Thursday, December 27, 2007

a little behind

You know you're a little behind on things when you have email from 2004 sitting in your inbox.

At least that message was not awaiting a reply. The oldest message awaiting a reply is from January, 2006. Erk. I probably have older email sitting in Outlook though.

In unrelated news, I am always amused when Japanese acquaintances comment upon my facile use of chopsticks. People use chopsticks for non-Japanese food too! In contrast, I get surprised when I encounter people who cannot use chopsticks. It's funny what we consider to be 'normal.'

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Holidays!

It's been a while since my last post. Work and other things have swamped me, but at least life has been interesting.

I have several New Year resolutions that I am mulling over. There are the usual ones like "get more exercise," "study kanji," "cook more,"and "go to sleep at a normal hour," but one new possibility is "don't sweat the small stuff a.k.a. see the big picture."

Happy Holidays! I hope that you are with the people that you care about, and may there be peace one day soon.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

the best pumpkins ever

Check out these carved pumpkins at Andrea's blog. I defy anyone to produce a cooler pair of pumpkins.

I suppose some people might find it a bit off color, so if you are very squeamish about vegetables perhaps you should not look at the link. Still, I don't imagine that anyone would have a problem with it.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

bone marrow donors

I just heard that a friend's mother needs a bone marrow transplant.

Have you registered for bone marrow donation? I haven't, but apparently the process involves a mere 15 minutes and a swab inside the cheek. I will look into it. In the U.S., there is the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP) Registry:

Asian donors in the U.S. are uncommon.

gift from a new neighbor

Gee, the new neighbors recently have been very polite. Last month my new next-door neighbor presented me with two little sets of towels when he introduced himself. Then, last Sunday I found a big blue envelope with a message from my new neighbor downstairs. A JCB gift certificate for 1000 yen! I think the new neighbor is a girl, but it's just a guess. I was out all day so the neighbor couldn't introduce him/herself in person. I believe it's traditional to give soba (buckwheat noodles) to people who have just moved. So maybe this weekend I'll give them some. I need to find out what kind of soba is appropriate - regular stuff from the grocery store seems kind of weak.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

manner mode

When I first moved to Japan and got a mobile phone, the term "manner mode" (マナーモード) quite baffled me. To begin with I wasn't quite sure what the katakana stood for. Guess what it means!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

cafe Plants

One of my favorite cafes in Tokyo. I'm off to visit the Kichijoji branch today! Hopefully I'll get some good pictures, but it's typhoon weather today.

Monday, September 24, 2007

japanese confectionary site

Is this not the most gorgeous website? The individual winter desserts are particularly charming. I also like Tatamize.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

kamome shokudo

This Japanese movie from 2005 looks pretty interesting. Hey, it's hard to go wrong with food. I also want to see Super Size Me some time.

fried bacon

You know, I haven't had properly crispy bacon in years! Want some, now. Anywhoo, there's a funny post about frying bacon in order to serve large quantities of people. I like the note about eggs.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

housing and new neighbors

Well, I'm a bit bummed out by how much moving into a new place costs. The upfront costs are really high, depending on realtor fees, etc.

One condo had a long list of fees including changing of the locks, house cleaning + carpet shampooing (or floor waxing), insurance for household belongings (that makes sense, actually), and a handling fee of 1 months rent (I don't understand the kanji so I can't tell you what it's for).

However, I was pleasantly surprised to get a new neighbor gift from the guy who moved in next door. He rang the doorbell and said he'd just moved in and did a formal little spiel about the possibility that he might be noisy at night but hopes we'll get along. The speech doesn't translate well at all into English. And he gave me two nicely wrapped boxes containing wash towels, a token gift that is popular here (construction companies and such like to give them away from what I can tell). In retrospect, I ought to have introduced myself this way when I first moved into my apt. building.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

apartment hunting, the second day

Well, I spent most of today (10-6) talking to real estate agents and looking at apartments. What an experience! I'm a little discouraged, as there's always something a little off with each one. I'm not sure how much perfection I should be demanding either, so I'm having a constant internal debate over which aspects are required and which aren't.

My current requirements:
* bath/shower and toilet must be separate (a convenience that I'm not willing to live without. The little units that have the toilet crammed in next to the shower/bath with a sink linking them both are just no fun at all.)
* a quiet neighborhood so that I can open my windows.
* two stove-top burners (the better to cook with)
* a "mansion type" place - typically reinforced concrete construction or some variation on that
* a good amount of sunlight reaches the room

* I'm looking in the same area as I currently live in, although I'm considering other places too. The thing is, I don't know what it's like to live in other stations, so I'm uneasy about committing to a new area.
* a separate sink not in the bath/shower room (a sink in addition to the kitchen sink; modular is good!)
* elevator (nice, but not necessary, I suppose)
* auto-lock (means solicitors can't come to your door)
* building has a nice appearance
* pleasant neighborhood

Today, I saw a place with a great - perfect - layout. The hallways were pretty dim though, and only one set of windows (balcony doors facing approximately south). My only issues with the place:
* it's a little far from the station
* the neighborhoods don't have that much personality (kind of urban)
* I'm not sure how convenient that station is (less convenient than my current location) and it's an underground one that has exits facing the freeway - a bit depressingly urban in my opinion.
* It's about $160/month more than I was prepared to spend on a place. It's spacious and I love the layout, but I'm not sure the extra money is worth the space.
* It would be nice to have a more spacious kitchen

I saw another place that was perfect - a ton of cute little windows letting in light, great layout, great location (pretty close to my current place), and good neighborhood.
* It's only slightly cheaper than the first place, so I have the same concern about price.
* The ceilings are on the low side, which bothers me for some reason. They're plenty high enough, but it gives the impression of less spaciousness. I don't think I should care about this aspect, but for whatever reason I do.
* I wonder if the landlady is very involved in the maintenance of the building (this can be good and bad). She seems like a very nice woman, but I rather like the leave-alone feel of apt. management companies. I should have asked her some questions.

I wonder if I should relax my requirement for a "mansion type" place. Regular wooden buildings are cheaper by at least $100 or so.

Alternatively, if I move farther outside of the metropolitan area, I can get a great place for exactly my price range - $160 less than the places I looked at today and bigger than them too. But that's more time spent commuting, so I don't think it's worth it.

I need to take better pictures. At least I've learned to take pictures of the kitchen area of each place I visit. They're different everywhere.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

gin no budou (the silver grape)

One of my favorite desserts in Tokyo is a fluffy, cloud-like concoction of a cheesecake called かご盛り 白らら (kagomori shirara). Made by 銀のぶどう (gin no budou; the silver grape), it has a slightly thicker texture than whipped cream and has a very delicate cheesecake flavor - closer to a yogurty cheese than anything else. It reminds me of a liquid cheese and honey dessert I enjoyed in Paris - apparently simplicity itself, but divine. Sadly, the kagomori shirara has a shelf life of a mere 2 days, so it's only available in Tokyo. If you like cream and cheese, do try it on a visit here.

I could have sworn that I took pictures, but I can't find them at the moment.

Instead, I'll leave you with pictures of another of my favorite desserts, available at Cavalieri in Hatagaya. 渋谷区幡ヶ谷2-6-7 tel:03-3320-7587 Map. Sadly I don't recall the name of the dessert, but it's a house specialty with an Italian name. I need to go back there soon.

Friday, August 03, 2007

hiragana and katakana worksheets, plus apt. hunting

I ought to think up more clever titles for my posts.

I found a website with pretty worksheets for practicing your hiragana and katakana.

As I plan to commence apartment hunting this weekend, I did a little research online and found this blog quite interesting. It mentions some housing organizations that I hadn't heard of.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

tatami mats to square feet

I've always had trouble trying to translate apartment sizes from tatami units to feet, so I found this page quite handy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

convenience store bagging

At Japanese convenience stores, it's standard that cold and hot items be placed in separate plastic bags for the customer's convenience and satisfaction. So you often end up with two little plastic bags; one holding your bottled drink and one for your teriyaki burger or french fries. I usually use plastic bags as trash bags, so the little versions aren't very useful for me. Also, I don't really care if my drink gets hot or my bento lunch cools down a bit from being in the same bag, so I usually ask that they put the stuff together. I always have to get the request in pretty quickly otherwise they've already put my stuff into bags, so it's a challenge of timing it to right after they've given me my change. The same with the cases when I don't need a bag (I've been carrying around my blue Moomin eco-bag). If I'm not quick enough, everything's in a bag before I know it, and then I feel bad asking them to unbag it.

Friday, June 01, 2007

life passing us by: children are the smartest

The Washington Post has a delightful write-up of an experiment they did with acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell.
Pearls Before Breakfast
Can one of the nation's great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let's find out.

My conclusion is that children are indeed wise. What do you think?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Miranda July's website is cool

And funny. Check out, a site for her new book. Her actual site is

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

go Venus and Serena!

Other than Safin, they're the only players I care about in the French Open, since Blake lost. I'm hoping Serena crushes her bracket :D

Monday, May 21, 2007

update on the risotto

Well, the rice cooker risotto was less than a success. I added too much water and it was quite mushy. And lacking a convenient source of chicken broth, I put in half water and half broth which of course resulted in a very mild flavored risotto. When adding the parmesan cheese, I noticed that the expiration date was October... of last year. Whoops! Gotta buy more. I really haven't been cooking much, haha.

The microwaved capellini turned out much better. I'm going to experiment with various sauces. I love capellini. Yummy and so quick to cook.

Now I'm tired from cooking. I'll give it another try next month.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

things to cook

Day one of being healthier!

Things I love but have never gotten around to making:
Need to practice:
  • soy sauce chicken with garlic and ginger
  • kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) risotto
  • fried rice
  • stir-fried tomato and egg
Today's plan:
Fresh mozzarella salad
  • need tomatoes and fresh basil
Kabocha risotto
  • need kabocha, onion, throw in some other veggies?
soy sauce chicken
  • need everything (chicken, garlic, ginger, eggs)
Edit: 6pm
It'll take too much time to make the chicken so I'm going to look up more vegetable recipes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

movie reviews

For some interesting movie reviews, check out QuinnDuk at This part made me laugh out loud.
Greg Kinnear: He's such an interesting guy. He has this very boyish, friendly appearing face, but he plays such obnoxious characters.
Completely accurate, no?

However, I preferred Little Miss Sunshine over The Departed, both of which I watched on a flight.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

a different kind of ramen

After a long hiatus, back to one of the three themes for this blog: ramen!

めん徳 二代目 つじ田(mentoku nidaime tsujita) is a shop located in 小川町(Ogawamachi) near 新御茶ノ水(Shin Ochanomizu) in Tokyo.

This may be the best ramen I've ever tasted. It's completely different from anything I've had before. The specialty is the つけ面(tsukemen) for 780 yen, where the noodles are served separately from the soup and you dip the noodles in the soup before slurping them up.

You squeeze the little slice of lime over the cold noodles and then gather a bunch up to dip into the surprising soup. The lime makes it a little tangy; a shocking flavor for ramen, but it's absolutely delicious. The tanginess is refreshing amidst the typical salty, oily yumminess. I can't even recall the flavor properly; it's not like tonkotsu or soy sauce or salt ramen. From reading other reviews it appears to be a mix of three types of soup (the reviewer called it triple soup-like). My friend liked the noodles in particular, but I found the soup and the meltingly tender pork the real winners. The pork comes in rectangular slices and is very tasty. I neglected to take pictures of the pork this time, but I will be back!

Monday, March 05, 2007

samba carnival asakusa

By request, a picture of Tokyo (albeit atypical). Every year there's a samba carnival in Asakusa; there's a large Brazilian population here (many of who are of Japanese descent). I went last year; it was a lot of fun, but far tamer than Rio! People are more content to sit than to dance.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

look, I'm a spam blog

Had to delete cookies before I could get the word verification graphic to appear. That's a bit of a showstopper bug. Effectively prevents people from posting.

Nothing much going on here; I'm still battling the epitome of entropy that is my room. And I need to do taxes. So I'll give you a picture from NY.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

how to get an apt. in japan

I ran across a link to an excellent guide to apt. hunting in Japan (for foreigners).

music gigs!

Took me three years to stumble across this web site listing music gigs in Tokyo. Now I need to find people interested in checking them out.

This blog brought me to the above website, and I found the blog on

Monday, January 15, 2007

New Year, new resolve

* exercise (nice and vague; I'm thinking either hip hop or belly dancing)
* study kanji (pass at least level 8 of the kanji kentei, hopefully get up to level 6 by the end of the year)
* pass Sun Certified Java Programmer Exam 5
* learn to cook 1 new dish (not ambitious at all; I learned one last year! Maybe that chinese potato dish... Or scallion pancakes)
* sleep semi-normally (I sense I am out of luck tonight)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Happy New Year

Shanghai steamed dumplings from Din Tai Fung in Taipei. The best so far.