Ah, and here I thought nattou was universally infamous - I'd certainly heard about it enough before I came over. It's fermented soybeans with a powerful smell, and seems to be an either-you-love-it-or-you-hate-it food with many people falling into the latter category. I can't testify (yet) as to the taste or odor, but I do knew the slimy sticky appearance (which can be seen here) is very unappetizing.
Speaking of the culinary arts, there's a fascinating television drama this season called "Osen" about the proprietress of an old-fashioned restaurant. It stars Aoi Yuu whom I adore and aspire to be when I grow up. Episodes focus on specific dishes, from the first choosing of ingredients to the final serving. It's the perfect show for Japanese television which is inundated with food in every possible genre, talk shows and music shows and even the news will feature a talented chef or in-season fruit. And it's the perfect show for me, trying to learn to cook and care about food as more than just a means to survival.
A recent episode was about miso soup, along with rice the ultimate staple food. It comes as a thick paste usually made from soy, and you stir it into dashi broth (made from boiling konbu kelp) and then add a wide variety of ingredients. Tofu, wakame, daikon radishes, or all sorts of Western-known vegetables like potatoes, carrots, green onions, etc. There are various types of miso, called by color - white (really more tan) and red (really dark brown) being the most common. The first time I had white miso I hated it - it has a distinctive earthy flavor. But red miso - akamiso - is also very salty, and I adore everything salty so I quickly became a fan.
A small container of the akamiso paste, one of the first things I bought here, can last for months as a small scoop makes a whole bowl. But before I got a chance to buy the additional ingredients I just had it plain, without even the dashi broth. This is a cheater's miso soup, of course, but I liked it so much that I figured, it's not broke don't fix it. So that's how I've been having my miso, and I was amused that Osen had the main character preparing miso sans dashi, with only some chopped green onions, and everyone was shocked and certain that it wouldn't taste good but were amazed when it did. I'm not sure what the point of this entry was but I finally bought and added some dashi broth and it's good too, I like it either way.
Song of the Day: The theme to Osen (not at all coincidentally), Odore by Micro. He's not an artist I'd heard before but I loved this song from the first time I heard it. The opening itself is awesome, right away you get the feeling of the show's old-meets-new feel, every aspect of the culture being as integral as the next, and the gorgeous outfits that are as much a main character as the tiny pretty girl wearing them. And it's weirdly inspiring for something about food - but then that's my prejudice speaking again.
Micro's actual music video is also pretty cool - I like the little details like the shadows as he passes, and that it's deceptively simply at first glance.