Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Tonight, we took our friend Tezz over to Kaneya, to get measured for a custom-made yukata. The Kaneya Kimono Ladies were excited, I was excited, and Tezz was excited.

We picked out a beautiful blue fabric with a geometric design and a really cool obi for him (although it's a cheater obi). It will be ready in about two weeks.

The Kaneya Kimono Ladies know me by name. How funny is that?

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Looks like summer is here at last. I can't describe how wonderful the last two days have been. Sunny, mild, no humidity and no Japanese Death Clan Ninja Mosquitoes (they can fly through walls and bite through lead and leave welts the size of golf balls). Soon, it will be crazy humid, so I'm enjoying it while I can.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

WTF? 8

Q: WTF are you gonna catch a lure that look like this?A: Red Snapper!


If you own an electric doberman, please be kind enough to stick this warning label on the door of your house. You can buy these convenient-to-apply-and-use lables at your local 100 yen shop.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

WTF? 7: More WTF Foodstuff

Okay. Seltzer is good. Coffee is good. Coffee and Seltzer is NOT GOOD. NOT GOOD AT ALL.
When we first moved to Japan, I noticed that quail eggs were popular. They're speckly and cute and tiny. I've wanted to make a teeny omelette forever! So I got some quail eggs on sale. Then in the process of making my omelette, I learned that quail eggshells are leathery , not crisp like chicken eggs. For some reason, this totally grossed me out. Anyway, I smushed two of them into inedibleness trying to crack the shells. Then I got smart and cut the small end. A cook needs appropriately-sized pans, based on what's being prepared. It took me a while but I found a teeny fry pan! Hooray for the hundred-yen store! The little pan is about the size of my palm, the big pan is a standard fry pan. It came from Ikea, in case you care.
Here's my teeny fried egg. The yolk is a little bit smaller than a quarter. I know I promised an omelette, but I got lazy and decided an omelette was too much work, what with having to cut the tops off all those eggs. And I couldn't find a teeny carton of milk, either. So nyah.
d00d! WTF? Water is H2O..IT ALREADY HAS OXYGEN IN IT! I actually had a ten-minute rant about this, proving I really do need a life. H2O ALREADY HAS OXYGEN IN IT, DAMMIT!
Would you drink a beverage from a can? Of course! What if that can was designed to resemble a rusty fire extinguisher? A what? A rusty fire extinguisher. What's tasty about rust? Nothing. Not only that, the top kanji (one of the few I can read) is the character for charcoal. I didn't even want to venture a guess about what charcoal had to do with anything. So the can was unappetizing and the drink wasn't very good, either, but it was much better than the Coffee Soda.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Okonomiyaki (As You Like)

Last night, we took Masako-san out to dinner at Dohton Buri, an Okonomiyaki restaurant.
The restaurant is fairly new, only about four months old. We wanted to go but were sort of chicken because we didn't know what to expect. So we dragged Masako-san out with us.
Turns out she was wasn't really sure what to do, either.

Despite our collective ig'nance,
we had fun!

Here's Masako-san and her new boyfriend!
He's a Tanuki (like a badger). He's the store mascot.
Every time you masturbate, God gives a Tanuki a herpes sore!
Actually, it's a warning about the hot grill.
Teppan ga atsui yo! Sawa ranai de neh.
(The grill is very hot! Don't touch!)
Chris and I are functionally illiterate and have to get by pointing at pictures,
Ma-chan can actually read the menu.
Showoff.Here's Ma-chan having a hard time with her spatulas.
Maybe she should read the instructions.
(Actually, she ended up doing that).
The waitstaff took pity on us and showed us how it is done.
Also, I think he wanted to check out Ma-chan who is just as hot (or hotter) as the grill. Here's my Okonomiyaki, as well as Chris'.
Ma-chan thought it funny I put uzumaki (spirals) on mine!
(usually you do a grid)Oishikata deshita! (it was delicious)
After dinner, we went to Misdo for dessert.

PS. Ma-chan's last name is Fukuoka, which is also a style of Okonomiyaki!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Kansha (Appreciation)

Chawan is the Japanese word for bowl. Chawans are a traditional pottery item, created in a range of styles and colors, from earthy to elegant. Japanese pottery is one of the oldest earthenware traditions anywhere in the world, going back 10,000 years (early Jomon period).

A chawan can used to hold rice, regular tea or Matcha (the bitter green tea of Japanese Tea Ceremony). Bowls for tea are specifically referred to as yunomi chawan. I came across an appealing yunomi chawan in the jumbly antique shop located in my soba (neighborhood).

I've gotten into the habit of spending a couple hours on every Friday afternoon in the shop, usually poking around in the piles of kimono. This past Friday, the kimono getting wasn't good, so I wandered through the other sections of the shop. I passed by the chawan a couple of times, picked it up, put it down, and picked it up again, only to place it back on the shelf once more, slightly put off by its price.

If I wanted tea bowls, they could be had cheaply at the 100 yen store right across the street. Yet, in this day and age handmade things, things with soul, have been become rare, even here, despite Japan's longstanding handicraft traditions. And in this day and age, few people take the time to really look.

My husband will attest to my maddening habit of looking at things for a long time, for going away and coming back and looking at those same things again. And again. But let me say that there is value in taking time to really see and appreciate things.

I am lucky in the fact that the antique-ya san instictively understands my need to putter about. He is quite willing to let me wander around his store, picking things up and putting things down, turning them over in my hands, looking for a minute or maybe an hour. He never interrupts, except to offer me a cup of tea or hot cocoa.

So I looked at the chawan; I looked at the chawan for a long time. It was approachable and seemed to be asking to be held. So I held it. Human beings are visual but they are also tactile creatures and so much of our world and our relationships with it are communicated via touch. Things which are handmade have been touched over and over, by the hands and heart of their maker. This is true for many things: pottery, woodworking, kimono. To touch something lets its story be told. The piece of pottery I held in my hands was more than fired clay, it was a kind of bridge-the combination of skill and heart the craftsman used in creating the chawan made it into a link between the spiritual and the everyday.

The chawan was humble yet dignified. I liked its cool surface with its curves and lumps. I liked the fact it wasn't perfectly round and that its handmade origins were plainly evident. It had an appealling protean nature--it reminded me of many things: birds' nests, charcoal lumps, rocks in the Niagara Gorge, my father's fingers, knobby and stained with hard work and motor oil, a patch of snow on the roadside. The chawan felt substatial in my hands; in my heart it felt like seeing a long-lost friend come around a corner.

Everyone needs to be appreciated, especially recently-found long-lost friends.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Two Years Later

June 04, 2004, we arrived in Misawa.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Ben Lee, a co-worker had his mom send some Chinese medicinal tea for me -- mostly to help with my kidneys and to improve my circulation. Seems to be working, which doesn't suprise me. Eastern Medicine has a lot of good points, but the thing I like is that it is proactive, rather than reactive, like a lot of Western Medicine. In fact, in China, if you get sick, it's considered the doctor's fault, for not doing his job of keeping you healthy. The teas I have taste really good, too. That's lucky, because some of them taste awful.

I just remembered something. For years, my family has considered my a hypochondriac. Time has proved that my stomachaches were NOT neurotic, they were kidney stones. As a form of karmic revenge, I now also seem to be the healthiest person in my family. Anyhoo, one very old running joke in my family is that for a long time I also asked my mom, "Are you giving me the right amount?" whenever she dosed me.

My family has probably forgotten the incident that led to this, but let me remind them:

I was very little and prone to high fevers. So I was down for the count with a high fever, and this particular time, I also had the screaming squits. It was common practice to give paregoric to alleviate the runs. So there I was, on the sofa, sick and groggy, and my mom doses me. Multitasking as always, she also is doing laundry, getting my father's lunch ready, keeping an eye on my brother, listening to the stereo and probably doing nine other things, too.

Ten minutes later, Mom's back, with another dose of paregoric. I tried telling her"But I just had some medicine!" but she wouldn't hear it, so I got mine (again).

About fifteen minutes later, I try to get up to go to the bathroom. Woowowowowowowowowooo! goes the room, and I discover that my legs don't work.
I drag myself back onto the couch and start yelling "Mommy! Mommy!"

Of course, Mom comes running. "What's wrong!" she says.
"My legs don't work anymore!" I say, strangely unperturbed by such a development.
In fact, other than not being able to feel (or stand on) my legs, I feel pretty damn good.
"Jodi, don't be crazy!" says Mom.
My family was always telling me not to be crazy, like that would work.
"Noooooooo! It's true! They don't work! And I have to go potty!"
"Get up!" says Mom and hauls me to my feet.
I totter there for a minute, and collapse in a small heap.
"Holy SHIT!" my mother shrieks, scoops me up, puts me in the car, where I slooooooowly slump
over, in a small heap.
My mother, with me in her arms, comes roaring into Dr. Miller's office. "She can't walk! She can't walk!" my mom wails.

Dr. Miller, ever so calmly, takes a look at me. Apparenly, I no longer have irises, my pupils are so wide.

"Doctor Miller," I say, "My legs don't work!"

"And why do you think that is?" at this point, he's trying not to laugh

"Mommy gave me a LOT of medicine. I tried to tell her I already had some!"

At this point my mom is in tears.

"Connie, do you know what the problem is?" asks Dr. Miller.

"No, what?"

"You're daughter is stoned out of her mind."


"Paregoric is an opiate. You just gave her a little too much of it and now she's stoned out of her mind. One dose is enough, Connie."

For years after that, I would ask "Is that the right dose?"