Category: Japan



Masks, photo by PH Morton


#1 Noh Mask

#2 Zo-Onna Mask

#3 Hannya Mask, represents a female demon

#4 Hanakobu Akujo

#5 Uba

These masks can be currently and readily admired at the V&A Museum, East Asian gallery.

Masks are used for protection, disguise, performance and entertainment.

The above masks were Japanese and were sculpted from wood.  They were based from the 14th century classical Japanese theatre called Noh which was much loved and patronised by the Shogun, supreme military leader.

Soft Shell Crab Tempura

Soft Shell Crab Tempura, by Arnold Gamboa

Soft Shell Crab Tempura

Soft shell crabs are just the normal typical everyday edible crab.  In a life of a crab, it undergoes some sort of moulting where it sheds its old tough tight casing and develop a new one to grow into. The new casing  is soft and this is when the is crab taken into the kitchen to delight the tastebuds of the gourmets for a soft shell crab


  • 2 soft-shell crabs
  • 85 g  plain flour
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1/2 sugar
  • 200 ml carbonated/sparkling water, chilled
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • oil for deep-frying

Method of Preparation:

Make up the tempura batter by mixing the flour with the salt and sugar.  Gradually add the chilled sparkling water.  Stir until there are no lumps.  Don’t go on stirring and daydream. 🙂 Note: over stirring will create gluten, which will make the batter stodgy.

Using a large platter, spread the panko bread crumbs.

Power up the deep fryer and heat the oil to 180ºC

Dip the crab into the tempura batter, ensuring all parts are covered.

Roll in the crab into the platter of panko bread crumbs. Cover every nook and cranny. 🙂

Shake gently and drop the crab into a deep fryer and let it sizzle until crispy all over.  This should take about 3-4 minutes.

Carefully fish out the crab and let it cool over some kitchen paper towels, which will absorb excess oil.

Repeat procedure with the next crab.

Enjoy with some green salad.


Egg Rolls Recipe

I have been seeing lots of egg rolls as a side dish in many Korean and Japanese drama.  It looks so good that I thought I should try making some.

It is fairly easy to make and quite quick as well.  Just remember to cook these under very low heat to give you a chance to manoeuvre the egg pancake into a fairly neat roll without burning it.

Egg Rolls Recipe

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon green part of spring onion, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper for seasoning
  1. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl, beat in the milk and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Whisk until combined and no lumps are left, otherwise run into a sieve to remove any remaining lumps.
  2. Add in the carrot, onion and spring onion and stir until combined.
  3. Lightly oil a medium size frying pan or a pancake pan over a low heat.
  4. Pour in half of the egg mixture into the pan, when half-way cooked, slowly and carefully fold the omelette into a roll using a flat spatula and a pair of chopsticks (if available) and push it into the left side of the pan. As a space is created from the omelette roll, pour in half of the remaining egg mixture to it.  When the consistency starts to set, connect it by rolling it to the first batch, thus creating another layer.  Finally pour in the remaining egg mixture; do the same, roll in to make a stack.  Just imagine making a Swiss Roll. 🙂
  5. Transfer to a chopping board and slice into bite size pieces.


Japanese Grilled Avocado Recipe

Grilled Avocado

Japanese Grilled Avocado Recipe


  • 1 tsp miso paste
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 25 ml orange juice
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 125 ml soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 avocados
  • Wasabi paste (optional)

Method of Preparation:

  1. Put the miso paste, chilli flakes, orange juice, sugar, mirin, soy sauce and lime juice in a sauce pan and bring to a boil under a high heat, stirring frequently.  Heat until it has thickened slightly but not turned into a syrup. Turn off the heat.
  2. Slice the avocados in half lengthways and remove the stone carefully and leave the flesh in its green outer skin.
  3. Brush the flesh with the miso & soy sauce from the pan and grill the avocados flesh down for about 3-5 minutes until the char marks are visible.
  4. Grill again with the skin down.
  5. Score the flesh several time, neatly (see photo above) and brush with the sauce
  6. Divide and then pour the rest of the sauce into the centre of the avocados.

Serve with a grilled fish, a bowl of rice, wasabi paste and a small bottle of rice wine.



Tonkatsu Recipe

Tonkatsu, photo by Carol Elep

Tonkatsu Recipe

Tonkatsu is a Japanese breaded pork chop, a lovely choice if you are eating Japanese and yet not really into sushi, there are some people who are not!

To make a crispier Tonkatsu use a Japanese style bread crumbs called Panko which thankfully is available in supermarkets like Tesco here in the UK.  Panko gives the extra crunch to the recipe and yet apparently less absorbent of oil.  If somehow you can’t find Panko, just use a couple of white breads, cut off the edges and then leave to ‘harder’ in the open for at least 3-4 hours.  And then run them in into the food processor to turn them into crumbs.

Below is the recipe:

  • 2 boneless pork loin chops
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup panko or bread crumbs
  • oil for deep frying
  1. Make small cuts all over pork chops with tip of knife. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of meat.
  2. Coat the meat with flour, dip in eggs, then cover with bread crumbs.
  3. Heat deep frying oil to 350 F, and deep fry crumb-covered meat. You can check the temperature by dropping a bread crumb. If it comes up to the oil surface right after it’s dropped, it’s good.
  4. Fry until color turns golden brown and meat floats in the oil, about 5-8 minutes, turning once or twice.
  5. Set the meat on a cooling rack for a minute. Cut into 5-6 pieces.

Banana Katsu Recipe

Banana Katsu @ Wagamama, Photo by PH Morton

Banana Katsu @ Wagamama, Photo by PH Morton

Wagamama is fast becoming a family favourite restaurant.  We find their food delicious and unfussy.  I supposed Wagamama created a simplified version of authentic Japanese food to suit most tastes, especially the Western palate.

We love the ramen; it being just really a soup is surprisingly very filling.  The ramen comes in various recipes: pork, seafood, chicken and beef.

To round off a good meal, Wagamama has a selection of tempting desserts, one of is the Japanese banana katsu, which is a crunchier fritter.

The recipe below calls for panko breadcrumbs.  Don’t let this put you off trying this recipe.  Panko is just from a regular white bread, where the crusts have been trimmed and discarded.

Banana Katsu Recipe


  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 large bananas, peeled but left whole
  • vegetable oil, for deep frying
  • icing sugar, for dusting
  • 4 scoops of vanilla ice cream, to serve


place the flour in a bowl, the beaten egg in another and the breadcrumbs in the third

dip the bananas first in the flour, then in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs until coated

put 5cm (2 in) of the vegetable oil in a pan and heat to 180°c, or until a cube of bread added to the oil brown in 30 seconds

deep fry the bananas for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown

remove carefully with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and dust with icing sugar

divide between 2 plates and serve with the ice cream.

Serve and enjoy.

Chicken Karaage, a Benjamin Alves Recipe

I saw a bit of GMA’s Mars on youtube and like the recipe of the Japanese version of a fried chicken. Thanks to Benjamin Alves, the guest celebrity cook, for making it looks so easy to make and yet so yummy. All the women in the show were all saying how good it was.

Chicken Kaarage

Chicken Karaage

Chicken Karaage, a Benjamin Alves Recipe


6-8 pieces of boneless, with skin on chicken thighs; each thigh, depending on the size, should be cut into two or three pieces.
1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
2-3 cloves garlic, grated
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 – 1 cup cornstarch/cornflour
vegetable oil for frying
slices of lemon to garnish

Method of preparation:

In a large bowl, season the chicken thighs with the salt and pepper. Set this aside.

Make the marinade using a different container. Mix thoroughly the ginger, garlic and brown sugar with the soy sauce and sake.

Pour this mixture onto the chicken thighs. Mix well to soak all the crevices of the chicken thighs.

Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.

After an hour or so, heat the oil in large frying pan or wok for deep frying.

Before frying each of the chicken pieces, roll each one into the cornflour and then let it sizzle in the hot oil until done.

Serve with your favourite sauce.


Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart)

Peter, James, Stacey, young Nathan and I were walking through the vast wooded area of Hampstead Heath yesterday which was on route to the Easter fair, when came upon the Hill Garden, which we always called the “secret garden” of Hampstead Heath. We used to bring our son, James, to the secret garden when he was still a young boy during most spring/summer weekends as Hampstead Heath is near where we live.  But during the past few years we have not been to the secret garden.

Anyway yesterday, Peter saw and showed me these precious little beauties of little flowers growing within the walls of the secret garden. They were heart shapes and beautifully strung over a stem of delicate plants. They were stunning, truly a wonder of nature; like colourful little jewels.

Peter and I have never seen these plants or flowers before.

We did not even know what they were called. So googled for spring heart-shaped flower and Wikipedia came out with Lamprocapnos.

There was apparently an old Japanese legend for this flower. It was so sad.

If you look at the flower closely and be able to disect it, the legend of the flower will become very relevant.

The Japanese legend goes….

Once upon a time, a young man fell madly in love with a high-born Japanese girl. Their differences in status did not deter the young man from courting the girl. To show his love, he reared a couple of the most adorable rabbits and then sent these to the girl. (see outer part of the flower for the rabbit shape, refer to bottom-most photo)

The girl loved the rabbits but not the man.  This did not dissuade the man’s affection.

Next he sent the girl the softest, most beautifully woven silken slippers.  Again the girl was overjoyed with the gift but still would not accept the man’s love and affection.

The desperate man spent the last of his savings to give the most grandiose present that he could think of to the girl.  He bought her a pair of earrings.

The girl happily accepted the gift but haughtily turned down the offer of marriage from the man.

Finally the man realised that it was a lost cause.  With so much hopelessness, he plunged his knife straight to his heart.

A plant grew from the spot where he died.

My love-lies-bleeding.
~Thomas Campbell

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart) Photo by PH Morton

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart)
Photo by PH Morton

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart) Hill Garden Photo by PH Morton

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart) Hill Garden
Photo by PH Morton

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart) Hill Garden - Nr Hampstead Heath Photo by PH Morton

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart) Hill Garden – Nr Hampstead Heath
Photo by PH Morton

Bleeding heart thrives in shady areas so they would be ideal to plant until trees or against a shady fence.

They can be planted all year round.

Spatial Cherry Blossoms from Japan

Apparently Japanese scientists are flummoxed by the flowering of a cherry blossom, which was grown from seed, few years before it was expected to bloom.

This very special cherry tree is truly spatial. The seed from which it has grown from had been to space and back.

This is big news  to the Japanese people because cherry blossom has a notable place in their hearts.  Afterall Japan is known as the land of the cherry blossoms; the blooming of cherry blossoms are agogly  awaited, watched and celebrated as a festival all over Japan.

The festival is called Hanami, which literally means viewing flowers, but it is not just for any flower. It is predominantly meant for the cherry blossoms.

The traditions started fairly early in the Japanese history. Upper classes and the aristocrats used to picnic under the cherry blossoms which might had been such a wonderful experience as it inspired them to write fulsome poems.

The tradition caught on and everyone started participating and having fun. People would bring food and drinks and eat under these majestic trees. The very intricate tea ceremony is also performed under the trees.

The Hanami festival is not a set date in Japan as a whole. The celebration is determined by location, location, location! The blooming is usually forecasted and may vary from year to year.

Some regions have the flower watching as early as January and some as late as May. The blooming of the cherry blossoms is determined by areas and weather/temperature, of course! 😉

The Hanami festival, although predominantly about the gorgeous cherry blossoms have encompassed and celebrated more of the modern Japanese life.

JPJhermes, on patrol


Cherry b


‘Cherry tree from space’ mystery baffles Japan

AFPBy Shigemi Sato | AFP – Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A cosmic mystery is uniting monks and scientists in Japan after a cherry tree grown from a seed that orbited the Earth for eight months bloomed years earlier than expected — and with very surprising flowers.

The four-year-old sapling — grown from a cherry stone that spent time aboard the International Space Station (ISS) — burst into blossom on April 1, possibly a full six years ahead of Mother Nature’s normal schedule.

Its early blooming baffled Buddhist brothers at the ancient temple in central Japan where the tree is growing.

“We are amazed to see how fast it has grown,” Masahiro Kajita, chief priest at the Ganjoji temple in Gifu, told AFP by telephone.

“A stone from the original tree had never sprouted before. We are very happy because it will succeed the old tree, which is said to be 1,250 years old.”

The wonder pip was among 265 harvested from the celebrated “Chujo-hime-seigan-zakura” tree, selected as part of a project to gather seeds from different kinds of cherry trees at 14 locations across Japan.

The stones were sent to the ISS in November 2008 and came back to Earth in July the following year with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, after circling the globe 4,100 times.

Some were sent for laboratory tests, but most were ferried back to their places of origin, and a selection were planted at nurseries near the Ganjoji temple.

By April this year, the “space cherry tree” had grown to around four metres (13 feet) tall, and suddenly produced nine flowers — each with just five petals, compared with about 30 on flowers of the parent tree.

It normally takes about 10 years for a cherry tree of the similar variety to bear its first buds.

The Ganjoji temple sapling is not the only early-flowering space cherry tree.

Of the 14 locations in which the pits were replanted, blossoms have been spotted at four places.

Two years ago, a young tree bore 11 flowers in Hokuto, a mountain region 115 kilometres (70 miles) west of Tokyo, around two years after it was planted.

It was of a variety that normally only comes into flower at the age of eight.

Cosmic rays

The seeds were sent to the ISS as part of “an educational and cultural project to let children gather the stones and learn how they grow into trees and live on after returning from space,” said Miho Tomioka, a spokeswoman for the project’s organiser, Japan Manned Space Systems (JAMSS).

“We had expected the (Ganjoji) tree to blossom about 10 years after planting, when the children come of age,” she added.Kaori Tomita-Yokotani, a researcher at the University of Tsukuba who took part in the project, told AFP she was stumped by the extra-terrestrial mystery.

“We still cannot rule out the possibility that it has been somewhat influenced by its exposure to the space environment,” she said.

Tomita-Yokotani, a plant physiologist, said it was difficult to explain why the temple tree has grown so fast because there was no control group to compare its growth with that of other trees.

She said cross-pollination with another species could not be ruled out, but a lack of data was hampering an explanation.

“Of course, there is the possibility that exposure to stronger cosmic rays accelerated the process of sprouting and overall growth,” she said.

“From a scientific point of view, we can only say we don’t know why.”

Wakata is back aboard the ISS, where he is in command of the station.

The astronaut took part in a video link-up on Thursday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, chatting about his daily life hundreds of kilometres above the Earth.

Japanese Showcasing Warships

How time have changed! Some 70 or so years ago, Japanese warships would dock in Manila to go to war and annihilate anything or anyone it came across. But pass forward into the 21st century, Japan is now an ally against the colony-hungry China.

Japanese warships with their shiny new metallic huge bodies are promenading in Manila de Bay. Showing off its impressive armaments and equally impressive manpower.

China take note. Philippines with its decrepit and antiquated navy ship at the disputed Ayungin Shoal, which is supposed to be rich in oil and minerals, may not be as helpless as one may expect!

JPJhermes, Nagpapatrol

Japanese warships dock in Manila


Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014


JS Shirane (DDH 143). Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers JS Shirane and JS Asayuki arrive at Manila South Harbor for four-day goodwill visit. TARRA QUISMUNDO/PDI


MANILA, Philippines — Two Japanese destroyers arrived at Manila’s South Harbor Wednesday morning for a four-day goodwill visit to be capped by a joint exercise with the Philippine Navy.

The Japanese ships JS Shirane (DDH 143) and JS Asayuki (DD 132) of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s  Escort Division docked at the Manila port early Wednesday with some 480 personnel, including newly deployed officers, aboard.

Captain Hideto Ikeda, Commander of the 13th Escort Division, said the fresh graduates would undergo familiarization with their new assignments during the Manila stop of their overseas training cruise.

“The purpose is to train them [on] seamanship through this training cruise. In addition to that, I encourage them to understand the strategic importance of the Philippines in Southeast Asia and the wonderful traditions and culture of this country,” Ikeda told reporters aboard the Shirane.

The Japanese crew will undertake a maneuvering training with the Philippine Navy on Saturday morning, on their way out of the Philippines, Ikeda said.



JS Asayuki (DD 132). Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers JS Shirane and JS Asayuki arrive at Manila South Harbor for four-day goodwill visit. TARRA QUISMUNDO/PDI

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