Life in Japan: Balcony picnics and a Nikujaga recipe

Balcony picnic in Japan

Social distance does not have to turn into mental distance, so these days I make an extra effort to reach out to the people I care about. I just talked to my friend Rieko on Line about what life is like in Japan during the days of social distancing and self-quarantine:

Rieko: Hello from Japan! These days I spend most of my time indoors together with my daughter Saki. However, all supermarkets are open and also some restaurants, so my husband goes out to buy food. Though this month, I have also started ordering food online and my husband has started working from home.

You are not required to wear a mask when you go out, but many people choose to wear one, especially in areas with many cases of covid-19. My family sent me lots of masks because Tokyo was severely affected, but now Hamamatsu (where my family lives) has also seen a rise in cases, so my mom has started to make her own masks.

Wii Fit in Japan

I try to come up with fun activities to keep Saki entertained, and sometimes we have picnic on our balcony. Today it is raining in Yokohama where I live, so we are staying indoors and playing with Wii Fit. Saki is also reading a new magazine that I gave her which came with some toys she can play with:

Japanese children's book

My sister said that when we do not have good fortune in some aspects of life, we might have better luck at other things, so I entered a giveaway, and guess what; I won a prize:) The prize was these sheets of cooking paper that you can cover the food with while cooking:

Cooking paper from Japan

I used the cooking paper I won as a lid, when I was cooking Nikujaga the other day. Niku means meat and jaga means potato, and those are the main ingredients in this comfort food dish, which is very popular in Japan. Here is the recipe, which I got from my mother in law:

Recipe, nikujaga, Japanese

Nikujaga (肉じゃが) Recipe

4 tbsp sake

1 tbsp mirin

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 ¼cup of water

10-15 small potatoes (or fewer larger ones cut in smaller pieces)

9oz chicken cut in bite-sized pieces. You can also use pork or beef if you prefer.

How to make Nikujaga:

  • Clean and wash the potatoes (no need to peel them)

  • Stir fry the potatoes at high heat with a little oil for about 5 minutes.

  • Add the chicken, water, soy sauce, sugar and mirin and bring to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes with a lid on (or cover with cooking paper sheets similar to the ones I won:)). Dinner is ready!

Nikujaga, Japanese comfort food

My friend Rieko in Japan

My friend Rieko in Japan

I met Rieko when I was doing an internship at a Danish company in Hamamatsu. Because her English is so good, she was assigned the task of showing me around, and we immediately clicked. Together, we went to aerobics classes and visited an onsen, and I even got to join her for her calligraphy lessons. After my internship was done, we stayed in touch, and Rieko also came to visit me in Dubai. Today Rieko lives in Yokohama with her husband and she has the cutest little daughter, Saki, who surprised me with a birthday song on Line last time I had my birthday. When Rieko was younger she used to work in Tokyo for many years, so she really knows the city well. Rieko writes a blog (in Japanese) which you can read here.

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