Monday, December 29, 2008

Bike Accommodations 3

Pedestrian overpasses have ramps to help you get your bike up and over.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Donuts for Drivers

These donut shaped indentations seem to be on every sloped driving surface here. I figured they were for traction, but I found the full-length nerdy explanation in a great column in The Japan Times called "So What the Heck is That?" You can read it here.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Bike Accommodations 2

People generally seem to ride their bikes on the sidewalks (and not wear helmets) despite the fact that under Japanese law bikes are considered vehicles. Along some major streets the sidewalk is divided into space for pedestrians and space for bicycles, and there are bicycle lanes in some crosswalks (called jitensha odantai).

I was excited when I first saw this, but have quickly learned that no one sticks to it, which is frustrating both as a pedestrian and as a cyclist. According to the Japan Times, "The government has now designated 98 communities around the nation as test areas, and experiments are under way to showcase and evaluate various means of creating safe space for cyclists so they don't have to ride on sidewalks." I hope they are successful in getting bikes back into the streets!

Bicycling laws were updated in June of this year, and the same Japan Times article shared some of the changes - "children under the age of 13 and anyone 70 or older may ride on any sidewalk, anywhere. Riders of all ages may continue to use sidewalks where signs permit but, in another change, any rider may move onto the sidewalk if road conditions feel unsafe (due to construction, for example). When on sidewalks, cyclists are expected to slow down and yield to foot traffic, which is interpreted by the police to mean that there should be no bell-ringing at pedestrians."

(and a very happy birthday Al!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

and have a happy one too.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Costumes

I'm not exactly sure where people are wearing these, but there sure are a lot of santa, elf, and reindeer costumes available in the department stores!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Taped Up

After any purchase you make from any store, the bag is taped closed with the store's signature tape. If you've remembered to take your own bag with you, every item you purchased gets a little piece of the tape on it to show that you did indeed pay for it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Where the Streets Have No Names -

but the apartment buildings (or mansions) do, and often the name appears in English.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Sound of Silence

Due to obvious land restrictions, busy roads are often near residential areas, and I have to say, I think these sound barriers are much more aesthetically pleasing than the massive brick ones in Michigan.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


When you go on vacation, proper etiquette requires you to bring souvenirs (omiyage) back with you to show that you were thinking of your colleagues (or friends/family) while you were gone. M often finds little treats on his desk from his coworkers' travels, so now we're always sure to pick up something we we travel too.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

CSA Stovetop Cooking 4


I was putting off attempting to cook with the yamaimo in our CSA box (Japanese mountain yam - in this post it is the thicker lighter object in the top photo) as M had previously described the unique texture of this vegetable to me.

The yamaimo is prized for its neba neba consistency (sounds nicer than "really slimy" does) when grated. The grated result is in the dish in the top left of the photo, which we then mixed with rice. Not being a huge fan of goo, I also tried it raw (bottom left) and covered in panko and broiled (bottom right).

The broiled version was the best of the bunch, but lets just say that the yamaimo probably won't be my favorite new food from Japan. In fact, if it shows up in our CSA box again, I might just slip it into someone else's!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dial 1 for Service

Drinking parties (nomikai) are a big thing here - whether for a goodbye party, a welcome party, or as a team-building night out, the Japanese love them, and have them frequently. The group generally gets a room to themselves, and when another round of drinks is needed all you have to do is buzz the button on the table or pick up the phone.

CSA Stovetop Cooking 3

Not the prettiest soup in the world, but tasty - satoimo (taro) combined with 'regular' potatoes, onion and corn (and garlic of course) to make a filling thick chowder.

Friday, December 12, 2008

End of the Line

The subway stops running by about midnight, so if you're riding at the end of the night it might be a lonely experience.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Keep on Truckin'

It's still my birthday in the States, so I'm still celebrating - with cake (G.G.'s banana) and ice cream for breakfast! mmmm How cute are the individually wrapped ice cream scoops that A brought for our dessert last night?!

I won't be washing my cake down with anything this truck has to deliver though...

(Sorry, bit hard to see - the back of the truck reads "ACID MILK")

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

December in Nagoya

Blooming flowers?! No snow?!
Looks like a good birthday present to me!!

CSA Stovetop Cooking 2

In our second CSA box we got a beautiful watermelon radish

and carrots, onions, garlic, and spinach, which all got combined into one tasty meal.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bike Accommodations

Bicycling is a big thing here, and it's nice to see infrastructure in place to support it. At one subway station I saw covered underground bike parking, and there was a special bicycle escalator to help you get it back above ground.

CSA Stovetop Cooking 1

Kabocha squash gnocchi with sauteed onions and mushrooms, and our colorful salad includes spinach, daikon, and carrots from the CSA box.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Home Tour Part 7

When we first looked at apartments here, I wasn't crazy about how they all seemed so compartmentalized. I prefer open spaces, but every apartment we saw had doors on every room, so every area was able to be shut off.

Now that the weather is colder I understand why this is a really necessary feature. Buildings here have very little (if any) insulation (although I hear this is starting to improve with new construction), so when it's cold outside, it's cold inside! Also, there isn't central heating/air conditioning - so this is what keeps us warm or cool:

There is one of these units in each of the bedrooms and in the living room. So we layer up, shut the doors in whatever room we're in and try to make trips out of them as quick as possible!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hungry for Home

When we're in the mood for pizza we call Domino's. It doesn't taste quite the same, but it satisfies the craving. This is how our cheese pizza gets to us:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Green Thumbs Round 4

Success!! We've gotten a lovely (and hopefully tasty) ripe lemon off of our tree!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sonne Garten

We just joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program through our nearby organic grocery store, so every week we get a box of fresh fruits and veggies. Below you'll find pictures of a few of the items in our first box. Some of the items we got were easily recognizable - napa cabbage, onions, kabocha squash (Japanese call it pumpkin), a turnip (though giant-sized!), but others were not. With the help of the store owner, we got the Japanese names of the unfamilar items, and then I did some internet research to learn what to do them!

These are the full length of a newspaper! They barely fit in the fridge!

This one was not only pretty, but it was delicious as well!

We're looking forward to seeing what comes in our box every Monday, and it certainly is going to put my culinary skills to the test!