Times have changed; I’ve been in Japan for over a year now which means I’ve finally been accepted into Japanese society (!!!) … at least when it comes to the cost of living. As an expatriate, my first year in Japan had been a blissfully inexpensive one, especially compared to my life in New York City. However, now that the government has a year’s worth of paychecks to calibrate my taxes by, this means my previously low income tax has gone up. As an extra bonus, a letter from the Ward Office states that my previously very low health insurance has tripled. This all adds up to several hundred extra dollars gone each month from my already halved part-time paycheck. Man, it feels great to be part of things.

Naturally, being me and the way I am – the way that equates parting with money to parting with a limb – this has sent me into money restriction mode.

This is the water bottle I filled with boiled tap water in an attempt to save money on bottled water. Because I’m thoughtless as well as miserly, I forgot to wait for the water to cool a bit before I transferred it to the bottle. Witness the white envelope in the background of the photo. It is the letter from the Ward Office telling me I will now pay over 200 dollars a month in health insurance; a sum that makes me nostalgic for my old health plan. In America.

As for other ways to economize, I present you with fish, seaweed and rice; it’s what’s for dinner on nights when I forsake buying groceries from the expensive imports section and go with the local treats.

That’s right: sushi!!! Made by me: Liv.

I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making my own sushi, but was under the impression that most people in Japan don’t, that it’s something you buy at the market or go out for rather than make at home. Besides, though I lust Japanese food, when it comes to cooking, I tend to stick with what I know: cibo Italiano. It has, of course, occurred to me that I ought to try cooking Japanese food considering I’m living in Japan. I should take advantage of ingredients I can’t get back home, but I’ve always felt nervous at the prospect of cooking Japanese food, as though I’d be genetically incapable. Silly, I know; I guess you can take the girl out of neurotic America but you can’t take the neurotic American out of the girl. Anyway, tomatoes, garlic and bottles of olive oil just seem to find their way into my shopping cart, and my eyes scan the racks of cucumbers in the market scornfully, always disappointed that they’re not zucchini. Summer is coming, though, and as I was browsing “no-cook” recipes recently I stumbled upon a recipe for sushi rice. It seemed so easy and inexpensive that I figured it was at least worth a shot … and there you have it: my maiden attempt at a coveted sushi dinner. There is apparently a trick to getting the sushi rolls just right so that they’re 3 distinct layers, like a bullseye, rather than the seaweed-y swirls I came up with, but I guess I’ll have to try mastering that another time. And see if I can’t pull together a sushi feast without scattering rice all over the floor while I’m at it. I mean, honestly!

The bowl in the center is my California Roll Don; I was craving American-style sushi (that is, involving cooked fish and vegetables) and had lots of rice, imitation crab meat, avocado and cucumber sticks left over when I became too lazy to make more rolls. As for the taste? I might be unbiased, but generally, if it’s fish I like it. Besides, for a cash saving measure, it certainly beats the time I drank Margarita Mix straight from the bottle.

Tonight: this.

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