COLUMN: Springtime and ramen in Toyokoro

Facebook posts are abundant with pictures of blossoming cherry trees and special foods

Melting snow. Muddy fields. Neko yanagi, which translates as cat willow.

Every once in a while, a direct translation makes perfect sense to me, and I found some broken branches on the ground which I took home and put in jars.

During my Okanagan childhood, pussy willows were always the first sign that spring would really arrive.

Several of my language teaching colleagues have managed their vacation days so that they can spend these two weeks before the start of the new school year touring the main island.

Facebook posts are abundant with pictures of blossoming cherry trees and whichever special foods their destination is known for: udon (thick noodles in broth), seared bonito (dark fleshed tuna), takoyaki (fried batter balls around octopus).

Meanwhile, I am watching the last (I hope) of the snow melt and saving my remaining vacation days for when Summerland friends arrive at the end of April.

That should be cherry blossom season on Hokkaido and, just to be sure of spring, we will start our adventure by heading for Hakodate, the southernmost city on this northern island.

The star-shaped Goryokaku Park will be in full bloom, yet we might be in time to see Japanese monkeys warming themselves with a soak in the hot springs at the Tropical Botanical Garden.

Hakodate is famous for fresh seafood and salt (shio) ramen. Shio refers to the kind of broth that the ramen noodles are served in.

When the junior high students compose surveys to practice their English, one group always asks, “What is your favourite ramen? Shio (salt), Shoyu (soy sauce), or Miso (a paste made from fermented soybeans, grains and sometimes fungi)?”

Shio is the original and most basic type of broth. I usually find the shoyu broth a bit too salty and strong for my tastes, but I have come to appreciate miso soup in many combinations.

My only experience with shio ramen has been as part of hot lunch at the schools, so I am looking forward to tasting it in a city restaurant where it is considered a famous treat.

Of course, the quality of noodles is important too. Good ramen has little in common with the instant cup o’ soup style noodles that North American students are known to rely upon.

The Toyokoro Junior High School Grade 9 students take their class trip to Hakodate in April each year, so I will be sure to get their recommendations of all that my friends and I should see, do, and especially eat.

Janet Jory is in Summerland’s sister city of Toyokoro, Japan as the assistant English teacher.

Just Posted

Book examines Trout Creek

Mary Trainer’s third book delves into history and culture of Summerland neighbourhood

LETTER: Dock problem should have been prevented

Residents had noticed height of replacement docks at Rotary Beach

LETTER: Defending a sweet, seasonal song

The column in last week’s Review is an attempt to make “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” into something ugly

COLUMN: Taking a closer look at a seasonal song

The world has changed since 1944, when Baby, It’s Cold Outside was written

Program provides food for Summerland children and families

Penny Lane Pack Program supplies children with food for the weekend

VIDEO: This B.C. school leads country in vaccine donations to UNICEF

Federally funded Kids Boost Immunity uses quizzes to earn vaccinations

Okanagan Valley to see snow tonight

Environment Canada is calling for two-to-four centimetres of snow from Penticton to Salmon Arm

B.C. police stop drunk driver who offered up burger instead of ID

Roadblock checks over the weekend found at least two other impaired drivers

Being vegan during the holidays just got a little bit better

Cook up these delicious options during the holidays

In Canada, the term ‘nationalism’ doesn’t seem to have a bad rap. Here’s why

Data suggest that Canadians don’t see the concept of nationalism the way people do in the United States

Sicamous behind as Sled Town Showdown enters its final day

Tumbler ridge enjoys a three-digit lead as the online contest nears its conclusion

Small quake recorded west of Vancouver Island

No injuries or tsunami warning after 5.4 rumble felt some 400 kilometres from Victoria

Shuswap girl raises funds in memory of two-year-old who died

Wolter family announces formation of Alice’s Angels bursary in honour of their daughter

B.C. suspends Chinese portion of Asian forestry trade mission due to Huawei arrest

Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was detained at the request of U.S. in Vancouver

Most Read