knits by sachi

Fantastic 100 yen shops

We went to see Mum at hospital every afternoon and spent a couple of hours chatting once she started recovering. I wondered if my son was getting with this routine, but later he told me that it was his favorite part of this trip. He grew up without seeing much of his grand parents or his cousins. He likes spending time with family.

We spent mornings browsing shopping centres and supermarkets. For my son especially, these places are as interesting as museums or theme parks.

The first stop: 100 yen shop.
100 yen shops are discount shops which sell wide range of goods for 100 yen. This corresponds roughly to one US dollar or 70 p in GBP. Market leader is ‘Daiso’ which operates over two thousand stores nationwide.

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We have pound shops in the UK, but the range of products and quality 100 yen shops offer is no comparison. They sell tableware, kitchenware,DIY tools,garden tools, stationery, household goods, sweets and snacks, dry food and some leisure goods. If you look through each isle, it takes quite a while.

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100 yen shops are able to offer an amazing range of products, many of which are their own store branded goods. Some are priced below the product’s actual value. They do this mainly by purchasing products in huge quantities direct from manufacturers.

Many visitors from all over the world come to enjoy budget shopping in Japan.

I bought dry food and utensils for my son in uni. My younger son got Japanese sweets and a new pair of chop sticks. He also got almond M&Ms for his school friend.

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You can get a sushi mat for 70 p, too!

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Some products are innovative inventions. I found these ‘chair socks’ to prevent the legs of a chair or a stool scratch wooden floor. I got two sets for our kitchen.

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And me? Yarn of course!

I found 100% wool yarn. How could I resist? It is multi-coloured and I found it quite pretty.

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I had a go at making something Christmassy with it.

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And this teddy. It is very sweet and I just had to have it.

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So, if you ever go to Japan, do visit 100 yen shop before you go shopping elsewhere!

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Emergency trip to Japan

Very early work of mine still sitting in the living room of my parents’ house. I made the dolls and Mum made the outfits. It is our first and the only joint effort so far.

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The week before last, I received the most dreaded e-mail from Dad. Mum was doing very poorly and her doctor wanted me to come home.
Dad said that the intravenous antibiotic didn’t seem to be working this time and her temperature wasn’t coming down. She was suffering much more than the previous time she was in hospital. She developed coughs and her X-ray showed white cloudy area.
Her doctor said there was a possibility of interstitial pneumonia. It is one of the causes related to the deaths in leukemia patients. Leukemia! Has she developed leukemia?

Dad’s e-mail continues;
To my son: Please arrange to come home with your kids and wife.
To my daughter (me): Please fly home ASAP. If you cannot bring your children, come home alone. I will pay for the flights.

Dad had added, ‘although her condition is serious, Mum is determined to get well and come home’. This was the only positive news.

The next day before I head to the airport, I wrote on the MDS-UK Facebook timeline. I have had posted Mum’s story earlier that week and members and stuff have been very supportive. I received kind messages, valuable information and advice. I thought I should share the update.

I received many many kind messages again which made me feel brave and tearful at the same time. Many wished safe journey and keep hope. I felt that I did not have to go through this all on my own. Their messages meant so much to me.

However, I wondered if I could keep hope. The doctor had said pneumonia and leukemia in the same sentence, but can I still keep hope? It seemed to be too optimistic or downright delusional.

After fifteen odd hours of travelling, I regained composure a little. I promised myself not to burst into tears the minute I see her.

She had two needles stuck in her veins and she was breathing through tubes. She weakly smiled when she saw me, but struggled to speak because it triggered her coughs. But she said her temperature was coming down, and her latest X-ray showed the white cloud shrinking. She said she would come home.

And she might do just that.

After two days from our arrival, she started doing much better. Her temperature returned to normal and the coughs went away. She could sit up and talk with us two hours on end. Her appetite started coming back and her nutritionist suggested increasing food portions. She laughed a lot and joked a lot.

She is utterly amazing.

My brother came down with his family. Mum has brought us all together.It was charming to see my son playing with his little cousin although they do not speak the same language.

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We cooked dinner together, and on the next day, we visited a temple to pray for Mum’s recovery. I am not at all religious, but I want to believe in all gods and angels at this moment.

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This temple is in a little town my dad grew up. I haven’t had visited it for well over 30 years. I took this photo with my mobile phone! Amazing blue sky!
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There are eighty eight well known temples in Shikoku island and many people pilgrimage around the island.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shikoku_Pilgrimage

This temple is number 23. My grand father used bring me here often. We saw pilgrims in white outfits.

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Not all on foot, but my parents visited all temples in Shikoku some years ago. They collected temples’ official seals which Mum wants in her coffin when she travel to the next life.

But that journey can be wait a bit, Mum.

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Sweet and sour pork/chicken

Harvest time

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For this dish, I received a full mark. My family said it was ‘outstanding’ and I don’t get that everyday.
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It comes from my own Subuta, sweet and sour pork recipe, using chicken instead of pork.
Sweet and Sour Pork is a popular Chinese recipe and is very common in Japan. I believe it is also very popular in North America.

There are many different versions of this dish and I find majority are a little too sweet. Quite often the sauce include ketchup and ingredients pineapple. My family does not tolerate fruits in savory dishes and prefer the sauce without too much sugar.

Here is our Sweet and Sour Pork recipe. You can get all ingredients very easily from a local supermarket.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes
200-250g pork or chicken, cut into roughly 1cm thick, 2x3cm pieces
a few tablespoons cornstarch
1 large onion, cut into bite sizes
1 carrot, sliced
1 large green bell pepper, sliced

You can add any vegetable of your choice, green beans, mangetout, baby corn, mushrooms, bamboo shoots etc.

Sauce Ingredients:
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp vinegar
2 Tsp soy sauce
2 Tsp rice wine
150 cc cup chicken broth or water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place all sauce ingredients in a cup and stir. Set aside until the end.
2. Coat sliced pork or chicken with cornstarch. Shallow-fry until browned and crisp on the outside. Remove from the pan and drain excess oil.

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3. In a wok or large frying pan, heat a little oil and stir-fry the vegetables.
4. Give the cup of sauce ingredients another stir, then add it to the vegetables, continue stirring over medium heat until the sauce thickens.

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5. Add the cooked pork/chicken and stir to combine.

Some recipe tell you to add cornstarch to the sauce ingredients, but since the meat is cooked with cornstarch, I found it unnecessary.

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Sweet and sour flavour is universally popular. We all find the good balance of sweet, sour, salty and spiciness tasty. When I first arrived to the UK, I was very surprised to see people pouring generous amount of vinegar over chips. It is very English, I think. I didn’t see that in the States.

If you are in a hurry or want less calories in Subuta, you can cook the meat in the Wok, add vegetables and sauce. For this method, one tbsp of cornstarch dissolved in the same amount of water should be added at the end.

Stir fry is so easy and quick. You can include lots of vegetables without much effort. It is perfect for busy people like us.

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