died in the wool ______

To have no set purpose in one's life is the harlotry of the will -Stephen Mackenna-

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

company bento and Kamidana?????

With the move to our new office, there have been a number of changes.

The first of which I'll talk about here, is the company bento. It's hard to believe sometimes, but someone somewhere makes a bento for every single person in the HQ of this company. To be honest, really, if we all had to go out en masse for lunch, I think it would be total chaos, not to mention expensive, and also impossible really with the 45 minutes of alotted time between 12:00 and 12:45.

There used to be 2 types of bentos avaliable. One that was meat heavy (read 'for the guys') and One that was usually fish-based (read 'for the ladies'). This is one of the main reasons I've had to be lenient about being vegetarian; if I have to choose between pork and chicken, then I'm just going to have to go with the chicken. This isn't an airline flight where someone wisks a special meal in before everyone else eats their chicken or beef.

Fortunately, we've got 3 kinds now, and the third is usually vegetarianish and also usually pretty good. I lot of chahan and udon, which is fine with me.

In a more bizarre vein, I came into the office on monday to see a Kamidana above the television in our department. Now, the Number Two in the department had been telling us for a long time they were going to change the doors to the interview rooms in our department (paper thin walls let you hear what's going on on either side, which is a security issue). No one said anything about a kamidana.

I'm still not sure why it's there. I mean, this is something people usually have in their home. None of the other places I've worked have had anything like this, and even at our old location we didn't either. Responses when I've told people has ranged from 'kind of weird' to 'dasai, jijippoi' to 'well fancy that!'

I think it's interesting, and might even be a comment on the status of shintoism as a religion or maybe even how religion is viewed on a generic level by society here.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Tokyo Positive

The Tokyo subway, since it became privatized a year or two ago, has been doing a really good job with a branding campaign. In the stations, With the slogan 'Tokyo Positive'. They've hired on the very attractive Yu Yamada to be the feature. I can't think of any better way to increase ridership (?, if that's the goal of the campaign). As I don't watch television, I wasn't aware that they were also making a televised ad version, and it really is great.

I also like the slogan, Tokyo Positive. So many people, Japanese and non-Japanese, just put up with it here, don't actually like it, and want to go live in a different country, most likely English-speaking. And this ad campaing tries to see value in what Tokyo has and what makes living in Tokyo a good thing. Take the subway to see fireworks. Take the subway go to onsen. Take the subway to meet your boyfreind in Omotesando to give him a Christmas present.

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hot pepper and big tuna

In the snow yesterday, i ventured out to by some things for dinner. Didn't make it far before I realized in my no-traction shoes that I wasn't going to be making it very far. So I decided to turn left, and head into my favorite thai resturant just down the hill from where I live.

The name of the resturant is Hot Pepper 2. This could be because of the free food weekly in Tokyo also called hot pepper, but I have a feeling that the resturant was made before the weekly... Anyway, this is probably my favorite thai resturant anywhere on the planet. My father was good friends with the owner of a well known Thai resturant in Minneapolis, Sawatdee, and he would often take his underexposed exurban students for a day of culture in the city. Hot Pepper 2, is a 40 square foot mom and pop place that is at the base of a small but steep slope going up towards my place. The wife welcomes you (it's so cute, she says 'onegaishimasu' for everything), and being strikingly beautiful doesn't hurt. His husband is an adorable, stoic guy and he just does his thing, filling the small resturant with great fumes of other dishes being prepared (or is it yours?) They have excellent curries and pad thai, among many other things (they have great kuushinsai, which I don't know how to say in english) .

Even though I have a television where I live, I haven't turned it on....ever actually. One of my favorite things about Hot Pepper 2 is that they always have one of the major television channels in Tokyo playing. The infrequency in which I watch television makes it somewhat of a treat when I actually do.

Now, people outside of Japan usually only see one dimension of Japanese television, the wacky insane 'Lost in Translation' kind of shows. The kind I've never seen and only hear about from non-japanese. There is, on the other hand, a very wide selection of interesting television shows on, but those wouldn't have the shock value to be interesting to non-japanese people.

Yesterday, there was a really long special following tuna, from fisherman to sushi resturant, on the northern tip of honshu between Aomori and Hokkaido. This place is a confluence of Tuna which take diverging routes when swimming from the Taiwanese oceans and splitting between the northeast and southwest parts of Japan.

It was fascinating, if not even a little touching to watch these fishermen at work. The ones they followed were all 60-70 years old, working on ships. One was a married couple, the husband working the lures while the wife turned the boat, readied equipment, and followed the sonar screen. The second person they followed, was a widower on heart medication who worked the entire ship alone. A 65 year-old fisherman lugging huge 70 kg tuna onto his ship. The married couple caught an over 100 kg tuna that was so big they had to send a electrified chain link down the lure in to shock it (to death) in order to pull it in.

They later showed sushi chefs in Ginza, as well as Nishi-Azabu, preparing the tuna for customers. Watching this show, it's hard not to wonder what fisherman did before steel boats, electrified hooks, and sonar centuries ago. One also forgets how incredibly large tuna as most examples area white shredded substance in small cans. It was also hard to see them kill the tuna, but also important. These fishermen were truly were really living at a locus in the food chain, and it was interesting to watch.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

bucho and yokan

Not new news or anything, but my bucho (department head) is so nice. He's from ibaraki, he visited his kids at kyodai for new years, and has a really intentional gait where he walks with his hands in a fist so he looks like a cartoon character. He's a lot better than my old bucho; when I started working here, he rambled on about Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. This guy is just so earnest it's hard not to want to do good by him.

And at 3:00pm, like we do every afternoon the OL's in the department passed around yokan for the afternoon 'tea' thing.

Yokan is an acquired taste I suppose. Mostly just the appearance, a big slab of jello looking stuff, can be difficult to get over at first. But it grows on you. Gelatin here is almost always made from seaweed not....whatever it's made from in the states (I know it's not horse hooves, but it may as well be), so it's not as rubbery in my experience.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006


so my new year was quiet good. On the eve, I went to a little countdown in marubiru, the landmark building of the redevelopment of the marunouchi area outside of Tokyo station. There was an orchestra and huge womens choir singing, among other things, Canon. They chit-chatted with the conuctor and other people, and I noticed that there was a huge line of people waiting for the unlit millenario adjacent to the building. When the clock struck 12, the whole thing lit up, and the masses drove through for one last time (it's not happening next year) . The trains were running late that night, so I just hoped back home.

New years day was a visit to Meiji shrine, something that has become a tradition of mine. The huge droves which make people shy away are part of the whole experience for me. When you visit a temple normally, you go up to the front of the shrine, jingle a little 'bell' throw some coins in the money box, clap your hands, pray, etc.

Not on shogatsu at Meiji shrine. The amount of people visiting requires them to block off the actual temple. They let about 200 or so people at a time go up to the edge, and throw there coins on a huge tarp. Policemen in the front have acrylic faceguards and helmets, and some precocious temple goers where hooded sweatshirts in the hopes that some misguided coins will land there.

After the coin tossing is fun too; Pick up an arrow to put in your house for the next yera, and all kinds of other fun temple nick nacks. The next part is the food, which is great; amazake, yakisoba, meat sticks. etc. I bumped into an italian couple visiting from london that had just gotten off the plane and come to the temple. And I showed them what was what, and they were nice enough to purchase some festival food for me. A little Karma goes along way.

I also stopped by the temple near my house on the way home, Nogi temple. They had clam chowder and stick bread among their other goods. There was gagaku playing as well, a favorite of mine (this temple sponsers a gagaku concert once year that I went to in october)

Shopping is the big thing here the day after new years, and I half heartedly participated in that, somewhat inadvertantly. The ac adaptor for my mac broke, and the people at softmap weren't being helpful. I decided to go to the mac store in ginza. Well they were nice enough to charge my laptop for me, and while I waited, I went across the road to the Beautiful Matsuya. With my apetite somehwat whetted, I remember seeing a jacket I quite liked a t a different department store elsewhere in Tokyo, so I decided to go and see if it was on sale.

Of course it wasn't. But luckily not all was lost, I was near one of the only stores in Tokyo I know that sells gluten burger.

Now, I don't normally really get into the whole 'meat substitute' kind of thing, because I think there are plenty of wonderful non-imitation vegetarian things to eat. But I really like the tast of tacos/taco meat. Go figure. And a Cafe Brenda in Minneapolis used to have these great mock duck tacos that I would get all the time. I miss them.

Well now I make the most gringoest taco you've ever had, and it's very fusiony.

800 grams gluten burger

appropriate amounts of spices and seasonings for making tacos (taco sauce, seasoning packets etc)

mizuna, cut into 1inch sticks

1 tomato, seeded and cubed

goat cheese crumbled

taco shells or soft tacos in the desired amount

saute gluten burger in 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, add taco spice and sauce. add water to allow simmering without boiling until it comes to a proper consistency. Place desired amount of taco 'meat' on taco, with tomatoes mizuna, and goat cheese. eat.

super good.

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