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Friday, December 31, 2004


So today we went to Harajuku, the youth fashion area of the metropolis and roughly analogous to the East Village of some years back. The most striking examples of fashion are, of course, the Gothic Lolita's, shown above. The thing I can't show you yet (.....dail-upppppppp......) are photo's snapped on the sly in a shop selling clothing that seems like some fevered cross breeding between rave gear and spangly carnivalé fashion. It's all rhinestones and feathers and plastic and glowsticks. It is the most insane clothing I have EVER seen. I believe my eyes where actually spinning in their sockets.

Oh yeah, and we actually ran into somebody (on a side street off the main thoroughfare) I used to know back in NYC. Weird.


Some folks have asked, but no, we are nowhere near where all the devastation happened/is happening. It's just truely staggering.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


For Oshogatsu, the New Year, we've taken a little road trip to Miyuki's folks in Tsujido to visit with friends and family. Tsujido is a suburb of Tokyo, so we'll be making lots of trips into the big town. But since I'm on dail-up these posts will be significantly less graphic-rich than previous ones. (God! I HATE dail-up, I hate not being on broadband. It feels like trying to suck an orange through a straw.....arghh!!!)

Today we started off slow and wound up going down the street to the new Enoshima Aquarium where one of the main attractions is Minazo, the big fella above. It's a great aquarium with lots of fun interactive displays attractively presented. All the animals look healthy and well cared for.

I noticed one significant difference though to what one might expect at a similar facility back in the States. Time and time again I heard exclamations of kawaii!! which means cute, but that's to be expected here were cuteness is a valued quality. What took me a little aback was hearing soon after or before was "Oishi so!" which means "Ooh, looks so delicious!"

Kind of puts some fresh menace into the expression "ooh you look so good I could just eat you up".

Monday, December 27, 2004

More simple pleasures

Another entry on unalloyed pleasure...

Yesterday was lovely, w
e decided to take a little day trip to the town next door, Furukawa.

We started out with some lunch at Kuni Hatchi, a place that serves local food. Country cooking at it's finest.

inaka soul food

We had tofu steak (on the left), grilled pork and peppers (on the right) and pork soup. Country cooking in Japan, at least in the mountains, is saltier and more flavorfull than the city stuff. Miyuki's says it's on account of the long winters... food is salted to last longer and by making the flavor more intense, it's possible to ration it by extending it with rice. And lot's of stuff is pickled too. About a week ago we had "pickle steak", actually it was more like a pickle omelet but it was damn good.

So after we put on the feedbag, drove to Furukawa and took a stroll through town.


Walked along the canals.

candle shop

Picked up some candles at a 200 year old candle shop.


winter moon

Took some photos.

Then finished up our day at an onsen. If you've never been or don't know what one is... oh friend, you're missing out.

A fine old time

So a couple of posts back I mentioned that our friend Sachi came to visit us. Here's a little recap of her visit (just to show you what you can do in Takayama if you're planning on a visit... (that's a hint):

tofu lunch

You can have a delicious meal at the all-tofu joint.

sachi meets sake

Follow that up with some fresh brewed sake at the brewery down the block.

big pimping style

Then hook up with Daigo-san, friend, local big-willy and all around excellent dude.

my whip

He'll let you sit in his ride, looking quite foolish.

daigo's ride

And for a small fee, he'll show you around, jinriksha style. He'll even race a bit, for thrills (a short movie of which can be seen here.).


If you're Sachi, you could buy several stunningly gorgeous, antique kimonos for half what you'd pay in Tokyo.

Simply put, you can have a mighty fine time. Y'all come up now, hear?

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Willing to stake a claim?

Yahoo! News - Fund Offers Chance to Invest in Japanese Starlets:

"'What am I worth? Well, I think it's up to our buyers to decide,' said 19-year-old hopeful Lyrian -- pronounced 'Ri-ri-an' -- a Milan-born singer with a penchant for short-skirted sailor outfits and headbands sporting furry cat's ears."

For more info, here's a link to the fund's site, complete with lots of important looking graphs and charts.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

There's no Christ in Christmas

santa speaks

Certainly not in Japan, at any rate.

I've had a few people ask me if there's any kind of Christmas analog here in Nihon, some kind of Buddhist, Shinto, Kwanza Hanukkah. Oh yes, friends.... it's called X-mas (actually it's also really called Christmas, or if you're being extra casual "Merry Kuri" [pronounced koo-ree] ). But it's a REAL X-mas, fully secular and completely severed from any religious attachments.

And it's a cultural conservative's worst nightmare. Red-state evangelists would probably pop a stroke on the spot if they found out there was no hanging Christ hiding anywhere behind the jolly fat man. Not anywhere, not even a peek.

But that's not to say that the Japanese don't approach the holiday with any enthusiasm. It's huge here, it's big business. It's not uncommon at all, during the month of December, to be strolling down the main shopping arcades to the tune of "Silent Night" or "Oh Tannenbaum". Weird yes but not unusual. It's not a national holiday- if it falls during a school or work day, everybody goes about their business as usual. But people put up lights on their houses and many municipalities get into the act too. Santa pops up everywhere, parents give their children gifts... in this way it's not so different than how it's celebrated in the US.

One significant difference, here Christmas is marketed as a romance holiday. It outstrips Valentine's Day in importance for getting your freak on. If your alone on xxx-mas eve, it's pretty sad. Many restaurants serve set romantic meals and hotels offer special x-mas "getaway" packages. Love hotels do a brisk business. Oddly, in keeping with the original origins of the holiday, it's a fertility festival.

Oh yeah, and there's a special Christmas Cake that's served. That, along with roasted chicken, constitute the "traditional" holiday meal. The Colonel (over at KFC) also does a steady business providing fried chicken if the roasters are unavailable.

Apparently, this deeply secular form of Christmas is catching on in China as well.

As for me, having grown up a Jew in not the most enlightened of Upstate New York towns, this has been an odd experience for me. Christmas to me was always a Christian religious holiday. We NEVER had a tree or "Hanukkah Bush", no strings lights on the house, etc. Always just the candles and the dreidels. No amount of popularizing X-mas as a neutral, value free festival convinced me. I mean, I always felt good when the Norelco ad featuring Santa riding a razor over the snowy hills came on the TV, but it was never OUR holiday. In fact, a lot of my identity was formed in direct opposition to that notion. Hanukkah was our "consolation" holiday. And I always saw that crucified Jew hanging around somewhere behind Santa.

So you might expect me to love it ... this is truly, truly a secular holiday here. But I feel some qualms about it. Is it fair to people of faith, of any faith, to hijack one of their central religious events and shape it towards an entirely different meaning? Even though this Newsweek article is a bit of a screed, the author does raise some valid points.

On the other hand, I kind of feel like I've slipped the bonds of my upbringing here. The experience here is so beyond the "normal" referents I'm used to it's like an entirely different event. In fact there has been some talk of having a tree next year.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Shizzy's Mailbag

If you have the time, go here now.... it's very funny stuff.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Village

Ok, Takayama's a very pleasant town. More pleasant I suspect than most Japanese cities of comparable size. I believe I've mentioned this before, but it's often referred to as "Little Kyoto" for it's abundance of historic buildings in a much smaller footprint. But like many other aspects of Japan, there's a certain regimentation or method, to daily life. This extends to how the time of day is marked. Every evening at the stroke of 5, a little ditty is piped through the town's (extensive) PA system. Kind of like, I suppose, the siren that announces the end of the workday in a company town.... and the company is Japan. Click here to hear the song.

You have to admit though, it's a much more pleasant evening message than "It's 10 o'clock, do you know where your children are?"

On the other hand, sometimes I feel like I'm living in the Village from the Prisoner.

Holy crap!

Japan Today - News - Man infected with bird flu; 4 others likely infected - Japan's Leading International News Network

Damn, now it seems that chicken needs to go on the list of prohibited food items to enter my mouth. Or in a raw form at least. Perhaps it doesn't really even matter, cooked or not...
But damn, it would really suck to be at the epicenter of the next pandemic.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

I ate that?

OK, first off, I'd just like to apologize for the prolonged "radio silence" as of late, but things have been a bit hectic here. We're FINALLY starting to actually move in.. we now have a bed to sleep in. We'd been going the traditional route... futon's on the floor, cold as hell. Also, we can now start unpacking the boxes we've been living out of for the past 3 months. I'll be posting more about the new digs soon. Also, our friend Sachi, who's back in Japan now, came for a visit. Much eating and drinking ensued. Again more on that later.

Right now I just want to post a little something about this:


The item above is called shako, it's seafood. We recently found a great kaitenzushi place to eat at called Tokube. If you don't know, kaitenzushi is the kind of place where the sushi runs around on a little conveyor belt along a counter where the patrons can just pick off what they'd like. You can also shout out your request for whatever's on the menu but not yet on the belt. These places are usually a lot of fun, very casual. And we like Tokube... we usually roll in around 2:30, 3 between lunch and dinner and have the place to ourselves.

Now, I really like sushi and have no qualms about eating raw things (you may want to read my entry on deer sashimi to get an idea of how my tastes run). Hell, my favorite monster is the zombie. I'm really not that squeamish. And with the shako, I was curious, so we ordered it, I ate it.... a little tasteless and watery, but not wretched.

Now, we all like to joke about (well I do at any rate) how shrimp are like the cockroach of the sea (actually, lobster are more of the bottom dwelling offal eating type) but you know, they're just so damn tasty. Well, the exact origin of my plate of shako had me a bit curious, so I turned to the font of all received wisdom, Google, and found this tasty little image:

Shako are the bugs on the left....

I put those damn things in my mouth. And swallowed.

Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing indeed.

Google Suggest

This is really cool. Have you tried the new Google "Suggest" yet? Type something in the search field and watch the results.... Click here Google

Monday, December 13, 2004

Attention! Godzilla! Beware!

So today I'm out walking Tito down by the Miyagawa (the local river), having a pleasant stroll in the crisp late-autumnal air, breathing in the scent of wood smoke and watching Tito generally harass the local duck population. In other words, a pretty damn fine time. Until, blasting out from unseen speakers scattered around the entire river valley comes this (click to listen).

Pretty damn creepy. I expected, at any moment, to see a giant green head appear over the treeline. But, as it turns out (when I played the recording back to Miyuki), that the disembodied voice was merely wishing me a Happy New Year and exhorting me to drive safely.... damn! send me a card (I'll certainly keep my pants cleaner).

Actually, public spaces here are filled with all kind of PSA's and encouragements towards correct behavior. Driving along the local highways, metallic owls sit perched above the roadways flashing blinking eye's down at sleepy drivers imploring them to "stay awake, maintain focus!" Or signs that plead "Father, slow down, your children are waiting at home". But sometimes, props make the point better. It's not uncommon to see this by the side of the road:

"Remember, unwary driver, the next armless child you strike down in your haste could be your own."

It's all very paternal, and just a bit creepy.

Conduct unbecoming...

...of a shogi player?

I'm not exactly sure what's going on here, but some person or persons (seemingly with even more time on their hands than me....) seems really tweaked by the appearance and behavior of this guy:

Apparently orange fro's and purple shirts in the staid world of shogi ( a kind of Japanese chess) are just not done. And as a result, has generated, lots and lots of bizarre photoshopped mash-ups of the dude above (nickname of "gori" as far as I can tell), which can be found here. Warning: some images are not exactly workplace safe.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Maybe I can be their Ringo

I've certainly got the hair for it.

It's "Nice Guys Jin"... get it? "nice gaijin", nice foreigner. So it's 3 white guys, rapping in Japanese, acting like Japanese rappers, who in turn are acting all thuggish from the 'hood. Wait, I'm confused.

Oh, it's OK, 2 of them are related to Weird Al Yankovic.

You can read about them here and here. And if so inspired, can hear some tracks here (Real Audio required).

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The hair.....

So, not to seem TOO narcissistic and self-obessed (good lord, I'm BLOGGING, of
course I'm self obsessed), but some of you have expressed an interest in the welfare of my hair. Thank you very much for your concern, but it is lustrous and shiny like a healthy dog's pelt. It is however, as you can see..... blonde. Went back to the salon for a free fix up in an attempt to get it to the desired silver. No such luck. Instead I wound up looking a little like some Aryan xtreme snowboarder. Actually, I'm kind of digging it. I'm blonde now and feeling a little frisky... meow.

But I've decided to trim the facial hair a bit, in a bid to keep the 2 ethnicities at bay; the Semitic and the Aryan. We all know how well that's worked out before.

I'm not really sure this is a good idea....

Rat brain flies jet | The Register

Baked Potato!

OK, so you're not gonna find any ice cream trucks cruising around the streets of Takayama, either Spring or Summer. You will, however, hear the dulcet (although automated) tones of the laundry pole seller and, if you're lucky enough, the goldfish or tofu vendors. One sound you can be virtually guaranteed though to hear every Fall and Winter is the call of the
yaki-imo man. Instead of fudgecicles, the big thing here is baked sweet potato.

The yaki-imo man doesn't have a very complicated come-on... he basically cruises down the street and blasts out the word yaki-imo, over and over. It's like if someone walked down your street everyday belting out "baaaaaked potatoooooo". Except it sounds (at least to my unaculturated ear) like some weird prayer to the god of tubers. It's all high lonesome warbly and weird.

And the truck is pretty bitchin' cool as well. I would have posted my own picture of one, if my fat ass would have let me catch the truck in time. Instead, I wound up running after the thing down the street holding my cell phone up (like I was bringing him some vital message from baked potato HQ), to catch the sound, which you can hear below. So instead, I had to swipe the photo from here.

To hear the yaki imo man, click hear.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Empire Strikes Back

Because I couldn't resist posting it.....

Article: Length-boosting surgery for 'micro-penises'�|New Scientist:

"A new surgical procedure has allowed men with abnormally short penises to enjoy a full sex life and urinate standing up, some for the first time. Tiny 'micro-penises' have been enlarged to normal size without losing any erogenous sensation, say UK doctors."

Monday, December 06, 2004

Champ VS. The H2

Ok, so, the Hummer is obscene. It's a big middle finger to any notion of polite civic space or environmental responsibility. It's TOO big and TOO much of an ecological nightmare, it just screams "fuck you, your air, your space, your goddamn children" (wait, maybe it's not so bad after all...... joking). As such, it always provoked in me a sense of moral outrage and affronted sensibilities. But it never really scared me. Until now....

I've figured out how Champ measures up against the beast. It doesn't look good:

The H2 measures 189" from snout to tail and 79" at the shoulder (well, roof actually. Just going with that whole "beast" metaphor....).

Our little Champ comes in at 134" long and only 59" high.

If (god forbid) we find ourselves on the same stretch of road, our little guy won't even disturb the sight line of the H2. It could run over us and not even see it happen.

Little Champ's staying in Japan, safely away from such nasty beasties.

Definitely NOT the original Ray's...

Japanese Pizza

So like most dishes brought in from abroad (curry filled donut anyone? quite tasty actually), even the venerable slice gets a radical makeover in Japan. This is definitely not about playing that favorite NYC game of "who makes the best pie" (although, clearly it's Grimaldi's in Brooklyn). These entries redefine the category.

In NYC, you can get a little daring and ask for a pie with anchovies and garlic, here you can get it topped with mochi (a kind of soft, gummy rice cake), bacon and nori (seaweed). That's on the pie (above) on the left, bottom half; on the top half is kalbi (Korean style meat), onion and mayonnaise. The pie on the right has on the left hand side mentaiko (fish eggs) and a potato filling, and on the right hand side is tomatoes, pepperoni, corn, onion and pepper. We got them delivered from an outfit calling itself, Pizza California. You can see the rest of their menu here.

This is pizza that has been cut entirely loose from any mooring post in old Italy. This pizza make a "Hawaiian Special" look vanilla by comparison... ham? pineapples? big deal, here you can get a "German Special" with bacon and potato:

Top that, Original Ray's.

A little off topic....

Fallujah in Pictures
If you'd like to see what the war looks like right now.

, some of the photos are quite graphic.

And this is what it's currently costing us...

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Go here now....


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Say hello

I suspect that some of you are actually reading this thing. If so, and you'd like to comment on anything, or to just drop me a line, please do so! You can either comment on specific entries at the end of each one (next to the little pencil icon) or if you'd like to just say hello you can use the tagboard in the sidebar over there on the right.


Sukyo Mahikari

Mahikari Parade

Everyone loves a parade.... especially the Su God.

Takayama is a lovely town, as I've opined before. It is also, however, the world headquarters for Sukyo Mahikari, or just "MahiKari" to the locals. MahiKari was founded in 1960 by
Okada Kotama. It all started :

"In 1959, Okada is said to have had his first revelation (Davis:5). The Su God, also known as Revered-Parent Origin-Lord True-Light Great God, is said to have returned to the world after a period of withdrawal (Young 35). The deity appeared to the founder at five in the morning with a revelation. Su God, whose name means "True God of Light," is said to be God of fire, light, and the sun (Young 35). Though lesser deities failed at the task, Su God's goal is to rid the world of evil spirits, and cleanse the human body of defilements that lead to sickness and unnatural death (Young 35). Defilements refer to the toxins of modernization, like pollution and medicine (Young 35). Su God also promised to bathe the world " in a Baptism of Fire " with a light that heals for followers and a light that destroys for non-believers."
I find I always do my best thinking at 5 a.m.....

But MahiKari is huge in this town, their main shrine dominates the skyline, like some massive, cheesy sci-fi prop. It's all a mishmash of architectural and religious styles:


Much like their religious imagery:

And they have some suspect practices:

Most of which have to do with cleanliness, "holy light" and a rejection of modern medicine.

They also happen to believe that Japan was once at the heart of an ancient Pacific landmass called Mu:

But they are incredibly influential here, owning several properties besides the main shrine, including an art museum and several office complexes. Miyuki tells me that many local businessmen are converts to the cause, simply in order to land lucrative contracts with the group. But they are an international organization though attracting initiates and converts from around globe. Which puts me in the odd position of wondering everytime I see a gaijin (foreigner) wandering around town, if they're either a tourist, a local like myself or part of Su God's army.

Mahikari Parade

But, once a year they have a parade, so what's not to love?

Mahikari Parade

If you'd like to see more parade shots, click here.

If you'd like to read a fair and balanced account of the CULT(!) click here.

However, to get down into the freaky deeky go here and here.



BTW, if you'd like to some of what I've been seeing on TV lately (Japanese commercials) there's an excellent site here and here (check the sidebar on the right).

While I recover from the hair.