.

So with a Halloween party track echoing in the room, I proceeded to watch a trippy display of a dancing lion and elephant and some kids rolling about on the floor.

Then one boy demanded a change of music, ripped off his jumper, revealing half his body in the process, and attempted  to breakdance by spinning round and round on his back.

Halloween, Lion and Breakdancing Party

This was all highly entertaining. The last time we had a party event, the kids ate salty crackers with a mixture of tuna-mayo sauce from a squirty bottle, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. I had to participate and the bizarre combinations still turn my stomach.

Tired as I was, I returned to Kyoto in a party mood and I was looking forward to a boat party on Lake Biwa on Friday. My landlord, an incredibly fit 82-year old, had invited us to this “boat party”. It all sounded run and rather informal. We’ll be drinking he told us. I envisioned a small boat with a few retired people, sipping sake and playing go or hanafuda, or some other traditional games.

I was wrong.

Warning sign #1) When we turned up at my landlord’s house, he and his wife were dressed very smartly indeed.

Warning sign #2) Conversation en route: “I was the president of the Biwako Yacht Club. Tonight is a party for 130 years.”

Oh wow.

Our landlord was greeted with great deference as we approached two rather swanky-looking yachts.

Bianca on the left, Michigan on the right
The Michigan

We were played on board by a band of three gaijin (foreigners) and I waved very happily to the clown, who had a massive balloon hat…which I subseuqently managed to wear.

Clowning around

The phrase “sticking out like a sore thumb” comes to mind. Not only were we the most casually dressed, but aside from the musicians and a professor from New Zealand, we were the only foreigners around. I noticed eyes slide towards and casually flicker elsewhere as if they weren’t looking really. But I didn’t need to fix my smile. I was already  far too excited by everything and ran around pointing and photographing everything.

And Pheebz Eatz. So eat I did.

There was no buffet; there was a banquet. At least four rooms across the boat were filled with food. Every kind of meat was laid out in mouthwatering mountains. It was definitely a statement: the vast quantity of meat and relative small amount of fish proved that the Biwako Yacht Club has money to throw about. The food was exquisite.

Banuqet 1
Sushi - only a little though!
Lamb - a rarity in Japan. Good luck ever finding it on a menu or in a supermarket!

And by now, you probably realise I love beef. So this was practically erotic for me.


They also had plenty of desserts, including a divine chocolate fountain and these super-cute cones, filled with cream and topped with a raspberry and blueberry.

Cute cone desserts
Macha cake

The evening ended with fireworks and a bizarre conversation with a retired salary man, which resulted in a Frapanese – a mix of French and Japanese. It was wonderful – not only was I able to communicate with someone but I could practise two languages at once.

Of course, it was also wonderful because I was at the most exclusive party in town. And I was full of beef.