Friday, November 25, 2005

Jingisukan (Genghis Kahn)

Wandering around the bright neon of Susukino, Sapporo City, we found the place we've been longing to go to. Dharma is the place for mutton barbecue. The serious barbecue.
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You wait outside, standing in the cold, anticipating. As soon people leave, you enter the place. U shaped counter inside of the restaurant, really small with about 12 seats under dim light. 5 grandmas working in the middle of the counter, very efficient. There is the helmet-looking pan with sliced onions already on it, waiting right in front of you, heating. The moment you take your seat, grandmas serve you the meat and the sauce.
Yes, the meat: mutton and lamb slices. Sear the meat, rare, dip in the sauce, and eat. Jolt. It's so good you never tasted such tasty mutton. No smell of mutton at all. Juiciness of meat blasts in your mouth. You become a machine of cooking and eating. Makes you think as if you could eat the entire sheep. Ask for another plate of meat to the grandmas. Smoke irritates your eyes, but your appetite prevails. It won't stop you. Look around, everybody in the place is busy, quietly and with single minded devotion to eating. All you hear is the sizzling sound of barbecue and grandmas voices.
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As you're filled and pace down, grandmas offer you roasted tea to pour into the sauce bowl. Sounds awful mixing the tea and the sauce, but it's so perfect, especially with rice, too. Ochazuke that it is you slurp, feel it sinking down into your stomach, gives you the comfort and you exhale in satisfaction.

Say good by to grand mas with big smile on your face, you find yourself smell smokes and barbeque head to tow. Despite of the coldness of night in north city, you're contempt rest of the night.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

This feeling of remoteness

Off from work, just wondering the crowded street in Omote sando. I feel distance from everything – people, buildings, streets, trees, stores, etc. Just drifting torrent of people, almost being transparent. Maybe because I don’t have business here at this moment, I’m not attached to the city.

Looking around myself, I see many young, fashionable or they think they’re so everywhere. I realized I don’t belong here. Have to get out now before vanish into the crowd….

Friday, October 28, 2005

Mobile Text Message

Received a text message on my mobile from my mother. She had emoji (pictogram) at the end of the message. It was a heart. Made me feel I was having a reverse generation gap with her.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Hagi Yaki

Went to Hagi in Yamaguchi Pref. over the weekend. This town is famous for the pottery called Hagi Yaki. Everywhere you go, you see pottery stores. We bought some cups at a small store, Ikkei Gama, while we're walking toward the down town of old Hagi city. While we were chatting woman at the store, we found out her son made those potteries. She told us that she bought a tea set of Hagi Yaki about 10 years ago, but it's now for sale, as she doesn't use nothing but her son's pottery. She was a lovely woman and I saw her enthusiasm for her son's pottery. It was yearning that she works for what she loves.

If you'll have chance to visit Hagi, please stop by their store.
http://www.ikkeigama.com/

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Benri!

It looks like the long-term trend of train stations and airports recruiting more restaurants and stores to bring in a larger crowd of visitors is starting to pay off. Shinagawa station opened its ecute location this month, Tokyo station's restaurant mall just celebrated its first anniversary, Haneda airport was the site of the latest upmarket Kihachi restaurant, etc.

The stores in greatest demand are those offering something unique. For example, some stores are offering specialties at your local station that you used to have to travel far to obtain. Thanks to the media, such information of "what's good" and "what's famous" is being lapped up by willing consumers.

The counterpoint to this story is that while it's very convenient to have such a large range of options when when I travel, in being made available everywhere those same brands and products are starting to lose their appeal.

Now I'm starting to wish for the old days, when eating cheap soba at the train platform with my mother was something special to do....

Thursday, September 22, 2005

White Band

You see many people wearing "White Band" these days. I think it's a good way to PR those younger generation thru fashion and celebrities posing wearing these, to make them aware that there are lots of people who can't even eat for days and die from starvation.

One day, I saw an elementary school student, probably at 3rd or 4th grade at a famous private school (I can tell from his uniform and hat which school he goes to), wearing one. That scene somehow made me puzzled. Does he really understand "poverty"? Did his parents give it to him to wear because everyone has it, or because it's the latest cool item he must wear to school to show to his friends?

"White Band" are made well to appeal, not just to public, but to well to do, too. But does it really contribute to donation to those starving people? Not in Japan somehow. The system of "White Band" is not structured to collect money for donation to help those people needs real attention. Don't you think it's ironic, that this item is wrapped in a very nice, ideal, and even full of humanity to be presented to the public, but the reality is, abusing the semi-donation system to make money. Those people who are dying from poverty are just chum. They're even more exploited without knowing by such crafty people.

If you really care about helping people, do not show it off, but take action. It might satisfy your own ego having such fashionable item like the famous stars have you see in commercials. Make donation through UNICEF and Red Cross. It's very simple, you don't even need to pose.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Hybrid Cars

At what price people will stop driving cars? We discuss this
frequently because the price of gas goes up literally every
day. It's not hard to imagine that this situation is hurting
many businesses. Take taxis for example. New York's Taxi
and Limousine Association recently approved the use of hybrid
cars for taxis -- something they'd been resisting previously.
Cab drivers can now chose from 6 different kinds of vehicles,
including the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape. The Association
members number 12,760 taxi drivers.

The discussion on how to maintain a vehicle-oriented culture
without the gasoline costs has been going on for a while. A
survey conducted by CAST (Coalition Advocating for Smart
Transportation) in the US shows that 7 out of 10 people are
in favor of shifting taxis to low exhaust emission systems
and fuels, such as the Prius and Honda Civic.

I bet the Detroit-based Big 3 will not be happy about this
change, as they are likely to lose a bigger share of the
market than they already have. But observers are saying that
they have to catch up if they intend to survive. It's been
said that the oil is not inexhaustible and we have all
known what was in store, although most likely many of us
thought it wouldn't happen in our lifetimes.

Moving to hybrid taxes will be a small but visible step to
cutting the use of oil products, hence it will also cut
exhaust emissions and thus slow down global warming. I hope
more people chose of their own free will, if not because of
their pocket books, to become more environmentally aware in
their choice of lifestyle.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Buddha Charm in Silk Road

Watching TV the other night, it was about an ruins of ancient city along Silk Road currently positions in north Gobi Desert of China. The track driver forwarding cars and farming equipments drives national road made on Silk Road had a charm of Buddha hanging from rearview mirror. It was a gift from his mother, who walked about 3-4 hours to get it at the temple. He said he'd got more business thanks to the charm, and didn't have such volume when he used to hang a picture of Mao Tse-tung, where is taken by the charm.

Thought ironic. Everybody wants to have better life for sure.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Humberger steak by masa

Received e-mail message from Masa: says she cooked hamburger steak and left us some at our home. First thing I asked her was where she cooked it. She said at her home. I felt a little better that she didn't cook at our place.

Got home, found an object in a blue plastic bag in the frig. I saw a brown thing in a ziplock tupper in the bag. The tupperware was irregularly formed as it probably melted a bit by the heat from the hamburger. She must have put it right in the tupperware after scooping from the pan...

Found a memo from her on the dining table. Ink from the green pen she used to write was traced on the surface of the table....

Despite its looks, hamburger steak tasted good.

Scraping off the ink from the table, I thought the environments, influences, and the other stuff which form a person works in various ways, although the materials are the same. And it's such a mistery that she's my sister, being what she is....

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Saturday Ginza Strolling

summer kimono
We went to Ginza on Sat, and had fun old style shopping. We went to Matsuya department store, and they had Geta (Japanese Wooden Clog) summer store on the top floor. I've been looking for the one with Tatami covered and we were just looking around. Then, there you go, a veteran senior lady was there in Kimono, came to help us. Renfield was the first victim. Once he started searching for Hanao (sandal thong) to go with the sole, her comments became more and more severe, as she knows what's cool and what's not with Geta style. Everything he picked was rejected. It was so funny and piquant that she's got such a frank disposition. While he was looking on in blank amazement, a brown hanao that she chose was fixed to Geta sole by a couple of senior men, just to fit to his feet. While guys were working, she gave me one which has a little stain on the sole but perfectly fine to wear, for a discount of almost 45%. She said she couldn't sell it because of defective goods, but since she likes Renfield, she was giving me such discount. Thanks to Renfield, I could get what I've been looking for at almost 1/3 of what it costs usually in the market!

Then we went on to the Antique fest the department store had on the same floor. We looked around, stopped at a store which has some sword stuff, then the earth quake hit. It was a pretty big one. Despite the threat posed by nature, we continued shopping in the Kimono area, and there they were: more senior ladies waiting for Renfield. He's been looking for man's summer Kimono, but it's really hard to find good one which fits him. Poor Renfield, surrounded by senior women, arguaing over what fits him and what doesn't, how fluent he speaks Japanese, etc. Then one woman pulled out a black kimono with yellow stripe which fits him fine. It's made with rare fabric called Miyako Jofu, which is ramie fabric. It takes 3 months just to make thread enough for a kimono, then die thread, both warp and fill, according to the pattern, then weave. Even skilled professional can weave only about 20cm a day. Not many people make this fabric and it has prices of over a couple of million yen easily in the market these days. She said she didn't really bother selling it to him because no one would be able to find such fabric kimono anymore. Can we miss the chance of getting a fine fit summer kimono? Off course not. We left the store with many senior ladies waving at us.

Since we didn't have lunch, we stopped at Midori Zushi, waited patiently in line for about 30 min. and had good sushi at reasonable price.

That was our Saturday Ginza strolling.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Hay Fever

Despite the snow we had last Friday, spring is approaching for sure, and so is hay fever season.
The weather news media are reporting frequently that the amount of cedar pollen expected this year will be 30 times greater than last year. As a result, you will see quite a lot of people wearing masks and glasses when commuting.
For those who are suffering or almost suffering from hay fever, here's a tour you might be interested in: "Cedar Pollen Hey Fever Retreat Tour" -- which is a tour that Kamishihoro Town in Hokkaido is planning. You get to stay 4 nights and 5 days, and the tour comes complete with hot spring visit, medical check at hospital, walks in the woods, hot-air balloon ride, etc. They're still organizing guinea pigs to participate as a trial, but have already received a huge number of applications.
As one of the Regional Vitalization Manager Businesses set by Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, this tour is initiated by Kamishihoro Town for the purpose of promoting the Immune Resort, based on the idea of living in an environment which is free from allergens -- so as to balance your immune system and be healthier.
I don't need to join this tour right now, but I definitely want to go out and reset my balance in a nice hot spring somewhere....