November 2003 Archives

Mayo Otaku

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Generally, I like Japanese food. I am down with basashi (horse sashimi), liver sashimi, all traditional food, almost all seafood (except for mutsugoro and kujira, which are the Japanese for mudskipper and whale), and have even developed a positive view of grilled hormone (intestines).
However, sometimes things can get a little out of hand in Japan. Some Japanese people do not seem to grasp the concept that mayonnaise is a condiment best used to make specific dishes. You use mayonnaise to make tuna/egg/macaroni salads. You use mayonnaise in sandwitches or hamburgers. You use mayonnaise as a base to make sauces and dressings. Mayonnaise should only be used in these contexts.
Now, I know that some Europeans and people that have been to Europe like to dip their French (er...Freedom) fries in mayonnaise. I personally do not like dipping my fries this way, because it is disgusting.
But the way that mayonaisse is used in Japan is truly filthy.
At my hoikuens, the teachers like to use plain mayo as their salad dressing. Nastiness.
How would you like a seafood pizza with octopus, shrimp, and clams? What could possibly make this worse?
Mayonnaise
Hmmmm... Is your white rice a little too plain? Why not just drown it in mayonnaise to give it some fatty goodness!
Wow! A hot dog baked into the bun! But whats that white stuff liberally drizzled on top and baked into it?
Mayonnaisse
Mayonnaise doused omelet? Yes Brian, it does exist...

To be fair, Japanese use of mayonnaise can yield some delicious results, but finding complementary combinations between food and this particular condiment have been exhausted. Thats it. Stick to the tried and true recipies.

What do you think you are doing? Don't be creative with mayonnaise. Be creative with beer. Be creative with hot sauce or other sauces. Be creative by creating art. Be creative in how you express yourself. Don't be creative expressing yourself in mayonnaise... It is not bold, nor is it brave. It is stupid and obnoxious. No, not everything is relative, these words are the truth, so shut up already!

Living in Ubuyama can really be an inconvenience sometimes. If I were back at home on this Friday, I would be remembering the spectacular dinner that I had eaten yesterday, and would be helping myself to my third helping of leftover deep-fried turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, ham, salads (caesar, potato, macaroni, and maybe jello), mashed potatoes, chips and dip, vegetables, and a thick, rich gravy drowning everything.
Not that I can complain, though. I made a couple of Japanese friends panfried steaks and eggs topped with fried garlic, with grilled shiitake and onions in a redwine sauce, with rice and an italian salad! As it was the first time that they had eaten this stuff, it blew their minds (this is common when I cook, but it is usually either extremely good, or extremely bad- though this only happens on average two times a year). Not bad for a meal that took twenty minutes to prepare.
You may have been noticing that I have been talking an awful lot about food lately, and this reflects my state of mind. Japanese food is good, but during the holidays, I need to eat like an American! Yo, supersize that biznitch, and yes I will take the chocolate shake and an extra order of chicken strips and curly fries to start with... 22 days...

The Origins Of RocketBowl Saimin

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Nestled among my childhood memories of visiting Gardena and West L.A. is one of my Dad taking us to RocketBowl for a big, steaming bowl of Saimin. It is a simple soup that sort of bears a resemblance to ramen, but the noodles are wavy, and the broth is almost pho-ish, served with red ginger and green onions.
Along with waffle dogs, locomoco, various spam dishes, and plate lunches, I remember eating some good saimin on my last trip to Hawaii. Up until that point, I just assumed that Saimin was a hybrid food, the result of a fusion of Japanese, Chinese, and Hawaiian cooking, but I was wrong. I found out where Saimin (for all of you haolies and mainlanders, this is a noodle soup popular to Hawaii) originated: that place is Okinawa, and over there it is known as Okinawa Soba. Bringing things full circle, the Okinawans make their fried rice with Spam! Ah, those islanders, they know how to eat!

24 Days

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Until I am on my way back to California! Time is flying, but I want that Alerto's carne asada burrito now!
I wonder:

Will I have reverse culture shock when I get back?
Will Orange County smell foreign?
Will driving on the 405 seem like jumping to ludacris speed?
Will Justin or I drift onto the wrong side of the road?
Will watching television at home be more confusing than watching it in Japan?
Will I know of any of the current movies that are out?

Is the Seal Beach discount movie theatre still open?

How many friends or people I know will I randomly meet? How many of them have gotten married, have successful jobs, have recently gotten laid off or died?
How much will I spend at In n Out, Alertos, Pho 69, Tommy's, Jack in the Box, and all of the other places that I have been craving for over a year?

To what extent will English have changed? What words have faded from or been added to the lexicon? Will it sound "stupid"?

Does everyone now use a cellphone, as I have heard? How far behind are the phones compared to Japanese models?

What will the landscape of California look like? Is is all charred and brown, or has regrowth and regeneration started? What is it like having Arnold as the Governer? Are people still talking about him?

Will I feel more comfortable surrounded by strangers who speak English, or by strangers who speak Japanese? Will anyone tell me that my "English is really good!" and ask me why? Will anyone tell me that my Japanese is horrible and ask me why?

How fast does Brent's black Z go? How fast does my dad's Q and the Odessey go? How fast am I going in kilometers? How many pounds will I gain during the stay? How many will I lose immediately after coming back to Japan? How many of my kids will tell me that my face has become "really fat"?

These are just a few of the thoughts that come and go when I think about the trip. Time is zipping by, as work has been really busy, but I am ready. I am looking forward to wearing shorts and t shirts again, as I sit here typing, my fingers numbing from the cold.

Kuh..Kuh..Kuh...KkkCold!

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Yes, the temperature forecasts have once again plunged below 0 degrees (celcius), and the kotatsu is essentail to ward off frostbitten toes. I can see my breath in my house. But this is only the tip o the iceberg... I know that when I come back from Christmas break, I will need to start leaving my faucets running so that the pipes don't freeze this year. If my towel freezes again this year, I will post a pic of the stiff upside-down U, created from the towel freezing while hanging, that blew my mind last year. Once again, it is time for nabe, hot chocolate, tea, and anything hot.

Come to think of it, the nabe is astonishingly similar to butajiru, but the version that Justin taught to me adds:
beansprouts
kimchee base
ginger
and
chicken or pork

Try this stuff during a really cold night, and you will be thankful.

While I am posting recipies, here is another cold weather favorite:

Adam's French/Viet Beef Stew

This stew recipe is based on a beef stew that I had in Little Saigon while the Cruz and Yoshida parents met up for the first time in God knows how many years. My version kicks just as much ass!

Ingredients:
Lots of spare ribs, like 2 or more pounds
2 Carrots, cubed
2 Potatoes, cubed
Daikon, cubed
Onions, cubed
1 can of tomatoes, whole
tomato paste (thanks for reminding me Justin)
Bullion cubes and water/ beef or chicken broth
Red, red wine
Olive oil
Garlic
Cillantro
Salt, pepper, basil, your favorite spices

Side dishes:
Fraunch Bread, a baguette
Rice

Directions:
Season the spareribs(I prefer using Lawry's seasoned salt and garlic salt) and brown them in the pan with olive oil.

Pour in about two cups of wine, using this to dissolve the residue of the crisped spareribs. Add the vegetables, seasonings, and broth and bring to a simmer.

Let sit for about three hours, occasionally stirring, and adding spices and herbs to taste. Also, add more wine or broth to taste.

By the end of the three hours, the stew should be a nice reddish brown, with fine golden globules of goodness (fat) dancing on the surface of the stew. If the stew is not thick enough, add a mixture of flour dissolved in water, or some other starch.

Serve on a generous portion of rice or dip your baguette into it, and throw some chopped cilantro on top.

This is the best way to enjoy spareribs if you don't have access to an oven. Enjoy.

Am I missing anything?

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Click here to find out what robot you really are

Which Trainspotting Character Are You?
Click here to find out what size you really are
The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Eigth Level of Hell - the Malebolge!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)Very High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Very High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)High

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

Kindergarten Keikan

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Yoroku? Nashi! Musuko wakakata? Nashi! Yabakatta? So, Amerika! (American coffee the bandits explain, is ridiculously weak. Like a stolen piece of junk, it does not do anything for one).


Aitsu jibun o nani-sama da to omotte yagarun da? Taka ga eda hagi da ze. (Who the fuck does he think he is? He's nothing more than a two bit panty theif!)
Japanese complements of Peter Constantine

Today, I arrived at Hokubu Hoikuen (the Northern-Ubuyama pre-school), at 10:00, just as Nakano sensei discovered evidence of a breaking and entering. Someone had let themself in through the restroom window, leaving muddy footprints all over. All of the desk drawers were riffled through, but nothing was taken. The police were called and arrived at 11:00. They used an array of lights and dust to search for finger prints, and took an hour and a half to do a complete sweep. It would seem to be the same burglar who, last week on Monday, broke into Hokubu Sho (Northern-Ubuyama Elementary) and stole the kyoto-sensei's laptop and Fukuda sensei's digicam.
The search yeilded no leads.

The CSI dude on the right with nifty light, supervised by the Ichinomiya Police Seargeant. These dudes were total dicks when I tried to talk to them, but became friendly when the teachers told them I was a Nikkei Yonsei (4th gen. American).
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Point of entry.
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Inside close-up. The glass was punched out precisely next to the lock. This window is made of an opaque glass and thinner than the other windows.
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Outside close-up. Obviously the theif used tools to open the window, as a finger could not safely pass through the hole. Like a monkey using a twig to snag ant larvae.
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Footprint (next to my foot) outside the window. The robber has feet smaller than mine. Luckily for him, it was raining last night, and so any other footprints were washed away.
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It is a sad thing, when robbers try to rob nursery schools. What was the guy thinking? Hmmmm... That place must hold gallons of milk and a fortune's worth of cookies, not to mention the juice and crayons! And just think of all the toys... After this heist, its straight up naptime. Jackpot!

About half a year ago, someone stole some shirts out of the Superintendent's car, so it seems that petty theft is becoming more prevalent in our small village. All I know is that I have a big, sharp cleaver a few feet from my bed. On a separate note, I have no problem in implementing my version of Hammurabi's code on anyone foolish enough to try and break into my house.

Empty Metaphor

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I found this description of the Cosmic Buddha floating in the ether:

The truth of the cosmic order, which is contained in the relationships between the Cosmic Buddha and all his manifestations, cannot be known verbally.

So why bother to use mere text to describe it? Does this make sense to anyone? Also, the Cosmic Buddha has an elite posse, clique, cadre, crew, or whatever you would like to call his group of fellow Buddhas. Where are the other Buddhas and their respective blogs?

In the Diamond World, the Cosmic Buddha (Dainichi Nyorai in Japanese), sits in the center of assemblies of Buddhas arranged in a three by three square.

Does the excerpt below mean that his other pad was in fact, a uterus, and his pals are puppies of the same litter? No, the words mean nothing because the relations of the Cosmic Buddha cannot be explained with words.

The other world, the Womb World (Taizokai in Japanese, Garbhadhatu in Sanskrit), was the world of physical phenomenon. In this mandala, the Dainichi Nyorai sits in the middle in relationship to all his physical manifestations ranged in several courts radiating outward from him.

FUKUTOKU

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Kagura Oni

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Sexual Harassment Pandy

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Neko Bento

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The Oracle of Starbucks

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As far as I can tell this Oracle is 100 percent accurate.

Ka-Thunk... Ka-Thunk... Ka-Thunk...

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Ah, as long as we're on the subject of the good 'ol days, here is another memorable episode about roommate torture methods practiced and refined in the Sabado Tarde apartment. One day Steve went to soccer, and so we (which was usually me and Brian) seized an opportunity to pick on him. We
1. took all of his underwear, save one pair
2. soaked it in water
3. put it in the freezer
4. put a note that read "got underwear" in his empty drawer
5. waited
After two hours he came back exhausted. But instead of taking a shower, he went to go get something out of the freezer. His underwear, by now frozen into a solid cube, fell from the freezer with a THUD! Nothing needed to be said. He knew who did it, and he threw the frozen underwear at us. That mofo hurt, as it was pretty much a chunk of ice. But it was worth it! Steve took a shower, and threw his underwear in the dryer. He got more and more angry, and we laughed more and more, as the block went ka-thunk... ka-thunk... ka-thunk in the dryer. He should've been greatful that I had remembered to save him one pair of underwear, but for some reason he didn't find this act to be redeeming in the least. People can be so ungreatful!


As a post script, shizzolating this post yielded a decent re-write:

Ka-Thunk, know what I'm sayin'? .. Ka-Thunk, know what I'm sayin'? .. Ka-Thunk, know what I'm sayin'? ..

Ah, as long as we're on da subject of da gravy 'ol days, here is another memorable episode 'bout roommate torture methods practiced 'n refined in da Sabado Tarde apartment, know what I'm sayin'? One day Steve went soccer, 'n so we (which wuz usually me 'n Brian) seized an opportunity pick on tha dude's ass, know what I'm sayin'? We
1. took izzall of tha dude's underwear, save one pair
2. soaked that shiznit in H-2-Izzo
3. put that shiznit in da freezer
4. put a note that read "gots underwear" in tha dude's empty drawer
5. waited
After two hours tha dude came back exhausted, know what I'm sayin'? But instead of taking a shower, tha dude went go get something out of da freezer n' shit. His underwear, by now frozen into a solid cube, fell from da freezer wit a THUD! Nothing needed be be like, know what I'm sayin'? Tha dude knew who did that shiznit, 'n tha dude threw da frozen underwear at us." That mofo hurt, as that shiznit wuz pretty much a chunk of ice." But that shiznit wuz worth that shiznit! Steve took a shower, 'n threw tha dude's underwear in da dryer, know what I'm sayin'? Tha dude gots mo' 'n mo' angry, 'n we laughed mo' 'n mo', as da block went ka-thunk n' shit. .. ka-thunk, know what I'm sayin'? .. ka-thunk in da dryer." Tha dude should've been greatful that I had remembered save tha dude's ass one pair of underwear, but fo' some reason tha dude didn't find this act be redeeming in da least, know what I'm sayin'? Peeps can be so ungreatful!

My Japanese Teacher of English (JTE), Sato sensei, asks me to come up with stories that relate to the textbook often 5 minutes before we start class. This can be quite challenging because the text is super boring and whenever anyone looks at it you can literally see the glaze build up in their eyes.
Brian's comment made me remember this lesson, and I still feel the roadrash burning my face.
It was like this: The weather was perfect, so of course I had a midterm in an Anthropology course. While biking toward class, I saw Chris, so I pulled up next to him. He got this crazed look in his eyes, and it was understood that we would start racing. What ensued was not mutually understood. We got going at a pretty good speed, when I notice he is veering toward me and POW! He friggin side kicks me, and the next thing I knew I was sprawled out on the bike path in front of the Anthropology building, fellow bikers going around some poor jackass on the tarmac. Roadkill. But it was OK because luckily the right side of my face bore the full impact of the crash. Seeing red, I ignored his apologies, shook off the mental haze, and biked to class. Fucking Ben Hur motherfucker ass shit bitch! Ooooh, I would get payback! I was a minute late, and everyone looked at me, or rather they gawked at my abraised face, as I slipped into a vacant seat. I finished the test, and afterwards I went to the restroom to assess the damage. I had asphalt and dried black blood lodged in my scrapes, which I cleaned out at the apartment with lots of Q-tips and of course, hydrogen peroxide. It was only after I finished my 4 years at UCSB it dawned on me. Bikes are just not for some people, and by "some people" I mean "me".
My story blended seamlessly with that of the textbook, and the students actually paid attention and understood my English. Now if only I had a story to match every one of the the textbook's.

Best Drives In Kyushu

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1. Roppo Road(Miyazaki prefecture): This road was worth the hour and a half it took me to get there. It had everything. The drive started with a steep and windy climb, nothing especially spectacular as it climbed to the ridge of the mountains. Then as it started to traverse, the left side fell away in a steep drop. The white guardrails were badly mangled in places, and in other areas completely lacking. I would not be surprised to look over the edges and see twisted wreckage hundreds of meters down. The drive had plenty of gentle and not so gentle ridges, sharp turns, spectacular views, picnic areas, maps, wildlife, and obstacles. There were landslides and boulders on the road, which were fun to slalom around and reminded me of the Initial D episode in which Takumi successfully beats the "panda" Trueno on the guy's home course. Also, there was very very little traffic on this stretch by shooting the narrowed course right alongside. I must've only seen three trucks and three cars, and I never got stuck behind any slow drivers. I only got to drive this awesome road for an hour because I only had half a day off, and so I need to come back to fully experience it. Also, I found out where I can go snowboaring in Miyazaki, but most likely won't.

2. The Milk Road (North Aso Prefecture). This road is my favorite, but sits in the no. 2 spot because it gets too much traffic during the summer and fall. Tempermental, dangerous, and oftentimes solitary, this road never fails to surprise me. I know the turns very well, and so I can push my car to the limit, slingshotting out of the tight curves and getting from here to there in a breeze, if the traffic is light. It can be very dangerous because people like to park behind blind corners and stick out far into the narrow road, sheets of rain coming down so fast that windshield wipers have little effects and the resulting deep rivers flowing across the road causing you to hydroplane, the road freezes and is periodically covered with snow and ice, racers like to practice up there, some truck drivers like to drive the maximum limit and beyond, clouds drag across the ridge resulting in a thick fast moving fog that can cut visibility to 5 feet and can be very disorienting after several minutes, and the wealth of animals that like to dart out in front of your car including tanuki, rabbit, weasel, fox, and even dogs and cats.

3. The continuation of the Milk Road into Kikuchi Gorge (Kikuchi-Gun). Mountainous, running parallel, high above the river, and filled with dense folliage. Kikuchi Gorge is one of the most beautiful areas throughout Kyushu, and so the nature park draws bigtime traffic during holidays and weekends. Still a nice drive, especially in Fall when the leaves show their most vibrant colors.

4. The Kagoshima Expressway. Fast, straight, few cops and cameras: narcotic. After being deprived of speed, driving on the Kago Xpress can be dangerous.

5. The Ibusuki Skyline. Like the Aso Skyline (Milk Road), the Ibusuki Skyline offers a badass view of some stunning scenery and has some great twists and turns. Unlike Aso, it is well paved, used by many during the whole year, and costs money to drive. Still, it is worth the trip and the 800 or so yen. Seeing Kaimondake silouhetted against a red sky melts away any pent-up stress.

6. Nameless Road leading to Ubuyama's "Dream Bridge" (North Aso). This road is
a. new
b. wide
c. curvy
d. uphill, downhill, and level in places
e. unused
and
f. has "Danger: Cows" signs posted
It is a short drive, but is really really fun.

These are the Top 5 for now, but I will continue to post as I remember old favorites or discover new ones.

An Unanticipated Free Day

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I woke up this morning, short on time. Slapped some gel in the 'fro, pulled on a shirt and some slacks, and ran to school with the imprint of my pillow case's hem stitching running the entire length of my face. Ah, 8:00, Safe!
What's that?
No one is here, save Sakae Sensei? Lets look at today's schedule...
Hmmmm... yasumi (free day)? It happened again... "Um, do we have work today?"
"No, its a free day. Oh, didn't someone tell you?"

Wow, a free day. It didn't matter that no one told me about it, as I have become used to being out of the loop, and even expect it. Luckily this time it was a good surprise, other than the "Oh, by the way, we need you to work this Saturday, even though you told us of your snowboarding trip a month in advance" type.

So I hopped in the Civic, popped in the Underworld, and drove South into Miyazaki. There I found the best driving road I have yet driven in Japan.
I also found a cool temple, learned about Miyazaki's history, and happened upon an unspoiled waterfall. I dunno why but the every local waterfall that I know of has been tampered with to some degree, whether it be constructing a manmade reservoir below it, building a viewing platform right in front, or adding some other items that take away from the natural beauty of it. THis waterfall could only be viewed from a distance, a very very far distance, from the top of a cliff.

Miyazaki city boasts a beautiful beach that was constructed indoors, with a bright blue cloud dotted sky painted inside the dome, pristine white sand, and a wave machine that provides perfect curls for only their staff of pros to ride. Everything looks so realistic, which is really stupid because there is a perfect beach complete with waves, sand, and a perfect climate 5 minutes away from the indoor one, which charges about 4000 yen (bout 40 bucks) for admission. More amazing, people actually go to this place even when the weather is great outside.

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When I first needed a haircut, I first thought "Hmmmm... It should be pretty easy to get a good haircut in Japan, seeing as these people cut hair just like mine on an every day basis". It sounded like a sure thing. So I went into a barbershop in downtown Kumamoto, where the barbers are used to giving other styles of cut other than "bowl".
What a dumbass! It was my own damn fault. If I had taken a look around, I would have noticed that everyone has bleached shaggy haircuts. Or shaved heads. Or dreadlocks (cool, but too high maintainance, and would take me too long to grow out my hair). Or a bowl cut. Or a bad comb over. Or a salaryman doo. Or they simply have their mother/wife/girlfriend/daughter cut it.
So I walked in with my Japanese-English dictionary and made crude specifications for my haircut. This turned out as a crew cut, despite my protests during the sesh, and took about one hour to complete, costing 4000 yen.
And even after bringing pictures for the "stylists" to look at, they couldn't reproduce them, and I gave myself better haricuts using some clippers and two mirrors. What should I have done?
The answer, as I discovered, is to ask the recommendation of the "stylist", after showing them the picture. This is like a pat on the back, and makes them feel good. By asking for their expert opinion, their training and wisdom is validated, putting them the state of mind that you want them in while giving you a cut. And that is how I got the haircut I wanted from someone other than myself over here. However, be advised. I tried that same thing in Thailand and got a bad haircut. Hey, 50/50 is infinetely better than 100 percent pure disappointment.

Pig Soup

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Was the heinous name that was used by one of the teachers to describe lunch. Nah, what butajiru (to be clear, this is similar to dangojiru, but tastes better in my opinion. A dango is a dumpling for all of you people who want to know.) really translates is something more like miso stew with pork. This stuff so good after a 10K run that I ate 3 bowls of it, and still want more.
It is also really easy to make. I will run you through it.
1. Chop all of the following into bite size portions:
Fresh Shiitake mushrooms (dry Shiitake tastes rank compared to the fresh shit!), daikon (giant Japanese radish), carrots, yamaimo (Japanese Mountain Potato. If I may digress, the texture of this potato when grated into a mush is just nasty. This is not passing judgement, it is the unfiltered truth. And to those of you who happen to like this texture: you are all a bunch of sick people who must've delighted in swallowing those big nasty loogies you would cough up when you had a cold. However, when you cook it, it firms up like a proper potatoe and has a citrusy tang to it), thinly sliced pork, hakusui (a bitter-ish form of napa, or japanese cabbage), tofu (bean curd. Damn, calling it bean curd really makes it sound like nasty shit!), konyaku (a jelly-like japanese substance that is opaque, looks purplish-grey, and has black specks. Not really necessary, but adds authenticity), and mochi (rice cakes). Some like to add kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) or satsuma imo (sweet potato), but I think that these ingredients meddle with the texture and flavor of the soup.
2. Make some miso soup. Light miso is best used to bring out the natural flavors of the shiznit. Bring to a boil.
3. Add the ingredients in the proporions which you like the best. I like to add everything in equal proportions, but do whatever you like. Simmer down (control your temper, simmer down, the battle's gettin hotta).
4. After about 30 minutes, pour yourself a bowl. Add finely chopped green onions to top it off, and you have yourself some propah Inaka Ryouri.

Optional: If you were Justin (and you just might be) you would probably add kimchee or kimchee base to make it spicier. If you were my Dad, you would put some protein powder in it. Then you would try deep frying it so that the oil that you used to deep fry the turkey would not "go to waste".

If you don't like pork, you can add chicken, and while it still tastes good, I think it tastes the absolute best with pork. I bet that some of the people out here have added rabbit, bear, wild boar, and the local venemous snake to make, respectively, usagijiru, kumajiru, inoshishijiru, and mamushijiru. I bet they all taste pretty good.

To be fully appreciated, butajiru should be eaten on bitter cold evenings in the mountains in one's straw hut during a blizzard, only after successfully fending off wild bears and wolves with nothing but the crazed look in your eyes, followed by some green tea ice cream for dessert.

Mountain Tanuki

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Unlike the racoon dogs that live on Justin's island, ours have a diffr'n set 'o priorities.

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We like awr Tawnookeys cuz theyyur wild boozers and bring their own sake jugs with them, nawt 'cause they add more sausage to the hootenanny.

Not Helpin' The Cause

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I just know that this animation was made with a couple of geeky E.S. majors (is this repetitive?) from UCSB. Funny, I now feel like eating some milkfed veal stuffed with foiegras.

In a related note,maybe I don't need to go to Korea, maybe I only need to go to Panda Express to eat dog.

Oolong Sky

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Shanghai was a great place, but the smog was thick, thicker than that of L.A., reminiscent of the muddy contents of the erlenmeyer flask that my high school chemistry teacher used to demonstrate how particles stay suspended in colloids (like jello or anything that you add to an agar/water mixture). Anyhow, this pic was snapped from the D251 from the window of our aging Boeing 737, despite the soul-less warnings of the multilingual flight attendants. You can actually see the inversion layer (the clear blue part) smashing down all of that CO, CO2, NOX, ozone, hydrocarbons, and all of that other shit onto the city. There is one cool thing about thick dense brown smog in the cityscape- it filters the light, creating bad-ass blood-red sunsets, like the stylized umeboshi depicted on the Japanese flag.
Speaking of which, why do Japanese people think of the Sun as being either red or orange in color, and the moon as yellow? When you look at the sun, it is a burning brightness that is best described most of the time as white or yellow. The moon, is clearly white! I think this is a good example of a cultural nam-shub of Japan.

Back to the mountains

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Well, everyone is fine- no one got the bends or nitrogen narcosis or even stung by a jellyfish. There wasn't really any opportunity to get hurt, and you really didn't need to even be in good shape to participate. I shoulda known that the dive would be a joke, but it just didn't occur to me.
Can you believe that I spent three days in Okinawa and NEVER got to go to the beach. I saw it from a distance a couple of times, emerald green waters with coral breaking the calm surface. The weather was perfect, with beautiful clouds and a gentle breeze. Nah, instead I spent my time shopping for omiyage, drinking, and eating Japanese food.
Don't get me wrong, I am very greatful that I got to hang out with the firemen of Ubuyama, but it wasn't what I expected.
So diving was like this: We had 3 hours dedicated on the schedule. The first hour was a crash super-simplified course in the dangers of touching stonefish, sea snakes, sea urchins, jellyfish, and other marine animals. Next was an easy explanation of the regulator and the mask (talk about tanks, BCs, wetsuits, depth and pressure meter, and other equipment was completely omitted). All of this took about an hour. Next we went to the dive spot. We were seperated into 3 groups of 4, and my group went last.
I knew the spot that we hit up (Manza Beach) was a great place because I had a long talk with a local Marine and an Okinawan girl who had just come back from a dive. We talked at length (as the others were getting basic training, which took up about 45 minutes) about diving, marine invertibrates, and Okinawan culture. This turned out to be the highlight of the dive, as I got educated about feeding habits of predatory sea snails, good and bad dive spots, Yoneguni, and spearfishing on the islands (the local fishermen hate it when they see you doing it) and other cool places (such as hunting for stripers in the Colorado River)..
So I finally got in the water with my group, and it took everyone about 10 minutes to put on fins and masks. They practiced breathing under water with the respirator, clearing the mask of water, and clearing the respirator of water, and swimming which took another 30 minutes. Then we got to follow behind the instructor for another 10. We only swam at most 30 meters in no more than 20 feet of water at the very deepest.
During this whole time I was itching to go explore and find a real sea snake but had to stay with the group. Still, I was astounded by the level of biodiversity in the small pocket of water which we were confined to. I saw more species of fish, snails, and coral in ten minutes of exploration than I have in snorkeling around Oita, Amakusa, Ashikita, Saga, Kagoshima, Awaji-shima, and other various spots around Honshu cumulatively.
So now that I have a taste of Okinawa, I need to go back to actually experience it the real way. Next time I will pig out on American food, get a bitchin' tan while relaxing on the beach, and go diving for real! I will not go to snack bars or spend more than 30 minutes shopping for omiyage.

Ah, to be on an all expenses paid vacation (excluding ichi mon for something and incidentals, but hey its pretty darn cheap) with the men of the Ubuyama Shobodan (Fire Brigade, or as we Americans say Fire Department).
Right now we are in Naha, and as you can probably guess, I am in an internet cafe. Just before this we went out for a phat teppanyaki dinner complete with some excellent grilled shrimp (shrimp stew, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp sandwitch, barbecued shrimp, shrimp ice-cream, shrimp jello...), rare steak (I thought they only knew how to do well done in this country), vegetables, dessert, and beer. Okinawa is famous for a bitter melon know as Goya- it is bitter as hell, and only tastes O.K. with other food (like eggs and bacon) to mask it.

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Rare tenderloin- bloody steak tastes like heaven after all you've had for the past six months has been well done kwakisurpiniku. Oops...What I meant to say was well done kwakisurpipiku.

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This is the head of the giant shrimp. The teppan chick used two steel spatulas to squish it criss-cross style, and then used what looked like a concrete spreading tool to mash it into a "cracker" (read, well done shrimp brains, eyes, antannae, carapace, and other parts of the head which I now do not come to mind). It was actually pretty good if you were not thinking about brains while you ate it, but was still good even though I was indeed thinking about them.
This was followed up with pig intestine soup (hormone miso shiru) and sweet beans soaked in black sugar syrup topped with shaved ice.
Honestly, the whole dinner kicked major ass, and the 5000 yen tab was picked up for me! Makes the intestine soup that much more memorable.

Anyhow, after dinner, the guys (all married with kids) decided to go out to a snack bar (basically a place where you pay for young girls to talk to you. The good ones are pros at feigning interest in whatever you say and laughing at jokes that are not at all funny. What a shitty job!). I was offered the option of paying 4000 yen for all you can drink for 50 minutes with the girls, but graciously declined. Why should I pay money to have a conversation with someone who sees it as work? Why do people pay money to have one sided conversations? What do they get out of it? Many of them opt for "special treatment" later on, so why not just cut to the chase and save the pillow talk with someone who isn't really listening? I am really curious, but I don't think that I will ask anyone these questions on this particular trip.

The other reason why I didn't go just to drink and to hang with the boys is because we are diving tomorrow. Now, I'm not a professional, but diving is a very demanding and dangerous sport. These guys live in the mountains and are not really good at swimming or marine sports. Most of them are in relatively good shape from farming, but daikon picking skillz do not carry over to functioning under water. I am worried that these guys who have been drinking since 8 O'clock this morning are gonna be dehydrated tomorrow. Physical exertion and a hangover might prove to be a problem. Hopefully the dive master will be experienced and competent.

Anyhow, I am snapping away with the digicam and hopefully I will have some good ones to show when I return. Wish me luck.


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Diced Burglar With Wu Shu Sauce

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While reading Angry Asian Man's blog, I ran across this story. It really reminds me of Free Satpal Ram on ADF's Rafi's Revenge album. It is probably a bad idea to have a knife fight with an acupuncturist, especially the one known as "The Doctor." I think that he should be honored for taking care of the situation and sending a clear message. Don't FUCK with The Doctor, or he will shank your ass!

Halloween Pix

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Japanese Pumpkins are much harder than American ones. I ended up slicing through my thumbnail making this Jack-O-Lantern, but its all good. All everyone was asking was "so, when do we eat it?" and when I told them that we don't eat jack o lanterns after we carve them, they replied "Hmmmm... I think that I will eat it tomorrow.".
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Gave out about 20 bucks worth of candy this year. Its funny how well my students remember their English lessons when candy is at stake.

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