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Category Archive: How To

Tips on How to Keep Safe While Studying Abroad

  • Posted by:
  • March 20, 2017

Japan is ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. The country has an incredibly low crime rate. A 2014 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development study ranked Japan as “the safest country in the world.” Japan also reports “the second-lowest homicide rate after Iceland and the second-lowest assault rate after Canada.”

Japan is proud of being such a safe place that children can walk home and even go to shopping malls without any adult supervision, women can walk dark back alleys and empty streets alone, people can leave their bags unattended without fear of their things being stolen, and cars can be left running without fear of them being driven away.

Passport. |  Tim Sackton

Japan’s crime rate may be one of the lowest in the world, but it still isn’t 100% safe. It is still best to exercise caution especially when you are a foreigner in a new country.

Here are some tips on keeping safe while abroad:

Sign up for U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

This government sponsored program gives you the automatic updates and information on the latest travel warnings and alerts from the Bureau of Consular Affairs about the country you’re in. It also comes in handy if you lose your passport.

Keep a low profile.

Being a foreigner in another country, it’s always advisable to not stick out like a sore thumb. Always dress appropriately, try to observe local customs and traditions and know beforehand the do’s and don’ts when in Japan.

S15 Kamakura trip. | KCP Flickr

Research about your host country.

Learn about the local customs and laws of Japan. It would also be helpful to know the proper person to contact in case of emergency as well as where the US embassy offices are located closest to the area where you’re staying.

Get travel and health insurance.

Even if you are in perfect health and have no health issues, it’s best to come prepared. Get full medical examinations prior to your departure and all the necessary vaccinations. Know where the nearest hospitals and clinics are in the area where you’ll be staying and if there are any medications that are prohibited to bring into Japan.

Don’t feel too comfortable.

Even if Japan is considered safe, and after spending some time in the country, you start to drop your guard and being too comfortable becomes a habit. One day you may still find yourself caught in a predicament. Always remember to be on your guard, and as the saying goes… “It’s always better to be safe than sorry.”

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Mirin Makes All the Difference with Oyakodon

  • Posted by:
  • March 18, 2013


Oyakodon (親子丼), which means “parent-and-child donburi” in Japanese, is a rice bowl dish topped with boneless chicken, egg, and scallions.  It is one of Japan’s favorite comfort foods. In my numerous attempts to recreate a Japanese dish such as oyakodon, I often used to wonder why I keep missing that special sweet taste. I used the best soy sauce, added a bit of sugar, and dashi. But that distinct sweetness still eluded me. When I was taught how to cook some traditional dishes by my Japanese boss’ aunt, I was amazed to find out that mirin was the secret!

Oyakodon. | miyagawa

Mirin (味醂 ) is an important ingredient in most Japanese dishes. It is a type of rice wine that consists of 40% to 50% sugar. It is similar to sake, only sweeter and with a lower alcohol content.

Here is a simple recipe for oyakodon that you can try.



4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 t grated ginger
½ c flour
1 c Japanese breadcrumbs (Panko)
½ c Vegetable oil

1/4 c soy sauce
3 T Mirin
2 c water
A pinch of dashi
3 T Brown sugar
5 eggs

Thinly sliced leeks for topping

Mirin. | Lec


Wash the chicken breasts and pat dry. Season with salt, pepper, and grated ginger.  Coat the chicken breasts lightly with flour. Beat one egg in a bowl and mix in about a tablespoon of water. Dip the chicken breast in the egg mixture then coat it with the Japanese bread crumbs.  Heat the vegetable oil in a non-stick pan in medium heat. Fry the chicken breasts until golden brown. Drain off any excess oil.

Combine the soy sauce, mirin, dashi, water, and sugar in a saucepot. Let the ingredients simmer for 10 to 15 minutes in low heat until the alcohol in the mirin evaporates and the sauce reduces.

Cut each chicken breast into strips. Place one cut up chicken breast in a small non-stick pan. Pour in half a cup of the prepared sauce and allow it to boil in medium heat. Break an egg in a bowl and beat. Pour it on top of the chicken and sauce, top it with some leeks, and cover for a minute or two until the egg is cooked.

Place cooked rice in a bowl, then slide in the chicken, sauce, and egg on top. Repeat the procedure for the other breasts. And there you have it: delicious oyakodon. Enjoy!


Aiming for perfect balance of taste

Recently, the KCP Winter term cooking class, together with Hosei University students,  had a chance to make tasty oyakodon. For more photos, visit our KCP Cooking Class Photo Set.

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A Craving for Nigirizushi

  • Posted by:
  • September 19, 2012

Sushi probably defines Japanese cuisine; it has been enjoyed by the Japanese for many centuries. It was first developed as a way to preserve fish in rice but it used to be a lengthy process, taking many months to cure the fish. Eventually the process contracted into hours with the use of rice vinegar and wooden box press-molding, but sushi still took hours to make. There are several types of sushi; nigirizushi is one of the most popular.

A Brief History

Hanaya Yohei (1799–1858) is credited with inventing the nigiri (hand-formed) sushi toward the end of the Edo period. A son of green grocers, Yohei learned the art of sushi making. During this period, sushi was made fresh from the  catch of the day out of Tokyo Bay. Since tuna belly consists of fatty meat that would easily spoil, Hanaya Yohei would marinate the fish in vinegar or soy sauce and cook them slightly to make the fish last longer (refrigeration had not yet been invented). He would then form balls of sushi rice and top them with the marinated and cooked slices of fish. Many Japanese thought that Yohei’s technique was far from the traditional Japanese sushi they had been accustomed to, but his fresh style quickly became preferable to the old fermented taste.

Toro nigirizushi (tuna belly). | www.bluewaikiki.com

Nowadays, nigirizushi is often served with other kinds of sushi on a combination platter to give the diner’s palate a play of tastes of the many varieties.  Hanaya Yohei’s legacy of nigirizushi is still carried on today and is considered to be one of the most popular Japanese gastronomic marvels, known all around the world.

Assorted nigiri. | Mike Saechang


Nigirizushi is typically made with fresh fish and sushi rice. The rice is formed into something that resembles a football (but a lot smaller) that is then topped with a fresh slice of raw fish. Some other varieties of nigirizushi use a strip of toasted nori (seaweed) to hold the rice and slice of fish together. The fish used for topping is called neta and is usually eel, tuna, haddock, octopus, shad, or shrimp. The neta can be served raw, batter fried, or grilled.

Want to see how nigirizushi is made? Take a look at this how-to video:

Click image or: http://youtu.be/cdQzX9SR_gk

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Crazy Over Japanese Temari Balls

  • Posted by:
  • September 7, 2012

Temari balls, also known as gotenmari balls, was introduced to Japan by the Chinese around 600 years ago. “Temari” literally means “hand ball” in Japanese. They were initially used as a beanbag toy for otedama (juggling) but craftsmen discovered a way to make the balls bounce with the introduction of rubber to Japan, thus making them a sort of hand ball. Some of the temari balls have bells inside and are also a popular decoration used in many homes today.

Assorted temari balls. | Just Leon.

Temari was initially made of material from old kimonos. Scraps of silk fabric would be wound up tightly to form a ball. The wad would then be wrapped with more strips of fabric. Over time, the making of traditional temari became an art form with the addition of detailed and decorative stitching and embroidery to make the balls look more colorful and intricate.

Temari is a folk art form once practiced by the Japanese aristocracy: many highborn Japanese women would vie to create the most beautiful temari balls. Children traditionally received temari balls from their parents on New Year’s Day. Inside the ball’s layers would be a piece of paper with a wish for the child. Temari balls were also treasured gifts that symbolized loyalty and friendship. The colorful designs represent a blessed and happy life for the receiver. It takes a specific kind of training to become a temari maker. A temari maker is tested for skill and technique in the craft before being acknowledged as such.

Temari ball. | starhandarts

Temari making is a great way to keep a Japanese tradition alive. Strictly traditional artists still make use of fabric strips, while the more modern craftspeople make use of a pre-formed ball base (mari), usually a styrofoam ball or a wooden bead. They then wrap this with a layer of yarn and sewing thread. Common designs are geometric and symmetrical, like kaleidoscope patterns.

Temari balls make wonderful decorative ornaments for your home as well as beautiful presents for family and friends. Below is an instructional video to help you create your own temari balls. Have fun, as you learn how to make a temari ball!







Click image or: http://youtu.be/6vAIrSJBSo0


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Dining on Shabu-Shabu

  • Posted by:
  • August 13, 2012

Dining on the delicious meal called shabu-shabu is a great way to warm the belly while enjoying the company of family and friends. The name comes from the sound of the meat being swished around in the broth as it is cooked. This Japanese version of a hot pot is a delightful assortment of meats and vegetables. Meats may include beef, crab, duck, fish balls, or lobster. Vegetables may include Chinese cabbage (hakusai), nori (sea weed), chrysanthemum leaves, welsh onions, green onions, garlic, mizuna, carrots, shitake mushrooms, bean noodles, or lotus root.

Shabu-shabu has a special broth made by boiling (for around 30 minutes) at least three inches of sea kelp (kombu). The broth may also have some saki and salt mixed in. Shabu-shabu comes with two types of sauce. Commonly, one sauce is made with sesame paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, water, and fine garlic pieces, while the other sauce is a combination of lime juice, soy sauce, and chopped long green onions.

Dining on shabu-shabu. | Gustavo Verissimo

To prepare shabu-shabu, start with the meats, cooking beef first. Submerge a thin slice of meat in the boiling kombu broth until cooked: you’ll know when, because the meat changes color. Then, dip the meat in either one of the two sauces and eat it with rice. Continue until all the meat is consumed. If foam or impurities form on top of the broth, skim them off. When all the meat has been eaten, add the vegetables into the kombu broth and eat them the same way. The taste of the cooked meat will spice up the kombu broth and give more taste to the vegetables as they cook. All the cooking happens in a big pot placed on a portable stove to keep the broth constantly hot, and it is situated at the center of the table for easy access to everyone.

A shabu-shabu meal, | jimg944

Shabu-shabu restaurants are all over Tokyo. An example is Shabu-Zen, which was featured in the film Lost in Translation starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Shabu-Zen is known for its tranquil atmosphere and Japanese-chic restaurant design. The set menus may start at ¥ 3600. Mo Mo Paradise in Shibuya is another popular spot known for its shabu-shabu.  There, customers pay around ¥ 1500 for 90 minutes’ worth of eating shabu-shabu.

Kani-shabu is a shabu-shabu variation. It serves crab meat, usually shell-less crab legs. | w00kie

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Savor the Delights of Light and Crispy Tempura

  • Posted by:
  • July 2, 2012

Tempura (天ぷら or 天麩羅 ) is a delicious Japanese dish that includes a light, crispy, and deep fried batter. It usually is made with vegetables or seafood, shrimps being the most popular.

Tempura was first introduced to Japan as early as the middle of the 16th century by the Portuguese. It is said that Tokugawa Ieyasu, first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, loved tempura. During this period, similar dishes made with panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) such as tonkatsu (pork cutlet) were also introduced.

Tempura prawns | avlxyz

One theory of the origin of the word “tempura” is that it comes from the Latin word “tempora” which means “time” or “time period.”  The word “Tempora” was used by Portuguese and Spanish missionaries to refer to the Lenten period.  Catholics observe fasting and, on Fridays and other holy days, abstain from eating meat, choosing fish or vegetables instead.  Another theory is that it comes from the Portuguese word “tempero,” which refers to a spicy condiment. The term “tempura” became commonly used in Japan to connote any type of food prepared using hot oil.

Tempura for sale at Isetan, Shinjuku | istolethetv

Making Tempura

Tempura is one of my favorite Japanese dishes. I always use shrimps and vegetables like carrots, okra, eggplant, string beans, and even sweet potato. I also use the same batter and panko bread crumbs for tonkatsu. The secret in making a great tempura is the batter.  Here is a quick and simple recipe to satisfy your taste buds:
Tempura batter:
1/4 cup rice flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 t salt
1 t umami
1/2 t baking powder
1 whole egg
2/3 cup ice water

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, mix the ice water and egg together. Slowly mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Set aside ¼ cup of the batter with 1 tablespoon of ice water. Make sure to keep the batter cold by putting the bowls on crushed ice.

Heat vegetable oil to 375° F in a fryer. Dip your seafood and vegetables in the thicker batter and fry. With the thinner batter, use your finger to scatter batter onto the fryer around the shrimp to give the tempura more volume and crunch. Cook one side until light and fluffy (not golden brown) and flip onto the other side. Drain with paper towels.

Tempura vegetables | thebittenword.com

Dipping sauce:
1 beef cube
1 T soy sauce
1 T sugar
Grated daikon radish to taste
Grated ginger to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a sauce pot except for the grated daikon radish. Bring it to a simmer in low heat. Allow the sauce to cool before serving. Add the grated daikon radish and ginger according to your taste. Enjoy!

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Origami Inspired by the Sea

  • Posted by:
  • June 7, 2012

The seaside has always had an allure for people with its rolling waves, sandy beaches, and countless interesting creatures. Many origami creators have been inspired to make designs that are reminiscent of the sea and its inhabitants.

Here are three sea-inspired origami designs that are cute and easy to make:

Origami Fish

This puffy origami fish seems to look like pufferfish or fugu. This would look fantastic in paper of any color or pattern.

Click image or: http://youtu.be/FUcp0EiZ2xU


Origami Crab

This origami crab can stand on its own but don’t worry about it scurrying away on its spindly legs.

Click image or: http://youtu.be/Mt-nCMbl_Wk


Origami Seashell

With some quick paper folding, you can come up with this dainty clam shell. Make a few more in various colors and you can soon have a pretty origami shell collection!

Click image or: http://youtu.be/AyRtyh0B-Ww


Looking for more ideas? Check out our previous post on how to make origami flowers.

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How to Draw a Chibi

  • Posted by:
  • April 17, 2012

The world of anime and manga is full of characters drawn in distinct styles. Many manga strips include a chibi character. “Chibi” is Japanese slang for “small person” or “small child” but can also refer to a small animal. Chibis are created to be as cute as possible and are often used in scenes meant to be funny or cute.

Oversized heads are a common chibi caricature drawing style. They are usually short and many are child-like versions of popular manga or anime characters.

Here are some fun video tutorials on how to draw a chibi character with different forms of expression.

Happy chibi






Click image or: http://youtu.be/9HAgTRYf-r0


Angry chibi






Click image or: http://youtu.be/kwc-88WkQhk


Surprised chibi






Click image or: http://youtu.be/_13KZiN11kk


*All videos  created by Mark Crilley. Visit our other post on how to draw manga eyes, hair, and features.

Interested in learning more about the world of anime and manga? Our KCP Anime/Manga Summer program might be just what you’re looking for.





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Making California Rolls—an Easy Recipe

  • Posted by:
  • April 17, 2012

A California roll, or California maki, is a kind of sushi roll—one of the most popular kinds in the U.S. and in some other countries. It’s usually made of imitation crab, cucumber, avocado, and mango, all of which are rolled with rice and nori, the seaweed wrap commonly used for sushi.

A Short History

The Tokyo Kaikan was one of the first sushi bars in Los Angeles in the 1960s. The restaurant’s sushi chef at the time was Ichiro Mashita. He used avocado and other ingredients, which eventually led to the California roll as we know it today. Traditional sushi is almost always wrapped with the nori outside, but the California roll is wrapped “inside out” because Western patrons did not like the nori on the outside of the roll. Its popularity rapidly spread all across America by the 1980s and soon led to the growing desire for even more exotic types of sushi.

California maki| jekert gwapo

How I Make California Rolls

Making a California roll is pretty simple. When I first started to make them, the rolling part was the easiest. It’s the slicing of the roll into bite-sized pieces that’s the most difficult. I ended up crushing several rolls in my repeated attempts to get it right.  Here are a few simple, useful techniques I learned along the way.

  • Wrap your bamboo mat with plastic wrap so the rice won’t stick to it.
  • Wet your hands prior to rolling so that the rice won’t stick to your fingers.
  • To slice your rolls, use a cutting board and a *sharp* sushi knife .
  • When slicing, hold the roll lightly and cut by sliding the knife instead of pressing down.

Your kitchen may not be equipped with the things you’ll need to prepare sushi. You may have to invest in a sushi knife and a bamboo mat. But since sushi is so delicious and healthy, it’s all worth it!


Imitation crab sticks
Cucumber slices with  skin on, cut lengthwise
Mango slices, cut lengthwise
Avocado slices
1 cup Japanese rice
¼ cup sweet mirin
¼ cup Japanese vinegar
Japanese mayonnaise
Sesame seeds (lightly toasted)
Flying fish roe (tobiko; optional)

Sushi rice on nori on top of bamboo mat | quinn.anya


Close up of cali maki | Loozrboy

  1. Wash the rice three times and cook in a rice cooker.  While waiting, cut the cucumber, mango, and avocado into long thin slices.
  2. When the rice is done, transfer it to a bowl. Pour in the mirin and vinegar, and mix until the rice absorbs the liquid. Take care not to crush the grains of rice when mixing.
  3. Take one piece of nori and spread the rice on one side. Make sure that the rice is not too thick, and leave about half an inch of nori at the bottom part so you can flip it on to the other side. Before turning it over, sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on the rice.
  4. On the other side, layer slices of cucumber, avocado, crab sticks, and mango, and then squeeze some Japanese mayonnaise over all. Make sure that you start layering from the bottom to make it easier to roll.
  5. Take the bottom portion, and using the mat, fold it all the way to the middle and roll again. Tighten the roll with the mat to make it more compact, but not to the point of crushing the filling.


My Japanese mentor always told me that the best sushi rolls have rice kernels that are not crushed. Also, the rolls are compact yet when you bite into it you can still feel each piece in your mouth; they are not clumped up and mushy. I usually top my rolls with flying fish roe, which adds a perfect balance to the mixture of flavors. Enjoy!

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How to Make Origami Flowers

  • Posted by:
  • March 28, 2012

Spring is here, and with it unfurls new life. Young leaves wave in the cool breeze and flowers bloom in colorful profusion. You can bring the essence of spring into your home, or give it to a loved one, by creating lovely origami flowers that will never wither.

Like most origami designs, the difficulty of making origami flowers depends on your paper folding skills and patience. Here are three how-to videos on making origami flowers. Some may be more difficult than others, but all are equally gorgeous.

Origami roses | fdave

Origami Rose

A classic favorite. You can use regular red paper for your origami rose, or combine different hues and shades to create a colorful bouquet.

click image or: http://youtu.be/NjEVM0UNrdw


 Origami Lotus Flower

In Buddhism, the lotus flower symbolizes purity of mind, body, and speech. In Asian culture, it represents perfection and grace. Lotus flowers are also  just plain beautiful, even as origami.

click image or: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfMGjjW4avc&feature=fvst


Origami Tulip

Tulips are elegant and immediately bring cheer to any home. This video shows you how to make origami tulips, easily.

click image or: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3564V8laRzo&feature=relmfu


See KCP’s other origami posts here, here, and here.

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