Britain, British Asian, culture, Great Britain, Japanese, Japanese Culture, JET, JET Program, JET Programme, life, London, Prejudice, Race, Racism, UK, Uncategorized

The ‘B’ Word

Here in my small corner of Japan, the rainy season is in full swing. And although many people complain or talk about how much they can’t wait for the sun to show it’s glorious rays again, I instead reflect on the weather we have back in the UK. I love the cloud cover and the drizzling rain that soaks you through without you even realising. It reminds me of a past life growing up in England. However, those thoughts are swiftly replaced with fear of the state of the country I call home.

In a month’s time, I will end my contract with the JET Programme and fulfil my dream of finally returning home after 2 years. Home is a place you call your own, a place where you feel safe, somewhere that you wish to return to in times of need or loneliness. However, in one swift movement, those emotions have been pulled from under me.

The vote to leave the EU surprised me. I didn’t think that we would be where we are today. The people have spoken, and the vote decided. I know that there are mixed emotions to the outcome, and I believe that everyone has the right to vote and express their opinions, whether it is the right thing for them or not. My opinion is not to devalue any one decision, and wish them the strength for the future that is ahead of us, the power to learn about their decisions and consequences, and the capability to understand what one voice can do for millions of people.

I have spoken to the other Brits around me about the ‘B’ word. We all stand on the same side of the fence. One of them said to me “It will take time for any changes to happen” and the other said “I don’t believe that this is racism”. I agree with them. I mean, I did agree with them. The state of our country may take a long time to figure out what leaving the EU will do for us, and I don’t believe that all the votes were based on race. But, why is it that when the results were announced, race hate problems increased almost immediately?

For those of you who don’t know; I am a British born Indian man. My parents are Indian, but I was born in Harrow in West London. And as a British born Indian man, I haven’t feared my country as much as I do now. And yes, it is my country. My parents, nor grandparents, were immigrants. My grandfather didn’t flee a country torn by war, he instead came to a country which was ravaged by war itself, invited as an aid. But I don’t scribe my lineage on my face. My heart says British, English, Londoner, but my beard, my skin, my nose, my hair (or what’s left of it!) says something else: it says ‘other’. It says foreign. It says racial slurs. It says I must be careful. It says I have to ignore the comments about my presence. It says I am someone who stands out. It says I am not a ‘native’. It says I should “go home” or that “I’m next”. It says to my parents (who then tell me) that I need to shave and be immaculately presented at all times, in fear I will be hurt for looking like something I’m not.

I wish I could say to you that the hate now felt towards race is a new thing, and that the results of the vote have brought out the worst in some people. But the truth is, my race has always been an issue. I’ve been called various words throughout my time in the UK in reference to my ancestry. This is not a new occurrence, but a newly arrived platform. It’s not someone randomly shouting in the street whilst others shake their heads in unified dismay. This is a stage. A large lavish stage for the world to see; bright lights and perfect acoustics. And the first act has begun.

At the end of my contract, I have no other choice but to go back home. Yes, I still call the UK my home. I always will. But instead of the hope I had for a new life, I feel like I am going back in time, to old ways. The fear instilled in me is not understood by many of the people around me; none of them are an ethnicity, British and having to head back. I don’t feel alone or ashamed of those qualities. I believe that those qualities attribute to the wonderful things that I am, and not what THAT small segment of society thinks I am. And that’s what this is. A small percentage of people who don’t understand, or who choose not to understand, what being a minority is. But whilst I, and indeed the small percentage of THAT people, are minorities, their numbers are growing, whilst ethnicities are being abused and reduced.

You may say to me, ‘Be brave!’ or ‘Don’t falter in the face of adversary!’. But you will never know this fear. You will never know what it feels like to be discredited to a lesser human because of the colour of your skin, or your beard, or your beliefs, unless of course, you are an ethnicity too.

Don’t get me wrong; racism is prevalent around the world, against all shades of human. But some of that racism can be escaped from, and some of it can’t. And it’s those of us who can’t, that no longer have a place to call home.

Leaving the EU was a stone thrown into a pond. Not knowing what the ripples would do to the eco-systems under the surface, how rough the waters would be, or how long the the water would take to settle once again. The power of Brexit has been felt by the UK, whether thats the voice of sorrow or of rejoicing. There’s a new racist slur in town. It doesn’t begin with a N, or a P, not even an I, but it begins with a B. And the power it wields is beyond the fear that I, and so many others, now face.

I hope that I’m proved wrong. I hope that together we can rebuild a nation that trusts, that understands and that has a willingness to learn. I hope that my parents don’t feel the crushing fear of rejection from a country they have built a home and life in. I hope that wherever I go, I can walk with my head held high, and not lowered in fear of eye contact or comments. I hope that we can recover from the state of which we find ourselves in. I hope the violence will end. I hope you will read this and think about the use of propaganda, in all it’s forms, and the fires it stokes under those less informed.

Yes, the rainy season is in full swing here in Japan. The rivers run high, the air is thick and heavy, the bugs have all come out to play. The thunder occasionally makes me jump and hide. But it’s nothing compared to the storm I will face when I return home.

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ALT, Cooking, Food, japan

Cooking with Raj: Chickpeas, Spinach, Coconut and Lime curry with Roasted Aubergines.

Chickpeas, Spinach, Coconut and Lime curry with Roasted Aubergines.

Let me just be honest with you; much of this recipe is a cheat. Because I’m lazy but like to eat well.

If you would like more easy recipes that I’ve dreamt up, please comment, and I’ll write some more! This recipe can be achieved in any country, but I’m going to write it with Japanese amounts and availabilities in mind!

Fresh Ingredients

1.5 onions (one white and half a red if possible)

1x 360g box(?) of Chickpeas (I’m yet to find the canned type in Japan)

1x bag of Spinach (The amount of Spinach is totally up to you! The more the merrier as it’s wilted consistency makes up a part of the curry base. Plus, get some of that iron in ya!)

Half a can of chopped Tomatoes (You can use fresh, but ain’t nobody got time for that.)

4-5 cloves of Garlic*

Half a thumb of Ginger*

1x Aubergine/Eggplant/Brinjal/Nasu

A portion of rice that suits you (try brown rice!)

Half a lime (A whole one if its the small Japanese type)

Spices

Garam Masala (dessert spoon)

Tumeric (dessert spoon – Can I just add that this spice is awesome for your insides and your skin… But if it gets on your clothes it will stain… FOREVER (and your fingers for a few days))

Cumin Seeds (dessert spoon and a separate pinched measure)

Chilli powder (I’m not a fan of overly spicy food, so the amount you require is up to you)

Salt n Pepa (push it real good) – Salt is for taste preference: most food has enough sodium for you not to add more, so keep an eye on it!

Additional

Butter/Margerine

Oil (Cooking and Olive if possible)

Tomato Puree

A blender if possible

*: I used ginger and garlic pastes, but for the recipe’s purpose, I think it’s easier to source the un-lazy type.

LET’S ADDRESS THE GIANT ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM; There’s no coconut on the ingredients list. That’s because it can be added for preference. I used coconut milk powder (A gift from a friend), half a dessert spoon’s worth is enough, but add as much as you like. It’s hard to source in my corner of Japan, I’m not sure about yours…

Shall we get down to the technique?

Step 1

Music. Nothing makes cooking more enjoyable. I suggest such songs as “Breakfast Can Wait” by Prince, or anything by Ariana Grande.

Step 2

Get the rice on, cos lord knows rice takes an age to cook. Best tip to cook rice? Get a rice cooker.

Step 3

Turn your oven on by dancing seductively next to it, and then pressing the right switches. 190 degrees should be fine (That grill thing Japanese cookers have are also fine if you don’t have an oven). Chop the top off the aubergine and slice downward a few times. The thickness is preference, but the thinner they are, the quicker they cook. Lay them out on a tray and “drizzle” some olive (or regular) oil over them. I spread a little margarine over them (for taste) and some salt and pepper. Chuck them in the oven and keep an eye on them… however much you want them roasted is totally up to you (I prefer mine on the softer side).

Step 4

Peel and throw the onion in the blender (chop it up a little if you only have a small blender, or chop all of it as much as possible if you don’t have a blender), with the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, ginger, garlic, Garam Masala, salt, Tumeric, Chilli powder (if you’re using it). Blend until smooth. A good way for judging it would be until you can’t see the onion chunks anymore. Done? Thats the base for your curry!

Step 5

Heat up the cooking oil on a medium heat. Right, I only use a 2-3 tablespoons to cook the blender mixture, you won’t need much more. Throw in one or two cumin seeds, and when they start to dance, the oil is more or less ready to cook. Add the rest of the dessert spoon measure of cumin seeds and once you can smell them cooking, add the blender mixture *PLEASE BE CAREFUL* The hot oil and moisture will be a little firework display. Let it cook, stirring frequently for about 3-5 mins. Check the aubergines aren’t burning.

Step 6

Drain the chickpeas and run them under some water. Throw them in the blender mix with a little water (Think… an 8th of an average sized mug) and let them cook for a little longer (5 mins). Wash the Spinach and throw that in too (you can chop it up, but I prefer the long sloppy kind, plus too much effort. You could maybe get rid of the stems). Lid it and let it cook for a further 10 mins (frequently stirring), and then remove the lid and cook until the water has dried up (stirring occasionally). Add your amount of coconut powder: you need a quarter of a dessert spoon, for a milder taste, and more for more. When the mixture has dried up, squeeze the juice out of the lime, and pour it in (without the seeds). Give it a stir and turn the heat off. Add pepper for taste.

Step 7

Serve up everything. I put the rice down, then the aubergines, and the curry on top. But I think you should eat however you want to. Try with greek or greek-style yoghurt.

Step 8

Enjoy with a smile (and curry) on your face.

Notes:

These are all guidance measurements, please feel free to put as much of what you desire into your food. You could also add some cubed parboiled potatoes at the beginning of step 6. If you add anything and think it’s worth a mention, please do tell me! I’ve even had a similar concoction on steak… Try naan if you need a break from rice, or have it in a Fajita wrap!

I hope you get round to making it, sharing it with your friends, or at least enjoyed the read.

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ALT, Arts, Britain, British Asian, cat, cats, Chiba, culture, Fuji, Holidays, inspiration, japan, Japanese, Japanese Culture, JET, JET Program, JET Programme, Lakes, life, Mountains, Nihon, photography, River, Rivers, Shibuya, Tokyo, Travel, UK

In My Dreams

Today is a special day: the run down to Christmas has begun! It wasn’t so long ago that we landed in Tokyo, in the peak of summer… or was it? Soon it will have been 4 months since we graced Japan with our presence, and for some of us, it has been quite the ride. With Christmas drawing near, I can’t help but think about the time spent with my family, and how this year I will be going without. In all my years, I’ve never missed a Christmas at home. I’m not a Christian, but the time spent with my family is cause of celebration within itself (that, and the constant bombardment of consumer products, embedding flashing lights and jingles onto your soul). There is one thing to remember: I chose to stay on this side of the world. For many reasons, but mainly because I’m enjoying myself here…

I recently visited a favourite spot of mine: Mount Fuji.

For many travellers, the mountain is quintessentially the image of Japan. I won’t dispute that. But this particular spot is special for the simple reason that I visited it seven years (almost) to the day. It was the same dusky sky, the same wisps of cloudy matter teetering on the distant horizon, the same subdued lake waters and the same footsteps to reach my favourite view. The only thing that changed was my hairstyle. No matter how many times I will see Fuji, the magnificence of its presence is always sigh worthy. Here are my latest photos. A here’s a video!

My most recent trip to Fuji San/Tokyo was made that all that much sweeter with the company I kept. Here’s a video to better explain the sensation.

As you can see, I’m enjoying myself. With many more exciting adventures planned. I’ll miss my family regardless, Christmas or not, and I eagerly await the day when I will see them again. Until then, I’ll be there for Christmas, if only in my dreams…

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ALT, British Asian, cat, cats, culture, Festival, Holidays, inspiration, japan, Japanese, Japanese Culture, JET, JET Program, JET Programme, Koi, Kyoto, Lakes, Matsuri, Mountains, Nihon, photography, River, Rivers, Travel

Kyōto

Having my birthday abroad was in itself a lucky occurrence, but to also have it take place in the charming city of Kyoto, is a different ball game altogether.

I promised a video of my time there, but instead I’ve provided two… (rejoice!)

Kyōto-Red 1211: I’ve tried to capture some of the elegance of Kyoto’s grace, but always fallen short. It’s difficult to capture the old capital in all it’s glory in a matter of days (with a tiny camera). I hope I’ve done the city some justice. Red is a prominent theme throughout the video, and after visiting the some shrines and back alleys of the Gion district, its evident that the colour has a rooted presence in this city. Having visited over the 1st and 2nd of November, the red leaves hadn’t come in full force just yet, but they were on the way. Its difficult to see in this video, but I managed to capture some of the colours of Kyoto here.

Love (in) Kyōto: This is only a meagre slice of the fun I had with the marvellous people I went to the city with. I wanted a disco theme, however, I felt as though the footage never really fit. Until the end of the video, of course. It was a chance for me to catch up with some friends from the short stint at Tokyo Orientation; I can tell you that they haven’t changed in the slightest, and I honestly wouldn’t want them to.

Enjoy and share and pass on and discuss and dance and live and smile and be happy and say yes and comment and love and share again.

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ALT, Animals, Arts, British Asian, Festival, Food, Gifu, Hida, Holidays, inspiration, japan, Japanese, Japanese Culture, JET, JET Program, JET Programme, Kimono, life, Matsuri, Mountains, photography, River, Rivers, Takayama, Travel

Over and Out.

Takayama is beautiful. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Just in case you missed it, I had an album with some photos in and around Takayama city, so please have a look! The album is focused on some of the local festivals, and the colours are amazing as these were taken just as Autumn was settling in.

Over and out.

p.s: please check out a blog that I also partake in called Good Morning Darlings

One photo | Once a day | Between 6am and 9am | Good Morning

The purpose of this particular blog is to take a daily photo, which expands your photography skills, such as framing and varied subjects, and sharing these images as a collective group of creatives, for all to see. So please enjoy!

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ALT, Arts, Festival, inspiration, japan, Japanese, Japanese Culture, JET, JET Program, JET Programme, Kimono, Koi, Kyoto, Lakes, life, Mountains, Nihon, photography, River, Rivers, Travel

Gettin Older and Colder

Monday the 3rd of November 2014 marked two important events for myself: my birthday, and the 3 month mark of my time here in Japan.

I’ve always been glad of my birth date, as it sits in the middle of Autumn, my favourite season. This is due to the cooler temperatures, the coming festivities, and more importantly, the leaves. They turn into different colours then your usual greens and crunch under your feet. However, there aren’t that many trees where I’m from in the UK, so a good leaf is hard to find. Here in the mountains of Japan, its a different story. There is a mix of auburns, reds, yellows and greens. When the sun sets, the hills burn. It evokes memories of the gone summer, but also reminds you of the coming winter. It’s almost a little cruel to tease you with such vivid colours, before the branches become bare and almost barren.

Autumn calls out for nostalgia; its a homely time, with warming food and time spent indoors. Plus with all these colours and a lower sun in the sky, there’s no need of vintage filters on your Instagram photos. The festivals are in full swing, and there is an air of togetherness wafting by you at every event. Having spent some more time exploring the area that I live, there is a sudden influx of magnificent scenery surrounding me, and despite living in the countryside, the perks of convenience are overruled by simply staring out of the window at the neighbouring mountains.

Don’t think that I’m not terrified of winter, because as the temperatures dip, so do my hopes that I’ll survive the coming months. As you may have seen on this blog before, I’ve mentioned winter a few times. This is because I’m nervous; the snowfall is one of the highest in the world. I’ll prepare myself for all the Frozen jokes and puns from co-workers and friends, but expect my reaction to be icy (forgive me). Saying that, outside my apartment is probably warmer then inside my apartment. If Japan has taught me anything so far, its how to use a heater efficiently (and how swallow food without chewing to avoid the taste). A large part of the learning process whilst being here, has been the finance aspect. Unlike other areas of Japan, the start up costs of a placement where it can get to -15 degrees with a whale sized amount of snow, is unsurprisingly high. I’m still paying for essentials that will get me though the winter, 3 months in. Thinking that you will inherit many amenities from your predecessor is a luxury, and not a reality. Be sure to have as much money as you can when (and if) you get here, to assist you in all your spending needs.

I recently visited Kyoto, and finally did some touristy things in Japan. The rain can be quite the nuisance when being a traveller, but in this instance (and when you’re prepared for rain), it can alter the setting drastically. It was a beautiful way to celebrate my birthday, and despite there being hordes of people at the shrine, there were moments when the only thing your senses picked up on was the silence of the woodland and the spirals of incense dancing around you. There was steam from the rain emanating off the wet soil and the occasional dripping sound; it was a (stereotypical but nonetheless) stunning Japanese setting. The torii gates were a wonderful blush of colour, and framed beautifully against the dark, looming woodland. Its times like these where I feel the most out of place in Japan; because being in a tourist location means I’m so aware of the country that I’m in, compared to sitting at my desk, in the office. The people, sights and smells ground me, whereas when working, I don’t think twice about where I am as I’m kept busy. These pockets of tourist time give me something to look forward to, like mini holidays, that I can drive to.

Being in Japan means that there are many opportunities for you to see so much in a small amount of time. Being able to drive and stay with friends means that the costs are low, and you are still getting your Japanese fix, without having to fly for 15 hours with another 16 hours wait in another airport. It’s possible to work hard and play hard here. One of the main reasons JETs are here are to see some parts of Japan, and the JET Programme allows you to do that whilst working, and assisting others by exposing them to new and different cultures. Regardless of where you live, there are obstacles (finances, language barriers, the weather), but be realistic and proactive; help yourself.

The result of the little trip to rainy Kyoto? Amazing chances of photography! There were many great examples but I’ve chosen 3 for you, the rest will be right here. Please enjoy, like, share, interpret dance, comment, tweet, smoke signal for others to see! With these photos, will soon come a video… the teaser is right here.IMG_2132IMG_2010IMG_1814

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