So, for once I’m moved to do a non-book review blog.

The week before last I cut my finger. About a 1cm long shallow slash just below the last joint of my right index finger. So, this kind of things happens all the time, and why am I blogging it? Well, because I gut it on some cheese. Wow, that was some sharp cheese!

I made soup last night with some kabocha (Japanes squash variety with inside flesh pretty much like a pumpkin but with a green skin) and with some satoimo (also called taro, under which name you might have seen it outside Japan in restaurants, particularly in slices for tempura). This is a relatively common dish for me these days. The recipe is based on a leek and potato base (which can be used for all sorts of other flavourings like asparagus). I just substitute some kabocha and satoimo for theĀ  potato. The particular satoimo I had in is one with a purple flesh as well as purple skin (most of the ones available in Japan are purple-skinned but have pale yellow flesh). Combined with the orange kabocha flesh this usually makes for a yellow/orange soup. However, the purple flesh meant that, like mixing all the colours of plasticine together, the result was pretty much brown. A slight purple-tinged brown in this case, but definitely brown. Very tasty, though.

I’m now mostly back to my normal diet now. At least I’m able to eat high residue foods like Weetabix and brown bread again. I’m still being quite careful with spices, working my way back up to chili, via increaing amounts of pepper and ginger in things. I’m still avoiding Indian (I had an Indian the evening before my colitis attack and while I’m fairly sure it wasn’t the direct cause, I am pretty sure the spices did not help) and Thai so far, and only using tiny amounts of (fake)wasabi in soba dipping sauce and sashimi soy dipping sauce.

I had one of those odd coincidences last night. I bumped my little side table with my leg as I sat down and spilled some coffee. A very small amount got onto the TV remote controller, though I was fairly sure it was only on the surface and didnt get inside at all. We were watching an episode of Once Upon a Time at that point, so I didn ‘t need the TV controller, only the media player controller, until after the episode. It didn’t work. So, figuring it was a coincidence I swapped out the batteries for a pair in my laptop bag, as they were the closest to hand. Still no joy. I left it until this morning to see if it was moisture inside, but still no joy. Before trying to replace the unit, I tried with a fresh set of batteries from the cupboard and it worked. The batteries in my latop bag must have been there too long or were used ones I’d put in there while travelling at some point and not taken out. Ho hum, at least I didn’t find this out after buying a replacement controller.

I’ve been meaning to post something about this for a while. Japan has a number of critus fruits of which I’ve never seen mention outside Japan. I use three of these (and lemon juice) for flavouring fizzy water as a lower calorie alternative to the CC Lemon soda I used to drink. (I stopped because it was unavailable after the earthquake last year for a while and having weaned myself off it I reduced my calorie intake by sticking to fizzy water with a little flavouring of pure citrus juices.) The first is the yuzu which is a medium sized (about the same size as a Seville orange) yellow fruit usually with a bumpy at the stalk connection. It’s used in quite a lot of Japanese flavourings. For instance yuzu-flavoured soy sauce is quite common. It’s sharp but not particualrly astringent. Next we have the sudachi which looks a little like a lime and is similarly quite hard, though rounder. It’s imilarly astringent. It’s much more sour than the yuzu and very rarely eaten directly, though $WIFE says her farmer grandfather like to eat them (they had a few trees on the farm). Lastly there is the kabosu a yellow green fruit slightly larger than the yuzu. This is more commonly eaten as fruit than the other two. It’s also used by others as a drink flavouring, sometimes being available on ANA flights when they bring drinks round after the meal service, for example. There’s a number of other critus fruits available in Japan that I haven’t seen elsewhere but as I haven’t tasted them (or their juice) I’ll leave those for another day.

Christmas in Japan is rather odd for a Westerner. Just like in the US or Europe, images of the Coke-inspired (i.e. Red and White) Santa Claus are all over the place, as well as the evergreen symbolism of midwinter solstice. Howeever, Christmas Day isn’t a holiday. The current emperor’s birthday is the 23rd December, so that is a holiday, but Christmas Day itself is just a normal day, unless one is among the tiny number of Christians in Japan, where it’s a religious day for them. The build-up is pushed by retailers, with Christmas decorations all over the place. These are replaced on Boxing Day with the Japanese New Year decorations instead. New Year is the big holiday season here, really. (more…)

I noted the other day that Pizza Hut in Japan is translated into Katakana as Piza Hatto. I commented that Hatto was more like boshi (hat) than koya (hut). I was then informed that everyone in Japan thinks that piza hatto refers to a Pizza Hat, since the logo (only in flash, I’m afraid) looks rather like a hat (instead of interpreting it as the roof (yane) of a small building). It just goes to show what a logo and translation can do to the meaning of your company name!

I’ve been meaning to write this for almost two weeks, since getting back from a brief trip to Matsuyama on Shikoku island (literally, the “fourth country”). Murata-sensei and I were visiting Orito-san of Ehime University and doing some research on CCTV in Japan. While I was there I had three meals that were worth reporting on, all for different reasons. (more…)

Last weekend after visiting the National Park for Nature Study in Meguro, we went for lunch at a Chinese restaurant near Shirokanedai called Bamiyan. It’s a chain whose principle distinctive feature is a bottomless cup for drinks via a self-service bar. Unfortunately this means that people tend to go in, order something cheap and occupy their seats for long periods. Rather than decide that the free bar is the problem, they apparently decided that it’s these "semi-free"loaders that are the issue and so they make the place very irritating to stay in for long. They do this by playing "music box" muzak constantly. One or two songs is bearable, but after half an hour it gets on the nerves to much that one has to leave. Certainly for me, this is definitely defeats the object as I won’t go to one of these again unless there’s no other choice.

I wondered last week why there were a few bubbles in the liquid in my apricot jam jar. I found out today when I opened the jar again after not using any for about 5 days – it was fermenting in the jar!

Over on my gallery, I posted a picture of a “London Pub” in Tokyo. I didn’t venture inside that one, but on 28th April I went for dinner with Hirai Hirohide (Jack)-san and his wife Chizue-san. They’d had me over for dinner a while back and since my Guest House accommodation isn’t really set up for entertaining, I invited them out for dinner. We met up at the “Rose and Crown” a UK-style pub/restaurant right next to Akihabara station. Akihabara is “Electric Town” and used to be nothing but electric appliance stores, and later electronics stores of all sizes and types coming in. They’re redeveloping the area, though, and it’s gaining some entertainment areas, including a Starbucks, an Excelsior (a Japanese Starbucks clone) and a Vie de France coffee shop in the square that the Rose and Crown overlooks. It overlooks it because it’s a first floor (nikai or second floor for Japanese and USians) establishment. It’s quite common in Tokyo for restaurants to be in vertical blocks, with lifts (and stairs, though sometimes only emergency stairs) to the 6, 7 or more floors, on each of which is one or more restaurant. In this particular building, in a square at the back of Akihabara station (you can tell it’s the back because the station building is covered in ducting and pipework never meant to be seen) there are various types of restaurant including the “Rose and Crown” (that’s a link to their website). Jack thought it would be fun for me to try the Tokyo interpretation of British food.


After a Nippon 2007 meeting today at the site in Yokohama, the staff attending split up into smaller groups and went to check out various restaurants. There are a lot of different restaurants in the Queens Square and Landmark Tower Malls near the Pacifico Yokohama conference centre. They’re not badly priced, either. Certainly I recommend the short walk across to the Queens Square (you go through that to get to the Landmark Tower Mall, about ten to fifteen minutes walk – longer for slowcoaches) rather than eating in the Intercontinental (small portions and extortionate prices).

So, along with Inoue Hiroaki-san, Inoue Tamie-san, Trevor Knudsen (what name for a Westerner living in Japan, try getting Japanese people to pronounce it from the written form), Rodrigo Juri and a couple of the other Japanese, we went in search of something that would fit me (picky beggar, mostly vegetarian) and Rodrigo (on a tight budget). Tamie-san suggested we try an okonomiyaki place (she remembered there was at least one in the Landmark Tower Mall).We went to the Yokohama Landmark Plaza Botejyu (okonomiyaki is food from the Osaka region and this is a chain that started in Osaka).


As many of you know, I’m mostly vegetarian. This is fairly hard to do in Japan. One of the delegates I met at the Ethicomp conference recently, who was just finishing a five month stint in Japan, had been a strict (moral) vegetarian when he arrived and had recently been told by his doctor that he had to start eating meat because his health had suffered so badly. Of course, he was eating out in traditional Japanese restaurants much of the time. The fare in these places is very very meat-heavy. Typically variants of yakitori (chicken kebabs mostly) and lots of other dishes with meat. The best you can do for non-meat dishes are green salads (very over-dressed for my taste) and a barbecue-it-yourself selection of vegetables. The barbecue-it-yourself selection gets very boring after a few tries, particularly if (like me) you don’t like the vinegar-based dressing that comes with the veggies. Luckily for me, I’m OK with chicken meat. I do specify chicken meat there, because it would appear that the Japanese eat every part of a chicken except the feathers: chicken skin (both on the meat and separately); chicken entrails; deep-fried chicken tendon; chicken feet (not many witches in Japan because the peasants eat up the feet); processed chicken bone (it’s processed in some way to soften it up). I’ve not seen it, but I’ve been told that some places even serve “chicken nose”.


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