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.