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SHIO-KOJI (salt-marinated rice malt) as a seasoning

By Gloria Y. - Last updated: 水曜日, 2月 22, 2012

mixed three ingredients:ready to start fermentation!

Have you heard about shio-koji, salt-marinated rice malt? Shio-koji is an old Japanese seasoning, made just from rice malt, salt, and water. All these three ingredients are mixed, fermented, and matured. The old Japanese used shio-koji as a bed for pickling vetetables/fish for preservation as well as for staying healthy.

But is that only an old time story?

Amazingly shio-koji has become so popular again since 2011 that many recipes are introduced in various TV programs or blogs and at cooking schools. Besides many books about shio-koji are published.

To tell the truth, I hadn’t known about this popular fermented seasoning until one of my friends gave me her home-made shio-koji a few weeks ago. Since then, I have become a big fan of it.
You know what? I can use shio-koji for wide variety of dishes – ranging from miso-soup, oden, grilled fish/meat to curry, stew and pot-au-feu. What I do is just add shio-koji instead of salt. It is this fermented seasoning that can deepen the taste!!

Today I started making my own shio-koji:
・Only three gredients to start – dried rice malt (300g), salt (90g) water (500cc)
・Massage the rice malt with salt
・Add water and stir
・Transfer to a Tupperware or some container like that
・Remember to cover it lightly with a lid

That’s all I did today.

fermented&matured shio-koji

From tomorrow, I have to mix it once a day for even fermentation.
In 10 days – 2 weeks, shio-koji should be ready like this ; (*this picture is not what I work on)

I can’t wait to enjoy my own shio-koji!

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KOSODATE SHIEN CONCERT by Utsunomiya Business Denshi College

By Gloria Y. - Last updated: 土曜日, 2月 11, 2012

Alice in Wonderland by the students

“KOSODATE SHIEN CONCERT” (the concert as a child-support program) was held by the childminder course of Utusomiya Business Denshi College on February 11. Since the curriculum of childcare workers was improved, the child support in community was also considered as an important role of care provider. One of the teachers made a comment that the concert would be the first step for the students to play a role of leading childcare in community.
The concert, which was admission free, consisted of two parts;
Part 1: Musical – Alice in Wonderland
Part2: Songs and dance
AKB48 Heavy Rotation
Marumaru Morimori
Ampanman Song

The concert was held at Tochigi Fukushi Plaza and crowded with many families. My family and I sat on the front seat and really enjoyed the musical as well as songs and dances. I could see all the students had practiced so hard that some of them were moved to tears when the concert was finished.
I heard that all the final-year students in this course got a job offer though it’s tough finding a job these days in Japan.
*Tochigi Fukushi Plaza

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Japanese high school girl- the winner of the Prix de Lausanne 2012

By Gloria Y. - Last updated: 月曜日, 2月 6, 2012

Madoka Sugai(17) won the prize with the top score.

Madoka Sugai of Japan (aged 17) became the winner of the Prix de Lausanne 2012, the 40th competition. The Prix de Lausanne is an international dance competition for aged 15 to 18. The competition this year had 226 applicants from 30 nationalities, including 19 Japanese. The final competition was held on February 4th at the Beaulieu Theater in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Each of 8 winners is awarded one-year scholarship to an internationally notable dance school.
Japanese famous ballerina Miyako Yoshida, former winner of the Lausanne prize and one of the jurors this time, praised Ms.Sugai’s dance a lot.

I myself got so excited about the news that Madoka Sugai, a Japanese high school student, won such a big prize! Surprisingly, the paper said that it was her first experience of joining the competition overseas.

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VARIENTINE by Clementine

By Gloria Y. - Last updated: 木曜日, 1月 12, 2012

This is the CD jacket of VARIENTINE by Clementine.

Today let me introduce Bossa version of Japanese music,  played in Japanese variety programs.  VARIENTINE by a French singer and songwriter, Clementine, was first released in August 2011.  Since then, the bossa flavors of Japanese songs, which are familiar to most of us, have comforted and cheered the Japanese.

Clementine was born in Paris and raised in different countries, so her music has been influenced by various local music as well as Bossa Nova; first debued in Paris, and now based in Japan.

The jacket of ANIMENTINE-plus

You should also check out ANIMENTINE(released in July, 2010 ) and ANIMENTINE-plus(released in May, 2011), both of which are Bossa version of Japanese anime songs.

My family and I enjoy both VARIENTINE and ANIMENTINE while driving!

Why don’t you check some?  I’m sure you’ll love them!

*Bossa du SUDARA BUSHI by Clementine
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By Gloria Y. - Last updated: 土曜日, 1月 7, 2012

This is the Nanakusagayu I cooked today.

January 7th is the day when the Japanese eat the traditional Japanese rice porridge with seven spring herbs, called Nanakusagayu, praying for good health throughout the year. The custom was first introduced in Japan from China in the 8th century.
The spring herbs put in the porridge are: seri(Japanese parsley), nazuna(shepherd’s purse), gogyou(cottonweed), hakobera(chickweed), hotokenoza(henbit), suzuna(turnip), suzushiro(radish).
Talking about my family, my grandmother used to cook Nanakusa-gayu on this occasion. I had never cooked it myself until today. Yet, the time must have come when I should pass the tradition down to my sons’ generation!!

"Seven herbs set" is available at every supermarket.

But I didn’t have to feel pressured…
What I did was just buy “Nanakusa-gayu seven herbs set” at a supermarket and cook rice with them!! I bought the set at 398 yen.
The first Nanakusa-gayu I cooked myself was delicious and all my families loved it.
May everybody stay happy and healthy this year!!!

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By Gloria Y. - Last updated: 水曜日, 1月 4, 2012

the special exhibition “The World of Dinosaur Hunters"

The special exibition called “The World of Dinosaur Hunters – Digging up the Huge Animals” is currently held at IBARAKI NATURE MUSEUM.  (until January 9th)

In December 2011, the exciting news was released that one of the junior curators, Yumeki Hoshika (17), had discovered the fossil skull of Stegolophodon, relative of an elephant. The fossil was in good condition and invaluable especially because even cutting teeth (tusk) was not missing.

Though it was not announced beforehand, January 2nd 2012 turned to be the first day for the Stegolophodon’s fossil skull to be released to public!  My family and I were on the way back by car from Tokyo to Utsunomiya and happened to visit this Museum on that day.  Lucky us!! What amazed me most was the fact that it was a high school student, who made such a big discovery!!

The regular exhibition at the museum was also content-rich; the space and earth, the history of nature, etc.  The new year concert as well as the new year lecuture about a dragon(2012 is a dragon year!) were held.  Outside the museum, the beautiful park welcomed us. 

IBARAKI NATURE MUSEUM became one of our family’s favorites.

Why don’t you feel the atmosphere of the museum? (Check the following YouTube.) 



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Merry Christmas Ookamisan

By Gloria Y. - Last updated: 月曜日, 12月 5, 2011

"Merry Christmas Ookamisan" by Tatsuya Miyanishi

“Merry Christmas Ookamisan” (Merry Christmas Mr. Wolf) is a picture book by Tatsuya Miyanishi, first published in 2000.  Tatsuya Miyanishi can be counted as one of the best selling picture book authors.

I happened to find this Christmas story in some book review and decided to check it out with my kids.

The story turned out very moving  just as other Miyanisi’s stories.

 On the Christmas Eve, a hungry wolf found twelve piggies preparing for Christmas.  The wolf suddenly attacked their Christmas decoration and grabbed all the piggies.  It was at that time that the wolf unluckily tripped over a tree and lost consciousness・・・

Next, he found himself lying on a bed with his body wound with a bandage.  Twelve piggies, once his prey, took good care of the wolf.

Even when the wolf tried saying aloud, “I gotta eat you all up  when I recover,” he couldn’t make his words understood because of the bandage around his mouth.  What the piggies heard was just the groaning voice of the wolf.  The generous piggies thought, “Oh, poor wolf, he maybe tries to say “I’m sorry”and “thank you””.

Things go like this・・・

At last on the Christmas day, the wolf left without words.  Each piggy was given a small Christmas tree, a present by the wolf.

The fierce wolf was touched by the piggies’ love and changed his mind.

Christmas is a miracle・・・

Christmas is a beginning of love・・・

That is what this hearty story tells us.

Tatsuya Miyanishi’s other books also show us what love is.  His other books include the best-selling Tyrannosaurus series. Click here for the story↓;

I am the Tyrannosaurus!

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TOCHIGIFT – A stamp rally is now underway!

By Gloria Y. - Last updated: 水曜日, 11月 30, 2011

TOCHIGIFT is full of Tochigi Gift info.

The 3rd virsion of the Tochigi Gift Catalog – called TOCHIGIFT was released this November. The catalog is distributed for free at various shops and hotels as well as the information center at Utsunomiya Station. Besides the information of various Tochigi delicious gifts and souvenir, a stamp card is included in the catalog. Now a stamp rally is underway.

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Tobiyama Rekishi Taikenkan (Tobiyama Historical Museum)

By Gloria Y. - Last updated: 月曜日, 10月 31, 2011

The wooden bridge was thought to be the entrance to the castle.

Tobiyama Rekishi Taikenkan (Tobiyama Historical Museum) was included in the Tobiyama Castle Ruin, located at the tip of the plateau on the Kinugawa river bank in Tochigi.

The ruin was arranged as a park in 2003.  At the museum, you can learn the Japanese lifestyles of the Ancient and Middle ages.

Also, you can experience the ancient way of life by becoming a solider,or a princess and playing Hanetsuki(battledore and shuttlecock, a Japanese badminton) and Komamawashi(a spinning top), etc.

SHICHIGOSAN season has come! (What’s SHICHIGOSAN? As I wrote in this blog before, it’s a celebration of a child’s growth; for three- and seven- year-old girls and three- and five-year-old boys.) During this SHICHIGOSAN season, this museum provides SHICHI-GO-SAN children with a opportunity to become a young warrior or a princess. You have to make a reservation(through November 15th).  It costs 300 yen for both of a kid and his/her parent to wear the ancient costumes.  (This costume service is available throughout the year, but it usually costs 300 yen for each person.)

Hitatare back styleMy elder son and I tried the ancient costumes this weekend!!   The costume my son wore was called “Hitatare”.  When my son asked the staff what Hitatare was, she answered like this, “This is a formal attire which a young warrior like you wore in the ancient Japan.”  My boy asked many questions, “Why does it take so long to put  this on?  Why does it have so many strings??”  He seemed to be relieved to hear that this Hitatare was not daily worn.  

Talking about the costume I wore, called “Kosode” and “Uchikake”, there were some obvious differences from the present Kimono.  Kosode’s sleeves are much shorter, and its Obi belt is small in width.

Kosode & Uchikake(for the left), Hitatare(for the right)

This time, we didn’t have time to walk around the ruin park.  But next time, we’d love to spend more time in the beautiful park and see various buildings, which were mostly restored based on the exacavation survey, such as an ancient solidier’s station, a wathtower, a wooden bridge, a medieval pit dwelling, etc. 

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By Gloria Y. - Last updated: 水曜日, 10月 26, 2011

Do you know this song & dance “MARUMARU MORIMORI”??

This is the ending song of the Japanese TV drama, called “Marumo no Okite”. The song itself became very popular this year.

Today, I’m not going to talk about this drama…
But about the sports meet, called undokai, which my elder son’s kindergarten held this October.

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2011 JAPAN CUP CYCLE ROAD RACE in Utsunomiya

By Gloria Y. - Last updated: 月曜日, 10月 10, 2011

The picture of the Criteriums

2011 JAPAN CUP CYCLE ROAD RACE, presented by SUBARU LEGACY(, will be held in Utsunomiya city on October 22nd and 23rd.

JAPAN CUP is one of the biggest cycle road races in Asia, and only one where the world leading riders get together and get so close to the audience.This year’s race marks the 20th anniversary and becomes the milestone. Just as the last year’s race, the criteriums, which consists of several laps around a closed circuit in a town, will be provided on the main street of the city on 22nd. The street will be temporarily closed to traffic.

The course of the criteriums

The road race around Utsunomiya Forest Park 2010

On 23rd, the stage of the cycle road race will be around Utsunomiya SHINRIN KOEN (Utunomiya Forest Park). This course has a good reputation, not inferior to tour de France mountain course. The streets around the park will be under the traffic regulation.

The number of the enthusiastic roadside supporters last year was 100,000 in total. The Utsunomiya city looks forward to many supporters’ visit this year as well.

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By Gloria Y. - Last updated: 火曜日, 9月 27, 2011

The 22nd cosmos festival at Kinu Green Park will start October 8th (through October 23nd). One million cosmoses of different kinds, which will spread over 2.5 hectare field, will welcome you all.
The wide-spread cosmoses are not only an attraction of the park. The park also provides you with various activities, such as rowboats, water athletics, rental bicycles, battery-powered cars, roller skates, etc.

My sons and I went to the park a few days ago. Though the cosmos festival had yet to start, we really enjoyed the beautiful sunshine after the big typhoon. When we tried the pedal boat, some ducks came by and said “hi.”
I’m sure Kinu Green Park is the place for the people of different generations. When you have a chance to visit Tochigi, why not stop by at the park to feel the beauty of autumn?

Kinu Green Park (
86-1 Hoshakuji Takanezawa-machi, Shioya-gun, Tochigi Prefecture 329-1233 Japan

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Charity Ballet Recital by Chiyo Ishihara Ballet Shool

By Gloria Y. - Last updated: 日曜日, 9月 18, 2011

Chiyo Ishihara Ballet School had a charity recital in Utsunomiya, Tochigi.

Chiyo Ishihara Ballet School held a charity recital in Utsunomiya, Tochigi, on September 11th. 152 dancers, raging from 3-year old little dancers to the professional ballet dancers, who had practiced many years at this school, were on a stage. The recital started with the Opening and Coppelia, followed by the highlighted version of Sleeping Beauty. Princess Aurora was peformed by Hiromi Hoshino, who had some experience in U.S.A. and had belonged to K-Ballet, Tokyo, for 4 years. Prince Desire was by Yasuo Atsuji, who had belonged to Birmingham Royal Ballet, England, and now a member of New National Theater, Tokyo. Lilac Fairy was by Misa Nuiya, who had ballet training at Vaganova Ballet Academy, Russia, and now belongs to The Tokyo Ballet, Tokyo.
The donations collected by the dancers during the invervals, and the money paid for the programs were contributed to Ashinaga Scholarship Society. The total amount was 554,316yen.
Chiyo Ishihara commented in the program;
We also experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake in Utsunomiya on March 11th, followed by the rolling blackouts, the lack of gasoline, many aftershocks, and the nuclear accident. Still, the kids kept on gathering at the ballet school for hard ballet lessons. We had considered what we could do. Oh, yes, why don’t we do something to make everybody happy? We have to dance! When kids smile, their parents would smile. When their parents smile, Utsunomiya would, Tochigi would, and Japan would smile. Therefore, we decided to start the lesson especially for this recital right after March 11.
It’s our pleasure to have a charity recital on the day just 6 months after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

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Gunma Museum of Natural History

By Gloria Y. - Last updated: 月曜日, 8月 29, 2011

The special exhibition is on Spinosaurus.

   Let me introduce another Dinosaur exhibition my family and I visited this summer – Gunma Museum of Natural History. The museum now holds the special exhibition featuring the mysterious gigantic Spinosaurus, which is even bigger than Tyrannosaurus. Since the fossil of a Spinosaurus was first found in Egypt in 1915, it took a century to restore this dinosaur because of the lack of enough data. The highlight of the exhibition is its skeletal preparations and the life-sized model – the length 17m, and the height 6m. How to build up the model is introduced in the following youtube;

The regular exhibition displays many dinosaurs.

   The regular exhibition also fulfills the expectations of dinosaur lovers. The life-sized Tyrannosaurus really moves! The skeletal preparations of Brachiosaurus are huge and astonishing.

   Kita-Kanto Expressway enabled us to get to the Museum from Utsunomiya-city in no more than two hours! It was an exciting one-day trip! It would be a good one-day trip for those who stay in Tokyo.

★Gunma Museum of Natural History

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The Dinosaur EXPO 2011 at the National Museum of Nature and Science in TOKYO

By Gloria Y. - Last updated: 日曜日, 8月 28, 2011

The National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, holds the Dinosaur EXPO 2011 this summer (July 2nd to October 2nd).
What are the most popular dinosaurs? You must name Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. The expo shows you the skeletal preparations of these two stars facing each other. They seem to be ready to fight! Besides, the expo reveals the latest research outcomes – what are the Tyrannosaurs’ short forefeet for? What direction do Triceratops’ feet go? etc.

The two stars face each other!

At end of the 1st exhibition hall, CG-animated movie of the fight between Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops is shown.

At the 2nd exhibition hall, the current fossil research as well all the fossils themselves in Tohoku region are displayed. The Great East Japan Earthquake gave great damage to the sample data preserved in this region. The panels introduce the story of the volunteer workers and various museums, which have been working hard to rescue the damaged samples. The activity is called “The Sample Rescue”.

My elder son and I visited the EXPO during the summer vacation. So many visitors were impressed with various displays just as we were. According the website of the museum (, the number of the visitors surpassed 300,000 as of August 18th.
The official site of the Dinosaur EXPO 2011;

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