Wednesday, December 30, 2009

snow day

It snowed yesterday, for the first time since I got to Oregon. (inappropriate shoes)My dad used a stray pine branch to brush off the windows of my car, because that's how we roll in the Northwest. Despite the fact that it snows pretty much every year in Oregon, people still freak out and drive like utter shit. I tried to go downtown but the highway was a parking lot and my car broke down after sitting at the onramp for twenty minutes. Ah, it's good to be back.

Monday, December 21, 2009

here nor there

I got to talking to a coworker the other day, a teacher that I don't often see because he works at different locations and on different days. We were rapping about the usual jabber, and it came up that I am a part-timer, and not going to school. The question of my visa was raised, at which point I mentioned that I'm half-Japanese, which removes some of the visa hoops that other folks have to jump through.

"No way!" said my co-worker. "You don't look it at all! You're NOT Japanese."
Yeah, well. I am.
"But you have such big eyes!"
"And your English is so good! Your intonation is so natural."
DUDE, I am a native English speaker.

On the flight over to PDX, I did the unsteady tiptoe to the back of the plane to go to the toilet. The galley was stuffed with half a dozen guys shooting the shit, (alchoholic) beverages in hand. Waiting for the w.c. to become free, I stood next to a middle-aged geezer (MAG for short) of the type that you might find in Venice, CA, or Eugene, OR: shoulder length grey hair, overbaked skin, cargo shorts, bullshit life philosophy studded with gems like "It is what it is".
Trying to inhabit as little space as possible (a skill that I've perfected living in Japan), I squeezed myself into a corner, eyes fixed on the red-lit "occupied" sign. MAG, seeing me there, began performing a series of tipsy antics that he dubbed "stretching". At first, I tried to be a good sport, joining in for a simple spine stretch that I needed anyway after six hours stuffed into an overbooked flight next to an arm-rest hogging seatmate. MAG contorted himself into a jerky, rabid downward dog, arms and legs akimbo, face red and shirt flapping. He righted himself, sloshing coffee, and went in to woo me.
"Are you Israeli?"
Nope, I'm not.
"You're not American."
Yes, actually, I am.
"No way. You're not American. What could you be?"
DUDE, I was born in San Antonio. (I seem to have a propensity for using DUDE with these geniuses, these men among men.)
"But you don't look American. And Mexican doesn't quite fit either."
Yeah, okay.

I didn't have the patience to argue with him. What do you say to people who insist on telling you, in their infinite wisdom, what you are not? I am what I am. And it is what it is.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I made jammy cocoa cookies to send off in batches today. I reached into the pantry for a jar of jam and came up with... こけもも.

Kokemomo? A peach of some kind? I searched my pocket dictionary, my phone dictionary, and my electronic dictionary. Finally, Jim Breen came to the rescue. As usual.
苔桃 【こけもも; コケモモ】 (n) (uk) cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea); mountain cranberry; foxberry; partridgeberry.

Partridgeberry?!? Excellent! Since I made gingerbread, coconut macaroons, cashew-cranberry chocolates, partridge-berry jam cookies are the perfect way to round out the packages.

Some random guy added me on Facebook today. I have a general preference for not adding people I've never met in real life. The last time I bent this rule is when some guy who CLAIMED to have met me lied his way into making me agree by furnishing fake details of our meeting circumstances (a party in Ebisu; I HAD been to a party in Ebisu, and there were a lot of people there). I later found out he was a LIAR with 800 friends and about as many updates per day. Blegh.

Anyhow, I didn't think I knew today's adder. When I looked at his info to try to jog my memory, he had a website link (and 800 friends). I clicked on it. And I don't know him, after all. But his photos are pretty awesome. And it's a really pretty slideshow. I would even put this on as a screensaver if I wasn't using the computer.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What he cooked

This is my favorite website for writing. He lives in Australia and writes about it simply and beautifully. His last few posts have made my breath catch.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

livin' on stew and drinkin' bad whisky

Sorry I couldn't be bothered to post the last few days. I've been busy sitting next to the heater and listening to Gordon Lightfoot.
Luckily, there's a willing guest poster available.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

po po

When I was in college, I took a little detour and got my EMT Basic license. The EMT Basic is the first rung on the ambulance staff ladder. I was inspired by a paramedic friend and learned a lot of first aid, CPR, and anatomical terms and medical language.

I never followed through with it after becoming licensed, and one of the reasons was because of some of the EMTs, paramedics, and other medical professionals that I met during my ridealongs and emergency room shifts. They were rude and dismissive of sick people, calling them frequent fliers and bemoaning their lack of private health insurance. They didn't fuss with things like basic dignity. I was helping to insert a catheter into one granny and the nurse didn't bother to close the curtain. The old lady was distraught and embarrassed, and I rushed to close it. It was all old hat to the nurse on duty.

I know that instead of being turned off by the adrenaline jockeys and jerky docs, I should have risen above and aspired to be part of the solution. But I didn't follow that path.

I have a shaky relationship with cops for some of the same reasons. I have been unnecessarily harassed by police people who were bored or racist or on a power trip or needed to fill their quota. I've dealt with a lot of cops who seemed to think their position elevated them above other humans and gave them the right to treat people with less than respect. Most of the ill treatment happened in the States, where I think this kind of behavior is more prevalent, but I and some friends and family have been treated with suspicion or dismissal in this country, too. This is not true most of the time, and most of the police I come across on a daily basis are helpful and kind. This more benevolent behavior has caused me to reconsider my previous reactionary stance on police officers, with the angsty "fuck the pigs!" refrain.

Today in Machida, a couple of cops were talking to a transient guy curled up on the floor next to the ticket machines. He was inebriated or sick, very out of it, very filthy. The officers were talking to him kindly, saying,
"Oda-san! Are you okay? Hello? I know you're sleeping, but you're making people worry about you!
Hey~ Oda-san! Oda-san!"
(He had fallen back asleep mid-conversation.)
"Oda-san, this is not a good place to sleep, in the middle of traffic! How about a bench? Let's find a bench!"

Mr. Oda may be a familiar character to the cops; I don't know. There are a few transients who hang around the station and I can recognize most of them, but I'd never seen this guy before. It shouldn't be surprising and make me happy to see people in power acting with compassion and respect, but it does. I guess that's pretty sad.

Friday, December 04, 2009


The weather was craptastic yesterday, but I barely noticed because I was laid up with a cold, in bed all day.I feel better today and the weather is beautiful. And my maple tree has finally bloomed.
I'm not sure when to say momiji and when to use kaede, when referring to maples. I know two people with those names. One is a girl and one is a dog.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

fat spread is not vegetarian

Hungry for lunch, I decided to make a veggie burger but had no bread. I threw on three layers and went to the store two blocks away for something bun-like. I picked up this pack of kurumi onsen pan because it most closely resembled the right size and shape for a burger. I didn't even look at the ingredients because walnut bread should be fine, right? It practically has EAT ME VEGETARIAN written all over it.Until I got home and read the package. Uh, shortening. Hmm. And fat spread?? What's this? This was a first for me. So I googled it.
Not satisfied with the sketchy information presented on wiki I called the company.
Hello, Onsen Bread HQ!

Um, hello? Uh, I have a question about your walnut onsen bread...
Absolutely, what is it?
Well, there's this stuff called fat spread... what is that exactly?
Uh, it's a kind of margarine-
Yes, but what's it made of? Is it vegetable or animal?
Please wait.
Hello? Yes, fat spread can be made from both vegetable and animal sources.
Oh. Well, milk is okay but what about animal fat?
Yes, it's made from animal fat.
Alrighty then. Thanks.
Thanks for calling Onsen Bread HQ! We are eagerly awaiting your favor!
Yup, bye.

Dammit. It sneaks up on you. Does anyone want a two-pack of walnut hot-spring bread? It expires December 2nd.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Every shing-a-ling-a-ling (obligatory kit kat post)

Everyone seems to post about KitKat sooner or later, so I thought I'd get on in there.

Apple carrot KitKat: pretty good!It's so fucking cold lately, I hate it. It's dry and my skin is angry. I live in a house, which of course doesn't have central heating, so my heating/electricity bills are astronomical yet it's always freezing in here. Wearing a sweater in the house in winter seems reasonable but a scarf, slippers, and a jacket does not. Dammit.

One slim ray of sunshine in this dark, cold period is the song that the kerosene truck plays. Last year it was always The Carpenters (that Every Sha-la-la-la song) but this year it seems to be song kind of nostalgic kindy tune, with kiddy voices. I like it.

Why are The Carpenters so freaking popular in Japan? It's a mystery.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

pumpkin cranberry muffin madness

I've been making so many muffins lately. I make these muffins all the time, and they always turn out awesome. The recipe is from Vegan with a Vengeance, Isa Chandra Moskowitz's first cookbook. I love her recipes (she also posts recipes at The Post Punk Kitchen); they are so tasty and not hippy dippy and use common ingredients. Here's my mildly tweaked version.

1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cup sugar (I usually use brown but white works too)
1 T. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. each cloves, nutmeg, allspice (adjust to your taste - when I make this for Japanese people I usually lighten the spices, as they don't tend to appreciate the big fall spice mix)
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup oil
1 cup pumpkin puree (I use canned, which I find at Kaldi Coffee or Seijo Ishii import store, but you could use kabocha puree and it would work well)
spoonful of molasses, maple syrup, or vanilla, if you have them on hand.
a few handfuls of walnuts or dried cranberries (optional)

Whisk the dry ingredients together (except for the nuts/dried fruit). Whisk the wet ingredients together in another bowl. Fold the wet into the dry and mix until moistened. Fold in nuts or fruit if using. Spoon into a greased or paper-lined muffin tin and bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick or fork. It should come out clean. Devour.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Best Safety Match

It's lucky that I have an altar at my house, or I might have had to take up smoking, just so I could buy these.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

leg warmers all over the world!

In response to my last post, Scoot sent me pictures of her boy. Here he is rocking some fresh leggies. Makes me want to expand my collection.Can we get a close-up of that?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

banana and coconut

Somebody come help me eat all this.

Cream cheese frosting. HEAVEN.Adding coconut? GENIUS.

Oh yeah, and silicone pans are pretty stupid. Silicone spatulas? Brilliant! Silicone Silpat-style baking sheets, for going under cookies and things? Great! Floppy ass pans that bow under the weight of the cake you just baked as you're taking it out? Suck.

Monday, November 16, 2009

coin drop

My favorite thing about going to Tokaichiba, the rural-ish town I work in once a week, is the farm outlet produce packing warehouse with a ghost of a storefront. It has just a few baskets of fresh, cheap produce out front, and a jar with a coin slot tied to a string for honor-system payment. I stop in and grab some naganegi or a bunch of greens whenever I get the chance. I rarely pay more than a hundred yen. This summer, I got big bunches of basil there for ¥100 per bag and I made a big batch of pesto.

I was listening to Top 40 on the radio the other day and I heard that Sean Kingston song, Face Drop. I don't really know anything about him, but I kinda like this song, because he says
"'Cause you always try to fill me with doubt
Sayin' that I'd look better if I was thinner
Don't you know you shoulda loved me for my inner
When I left you, yo, I came out a winner"
And I think, though there are lots of songs with females talking about battling body image crap (TLC's Unpretty comes to mind, and India Arie's Video), with the possible exception of some obscure punk/indie stuff, boys don't talk about body image very much. It seems like there's a taboo about guys talking about their body insecurities; it's like they're not supposed to have them. But I have at least one guy friend who's struggled with anorexia, and know plenty of other guys who have body issues. (And I really like the rainbows coming out of Sean's chest in the video.)

I'm pretty tired of hearing about fat Americans and fat in general all the time. It's true that, as a country, we eat a lot of junk food and fast food and should take better care of ourselves. But I'm sick of the way, in Japan, it seems even more acceptable to make disparaging comments about people who aren't crazy skinny. I was reading about some Japanese model the other day who said that she weighed in at 97 pounds during her teenage modeling years, and she was called a fat cow by the other girls. That's just CRAZY talk.

I thought I had outgrown body insecurity a long time ago, but being in this country and some stupid boys have brought it back a little.

Monday, November 09, 2009

girls, rock your boys

I dreamed that I was teaching a music class, but I was getting irritated because all the kids were listening to Quiet Riot when I wanted them to focus on Queensrÿche. So, I said, "OY!" really loudly.

And I said it aloud IRL too, because I woke myself up it was so loud. And WTF? I don't even listen to those bands.

No pictures but three delicious restaurants in Yokohama lately:
Al Ain: an Arabic restaurant near Isezakichojamachi station or Kannai. They have belly dancing on weekends but I didn't see that. This is the best baklava I've found yet; pistachio, sweet but not cloyingly so, and using a light touch with the rosewater. I think too much rosewater and it tastes like soap. Also the chef came out and reached into our bread basket, manhandled the pita, tore it up, scooped up hummus, and handed a piece to each of us. I found this hilarious.

Ali Baba: a little Turkish hole in the wall, also in Kannai. If you click on the link, we were served by the guy on the left side of the photo. Friendly and tasty. And whoa, Tuesday is LADIES PARTY night. Might have to go back for that.

And then, La Tenda Rossa. There are about 2.5 million Italian restaurants in my immediate neighborhood, but but but this one had exceptionally good brick oven pizza. The waiter was kind of obsequious and brought over some huge white truffle that they were peddling for us to sniff. It's near Sakuragicho or Bashamichi and fancy white-tableclothish but not very expensive for a midrange Italian joint; my (super delicious!) margherita pizza was about 1300 yen. Exactly what kind of pizza are you missing, Beth?

Friday, November 06, 2009


This morning on the train a chimpira-ish boy made eye contact as we were heading toward the stairs. I didn't think much of it, but right as we approached the ticket gate, he paused, hung back, and then went through right in front of me. He touched his wallet to the Pasmo sensor. It flashed red, and the gate slammed shut, but he squeezed through the slim space and booked it, leaving me stuck and seemingly redhanded.

Fluke? I went through a functioning gate and continued my transfer to the subway, just a few paces behind him. He did it again entering the underground. The station agent didn't blink as the buzzer went off and the gate turned red, but just pushed a button and the gate went back to regular function.

Mostly I'm laughing to myself, because, what a punkass! But I'm a little miffed on two counts.

First, I think the little fucker set me up, looking to shift the blame.

Second, when I pulled that kind of crap in my miscreant youth, the gate guards almost always pursued me.

I am feeling just a tad oppressed. Fight the power.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

conversations with me

I ate lunch at Ikea on Monday, and it was delicious. For some reason, they have a bunch of vegetarian options, including ones that are quite hard to find outside of obscure little organic restaurants in the middle of nowhere. This is a vegetarian cutlet with tomato sauce that has soy mince in it.I came home late on Monday night after going to a show, having missed the last train and had to take a cab the last bit home. I didn't realize it at the time, but my brother said I was talking to myself pretty loudly. I do this. It's kind of embarrassing if someone else hears without me knowing it. Yikes. Reel in the crazy a little, girl.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

shoji carnage

This is what happens when you repaper the shoji doors with cats in the room.

Monday, November 02, 2009

two more

There is no rhyme or reason to how I pick out movies, I just grab things by the cover and whether it has subtitles. Often I find that I don't really need the titles, that I can understand most of what's going on. But once in awhile, I am completely lost. Teenage conversations? I can follow. War crimes tribunals? Not so much.Hana & Alice. This movie was weird, with many sequences that jumped around and seemed unrelated, but eventually added up to form a whole that made sense. I read that this started out as a series of short films (30!) for Kit Kat, but was so popular they made it into a feature. That explains the strung-together construction. Still, I enjoyed it. The main plot point is that Hana convinces her crush that he has amnesia and is in love with her. But it's more about friendships and burbling adolescent emotions. Quirky and not very saccharine for a movie about teenage girls.

Goyangireul Butakhae (Take Care of My Cat in English) is a K-flick about a group of friends, around 20 years old, living in Incheon. It's about growing up, I guess. I liked seeing the cultural differences between Korea and Japan. My mom said it was slow. I like slow movies.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Not Constantinople

Went to Istanbul Turkish restaurant in Shinjuku 3-chome the other day.
Ate loads of hummus, dolmas, baba ghanoush, sesame pita, and baklava.
The interior was crowded with intricate tiles and ornate lamps and framed photos, and the waiter was hot.
Finished the whole thing off with thick strong Turkish coffee.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

recycled tatami

I don't know if you're in the market for some tatami mats, but I am. There are a few that are old and stained; one is because somebody who will remain unnamed left a basket of wet laundry on a tatami mat and then forgot it and went away and I didn't notice it until, gross, too late. Another is the sad casualty of a chronically ill and now dearly departed cat.

This place sells recycled tatami. I've ordered from them twice now. The mats are very clean and wicked cheap. They didn't have the right size for one of the mats I wanted, so the Ojiisan made me a custom one. For two thousand yen. Two mats of different sizes, on my doorstep, within 24 hours, for 5000 yen shipped. Plus you get to recycle. How rad is that?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Katori Senko

Mosquito coils are so awesome! I love them. I love the gone-camping smell, I love the quaintness of them. Is not this can fabulously stylish?
I really love not being bitten by mosquitoes, because, despite being blood type A and not O (I've been told that 'squitoes love O; yet another interesting blood-type related factoid), they just feast on me.

My dad (he's visiting this week) calls it Katori Stinko and he's been leaving the doors open and then cursing the mosquitoes and then lights up a coil and the house stinks and the doors need to be opened and...

This morning I woke up from a dream that I was putting out a big huge fire. It was raging through the house, through the forest, through the fields. I ran hither and thither like a freaked-out chicken, trying to put it out. I woke up to an acrid smell in the air. My dad and the GD mosquito coils. I do love them. I do. Sheesh.

So looking at the picture on the can, I guess a katori is a mosquito-eating chicken? I know the characters there are different, and Jim Breen says something else entirely, but it looks like they're being cute and punny.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Ito is a pretty city on the water. Along route 12, there's a lovely organic café called Chant.
It's light and airy and they have a delicious vegetarian katsu set lunch with all the fixings.
Afterward, check out the sculptures at Nagisa Park, by the sea.
It's a great place for a nap in the grass, practicing yoga, or playing the flute, like an old auntie nearby was doing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

cabin life

I love rental cottages! In my experience, they're cute and clean and pet-friendly and great value for the money. I have stayed in them in Nagano, the Tama area, and now Izu.
(this picture from their website)

Happy days is a really cute rental cottage in Jogasaki, Ito City, on the east coast of the Izu Peninsula. The rental includes a two story 2LDK, fully furnished, with a full kitchen stocked with dishes and cooking paraphernalia. The bedrooms are tatami, and come with closets stuffed with futons and bedding. Pets are allowed, and there is a separate shared onsen in addition to the bath and toilet in the apartment. It's about 12,000 yen for the whole shebang, and you could easily fit four, six, or even more people in there if you're feeling friendly. It's near the beautiful suspension bridge (つり橋) and cliffs at Jogasaki.

Rental cottages and other similar DIY lodging like Happy Days can be found commercially, but are also available dirt cheap through most city governments. For example, Machida City (my city) owns several cabins in Nagano prefecture. Residents of the city get first dibs in renting them; neighboring cities get next call. They usually come with full kitchens and bedding and lovely natural surroundings; barbecuing tools are also often provided. This place, for example, charges 5,000 yen for a cabin that can hold up to five people. It's a really great way to go on a retreat to the boonies with a big group of friends; cook, drink, hike, hang out.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

mountaintop dining

Being fed is a really nice thing.
Being vegetarian in Japan is sometimes okay, especially when I'm home or in familiar territory where I can cook for myself and make my own decisions. But traveling can be reallllly hard. And hanging out with people who aren't used to my diet can be frustrating for all involved. So it's extremely nice and appreciated when people go out of their way to make sure I'm fed. My mood can go from fine to super sucky when I'm hungry for too long. Food problems take the fun out of everything. It's so great when it's a non-issue.
I was really happy to visit this beautiful mountaintop organic restaurant, Itsukushimiya. It was rustic and earnest and had a gorgeous organic kid running around, and cats, and a tree swing, and wood fired pizza with things like walnuts and mushrooms on top.
They have live music and do body work and talk about stuff like the local food movement. It's close to nothing, and I have no idea how they stay in business. They're only open from Friday to Sunday, and it's a 15 minute drive from Shimoda station, or probably a couple hour hike up the mountain. It was lovely and they served my pizza on some kind of huge leaf. I wrote it up at Happy Cow too. I hope some people go there. They're living the hippie dream.