Monday, November 27, 2006


The Mamiya Brothers: a really funny movie about two nerdy brothers living together and their exploits looking for love. So much better than the average romantic comedy. Lots of moody, subtle humor.


We visited yet another onsen, this time the lovely Tenzan in Hakone. I'd been there once before, about a year ago, and so when C. expressed interest in going to hot springs in Hakone, I suggested Tenzan.

Tenzan is a posh rotemburo, or outdoor spa, sex segregated and with half a dozen baths each set in natural rock pools and surrounded by trees. The really appealing thing about this onsen is the natural feel of everything - the materials are all wood and stone and bamboo, and doesn't feel at all manufactured like some places. The indoor common area is really chill too, with a beautiful low-key tea bar and tatami resting rooms. Best of all, the establishment is tattoo-friendly, imperative since I. was accompanying us on this visit.

Beautiful, and definitely recommended.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


"kusobaba", loosely, "shit hag". one of my lovely mother's nicknames for me.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

excellent movie

Just watched Kamome Shokudo (The Kamome Diner), a Japanese movie shot in Finland. Like Tampopo, this movie revolves around a little indie restaurant and the strange characters that patronize it. Spare and wandery, there isn't much of a plot; yet it's charming and refreshing. I enjoyed it very much.

Friday, November 17, 2006


word of the day: tekitou
Another one I've known for awhile. This means at random, or on the spot, but is used similarly to "play it by ear" or "wing it".

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


The secret is out: residents of certain cities can rent city-owned property very cheaply and have a grand old time of it.

I've known for awhile that it was inexpensive to rent the citizens' center, say, or rooms in other public buildings. A small business that I occasionally teach for rents out classrooms in the beautiful old historic buildings of Yokohama, like the Port Authority building or Yamate 234, and the students and teachers both benefit from the lovely surroundings.

My mom rented a cabin in Nagano prefecture in the town of Tateshina. The city of Sagami-ono owns a small "village" of cabins that the residents can rent - there are two large 15 person cabins and about ten small five person cabins. The residents of Machida, by proximity, can also reserve these cabins, though Sagami-ono-ers get first pick.

We reserved two cabins for a family weekend get together, and after teaching on Saturday morning, I. and I drove out along the Chuo freeway to Nagano to meet with Mom, Dad, A., and J. We arrived after dark, but I was pleasantly surprised by the comfortable-ness of the cabin - it was well made, spacious, and had plenty of amenities. A large wooden table sat next to a big heater under a vaulted roof; a tatami sleeping room was next to the dining area, and the cabin also had a small kitchen with fridge and range, a full bathroom, and a balcony. All this for only 7500 yen. The big cabins, which were already reserved, are an even better deal at 15,000 yen, or only 1000 yen per person if filled to capacity.

That evening, we made a big dinner, snacked and drank and played cards until late.

The next morning, we awoke to a light snow decorating the trees and underbrush around the cabin. After a huge American-style breakfast, we all took a walk around Megamiko - Goddess Lake. The cold had a bite, but the scenery was lovely, the surrounding mountains golden and green with foliage, the water incredibly clear.

The area around Tateshina boasts many attractions, but November is a bit of a down season. Ski slopes were visible all around, but there was not yet enough snow for skiing; there's a farm and a ropeway, but seems to be open only in the spring and summer, when it's not too cold for the animals. We contented ourselves with walking around and enjoying the scenery, and bumming around the cabin.

In the afternoon, A., J., and Dad had to head back to Tokyo, but I., Mom and I drove to the other nearby lake, Shirakaba-ko, or White Birch Lake. True to its name, there are many lovely white birch in the area, their stark branches standing in beautiful contrast to the reddening hills and dark forest floor. We entered a nearby establishment, a recreation center next to the lake, and rented swimsuits and towels for the co-ed outdoor onsen on offer. Luckily, they permitted I.'s tattoos, and we were able to soak together in the baths. With an occasional falling yellow leaf and the errant snowflake, it was an excellent hot spring experience in the bitter weather.

The compound also housed many arcade games, and I tried my luck at the jan-ken machine, one I remembered from childhood, but sadly lost. Better were the several rounds of air hockey we played, and the taiko game I play whenever I get a chance. Taught Mom how to play the drum game, and she did pretty well for a beginner.

Back at the cabin we watched sumo on tv (this round in Fukuoka) and played scattergories around the big table. Another deep sleep and morning bagels and it was back to the rush and congestion of city life.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


I wasn't so enthusiastic about a recent trip to the Yokohama Museum of Art to see the "Idols" show.
I'm not sure what i was expecting - maybe some more interesting and in depth commentary. However, what I got was a lot of pink, a lot of big photography, and a lot of close ups. The exhibit was very pop. True, the idea of the "idol" has morphed a bit in Japan, expanding to include such things as manga characters and kabuki actors. I guess I would have liked the artists to explore a bit further than they did.

I liked some of the video pieces, especially the shorts, but they seemed kind of kankeinai.

I don't recommend spending a thousand yen unless you really want to see 5000 cartoon trading cards and a couple dozen 70s magazine covers plastered on the wall, along with a larger than life shot of ugly old Paris Hilton in barbie pink screaming from the foyer.


expression of the day: kankeinai.

This is one I've known for awhile, but it's very useful. It means: "there's no connection". Often used in an exasperated voice to chide someone for being off topic or making leaps of logic.

Which brings to mind my favorite English parallel, courtesy of my father and his father and mother before him:
"What does that have to do with the price of eggs???"

Sunday, November 05, 2006


word of the day: tensai.
meaning genius, schoolkids often call each other this name somewhat sarcastically.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

sunny days

A student told me that he liked autumn because "sunny days continue easily". I like that. This is my interpretation, with some help from I. in refining it a little bit from my shitty sketch.