Hikari's Food/Japanophile and Other Interesting Stuff blog

The Japanese have a test for EVERYTHING (almost)

I was planning on a recipe for today’s post after shirking my blogging duties due to increased school pressures and reading the new book in the Rachel Morgan series by Kim Harrison.  (What can I say? When I start one, it doesn’t get put down until it’s DONE.)

However, a Google+ conversation took me elsewhere. We were talking about learning Kanji and the subject of the Kanji Kentei came up. What is this? it’s an aptitude test to show your Kanji understanding level. It goes from Grade 10 (age 7 Kanji from elementary school) to Grade 1 (Past High School level, with a pass rate of LESS THAN 15%! Yes, of those who willingly take this test, over 85% fail it!)


Click for the Kanji Kentei full version!

This got me thinking about how the Japanese have a test for EVERYTHING (almost). They test to get into a good Jr. High (中学校 chūgakkō), High school (高等学校 kōtōgakkō, a.k.a. 高校 kōkō) and University (大学 daigaku).

Many Japanese are required to take the TOEIC or TOEFL if they plan to work in an international company.

Not a Japan native? Try your skills at the JLPT, the language proficiency test for “non-native speakers”.  Going to work in a Japanese company? Be prepared to take the  BJT for Business Japanese.

Want to drive legally in Japan? It’s actually EASIER for foreigners to pass their driving test than it is for natives to pass theirs (it’s a different test). But it’s still a nightmare. (This was true about 5 years ago. I dunno if the rules have changed since then.)

Okay, you got your license and got a car. Now it’s time for your every-other-year inspection, called the Shaken (車検). A typical shaken costs between ¥100,000 (US$1,285) and ¥200,000. (US$2,571). NOTHING can be wrong with the car! Oil leak? FAIL. Out of alignment? FAIL. Is your vehicle over 10 years old? Time for YEARLY inspections! Any rust that they find can FAIL your car!

Okay, enough about vehicles, just stick to the train…

I could go on and on about all the tests you can take in Japan.

But they don’t test for everything. However, many of the things they don’t have tests for involve so much paperwork you wish there was just a test. It’s difficult to find clear English rules about the Japanese side of registering for marriage, but for the Japanese partner, it requires showing a family register or koseki (戸籍).

Well all, I think that’s it for my little story about testing. Do you have anything to add about testing in Japan or another country?


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Return of the American Bento, Part 4 (Dollar madness)

So I put lots of hard work into my American Bento series, looking at the options, considering the cost, etc. But it’s a new year and I just can’t ignore some of the new additions that my local dollar store has to offer! Don’t worry, boys and girls, this is a national chain, so if you live in the USA, you should be able to find these too!

(Pardon my pictures, I used my phone.)

First, here are the seasonal offerings:

These cute boxes are small enough to fit into a bento. They are similarly sized to the Christmas gum cases I found except much deeper..

Valentine Heart Boxes

Valentine Heart Boxes

I have seen a couple of grocery stores offer different varieties of these, including a see-thru red. Feel free to shop around!

Another lovely seasonal offering: this cupcake set with the reusable plastic picks serves two purposes: Side dish segregation and food picks! (or you can just make cute cupcakes, your option!)

More than just cupcakes!

More than just cupcakes!

There were some Easter items already out, but not much interested me except for the Easter eggs, which included the bunny-eggs from a previous post.

Now, we’ll move on to the new offerings that are not holiday-specific. A whole load of colorful offerings came in at the beginning of the year!

Cute, small and colorful icy goodness

Cute, small and colorful icy goodness

These have been in stock before, but I haven’t seen them in a while. I got the fruit-shaped kind and I think the orange slice and grape shapes are just right to squeeze in between items to help keep them cold!

Lots of lovely shapes!

Lots of lovely shapes!

I normally like to eat my sandwich with the crust on, but these cutters can help make your lunch more shapely!


Containers, containers and more containers! of almost every shape and size! Above: The dip container comes with a color-matching lid, the snack containers have a locking lid, and the square container has a cooler pack built right into the lid! (That’s why there’s cardboard in there, to keep the pack from falling out during shipping. It actually snaps in pretty tight.)


Sorry for the blurry shot!

These containers all have locking lids. I got the sandwich sized one for myself, but the other containers are deep enough for using as a lunch box!

Drink and snack all-in-one!

Drink and snack all-in-one!

I thought this water bottle was just awesome for someone who just needs a drink and a snack on the go. The folding spout helps prevent spills and the snacks hide in the bottom! I like hidden compartments!

While that’s all for the newest offerings, there’s still more! Next, onto the Disney section!

disney combo

Yes, they own Marvel now, too!


Remember, sandwich cases don’t need to be for sammiches! crackers and cheese, trail mix, fruit, even a couple of onigiri can be stored in there for later. Maybe even throw in a couple of those ice cubes, too!

If you’re looking for cute but not Disney themed, look no further:

Lotsa Colorful Critters!

Lotsa Colorful Critters!

These containers are great for a small lunch and a snack! the small double packs on the left can be found in all the animals the lidded containers can be found in, as well as the plates.


If you like the portable utensils but don’t want to flash a brand around, try these. I bet that case can even hold an Oshibori! They also have lots of cute Magic Washcloths too!

Speaking of oshibori, I found a good deal on some toothbrush holders that should fit a full-size washcloth just fine.


Just as long as you don’t mind the toothbrushes that go with them!

I've seen other styles available, but these are C.U.T.E.

I’ve seen other styles available, but these are C.U.T.E.

Don’t want to use little ice cubes to keep your lunch cold? Consider these packs that were meant to soothe boo-boos! (No, not Honey BooBoo!)

Last but not least, you need something to carry your lunch in, right?


This has a carry handle, is insulated, and can hold an entire six-pack. I think it might hold your lunch!


Warm Noodles on a Cold Day

Yesterday, I had an extra long period in between classes, so I was able to take a lunch that required some preparation. Since it has been so cold, I thought a nice soup would be good.

Udon w/ chicken & bok choy

Udon w/ chicken & bok choy

The container should look familiar, it’s the hamburger shaped one I reviewed a while back.

The udon was provided by the local grocery store that had it on sale before Christmas. I like these packages where it’s soft and almost ready to eat so that you can have them on the go.

Since udon is quite plain just by itself with the provided soup mix, I added some sliced chicken breast and some simmered bok choy. Everything was easy to prepare ahead of time and I’m thinking of having a salad with the rest of the chicken. The chicken slices fit nicely into the “meat” section of my bento.

I kept the noodles in their package until time to eat, heated up the chicken & bok choy and got some hot water from the cafeteria (I love their constant supply of hot water that’s supposed to be for tea!). Then I added the noodles to the bowl, sprinkled about half the seasoning in, added the water and covered for a couple of minutes to give everything time to mix. I also sprinkled a bit of the soup mix onto my chicken because I didn’t season it during cooking.

When the noodles looked ready, I added the extras and dug in (There’s more vegetable at the bottom of the bowl). My sides included carrot sticks, a mandarin orange and some donut holes. The carrots were victims of grazing while waiting on the noodles, so there aren’t very many left in the picture.

One thing I noticed is that the noodles took up much more room in the bowl than originally expected. This meant less water and thus less of the seasoning packet. I didn’t want to finish a very salty broth at the end, so only seasoned enough for my taste. The udon was also difficult to fit into the bowl as it wanted to retain its square shape from the package.

This lunch had to be easy to clean up because the cafeteria doesn’t really have any place to rinse off dishes except the bathroom. This meant I had to drink all of my broth and use napkins to keep the empty container from dripping afterwards. I’m hoping my salad will be less of a pain in the cleanup category.

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The Versatile Blogger Award!

Yes, I’ve been procrastinating on this one. It’s the first time I’ve ever been nominated for anything and the thought of having to choose other bloggers seemed daunting. But, after some thought, I’ve slapped together a few names that I feel fit the nomination.


~First of all, thanks to Happy Yuan for nominating me! If you hadn’t been the nominator, you’d be on this list, too! She’s a Japanese woman sharing her life and travels.

Now, it’s time to nominate those whom I feel are “versatile” bloggers:

~One person that gets an Honorable Mention is one of the people that helped me get into Bento in the first place. Makiko over at JustBento.com and JustHungry.com doesn’t just talk about food! Sure, most of her sites are about food, but she talks about preparation, nutritional value, packing tips, history and so much more! You even get some personal glimpses as well.

~Over at I Miss You When I Blink, you will find a wonderful collection of humorous writing. Seriously, if you can’t find SOMETHING to laugh at in this blog, your funny bone is broken.

~Following in the humor vein, at Daddy-Drinks, read the rantings of a father with children that do things only children can do. There’s a reason Daddy drinks!

~I like to follow The Lunatic in her ever-random, usually crazy adventures at Thoughts of a Lunatic. I swear, we must be related somehow, except she says some things I only think!

~For more randomness, there’s always the Fish out of Water at Sincerely Slapdash. Sometimes funny, sometimes serious, never a dull moment.

~Oh, my, Kosher Samurai. I didn’t know defense lawyers could have so many different interests! (Serious bacon obsession ahead! Oh, and spiders)

~Last but not least, Jo at The Happy Logophile. I love following her adventures though life, her way of explaining a situation, and her short stories. Thanks for sharing, Jo!

Some of the rules for accepting the Versatile Blogger Award are:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Share seven things about yourself.
  • Nominate up to 15 fellow bloggers. (Seriously? Up to 15?!)
  • Add the Versatile Blog Award logo on your blog post.

There were more I could have nominated, but don’t you hate it when someone goes and already nominates all your favorite bloggers already? I also probably need a Blogspot account to help me keep up with all the other non-WordPress accounts. Seriously, I gave up on bookmarks years ago when I realized I could never find what I was actually looking for when I needed it.

Alright, what’s next? 7 things about myself:

1: I will be graduating from University this year with a BS in biology, and minors in Chemistry and Japanese (I’ve forgotten most of both).

2: After graduation, we are planning to move somewhere warmer. Seriously, it’s too freaking cold up here!

3: While we could be considered “poor”, we’re happy. Our rent is low, we eat almost whatever we want, and we have high speed internet and computers powerful enough to do almost anything. Now if we were just warmer…

4: Even though Hubby and I went to the same High School and worked in the same place during that time, we never met until quite a few years later. It’s OK, we were different people then.

5: Obviously, I love the Japanese culture. I love their food, their language, etc.

6: Sometimes I think my brain is wired more like a man’s. I find technology sexy.

7: Simple pleasures please me much more than they should for an educated adult.

That’s all for now, see you later!


Shpadoinkle! Japanese Commercials

There are plenty of things I could have written about, but I want this to still be relevant.

The Japanese make the best commercials in my opinion! They’re something I miss when I do manage to watch a few Japanese shows… they always take out the adverts. But that’s what YouTube’s for! People have gone and made compilations of current commercials for our viewing pleasure!

These are the Japanese end-of-year commercials. The user that uploads these does them every couple of weeks or so! Also, this user doesn’t use a commercial if it’s in a previous compilation, so every commercial is different!

Featured in this set: cell phones, video games, pachinko parlors (Don’t miss the one starting at 1:33!), snacks, anime, music, convenience stores, and more!

I swear, American commercials aren’t as good because they save the best ones for the Super Bowl, and lately they just haven’t been as good even then.

Anyway, some of my favorite commercials include:

Spaceman Jones! (there are more videos in the user’s list!) These were actually hard to find on YouTube, took me a while to find the right search string.

Another of my favorites are the Kappa Sushi series, where this guy is so engrossed with his great sushi deals, he completely ignores the cute little aliens! (Another hard to find set, included are individual links!)

(A few more Kappa Sushi commercials)




Also, did you know Japan has Aflac? (Although the newer commercials feature some crazy maneki-neko-duck… thing and he rarely says “AFLAC”! anymore…)

So, do you have a favorite commercial? It can be from Anywhere! Let us know BELOW!


New Year’s: Party Leftovers

Hiya, all! Still keeping your resolutions?

I think I had originally intended to post this yesterday, but…meh… Sorry there aren’t any in-process pictures, I was at a friend’s house and we forgot about the camera so these were taken with a phone.

We had a nice, relatively quiet party at a friend’s house and made sammiches, lots and lots of sammiches.

Everything but the drinks

Everything but the drinks

And Ozoni soup! What’s ozoni? It’s a traditional Japanese soup that’s part of the Japanese New Year foods that are meant to bring good luck, etc. for the rest of the year.

You can't see the greenery, but it's in there!Garnished with a bit of lime peel.

You can’t see the carrot or greenery, but it’s in there!
Garnished with a bit of lime peel.

Mine followed the Southern Japanese tradition of using miso for the broth. We added carrots, tiny beech mushrooms, Shanghai Bok Choy (the only difference is it’s green all over instead of white stemmed with dark green leaves), renkon, boiled eggs and kamaboko (lovely fish cake that tastes very much like imitation crab meat) as well as a piece of roasted mochi. My Japanese friend told me that her family has a tradition of making a sweet version using adzuki beans. While I found this thoroughly amusing, the savory version seemed less likely to be messed up by a couple of half-drunk women in a kitchen.

As for the sandwiches: I was inspired by the cutter giveaway (previous post) and wanted to make lots of bite-sized munchies to stuff in our faces as we celebrated the new-year. We decided on 3 flavors:

The first is a salmon roll.

Lovely salmon rolls! Not exactly round, but delicious!

Lovely salmon rolls! Not exactly round, but delicious!

We mixed pre-cooked, packaged salmon with cream cheese, lemon salt, umeboshi (these are a GREAT, tart addition to tuna or salmon! -Please remove the pits first!-) and sun-dried tomatoes. All this was mixed together and spread on a tortilla, then topped with cucumber and avocado, rolled up, wrapped and stored in the fridge until the rest of the sammiches were finished.

Next came the fruit sandwiches. I really wish I could have found some Hawaiian Sweet bread in a loaf for this, it would have been even better!

The stop in the fridge allowed everything to set and the fruit finished thawing.

The stop in the fridge allowed everything to set and the fruit finished thawing.

I got some vanilla Greek yogurt for this, instead of straining regular yogurt, and it didn’t need much sweetening either. I whipped this with an equal amount of whipped cream and enough sugar to taste until it was… whippy… Not necessarily as firm as normal whipped cream, but not completely runny either. I got some frozen fruit and thawed it until it made juice, as I didn’t want extra-runny sammiches. I used sliced strawberries (I got whole ones and sliced them nice and thin), sliced peaches, blueberries and blackberries. I have a “KrustBuster” that I really don’t like as much as the Japanese sandwich cutters, because it requires thin bread due to the “press” nature of the device. I used regular white bread and had to be careful not to use too much cream or fruit or it would squeeze out during the pressing. These went onto a plate covered with plastic wrap and stashed in the fridge.

Finally, here come the Club Sandwiches!

Yes, traditionally, there's extra bread, but these were just right!

Yes, traditionally, there’s extra bread, but these were just right!

These were modified from the traditional, because I wanted to make finger sandwiches. We used a multigrain bread, ham, turkey, bacon, tomato and the leftover cucumber & avocado. The bread was toasted lightly and spread with a thin layer of mayo. We tried grated cheese instead of sliced, and it actually worked really well, as it stuck to the mayo. The sandwiches were cut in half and then at an angle.

With all the sandwiches made, the ones stashed in the fridge were cut and plated, the soup was served, and a great time was had by all.

Oh yeah, we also had blooming or flowering Jasmine tea. The picture would have come out better if the bud had sunk to the bottom right away.

The best picture we could get of the flowering tea in bloom.

The best picture we could get of the flowering tea in bloom.

Thanks to the food, we managed to avoid hangovers, but there are some embarrassing videos of a certain someone playing dance games on the Wii… No, I’m not sharing!