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.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Central Izu

Shuzenji is a temple and hot springs town in the middle of the Izu peninsula. It's a pretty little town with a graceful old temple, its claim to fame that a Minamoto (Noriyori) was held prisoner here many many (Heian period) years ago.
I liked this grouchy fat guy.
Piles of tiles.
And one million soba restaurants, including this soba shack. Wait, shack is too grand a name for this structure. How about soba fort?
There was also a public foot bath, which is always cool. Gave my tootsies a good soak in the super hot hot water. Everyone else had little washcloths to dry off their feet. I'm such a bad J-resident. Though I own a million little washcloths, I only manage to be a proper hand-towel toting lady a small percentage of the time. This was not one of those times.
I let 'em air dry.

This is Joren Falls, one of the many waterfalls in the area.
Have you ever wondered what a wasabi field looks like? I hadn't, but if you had asked me, I woulda kinda thought that it was a mountain-y, forest-y kind of plant. Which I guess it is, but I never thought it would grow in a marsh. Like this.
And expensive, damn. One plant, a root about the size of a fist, was going for about a thousand yen. I like me some wasabi, but at that price... maybe I'll stick with the stuff in the tube.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Oh, the hotel was beautiful. It was a creaky old ryokan-yado-ish thing, and it oozed antiquity. Built in 1907, Yasunari Kawabata stayed here, so it was fitting that we did too, as we were retracing part of the route of The Izu Dancer. I loved the veranda and the single-paned glass and the ancient vanity and the garden. Plus it was quite reasonably priced. Oh yeah, and rotemburo. Recommended.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

hell and heaven

I also went to Hakone this weekend, albeit briefly, as a stopover on a weekend trip to Izu. I've been to Owakudani a few times before on previous trips to Hakone, and I don't care about hot-spring cooked black eggs, although the egg-ropeway is very cool. But I feel like a hobbit about to venture into Smaug's lair when smelling the sulfurous air and looking at the dark mountain with gas clouds in the foreground.Something new this time was pampas grass (すすき).
I'd never heard of this place before, but it is apparently very popular, as this wide swath of gold was choked with people admiring the view.
It reminded me of the middle U.S.A., with its great endless fields of wheat and corn. Beautiful.Sampling Eeyore's favorite snack.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The chai at Freshness Burger is yummy, especially on a chilly fall evening. I miss this kind of creamy, frothy, non-authentic chai that can be found in most coffee shops back home so it's nice to find a tasty specimen.

Friday, October 09, 2009

That was fun.

In my part of town, it was damn blustery. And yesterday, this picture was plastered all over the news:

In Aichi prefecture, a bunch of shipping containers got blown to one side of the yard. This is no small feat. Have you seen the size of those things?

Way to go, gods. Nice temper tantrum. Maybe, since it's kannazuki (神無月), the gods drank too much sake at their meeting in Izumo and decided to blow off some steam.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Been watching

movies lately. Part of the weather thing. I finally got around to watching Hula Girl. I'm late, I know, I know. I just didn't bother because the title and cover makes it seem so fluffy and silly! But it was actually kind of good. I didn't know about the coal miners and the tar-paper shacks involved before watching it. It has the ever-adorable Yuu Aoi. I cried. But I cry a lot. Thankfully, these days, mostly when watching movies.
And I watched one called A Blue Automobile (青い車), with Aoi Miyazaki and Arata. OK, that doesn't mean that much to me because I don't keep up with the movie stars. But it was kind of dark and kind of funky. Good light. From 2004.
I made this cornbread tonight and I have more movies. Call me when the typhoon's blown past.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

small and lovely

I am addicted to tiny happy.
(I adore Moomins too. The books are so good! They aren't just the cute characters that you see everywhere in Japan - the stories are really wonderful fairy tales, with excellent quality writing.)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Olympia Greek Restaurant

I've been spending lots of time near Kannai station in Yokohama lately. It's a pretty area, and there are many good shops and restaurants. I found this one randomly while looking for a dinner spot: Olympia. This Greek restaurant was homey and wooden inside, and felt like being in the hull of a boat. There were lots of things for me to eat: I got Greek salad, fried eggplant with garlic potatoes, spanokopita, and baklava. Yay for tasty veg choices! I also took the opportunity to nerd out and talk about mythology: Hera and Zeus and Achilles and my ...eponym? What's the opposite of namesake?

Sunday, October 04, 2009


This site has been threatening to go live for awhile, and it's finally up. I'm providing some content for it. The Mumbai page looks really interesting.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Snow Brand

Don't talk shit. Sometimes my neighborhood is the best.
This reminds me of this vending machine that was near my house when I was a kid, brightly colored soda pop in glass bottles, only ¥80 apiece. Vending machines are pretty cool, but with the whiz-bang pizazz that most machines have now, the older ones soon get shuffled off to the vending machine graveyard. Or probably they sell them to Malaysia and Thailand, which seems to be where JR trains go to retire.
Appetizing! (Click to enlarge, really, do.)

I promise I am going to go and see if this actually dispenses product. Next Tuesday.