Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays!

Best wishes for a wonderful 2007.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

the best invention for winter

Other than long underwear, the best winter invention is disposable body warmers! 使い捨てカイロ(つかいすてかいろ)in Japanese, these little packets of heat are great in cold weather. They're apparently made of carbon and other things and are bio-degradable. One packet lasts the entire day. I may go through a lot this winter! It's about 300 yen for a packet of 10.

edited: weird, random span tags sneaked into my post. The dangers of cut & pasting text.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Shopping maps

I just discovered superfuture. It has an awesome amount of detail on the Harajuku/Aoyama area. I had no idea that all these stores were there! I should wander around a lot this weekend. Holiday tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Japanese post: new vocab

I'm sure you were all dying to know how to say eyelash curler in Japanese. Your wait has ended!

ビューラー byuuraa

I have no idea where that comes from.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

the secret to kara age (fried chicken)

The secret is honey! It makes the chicken tender and juicy, according to a cooking show I watched today. Also, dipping the chicken in egg before battering helps the batter stick to the chicken.

(apologies to any vegetarians reading this)

I haven't run across frozen chicken in my local supermarkets (5). Campbell's chicken soup and chicken broth seems to have disappeared from Kaldi also. They only have cream of chicken soup. They did start carrying risotto too. Has anyone ever used ghee? They carry it! Apparently it adds richness to curry.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

creative japanese brands

Some brand names are very interesting.

Friday, November 03, 2006

muenster/munster cheese

I can't seem to find this in Tokyo! I was wondering if it was a purely American invention, but apparently it originated in France's Alsace region, according to the Food Network.

In other news, today is a holiday. I am cleaning up my room and going shopping later. Yay!

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I just filled out my voting ballot. A couple right-wing sites were kind enough to provide information on which candidates to vote against. They made my decisions very easy!

Friday, October 20, 2006

survival Japanese: vegetarian

I learned this word (or it stuck in my brain) a month ago.

菜食主義(さいしょくしゅぎ)sai shoku shugi: vegetarianism. If you look at the characters it's literally vegetable diet belief :D

survival Japanese: assortment

When in doubt and looking at an unreadable menu, look for the words 盛り合わせ, which means assortment.If you can understand the words following it, even better, otherwise you might get an assortment of raw liver or something ;)

Just kidding. Usually they have assortments of chicken skewers (various parts of the chicken, and I mean from all over the chicken), or assortments of sashimi (raw fish), etc. I've never seen an assortment of raw liver, as there's usually only one type of liver available.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

SoftBank Ad: Cameron Diaz

The ad:
Cameron Diaz walking rapidly and talking (unheard by viewers) animatedly on the phone as "Walk this Way" plays (not the Aerosmith version, as far as I can tell).
And the end of the ad, the SoftBank logo appears. I presume they're advertising the fact that Vodafone has become SoftBank, but that's just a guess, as there are no explanations in the commercial.

It's kind of funny to see these Hollywood stars on TV and billboards.

Tommy Lee Jones is the face of Boss Coffee. If they could get Bruce Springsteen to advertise Boss Coffee, that'd be cool, but Tommy Lee Jones isn't bad either. The commercials that Demi Moore's ex-husband (what is his name?! The only thing coming to mind is Billy Joel, haha) has been doing are a bit on the cheesy side though. Angelina Jolie's commercials for Shiseido's Integrate cosmetics line are a little strange too. I don't know why, but they're a bit off.

This week, Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas and Lindsay Lohan have suddenly appeared on magazine covers (separately). I assume Fergie is appearing because of her solo album, but not sure why Lindsay Lohan is making appearances.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

NHK has the best documentaries

Today I caught the tail end of a new documentary from NHK called 72 hours. They continuously film a place or person for 72 hours.

I only caught 10 minutes or so, but what a brilliant 10 minutes. They filmed a popular area of Tokyo where a fireworks display was being held. A bunch of young people gathered the night before the event to stake out a place to watch the fireworks. So that morning, the camera went around and interviewed a homeless man who lives near the viewing site. He complained that he couldn't sleep at all last night, because the young people were too noisy. So the camera wandered over and said hello to the young people, who had been camped out since last night. They chatted about that, then segued into asking what the people thought of the homeless people in the area. One young man said that he'd like the homeless problem? to disappear. The country isn't being effective in fixing the problem. Another young man said that in an ideal world there wouldn't be any homeless people, but realistically it is a difficult problem. He then mentioned that it's possible for any of them (the group of young people) to become homeless at some point in their lives. The first young man said that it's not possible, but the second person insisted that it was. "You never know what could happen." The first young man repeated his assertion that he could never become homeless. But then he said, because he just made that bold statement, he's probably the most likely to become homeless.

Man, I need an English transcript of the show. I'm sure that I've made all sorts of errors in my retelling.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Tokyo Game Show

Thanks to I got to see the Tokyo Game Show. It was pretty interesting. Huge and lots of glittery displays. Sony's section was quite impressive. I was entertained by all the cosplay going on. Sadly I forgot my camera so I didn't take any pictures. The Wii looks like a lot of fun. I want to try the monkey darts game they have. They had girls dressed up to match the games they were demo-ing. The girls playing the sword game looked really bored, sadly. I think I'd have a lot more fun than they did. The two girls demonstrating the sports games were fun to watch though. One girl got the hang of the games a lot faster than the other girl.

There were a lot of fanboys taking pictures of the various booth girls. It was funny to see both the girls and the boys posing for pictures.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Have you seen any of these films?

Some of my favorite movies include:

Strictly Ballroom

Postmen in the Mountains (山の郵便配達)
Children of Heaven
Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し)

Other than Spirited Away, not that many people I know have seen any of the above films, so I'm wondering how popular they are in general. I don't think Children of Heaven was widely released in the U.S.; I believe I saw it at a local international film festival in Boston.

update on the local tai chi class

Very excited, I rush to the bus outside of the train station, and hurriedly check that it stops at the location specified on the map that I got from the website. Mostly elderly people fill the bus. The bus driver was occupied with killing mosquitoes with his white-gloved hands. My stop is only the second one on the bus route, so the ride was over before I knew it.

I get out of the bus, but nothing helps me orient myself with respect to the map, so after looking around for a while, I ask a nearby lady on a bicycle. After a moment of confusion she realizes what building I was looking for and points me in the direction in a very friendly manner. I thank her and rushed to cross the street. The building is just a minute away and I walk in and ask the receptionist about the tai chi lesson. He informs me that they'll be admitting people at 6:15 so I should wait until then. Then he asks me if I have "uwabaki" (上履き) with me. I don't know what "uwabaki" is, so ask him "What is uwabaki? (上履きは何ですか?)" This throws him for a loop and he is at a loss for how to respond. Then I explain that my Japanese is not too good and that seems to make everything clear to him. He says I'll have to wear socks inside, and I say that's fine. Personally, I think it would have been nice of him to explain what "uwabaki" means, but I guess he wasn't up to the challenge. Apparently you have to bring indoor-use only shoes with you; no street shoes allowed. One of the secret rituals!

Quite a few people eventually filled the gym for the class. There were two teachers who seemed quite nice. All the students were regulars; I was the only new person. I think only 3 or 4 people were under the age of 50 out of 26 or so. They play music to go along with class which was an interesting change. A voice counted numbers in Japanese over the music. They use the Chinese names for the various parts of the forms. I don't know what style of tai chi they teach, but it seems to be different from Chen style tai chi. At two hours long it seems like quite a lengthy class, but very cheap since it only costs 100 yen to attend. The teachers must be volunteers.

Friday, September 01, 2006

tai chi

I'm looking forward to visiting a tai chi class in a local gym. I hope the teaching style suits me. I will also be making a long overdue visit to the dentist.

Word of the day: 食通(しょくつう shokutsuu):gourmet

If you're ever in Shimokitazawa, I recommend Pistol Pinoko as a friendly little bar/cafe.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I understood!

An entire song in Japanese. I was listening to the Kiroro CD I've had for probably 7 years now, and just realized that for the first time I could understand the lyrics! No straining either; I literally knew all the vocabulary. Exciting!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

SCJP Exam for J2SE 5 prelim review

I'm studying for the Sun Java exam for Java 5.0, and using the book SCJP Exam for J2se 5 by Paul Sanghera. So far the writing is quite clear, but quite a few typos are showing up that are bothering me.

I think they could have put a little more effort into proofreading the book, considering it's not an inexpensive book.

So far:
* Some errors in the value ranges for primitive classes - the text is correct but the diagram is wrong.

* A few errors in the solutions for the chapter review questions

* Discrepancy between the text and the figure for the discusson on non-static nested classes (aka inner classes) and static nested classes. The discussion was a bit confusing so I looked up more detailed information (more here). I'll need to run the example figures and see if the code as specified in the book actually works.

I'm only halfway through chapter 3, so I'm wondering how good this book will be. On the plus side, it's a positive aspect that I'm able to actually catch these errors; it's a good way to get a more thorough understanding of Java 5.0.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Tamiyo Kusakari of Shall We Dance?

I just read a very interesting interview with Tamiyo Kusakari, who played the dance instructor in 1996's popular Japanese movie Shall We Dance?

I didn't realize that she was an actual ballerina; I had assumed that all the lead characters were played by actors.

Monday, June 19, 2006

ooh look, my website is down

I have this feeling that my free host, Fateback, has been quietly taken over. Since August, when using Internet Explorer, the domain name takes me to a Japanese host (NIC issues?). Oddly enough, this no longer happens with Firefox. The responses on the support bbs are few, far between, and a little sketchy. Do support people usually ask you to send them your login and password? Shouldn't they be able to help without needing user passwords?

Anyway, in an attempt to update my index page, the file got wiped from the server. While I have the ability to create folders and delete files, I don't have permission to upload files. So is currently out of commission. I think I'll look around for a more reliable host. Before the secret takeover, Fateback was very reliable for a free host.

Santana, KISS, and... The Pussycat Dolls?

The Udo Music Festival 2006 has Santana and KISS as headliners. The Pussycat Dolls will also be performing, which I find to be rather incongruous. But whatever.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Chicken broth

Lately it's been difficult to find chicken broth at my local grocery stores. They used to carry Campbell's chicken broth, but it seems to have disappeared. I wonder if it didn't sell very well. There is a light chicken broth powder available, but the flavor is much thinner (and less fatty and salty) than the chicken broth that I am used to. Without chicken broth my risotto just doesn't come out very well. Ironically it's much easier to find risotto rice now, as the local Kaldi (specialty international foods shop) has started stocking it. I need to check out the larger grocery stores and food specialty shops; they probably have chicken broth. Can't find chicken noodle soup (canned) lately either, but perhaps that's because of the season. Much less call for that sort of thing in the summer I expect.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

World cup 2006!

Good luck to U.S., Japan, and all the teams. May they all play their best.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Woot! Perfumes to be shaped by blog

Scentzilla, Perfume Smellin' Things and Nobi Shioya (S-Perfume) are collaborating to see what kinds of perfumes can be created when driven by a passion for perfume, as opposed to marketing.

We'll be able to read and discuss the development of the perfumes at Made by Blog. Katie and Marina's proposals are already up and look very interesting. I wonder what the perfumers will make of their desires!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

stuff to read

Talking to other people made me realize that I haven't been broadening my mind lately. Or I've been focusing too much on Japanese and technical studies (although it never feels like enough).

So Dain's post on suggested reading was very interesting.

I have read Baghdad Burning before, but not lately. It's a well-written first hand account of life in Baghdad: "Girl Blog from Iraq... let's talk war, politics and occupation."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

french pâtisserie

I love living in Japan.

There's a new French pastry shop down the street from my apt, Le Pommier Salon de Thé. The pastries can also be found at Isetan department store apparently (possible only until the middle of June). After noticing the new shop half a year ago, I finally dropped by one day with a friend. We both got a pastry and I enjoyed a delicious cup of semi-sweet hot chocolate while my friend went for coffee.

The shop is bright and pretty, and the pastries! Divine. I'm a sucker for rice pudding so I tried the yuzu version, which was tasty but not as transcendant as the yoyo aux fraises, one of the chef's specialities. I am going back this weekend and getting a yoyo! The pastries are really reasonable considering how yummy they are. There's an expensive Italian cafe in Shimokitazawa which charges the same amount for pastries half as scrumptious and half as big as Le Pommier's desserts.

It's funny how inelegant I can be, writing about such an elegant place. Perhaps it's an inverse relationship? The more elegant the subject, the less refined my writing becomes?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Studying for the JETRO business exam

Less than 3 weeks left! Lots of vocabulary to memorize.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

5 day weekend!

It's Golden Week! The trains and roads are pretty empty because most people in Tokyo have raced off to other destinations near and wide. It's kind of nice to be able to sit in the trains for a change.

I'll be wrapping up some lingering tasks tomorrow, including brushing up on Apache Struts and cleaning off my desk. The day after will be devoted to some cooking practice. And after that, exercise.

I caught the end of a very interesting documentary by NHK last night. Fascinating in fact. They simultaneously filmed 3 locations around the world. New York, China, and a small island country called Tuvalu (a series of 9 islands). One translation of the documentary title is "Smoke and gold and the sinking island." Rising water levels threaten Tuvalu and its population's existence. NY brokers turn air into gold, by bartering emissions rights between countries. And China furiously churns out greenhouse gases. That's the surface, at least.

Frankly, I don't think the New Yorkers come out looking very good, but that's my opinion.

Friday, April 07, 2006


Also known as cherry blossoms:
They came unusually early this year and most areas in Tokyo have already completely bloomed.

In other news work has been super busy.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

buggy search engines

You know there's something wrong when you're trying to go from Tokyo to San Francisco and Northwest tells you to fly from Tokyo to SF to Seattle back to SF. I'm sure there's a good reason...

rubik's cube mania

Random late night tv can be very interesting.

So there's this show featuring a former member of Morning Musume. Morning Musume is a long-lived group attesting to the power of fanboys in Japan. And the consumer strength of young girls. Because I think they must be the reason that this revolving door group of fluctuating numbers of girls has survived so long. Also, their manager is a very good writer of catchy pop songs.

Anyway, there's Yaguchi the singer, and this comedian guy, who host this late night low budget variety show. Yaguchi is surprisingly funny and charming. I like her a lot, even though her music isn't so good. The comedian guy is pretty funny too. He's actually a big rubik's cube maniac, and holds some certificate that you can get attesting to your rubik's cube prowess. So, lately, he's been matching up against other enthusiasts in timed contests. Last night, they had another rubik's cube enthusiast on the show. Apparently there are two main methods for solving a rubik's cube. The guest actually worked out one of the methods on his own, through observation and experimentation. He'd track the movement of all the pieces, noting them down on paper, until he'd worked out the entire process. So the comedian was very impressed, because he just looked up the methods online and memorized them in order to solve the cube. The guest also talked about types of rubik's cubes that he'd like to see. I believe he said he'd like to see a rubik's cube where a solved side would show up as a wooden panel? And the comedien said that would be very elegant. And they started descending into their own little rubik's cube world. Meanwhile, Yaguchi who has minimal interest in rubik's cube, was practically dying at the whole fanatical conversation. Eh, you probably have to watch the show yourself (with english subtitles) in order to get the full effect.

Friday, March 24, 2006

tou soba review still coming up, things not to say to a japanese girl

Um, yeah. Review, what review? Kinda busy at work so haven't had a chance to write one up.

But, I still have time to watch tv. Funny, that.

There's a Japanese practice called 合コン(goukon). Normally, three girls and three guys meet up and drink and eat and talk. Usually, a girl and a guy know each at least nominally, someone says, "Let's have a goukon!" The girl brings two female friends, and the guy brings two male friends. Basically a form of group dating. Hrm.. kind of like the somewhat outdated American concept of double-dating?

Anyway, the goukon is the first-time meeting for the participants. So, this variety show did an informal survey of 100 men and 100 women. They asked the men how they usually addressed a lady at a goukon. And they asked the women what they hated most to be called when at a goukon.

The women's ranking:
1.呼び捨て not using any suffix (dropping -san from Suzuki-san)
2.君 male speech pattern for saying you (men use this form more often, does not reflect on gender of person being addressed)
3.あだ名 making a nickname out of the person's proper name

The men's ranking:
1. ~さん (using -san)
2. ~ちゃん (using -chan, like Keiko-chan - which is used for young children and close female friends, although sometimes you use for guys too)
3. 呼び捨て or あだ名 (I forget which)

Funny that the men think #3 is friendly, but the women don't like it. At least according to this sample.

update: 2006/4/7: there doesn't appear to be a rule about how many people are required for a goukon, but I think 3 or more of each side is common.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Star Wars and Isetan

Did you know that Isetan, the venerable Japanese department store, plays the Star Wars theme over the PA (public announcement) system to signal break time? I had no idea. Not that I've ever spent that much time in Isetan. That place is really crowded on weekends.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Final Fantasy XII and Suntory have put out a drink called "Potion," packaged like the revitalizing drink in the Final Fantasy series of games. I saw the commercial yesterday on tv.

I'm gonna have to buy it. There are apparently 2 regular designs which sell for 191, and a premium box version (1 bottle + 1 FF12 art museum card, 6 different bottle designs) that sells for 600 yen.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

because nothing is complete without a picture of a guinea pig

It's not a very good picture, but you get the idea. Guinea pig out for stroll with owner.

Santohka, Ippudo ramen

Two other ramen favorites of mine.

山頭火(さんとうか Santouka)has quite a few restaurants around the Tokyo area, and you can even buy their ramen in the supermarkets. My favorite is the salt ramen (塩ラーメン). It's a very tasty, flavorful soup. The pork is average if I remember correctly, but they have a special とんとろ fatty pork version which is particularly delicious. The pork is tender and tasty. A bit salty though, so a little pork goes a long way. The noodles are normal but not bad. I love the salt ramen so I've never tried their miso or soy sauce versions. They have a nice soy sauce egg that you can add as a side topping.

一風堂 (いっぷうどう Ippudo)also has quite a few restaurants in the Tokyo area, but most of them aren't very convenient to get to. Ippudo is a Hakata style ramen place, so their specialty is my favorite soup, tonkotsu. Their tonkotsu is flavorful and a bit on the heavy side. The pork was not bad, and the noodles are quite good. They also have lots of toppings like garlic and I think kimchee? so you can have a lot of fun with your bowl of ramen. The last time I went I had a little too much fun crushing fresh garlic into my ramen, and my body got kind of upset with me, but it was delicious. Ippudo lets you specify the hardness of your noodles, and they recommend the moderately cooked noodles. Since I am not a true ramen fanatic I always get the softest version available (recommended for children) but I like it that way. They offer two types of tonkotsu soup, 赤丸新味 (あかまるしんあじ akamaru shin aji)red bowl new flavor and 白丸元味(しろまるもとあじ shiromaru moto aji)white bowl original flavor. The red version is a thicker tonkotsu soup, and the original flavor is a bit lighter.

Next time I'll write about a new tonkotsu favorite, Tou soba.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Not much going on

It was super cold for a while but has been rather spring-like the past couple days.

I've been pretty busy with work lately, and studying Japanese vocabulary again.

Oh, I passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Test level 1! Very happy about that.

The pollen season is starting again. A large portion of the Japanese population is apparently afflicted with various pollen allergies. It's called 花粉症(かふんしょう kahunsho).

Thursday, January 12, 2006

late trains

Lately the first train I take to work has been late. Specifically, the train has been running late for 2 days. It's a little disconcerting for the train to be running late. I feel like the world has gone a little akilter, and the day is abnormal. It's kind of like the feeling I get when it has been declared a snow day and school has been cancelled. I think, "I should be in school, but I'm not! How odd!"

I find my expectation of timely trains to be very amusing. My world has become a world where trains run on time, within a couple minutes. A minute or two doesn't disconcert me, but let there be a six minute delay and suddenly everything is a little out of order.

This hasn't affected my schedule personally. I normally take a 9:21 train, but I've been getting on the 9:15 train which has been arriving at 9:21. Heh.

In general, it's unusual for the train to be late, and even more unusual for it to be late on consecutive days. However, rain usually delays train schedules a bit.

In case you're curious, my commute consists of about 15 minutes of walking and 2 trains.

Friday, January 06, 2006

how long does asparagus last?

For people (like me) who don't know much about cooking related things such as food storage, there are web sites like this one, which answered my question of how long asparagus lasts in the refrigerator.

When you don't have "common sense," there's the Internet!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

happy 2006 and overeating

Happy 2006! May it be a good year.

I have been overeating almost consistently since vacation started on the 28th. At least I went swimming once. I will go swimming this weekend too. It's been a little hard to eat enough vegetables too. For example, if I go to the convenience store, my eyes automatically seek out the grilled pork bento, which consists of salt, pork, and rice. Salads just look boring in comparison. And have you noticed that it's a lot of work to eat a salad? Stuffing leaves into your mouth is a very messy process. Cutting the leaves up into bite sized pieces and getting them to stay on the fork also takes time.

I went to the Buddhist temple Senso-ji in Asakusa with my friend's family for the traditional midnight visit. We actually left before midnight because the lines were crazy and it was really cold. I took lots of pictures but most of them are probably too dark.

Starbucks and other stores actually started selling their 福袋 (grab bags) at midnight. These grab bags are like mystery packages - they contain a variety of items worth more in total than the purchase price. The catch is that you don't know what is inside until you buy it. Uniqlo sells grab bags labelled by size. Prices can range from approx. $20 and upwards. Apparently there are some really expensive grab bags available at department stores. Hanshin Department store had a special 2004万円 (about $200,000) bag to celebrate the 2003 Hanshin Tigers baseball team's championship. Limited to exactly one bag, at least 100 people applied to buy it. (source: a site on grab bags)