Hisashiburi desu! That’s the Japanese for “it’s been a long time!” Yesterday, I sat the wondrous Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) N3… and I realised that I am still quite terrible.
So what do you say when someone asks you how it went? Well there are four answers. Read the picture from right to left now…
4) Don’t ask.
So I may be clutching a GIANT bottle of sake, but I think the genuine answer lies somewhere between 2 and 3. Maybe I’ll just wait for the results before I decide whether I’ll be drowning my sorrows or toasting… an intermediate level of Japanese that is still too far away from my goal of wanting to be able to write this blog in Japanese, among other things!
There are a couple of ironies arising from the above picture. Firstly, on seeing it, everyone thought my friends and I were drinking sake. In actuality, we were mainly drinking German toffee flavoured tea. I was very sceptical about this tea as I don’t tend to go in for flavours. This one really did smell strongly of toffee as it contained actual mini-toffee chunks. On trying it, however, I was seriously impressed: the balance and harmonisation between black tea and toffee was absolutely spot on. So look out for Aromatisierter Schwarztee – Toffee Tea. It’s perfect with cake…
The second irony was that several Japanese friends got very excited as the sake turned out to be expensive. Very expensive. I was clearly having a sake celebratory party, right?
Not at all! My friend had been gifted at the end of a party by an alumni of her school, who now in his aged years, was in a wonderful position of being able to bestow alcohol on the younger generations.
We tried Juyondai (十四代) which, when we did a little search online, seems to be nearly 20,000 yen (over £100/ over 150USD) for the 1.8 litre bottle we had! One sip and we could instantly tell it was fantastic quality – so light and smooth. In fact, it would be very easy – and probably quite dangerous – to drink a lot of this.
Daissan (獺祭) seems to be the more famous sake, judging by online excitement. However, I didn’t try it so you’ll have to dabble yourself or send me a gift…
In fact, all I know is that I need to learn more about sake. Would anyone like to teach me? 😉
As for why I was sampling (and mainly photographing) sake at my friend’s place: she is, in fact, a saviour of post-exam-stress-disorder sufferers. My weekend had been terrible. I had stayed indoors all of Saturday for revision, except when I ventured forth to Don Quijote – a cheap, Aladdin’s Cave-style shop, where I purchased a wristwatch. Yes, all clocks are covered during the JLPT test and don’t you DARE think about drinking during the test. Unlike the UK where I’ve encountered the simple rule which says ‘unlabelled water bottles are allowed’, this is an absolute no-no.
Staying in all weekend had given me had given me severe cabin fever. So when I emerged from the exam to find a message from my friend saying “Oh hey, my sister has baked a chocolate cake and I’m cooking dinner for another JLPT-sufferer. Join?” it was like the heavens had shined upon me.
Wonderful angel friend cooked ‘rolled cabbage’, a popular dish classed as Western-style Japanese food. It is made from a very large cabbage, large enough to wrap around some tasty mined pork, sprinkled with cheese. Then it’s served in a tomato broth. It’s very similar to a Polish dish called Gołąbki and indeed, there seem to be versions all over the world – literally. Check them out.
This was served up with a salad with an insanely good mixed nuts salad dressing (store-bought dressings in Japan are divine and I may have raved about them a little before..!) and mushrooms cooked with cheese and sake. I defy you to NOT lick the bowl.
And then THIS WAS THE CAKE. SEE HOW HAPPY IT MADE ME?!
It was a simple chocolate sponge but so light and moist. It was also quite salty which cut through the sweetness of the chocolate and made it addictive. I may have had seconds. I may have wanted thirds. But I’m trying to learn about the whole self-control thing. I’m not so good at it.
Huge thanks to my awesome friends!