Happy new year


I’ve never been good when it comes to setting new year resolutions, because there are just so many important dates that call for reflection and retrospection. At the top of my mind I can think about birthday, the end of the scholar year, the lunar new year (I’m serious, it is the beginning of the Hijri calendar for muslims) and Ramdan (the month of fast).
But new year has still a special flavor to it, and it is a very nice occasion to celebrate and connect with loved ones.
To everyone, Happy New Year!!

Suit-up, Ready? Wait a second…

A vos costumes, prêts ? une seconde…


If you thought this fancy navy suit will serve you any good you are so wrong!! And you lady, gray is no color to meet a potential recruiter, better think again.
As a matter of fact, the first thing that any prospective graduate should do when starting a job hunting process in Japan is to dress the part.
In Japan, one does not simply suit-up Barney Stinson style to go job hunting.
First, you have to make sure to get the black suit. No prints, no fancy fabric, just simple double buttoned black suit. If you are a girl, you still have a choice between a skirt and pants suit. But then again, you should keep the color to a simple black and the pencil skirt to knee length.
Complicated much? Go tell the poor Gaijin (foreigner) that I am!!
When I first started my “job hunting” endeavours, I went naturally shopping for a suit. I started looking around different shapes and sober colours. I couldn’t stray much from the sober anyway because in Japanese serious suits shops, you could hardly find anything very far from the gray-navy-beige spectrum.
So here I was looking around, picturing how convincing I could look in that beige suit, when a nice shop clerk came to help. As I explained what I was looking for her face lit up with a knowing smile. She then directed me to a corner of the shop with all the “recruit suits”. I wasn’t very thrilled at the sight of all this black and white, but I still gave it a shot.
When I saw the silhouette looking back at me from the mirror in her black suit and crisp white shirt, I half expected her to start speaking in perfect Japanese. And knowing my level of Japanese, that kind of deceptive impression wouldn’t do me any good.
I finally settled for a dark grey suit, determined to make up for this slight deviation from the rules by keeping a more by the book attitude in everything else.
That was before I knew what this implied.


Si vous pensiez que ce luxueux costard bleu-marine vous serait d’aucune utilité, vous avez vachement tort !! Et vous madame, le gris n’est pas une couleur à porter lorsqu’on va à la rencontre d’un recruteur potentiel ; vaut mieux y réfléchir à nouveau .
Le fait est que, au Japon s’il y a une chose à laquelle un future diplômé doit faire attention avant d’entammer sa recherche d’emploi, c’est bien l’aspect vestimentaire.
Au Japon, ce n’est pas aussi simple que d’enfiler un costard à la Barney Stinson pour aller à la coquête du marché de l’emploi :
D’abord, il faut être sûr d’avoir le costard NOIR. Sans motifs ni tissus élaboré, simplent un costard noir à double bouton. Quant à vous mesdames, estimez-vous chanceuses d’avoir encore le choix entre un ensemble avec jupe ou avec pantalon. Mais là encore, il ne faur surtout pas envisager une couleur autre qu’un simple noir, et si c’est une jupe, il est vital que ce soit une jupe droite au niveau des genoux.
Compliqué? Si seulement la pauvre Gaijin que je suis en eut été consciente !! (c’est pas du plus que parfait qu’on a ici … pardi)
Quand j’ai commencé à rechercher un emploi ici, j’ai bien entendu commencé par aller en quête de l’ensemble qui tue sa race. Je ne suis pas la super cool nana non-plus, donc j’ai commencé par voir du côté des coupes et couleurs plutôt sobres ; et puis de toute façon il est difficile de faire trop criant au Japon : côté ensembles, on ne s’écarte pas de la sphère bleu-marine/gris/beige.
J’étais là à examiner ce charmant ensemble beige et m’imaginer l’allure « d’executive » qu’il allait me donner, quand une adorable vendeuse me vint en aide (naturellement). Dès que je lui expliquai ce que je cherchais, elle me dirigea vers le rayon « recruit suits » avec des ensembles tous noirs et des chemises toutes blanches. Malgré le choc de vision pinguinesque, je me suis dit que je ne perdais rien à essayer.
La silhouette qui me fit face dans la cabine d’essayage était si convaincante que je m’attendis Presque à ce qu’elle se mette à me parler en un Japonais parfait. Ceci, vu mon niveau de langue, m’aurait été aussi fatale qu’une publicité mensongère.
En fin de compte, j’opta pour un ensemble en gris foncé, en écart des « règles », mais plus en accord avec qui je suis ; tout en me promettant qu’à l’avenir je me rattrapperai enrespectant plus méticuleusement les codes de la « chasse à l’emploi » .
Ce fut avant de réaliser ce que ce voeux impliquait.


First of all, the suit is nothing without proper shoes.
The picture here explains the subtle implications of a rounded shoe versus a pointed one.


Tout d’abord, le costard/ensemble n’est rien sans les chaussures appropriées.
L’image ci-dessous explique bien la différence subtile existant entre des chaussures à bout rond et d’autres à bout carré.

Ladies shoes-shuukatsu

And gentlemen, if you thought you were off the hook, don’t be so eager to rejoice.


Et messieurs, si vous pensiez être saufs, attendez de voir le reste.

Men shoes-shuukatsu

Do I need say more?


Y a-t-il encore quelque chose à rajouter?


After these futile material matters are taken care of, we move on to more spiritual subjects. My dear friends, please know that the height at which you decide to tie you pony tail is crucial to the impression you give. It is actually directly proportional to your ambitions.


Et après toutes ces futilités matertielles, passons aux coeur des choses. Mes chers amies, sachez que la hauteur de votre queue de cheval est crutiale pour l’image que vous projetez. Plus bas vous attacherez vos cheveux et plus terre-à-terre est l’image que vous donnerez de vous.

hair style

And I won’t even get into the philosophical aspects of make-up, because as you certainly know it, a tad too pronounced cheek color may ruin the day. I won’t even bore you with the tale of the “job hunting make-up seminar” I unintentionally found myself sitting at just to get “strongly advised” to apply concealer to my eyes so as to make them look smaller.


Et je n’irai même pas aborder les aspects métaphyisiques de votre maquillage parcque, comme vous devez certainement savoir, un coup de fard un peu trop prononcé a le pouvoir de ruiner votre futur. Et je n’irai certaiment pas vous ennuyer avec la « formation en maquillage pour recherche d’emploi » à laquelle j’ai assité par pur malentendu, et où je me suis vue vivement recommander d’utiliser un anti-cernes de façon à rappetisser mes yeux (si telle chose est possible).


Well, after all this is said and done, rest to master the art of sitting:


Après tout celà, vient bien entendu l’art de s’asseoir:

How-to-sit (1)How-to-sit (2)

Bowing (of course!!!)


Celui de s’incliner (bien evidemment)

How-to-bow

And let’s not forget about the most important of all, knocking at the door!!


Et n’oublion surtout pas le plus important, la maîtrise de la technique mystique de la frappe à la porte qui te debloque toutes les portes.

How-to-knock

With all these dos and don’ts, you’d probably think I am a bit funny in the head to continue with this whole job hunting craziness. What would you think then if I told you that after close examination of the above mentioned book, I started seeing sense in what was said, and even trying to convince Mr.Not-Japanese-at-all of their logic.
It might be the time I spent here, or the desperate need to “fit-in”, or else the seemingly strong logic on which this book relies; but at the end of the day, I can’t help but be amazed at the religious efforts made to keep this ceremony (or masquerade, depends on where you see it from) going on, and feel somehow lucky to be different enough not to be subjected to the tyranny of the color of my suit or height of my pony tail.


Après toutes ces règles plus insensées les unes que les autres, je dois passer pour une folle de persister avec cette « chasse à l’emploi ». Que penseriez-vous donc si je vous disais qu’après avoir regardé d’un peu plus près, j’ai commencé à saisir le sens profond de ce livre et même essayé de convaincre mon Jules du bien fondé de toutes ces théories.
C’est peut-être tout le temps passé ici, ou ce besoin d’apartenir, de fondre dans la foule, ou encore l’apparente logique que ce livre avance ci habilement pour défendre tous ces principe ; mais en fin de compte, je ne peux qu’admirer à nouveau tous ces efforts consacrés à perpétuer ces traditions cérémonieuses (ou ridicule, tout dépend de votre perspective), et de me sentir tout de même chanceuse d’être tout juste assez différente pour ne pas avoir à subir la tyrannie de la couleur de mes habits ou la hauteur à laquelle je décide placer mon chignon.

Daikon, the giant turnip

Or so I thought at first. Because where I come from, there is no such a thing as daikon.
Well, I must have seen Daikons in Japanese cartoons when I was a kid, but I was a kid and there was no google so I couldn’t just touch the screen of my phone to get a full botanical definition of the thing.
So back to the present day and the blessings of internet, and here I hame seeing Daikon lurking at me from every corner of every supermarket. It is crazy how much they sell of them, and how cheap!!
For a long time I was just walking by ignoring them, but then I got to taste the buggers. And boy do they taste nice when pickled.
So long story short, it started with that little bite, then it was my plate of pickles every time we ate out. After a while the Daikon pickles became part of the weekly shopping list. Until the day I could lie to myself anymore and got me a nice Tsukemono (pickles in Japanese, for my two cents of Japanese of the day)book, and half a Daikon to start with. And yes, Daikons are so big that they are cut and sold by halves.
So here how I made my first Daikon pickles ever:
– Half a Daikon
– One Yuzu
– 1 big spoon of brown powder sugar
– 2 tea spoons of salt
I sliced the daikon in thin quarters as follows
Daikon_Tsukemono_01
Fascinating process as you could see!!
Finally, I peeled the Yuzu and cut the skin in tiny cubes (the size of the nail of my little finger, as kindly indicated by my recipe).
DSC_0012
Then pressed a mixture under an improvised weight. I should have had something like the glass dish in the middle of the picture below, but seen as I am not ready yet to become a pickles pro, I just piled up mu plates on the poor Daikon pickles.
Daikon_Tsukemono_00
In the end, it all went well, and the pickles turned out not bad at all!!!
I guess Daikon is not that bad after all 🙂
Daikon_Tsukemono_

What it takes to come to Japan

When I decided to come to Japan, some of my friends said I was crazy: at 27, I had a decent job, finally a car that doesn’t threaten of breaking down every 5km, and great friends that were more family than friends.
Most of my friends said I had guts.
Some people told me I needed to learn as much as I could about the culture before going in order to blend in, learn some Japanese as well…
In my luggage I took Moroccan tea, dried mint and some spices. I mean, you wouldn’t expect me to survive without Moroccan mint tea and Ras el Hanout*!!
But I was so wrong. It doesn’t take guts to come to Japan, after all Japan is one of the safest places on earth: in 3 years here, not once did I even hear two people arguing in the street (a nostalgic sigh for the lively streets of Casablanca). It doesn’t take Moroccan tea, you get so quickly used to drinking green tea after all. Spices don’t matter all that much neither, because after a while you learn where to find them and you even start to appreciate and cook Japanese.
So what do you need to come to Japan?
1- Nice hair: If you have frizzy, unruly hair, just get ready to suffer. In summer it is so humid it is just comical. After spending hours with the hair dryer, as soon as my locks smell a whiff of the outside air, it goes into a crazy dance. Can you blame Moroccan hair for dancing?? Really!!
プリント

2- A lean figure: otherwise, good luck with the shopping. I mean it is almost a must to be slim here that I am surprised they don’t put it as a requirement for getting a visa. Whether you are in university or in a company, you have to go through a yearly health check where they won’t hesitate to point out any extra around your waist line. On a more practical level, whether it is a kimono or a small tutu skirt you want to get, you’d better be small (both in width as in height). My shopping since I came here is all jeans from Uniqlo, an I am not all that tall!!!

3- A good tolerance to cuteness: because wherever you turn your head it is sickeningly cute. Even the garbage truck rolls around with a cute melody and small and stuffed animals. even make up cases are all sparkly and shiny. It is just all so nice, glossy and sparkly that sometimes you wonder if it is not all a big joke.

Kawai1

4- A short memory: because you will get used to cuteness, and eventually will love it. So all the illuminations around Christmas time will start feeling romantic, and you will fall in love with the small sparkly phone case. So you’d better forget all the prejudices you had about cuteness 🙂

But most of all, you’ll need an open mind and a good sense of humour. Because as much as it fascinating and enjoyable to be in Japan, you quickly understand that it can get very lonely as well. So better take it all with a smile and just enjoy the ride…while it lasts 🙂

*Ras el Hanout: a Moroccan mixture of spices including (but not restricted to) cumin, nutmeg…

Sweet December

DSC_0028

With the nights getting colder and longer in December, it is always nice to have something sweet to nibble on while snuggling under the blankets in front of a nice movie. Ok, I am describing my ideal evening; not what really happens with me running to complete a report or take care of some house chores that can’t wait until the week end.
Whatever your evenings look like, one thing is sure, no one likes to spend hours in the kitchen just to make that sweet something to eat in front of TV.
So here’s a recipe  that doesn’t take ages to realize, tastes good and is a no fail (0 fails in every single attempt I made at it).
Here is what you will need:
– 3 eggs
– 150g powder sugar
– 160g flour
– 1 tea spoon baking powder
– 130g slightly salted butter
-1 big spoon of cocoa powder (I used van houten)

DSC_0022

For the filling:
– 3 bananas
– 1 table spoon butter
– 1 table spoon powder sugar
– Vanilla extractIf you want you can add a handful of crushed nuts.You start by beating the eggs and the sugar unteil they get foamy and slightly snowy, then you add little by little the flour, baking powder, melted butter and the cocoa.


DSC_0023

On a frying pan, you mix together the filling ingredients: butter, the bananas that you would have previously cut into small pieces, the sugar and the vanilla extract. You keep the mix on the fire until they get soft and slightly caramelized (3~4 minutes).

DSC_0021

Add the caramelized bananas to the mix of eggs and flour and the crushed nuts. Get all the ingredients into a homogeneous mixture using a wooden spoon.
DSC_0065
Pour into a buttered/floured cake mold and cook into a preheated oven, 180degrees for 35 minutes.
Enjoy 🙂

DSC_0074