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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Serving Intestines and Bowing a Lot

Mentioned at the end of the last post that I got a new part time job...

It lasted all of three days. That is THE definition of 三日坊主.

The place is a motsu-nabe restaurant, which means it specializes in serving intestines that customers cook themselves in a hot pot on the table. While their ad specified that they were hiring kitchen staff, apparently there's a lot of cross-over between kitchen and hall, and it takes less time to learn the table-waiting protocol than the kitchen duties. So my first few days were all serving. And it's the most Japanese-style restaurant you could imagine.

First, the Japanese language required is super polite: ALL 敬語、ALL THE TIME.

Every place I've worked until now, I've heard the other staff using what's called コンビニ敬語, convenience store polite Japanese. It's a lesser version, an incorrect version of Japanese politeness, the most famous example being: 〜になります。

Many times you'll hear waiters say this when they hand you your meal, let's say... yakisoba: 「 焼きそばになります; This becomes yakisoba.」

This is obviously wrong. Why will this become yakisoba? It already IS yakisoba, isn't it? Will Jasper, of now defunct NihongoJouzu fame said in a speech once that he liked to reply to this with a joke, asking: いつ? At exactly WHAT point will this become yakisoba? Brett and I liked to hold off on our joke. On the off chance that we had any uneaten remains on our plate, when we handed it back to be cleared, we'd say 「ゴミになります;This will become garbage.」


Long story short, this is the first place I've worked where コンビニ敬語 was expressly forbidden. NEVER say 〜になります。ALWAYS say 〜でございます。The polite way to say "This IS yakisoba."

That in itself would've been NO problem. I was already in that habit from my previous job, where, even if other waiters were screwing it up, I liked to feel superior by always using the correct form. No, here was one of the problems.

The entire procedure for delivering the yakisoba:

1. Wait for the cook to bring out yakisoba and say "Here's the yakisoba for table 1."
2. Scream "はい!” in the genkiest voice you possibly can.
3. Pick up the yakisoba.
4. Scream "I'm taking the yakisoba to table 1," or literally "1番様に伺いいたします:I'm going to humbly inquire after the honorable table 1."
5. Take off your shoes.
6. Go to table 1.
7. Kneel outside the door.
8. Set the tray down on the floor.
9. Knock on the door.
10. Yell "I'm going to be rude and enter" (失礼いたします), but not in so loud a voice as to be disturbing to the customer.
11. Open the door.
12. Pick up the tray.
13. Enter the room.
14. Kneel inside the room.
15. Set down the tray.
16. Apologize for the delay and tell them you brought the yakisoba:「大変お待たせいたしました。焼きそばをお持ちいたしました。」
17. Take the yakisoba off the tray and place it on the table.
18. Explain how to eat the yakisoba to the customer.
19. Pick up the tray.
20. Say 「失礼いたしました、」 "I was rude to disturb you."
21. Leave the room.
22. Bow.
23. Close the door.
24. Head back to the kitchen.
25. Put on your shoes.
For me, the worst part of the whole ordeal (besides the fact that repeating it over a hundred times a night left my knees and back sore as hell) was number 17. EVERYONE knows how to eat.

Sure if you were delivering something rare, or novel to the table, the customers might want an explanation of how to eat it. But the staff at this restaurant is OBLIGATED to say, upon delivering gyoza (pot stickers), 「餃子をタレに付けて、お召し上がり下さい。」 "Please dip the gyoza in sauce and then eat it, honorably."

Half of the customers shrug this off. The other half look at you like, "Did you SERIOUSLY just tell me how to eat gyoza? I fucking know. Leave me alone."

Yelling and bowing and irrelevance aside, the whole experience was an exercise in arbitrariness.

I learned the word 補充 (ほじゅう;replenishment)which we had to do EVERY NIGHT for everything. If a customer had taken ONE spoon out of the jar of sesame seeds, that one spoon had to be replenished, even if there were still a full 3 cups of sesame seeds left in the jar.

When customers left a table, every item on the table had to be wiped with a rag. A specific rag. Blue for the gas stove on the table. Pink for the gyoza sauce bottle and sesame seed jar, as well as each one of the 6 separate menus. Yellow for the 座布団 (ざぶとん;seat cushions) and floor.

I also learned that some Japanese people don't realize that the word バッシング(busing, as in tables) comes from English. And at this restaurant, バッシング a table takes 20 minutes.

The procedure lists for doing things like greeting customers, taking and checking in reservations, and eating your own dinner after you clocked out were equally long and equally formal.

There were scripts for everything. Like how to tell a customer to take off their shoes, or to put on slippers before they went into the bathroom, WHICH bathroom to go into before you let them, even though the doors are clearly marked. In fact, if you see a customer who looks like they're headed to the bathroom, you have to ask them to confirm, and then go with them to the door.

On top of all of the annoying stuff like that, there were a handful of other deal-breakers.

1. Two of the three days I worked, were 9 hour shifts with only one 5 minute break.
2. It was only 700 yen an hour.
3. I was the only バイト who wasn't a young student. It was kind of embarrassing being 27 and still having to do that bullshit, especially since EVERY table I waited on asked me if I was a student, and I had to say "No."
4. It didn't look like I was gonna get to learn anything about the kitchen.

So, that's that. Back to the job search.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Question: How Do You Get Famous in Japan?

Answer: I dunno.

A handful of people have been asking me, both on YouTube and on the Yoji, about how I got into the TV and publicity work I'm doing now.

I'm happy to tell you all about it, but please, keep in mind a few things:

I'm not famous, nor likely to get famous. The TV station I'm working with is Saga TV. I do short segments about either restaurants, food, or things that they'd like a foreigner's or English speaker's perspective on (stories about Japanese cultural events, foreigners/foreign events, or stories about English education in Japan). They broadcast an evening 番組 that can be seen in Saga Prefecture and in some places in Fukuoka, and I go on to present those segments and talk about them live. So basically, it's the equivalent of being a reporter on the local news, without the journalistic bit. At the most, I do work for them two times a week. At the least, two times a month.

Also, if I wasn't a foreigner I wouldn't be doing the job. I don't have the personality or the talent to pull it off without some kind of a hook.

So I have three hooks:

1: I have a foreign face.
2: I'm a young male who cooks well, which is not THAT rare, but rare enough to count for something.
3: I speak not only Japanese, but the regional dialect with a high level of proficiency.

Of these three, I'd say that the last one is the most important. No matter how interesting they are, you don't see foreigners really "make it" as public figures in Japan unless they speak Japanese well. And the benefits of speaking a local dialect go beyond just the local area. It helps you stand out among everyone else.

Why Try to Make It Big in Japan?

I think every young foreigner who comes over to Japan has heard the rumors about how much love you'll get just for being a foreigner. Before I came, I heard about restaurants that would offer free meals to blondes, and seat them by the windows just to draw the attention of Japanese passersby. Never heard that that's actually happened though.

I'll go a little bit further and say that I think most young foreigners who come to Japan entertain, even if only in the innermost recesses of their heart, fantasies of achieving celebrity here. It definitely crossed my mind, and from some of the messages and comments I get, I know there's no shortage of people who expect to arrive and LIVE those fantasies.

Once I got here, those fantasies disappeared, and I fell into working, living, and studying the language. It wasn't until I was on the ground here for over two and a half years that I started to develop a sense of what I wanted to do and, more importantly, what I could realistically expect to be able to do.

What I decided was this:

I want to open my own restaurant in Japan and have a cookbook published here.

To those ends, I started to strategize. Just compiling all of my recipes and documenting them takes a lot of work, and once it's done, submitting them to a publishing company would more than likely elicit a reaction of "And who the fuck are you?" So the original plan was to keep working my regular jobs (teaching and waiting tables) and save money, while taking small steps towards getting myself and my cooking "known."

I thought that if I could somehow draw attention to myself and have proof of my abilities, that would be easiest. Sending query letters to cooking magazines and things like that fall flat if you don't have a portfolio.

How I Actually Went About It:

I started posting cooking, gourmet, and Japanese language videos on YouTube, and when I documented a recipe, I'd put it on my blog.

This is my earliest attempt at a video (of the ones I haven't erased):

I'm kind of embarrassed watching it now.

This is my earliest Japanese recipe post, from way back before I moved to Ameblo.

I hope there's been progress on a Japanese level, but there have definitely been changes.

Once I had established a little bit of a following, I started applying to modeling and talent agencies. I was hoping that they'd be able to help introduce me to magazines that would want recipes, or cooking shows that would want guests.

My first attempt, at a Tokyo agency called BESIDE, with a branch in Fukuoka, did not go well at all. I applied online with a couple of facebook pictures, and got an appointment. I brought my whole cooking portfolio, and that was all I wanted to talk about. They had me audition for runway walking.

I did not receive a call back.

But I learned a lot from it. They DID have the connections I wanted, but they weren't interested in helping me (see "An Aside About Modeling Agencies" below).

About this time, I was lucky to come across an audition notice for foreign extras for a commercial. I applied and along with 16 other people or so, got the job. Filming took 2 days, we were put up in hotels, and we ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the crew. At every chance, I tried to talk to all of the Japanese staff members, and got a whole lot of business cards. One of the project managers and I became VERY good friends and we still hang out together all the time. Another one of the project managers knew someone who managed a modeling agency and introduced me.

When I went to talk to the agency this time, I brought no food pictures, and didn't even mention cooking, except as a hobby. They signed me up right away.

An Aside About Modeling Agencies:

One of the most common misconceptions I've come across is that if you're foreign, it's easy to make a career as a model in Japan, no matter what you look like.

That's just not true.

If someone tells you they model professionally in Japan, it'd be rude to ask them how often they work, or how much money they've actually made modeling, but in most cases, they're probably just registered with an agency.

Because what is true, is that it's easy to register, especially since there are usually modeling agencies in big cities that cater exclusively to foreigners. Sometimes they're Japanese run, sometimes foreign run, but my overall take is that modeling agencies in general are scams.

They make more money off of the models that they represent, than in bringing in outside work.

A modeling agency will ask you to pay for headshots, and to have a composite printed that they can use to advertise you. Most of them also function as modeling schools, and they offer lessons, which they'll recommend you take, and usually charge for.

A good rule of thumb is that if a modeling or talent agency GENUINELY believes that they can get you work, and that you can be a profitable model, they won't charge you for those classes. They might not charge you for the headshots either, but even if they do, they won't take cash from you. If they think they can get you work, they'll just recoup it out of the modeling fees you'll eventually earn.

Foreign modeling agencies are worse than regular modeling agencies. They WILL sign you up now matter what you look like. They WILL take your cash. And then you're registered with a ton of other people just like you, and when a company comes looking for a foreign model (which doesn't happen all that much) your picture is lumped in with a whole agency full of people that are essentially your competition.

Both foreign agencies and Japanese agencies have the same downside in that they don't really care how much money the individual model is making. They have their "stars" and they have their hopefuls, who will never make anything but keep paying for lessons. And then if the other models that they have working for them each make a little bit of money a month, they get to add up EVERYONE'S totals, and take 30% or so from each. Yes, if I make more money, they make more money, but they deal in so much volume, that when I first started they had no real motivation to sell me.

It was just like, they had a male foreign model on their list, and if someone happened to be looking, they'd go, "Oh, yeah, we've got this guy. Check him out." But they weren't pounding the pavement with my headshots.

So the first 4 months I was there, I did a handful of jobs: fashion shows, bridal advertisements, and a coffee maker commercial. After I had established the fact that I could DO what work they could find me, I started pushing them a little bit.

Making Connections:

I talked to them about my YouTube channel, and had them link my blog on their website, and suggested approaching magazines about doing a cooking project. One of the magazines went for it, and I got a cooking column.

The cooking column in the magazine ran with my blog address at the bottom, and the information that I lived in Saga. Some TV people in Saga saw the magazine, followed it to the blog, and sent me an email.

From there, we set up a meeting and talked about what we could do. They liked me, but again, more importantly, they liked my Japanese. Being a foreigner and cooking were enough to get me on one time to guest host a cooking segment. But they made it clear that if I proved that I could handle the language on TV, that they had more ideas in mind for me.

The relationship has grown from there to the point where I don't have to rely on teaching to pay my bills anymore, and since I no longer need it for a visa either, I said my goodbyes.

To get to where I am right now, it's taken me about a year and four months of pro-actively working on it.

This year, I'm still hoping to branch out, so I'm pushing the agency again to start showing some of my clips to TV channels in Fukuoka.

The overall plan remains the same though. Rather than shooting for big fame, I'm just trying to put together money and connections as quickly as possible and if I can make a living by cooking, I'll be happy.

The General Plan for the Future:

The more my Japanese blog grows, the closer I get (I think) to the possibility of a book. But the market for cookbooks these days is so over-saturated that you need some kind of theme or gimmick. One potential gimmick I'm exploring on the blog is "国際結婚キッチン" as that seems most likely to resonate.

Another possible one involves traveling around the world. My wife and I are putting together our money and planning to take off early 2012. I'm hoping to continue YouTube-ing and blogging food and recipes in Japanese during the trip.

When we get back, the idea is to spend some time trying to focus my efforts on the cookbook, and getting it sold.

I'll keep posting about what I'm learning and what new opportunities come my way.

As of tomorrow, I'm starting a new part-time job cooking at a local restaurant, so hopefully that will yield some good experience.

If you have any other questions, please leave them in the comments!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Taking Questions from J-peoples

I started a new video series, talking entirely in Japanese, while drinking, answering Japanese viewers' questions about foreign countries and foreigners.

I've been thinking about it for a while, but finally got up the courage to do it.

I've been doing cooking videos and other videos in Japanese for a long time, so why should this require courage?

Any time I've ever made a video talking about any cultural aspects of Japan or America

(even this video that I made about BREAD)

it tends to garner more attention than a cooking class video. Sometimes they get linked on Japanese blogs, or featured on Japanese YouTube pages which is FANTASTIC for the view count and the revenue.

But it also brings the assholes out in force. Check this comment from the bread video.



The person didn't bother to watch any other videos and realize I wasn't a vegetarian, nor think it would be strange to wonder why vegetarianism should have any bearing on bread, nor consider the fact that bread isn't 日本食。Just assholism.

And they'll be pretty ruthless about my Japanese abilities too.
Watching the first new video I just put up, I've got three or four things that I wish I had said better, or mistakes that I notice.
At one point I pronounce 結ってる (yutteru) as 酔ってる (yotteru). WHOOPS.
I can never get them to come out perfect though, so...

Anyway, deep breath in. HOLD. And begin.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


One of the best tools for getting by in conversation in a foreign language is knowing how to ask about opposites.

When you don't know the word, for say "dark," but you remember 明るい is "bright," you can not only improve your vocab, but keep the conversation going with just a quick pause to ask 「あれ、明るいの反対は何だったっけ。」

A problem that I've come across in Japan though, is that my conversational partner isn't always the best at helping me find the right word.

I suspect this is because the Japanese language doesn't put as much emphasis on identifying concrete opposites as English does. I seem to remember doing opposites worksheets in school, and playing opposite association word games with my brother when we were little.

But if you've lived in Japan for a long time and tried the "opposite" approach, I guarantee you have had a similar exchange:

Japanese person: あの子、酔っぱらっている?
Is that girl drunk?

Me: いや、いつもそんな感じ。あれ、ちょっと待って。。。
No, she's alway like that, even when she's totally... uh .... Wait.
What's the opposite of drunk?

Japanese person: 酔っぱらっていない。
Not drunk.

And they're not joking.

I've also had more than one conversation where people have told me that the opposite of homosexual is "not gay" or even 普通 ( ふつう;normal) which is all kinds of problematic in terms of labeling.

So I don't know how often it'll happen, but anytime I come across a HARD-WON new opposite set, I'll try to share it with you.

The two we've covered so far are:




the technical term for homosexual



And the one that I came across recently that sparked this post is:



to be quenched

Have you had any of these experiences you could tell us about?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Everything You Will Ever Need to Talk about RAMEN


It's big in Kyuushuu. Well, to be more precise, it's big all over Japan.

But here in Kyuushuu, especially so close to Fukuoka, Hakata-style ramen is practically daily bread.

What sets it apart is the 豚骨 (とんこつ;pork bone) broth, milky and well known for its OVERPOWERING and often unpleasant aroma while cooking, but delicious taste .

You might remember we mentioned it when we talked about 九州男児: For the 九州 MAN,
ramen that ain't tonkotsu isn't considered ramen.

In any case, I was invited along on カチカチワイド'sのグルメ巡り(ぐるめめぐり;gourmet tour) segment. It's called 「花金グルメ」and it's the segment that I appear on most often.

グルメ巡り will be familiar to anyone who has ever turned on a TV in Japan. It's the equivalent of western food shows (Anthony Bourdain springs to mind), where entertainers or reporters visit interesting or unique restaurants and introduce the food. A common western remark about the Japanese shows though, is that you'll hardly EVER see anyone eat something they don't absolutely LOVE, and the squeals of 「おいしい!おいしい!」are kind of over the top.

Despite the overwhelming impression that all it takes to make one of those clips is someone to shout 「うまいこれ、」it's actually very hard to talk in detail about food. So I've taken to finding out what kind of restaurant we'll be going to and spending a couple of evenings beforehand researching descriptive words that I might be able to use.

It's a huge help that the woman I co-host with most often, Young He, is really good at it.

I'll take a bite of the featured food, and get out two or three sentences, trying to highlight various aspects of its taste or texture, and then she will expound on its merits at length. No exaggeration, she'll go as long as 8 minutes, talking about why and how it's so delicious. I hide a notebook under the table and as soon as the cameras stop rolling, I try to write down as much of what she said as I can remember. Of course, of that 8 minute speech she made, only 10-20 seconds will get used, but the editors get to choose the best parts to use. When it comes time to edit me, they have much less of a selection.

So I keep studying.

For the most recent segment (click to see the segment in pictures), we went to an area called 三瀬 (みつせ;Mitsuse) in Saga, famous for being a そば街道 (かいどう;Soba highway), but in recent years it's started to develop a reputation for churning out some good ramen as well.

Research was easy because the magazine I write for, 福岡Walker, recently did an all Ramen issue. I just pulled that out and started making a list.

So, if you are ever in a situation where you need to talk about how your ramen tastes, order your noodles cooked to your liking, or just talk about ramen on TV, here's what you need to know.
Where applicable, I've organized things into scales:

First, let's get into 麺 (めん;noodles):

The two most important scales for noodles are those for their thickness, and their hardness:

Thickness, from fat and thick to thin and fine:
 太い <ーーーーーー> 細い
 ふとい         ほそい

Hardness, from hard to soft:
かため <ーーーーーー> やわめ

To expand on hardness, everyone has their personal preference, but for the most part, I think al dente is the way to go for ramen.

Noodles are referred to as 粉もの (こなもの)meaning they're made from powder, like flour. All 粉もの have the unfortunate tendency to get soggy the longer you let them sit after cooking, especially when you let them sit in hot water. To talk about this getting soggy in Japanese, you can use the word 延びる(のびる; to stretch out; lengthen). 延びる is great to talk about any kind of noodles, but on another グルメ巡り outing, I recently learned that the pros also use it to talk about たこやき!

You don't want soggy noodles. The textures you're looking for are

シコシコ:al dente, kind of chewy, with a little bit of a snap. In this instance, picture the moment when your teeth break through the noodles, and there's like a tiny recoil.

Yuri cautioned me against overusing this particular 擬態語 (ぎたいご;mimetic word) on TV, because it's a homonym for the sound produced by, well, jerking it. Like a Japanese "fap."

モッチリ: also springy in texture, but (easy to remember) more springy like もち. It's got some give to it when you bite it, but doesn't have the same sharp SNAP of シコシコ。I suspect it of being moister.

You can also use the phrase 腰がある (こしがある), and yes, that is the kanji for "hips." It can refer to the "body" of things like hair, noodles, and according to Rikai-chan, paper. 麺 that have 腰 are going to be "resilient." Hand in hand with either シコシコ or モチモチ、they'll bounce back, to different degrees, depending on how much 腰 they have. A little 腰 can be a good thing. Too much, and maybe they're undercooked.

Here's an example of how I put some of this together when I got to eat some thicker noodles.


Briefly, you might also want to touch on whether the noodles are more 丸い (まるい;round) or 平ら(たいら;flat) and definitely mention it if they're 滑らか(なめらか; smooth).

Also good to know is that the verb for slurping up noodles is 啜る(すする), and there's a 擬態語for talking about the pleasant sensation of noodles that slurp easily: するすると入る

Since the possible combinations of 具 (ぐ;solid ingredients) are endless, let's finish off with

The major scales for ramen broth are:

あっさり <ーーーーーー> こってり
simple; light <--------------> rich; strong


さっぱり <ーーーーーー> 濃厚(な
simple, or crisp <-------------> dense; thick

These two scales are very similar, but I think it's safe to say that あっさり and こってり are more for describing flavors, while さっぱり and 濃厚 are more for tactile sensations.

Not entirely sure, but from bartending, I know that あっさり and さっぱり are both words that get used to describe things like ginger ale, lime, and Corona; the key words there are CRISP and REFRESHING.

A soy sauce ramen broth would be thinner and watery, and I think more likely to be called さっぱり。A tonkotsu broth is milky and creamy, so it gets 濃厚。The level of HOW こってり ramen is, that's a matter of flavor, so it can be adjusted by how concentrated the broth is. Some restaurants will even ask you how strong you want it.

When the soup is REALLY creamy, ramen broth can be described with とろみ、which means thick like a sauce, or like the yolk of a sunnyside-up egg. Not quite sure how to define grades of とろみ、but they used it to talk about my eggnog. I think creamy to the point of being gooey, like あんかけ is too far to take the word.

As for flavor, there's my favorite: まろやか, which gets defined as "mild." But don't think of it as bland. Think of it as smooth, where all the flavors come together in a very well-rounded way. I think it's possible for something to be 濃厚, rich, and まろやか, mild, at the same time. Please tell me if I'm wrong!

Other important points to touch on for ramen, ESPECIALLY tonkotsu ramen are 臭み(くさみ;odor)、and あと味(あとあじ;after-taste)。

Pork bones and the meat that they use to make the broth... they don't usually smell good. And when the broth isn't prepared well, some of that stink carries over. It's hard to find a review of Tonkotsu ramen that doesn't go out of its way to use the phrase 「臭みがない。

After-taste is also big because the problem with a rich, creamy, milky broth is that people can't eat large portions of RICH foods. The first few bites are delicious, but if it's too rich, you get tired of it, which is 飽きがくる in Japanese.

It's important for any ramen, even rich ramen, to have a refreshing after-taste to prevent this problem. This time, the word we want to use for refreshing is すっきりする。

Here's another quick まとめ、drawn from my research, with a few extra additions:


There's actually more, but this has gone on long enough!

I'm going to make a follow-up post, talking about how the actual broadcast went, some new phrases that got thrown in, and how even though I did all this freaking research, in the end, I ate soba and Chanpon while Young He ate the ramen!

Don't worry, a lot of the vocab crosses over well, so I was safe!

And as per your requests, I promise that in the near future I'll post about exactly how a person gets into this in the first place, and what you're expected to be able to do if you wanna keep it up.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Eve

For the last couple of months I've been working for a TV show called 「かちかちワイド.」

Last night was their 大みそか broadcast. Despite this being my fourth New Year's in Japan, I'd managed to miss the word 大みそか until this year.

I knew
元日(がんじつ;New Year's Day), and
お正月 (おしょうがつ;The New Year period that includes the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd),
and I was even okay with

年末年始 (ねんまつねんし;the end of the old year/beginning of the new one)
but I guess I didn't watch enough TV to catch 大みそか、which is the Japanese term for New Year's Eve.

Pretty much EVERY TV channel has a big special New Year's Eve broadcast. Most of the country tunes in for NHK's 紅白歌合戦、the singing contest that pits men (white) against women (red). The men won this year, BTW.

On カチカチワイド, we looked back at some of the program's more enjoyable moments from the past year, talked about New Year's traditions in other countries, and then ate some Osechi Ryouri.

One of the other reporters is 在日韓国人 (ざいにちかんこくじん;Korean person living in Japan) and she introduced a dish called ムッ: a kind of tofu made from soba that they traditionally eat to celebrate the New Year.

( is the Korean word for it.)

I'd had some concerns in talking to the director about what we we're going to do for my segment,
because there are no American New Year's traditions that are really comparable to the Japanese.

In my opinion, the closest Americans come to an お正月 experience is Thanksgiving, for a couple of reasons.
  1. Both Thanksgiving and お正月 are occasions that warrant 里帰り (さとがえり;a return to your hometown).
  2. Both involve 伝統的な料理 (でんとうてきなりょうり;traditional food) that you share with your family.
For families who go to church on Christmas, that one might be an even closer match for you, because it's tradition in Japan to visit a temple on New Year's Eve for 除夜の鐘 (じょやのかね;ringing in the new year with 108 peals of the temple bell) and to visit three shrines (三社参り;さんしゃまいり)during the お正月 period.

But when it comes to American New Year's traditions, I couldn't think of anything besides the Rose Bowl Parade that didn't involve New Year's Eve.

I talked to the director about watching the ball drop, the カウントダウンパーティー (countdown party), complete with シャンパン and カウントダウンキス. But what traditional New Year's foods are there?

In the end, I managed to get them to let me introduce a staple at holiday parties: Eggnog.

Truth be told, I've never been to a party where eggnog was served, and I don't really like it that much, but it is a traditional winter beverage in the west, right?

So I made a batch, took it in, and explained it like this:
And then I talked about the ingredients, how we usually put alcohol in it, and used a word that gets thrown around a lot in Japan:
独特(どくとく;peculiar, unique, characteristic).
Alcoholic eggnog has an extremely unique taste, and people usually divide pretty cleanly into "Like it" and "Hate it" categories, which I also said.

You can check out my recipe for eggnog, and more specific details in Japanese on my cooking blog, here: 冬になったら、飲まなきゃ!エッグノッグの作り方!

The other thing we talked about a lot was how I've been paired up a lot this year with a woman named こかどひろこ。

Kokadoさん is a fantastic reporter, and ridiculously talented and funny. It's amazing to get to work with her. But since they pair us together, we... or rather, she, has developed this shtick where she comes on to me, and I get really uncomfortable. We got a handful of emails from people saying that they enjoyed the コント of our コンビ。

コンビ is shorthand for "combination" and most often used to describe a comedy duo.
コント comes from the french word conte and in Japanese, it's used to describe the short, light-hearted, intentionally comedic bits that comedians do.

We got to joke around on air saying 「それってコント?べつにコントのつもりじゃないけど。。。」

And when a clip from one of Kokadoさん's reports came in first place as the most interesting one from last year, they asked me to give her a congratulatory message. To make that message funny, I learned a new phrase, which is actually a cool one to know:
手取り足取り (てとりあしとり)
手取り足取りis used to refer to teaching someone how to do something, and it means "with great attention to detail," but look at the kanji. Imagine a teacher "picking up" a students hands and feet and literally showing them how to do something. Any time you've seen some guy using his body to "teach" a girl how to shoot pool, or swing a golf club, or .... anything like that, that's 手取り足取り.

And just like that guy "teaching" the girl, the Japanese phrase has the same connotation of... ulterior motives.

So I got to say "おめでとうございます!僕もこかどさんみたいに、楽しいリポートをできるようになりたいから、来年も手取り足取りで、色々教えて下さい。"

To which she replied "なんでも教えて上げるわ," in her sultriest voice.

It was a funny moment, and a good broadcast over all.

I'm really grateful that I've been able to work with them this year. The producers got us a variety of Japanese New Year's food, and we had an 打ち上げ (うちあげ;wrap party) afterwards.

I'll be back on the program next friday to talk about ramen, so I've studied up on everything you could ever possibly say about ramen. Will bring you a post on it as soon as I can!

Hope you had a great 2010, and hope you have an even better New Year.