Monday, March 30, 2009

Home Tour Part 8

This is our washitsu, or Japanese-style room. Its distinguishing features include tatami flooring and sliding doors. In the past, most Japanese homes would be entirely made up of washitsu, but nowadays many Japanese homes only have one washitsu (like we do), with the remaining rooms being Western-style. These rooms are often used for entertaining guests at a low table, but ours primarily functions as a guest bedroom, complete with traditional futon bedding.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tomodachi Time

Almost halfway through our time here now, and we finally got our first visitor! My darling friend K8 came to visit us for a little over a week, and we covered a lot of Nagoya during her stay. As she guesstimated, we probably walked about 10 miles every day (well it felt like it anyway) and saw many of our city's highlights. But I'm sad to say that as I type this, she is boarding a plane in Tokyo to head back to the States. Thanks for coming K8!! Everyone else, book those flights!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Foreign Celebrity Ads

The 12 Best Foreign Celebrity Ads from The Daily Beast

Monday, March 23, 2009

Still Suntory Time

As I've mentioned before (as have the other three members of our little clan here), Tommy Lee Jones is the face of Suntory's tasty vending machine canned coffee.

As it turns out, it gets even better. He did TV commercials for BOSS coffee too!
Check them out here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.

One of Suntory's beverages in their extensive product lineup is the -196°C. It is a shochu based mixed drink and the production process involves infusing instantaneously frozen and crushed fruits (not sure how the fruit is crushed and frozen in the same instant, but I'll take Suntory's word for it) into alcohol at, you guessed it, -196°Celsius.

They have a special edition for cherry blossom season that against my better judgment I decided to try. As expected, it was extremely sweet, but hey, how could I resist the pretty packaging?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Paper Cranes

Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and although she grew up seeming healthy, she later developed radiation-induced leukemia. In the hospital Sadako began folding origami cranes, inspired by the Japanese legend that anyone who folded 1,000 cranes was granted a wish.

You might have read the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, which depicts her falling short of her goal, only having folded 644 before her death, and her classmates folded the rest for her. In fact, she did fold 1,000 and then some, using medicine wrappers and whatever other scraps of papers she could get ahold of, and she folded her desire to live into each crane.

Sadly, Sadako died at the age of twelve, but her memory lives on. Ever since her story became well known, people from around the world have sent origami cranes to the Children's Peace Monument in Hiroshima Peace Park. The cranes have become a symbol and a wish for peace, and appear all over Hiroshima, including here on manhole covers.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Miyajima Momiji Manju

This past weekend we went to Hiroshima and the nearby island of Itsukushima, which is popularly known as Miyajima, the Shrine Island. The island is well known for its maple trees, and the maple leaf shows up on a number of souvenirs, including these momiji manju which M picked up as omiyage for his coworkers.

They are pastries filled most often with adzuki bean paste, but come in a number of other flavors too, including the type we sampled, chocolate.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bum Deal

Derriere dragging? Not a problem! We can head on over to the nearby store with dozens of colors and styles of booty boosting pants.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Three Cheers!

with three sizes of beer!! Happy Birthday to my super fabulous husband!

(How cute is the baby can of beer? It's tiny and was a free sample from our corner liquor store.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009


A's garage is right next to one of our porches, and it is a favorite spot for a few of the local cats to stretch out. Come warmer weather I'm thinking of crawling up there and testing it out for myself.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Reserved Parking

This orange and yellow teardrop shape is called a Koreisha mark, and is used to indicated an "aged person at the wheel." An individual who is 70 or over is strongly encouraged to display this on both the front and the back of their vehicle, and upon reaching 75 years of age it is a requirement to display it. And sometimes it gets you reserved parking spaces.

Stovetop Cooking

Dinners on Monday nights tend to be a crap shoot. We've generally gone through our food from the previous week's CSA box, so after picking up our new box it's always fun to see what can quickly be thrown together for a good meal. One recent Monday dinner was a warm couscous salad with wilted greens, toasted pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes, green onions, and yam "croutons."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Don't Litter (Pretty Please)

I spotted this cigarette disposal unit as we were leaving Matsumoto during a recent trip.

It gives such a nice explanation of why you shouldn't drop your cigarette butt and put it out with your shoe.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Makin' Banana Pancakes

These teeny vegan pancakes were delicious topped off with warm banana chunks and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Art Underfoot

The manhole covers and sewer grates in Matsumoto feature temari - elaborately embroidered balls that over time transitioned from play toys to art objects.

I love the vibrant colors on the drain grate!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Style Watch

Shorts are a popular year-round fashion choice here. In the winter they are often seen worn with tights and boots (woman on the right), and tend to be made out of a heavier fabric like tweed. When the weather starts to warm back up, you'll see women wearing them without tights (woman on the left) with either heels or boots. If wearing boots without tights, the popular fashion is for one's socks to extend up past the top of the boot.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Stovetop Baking

Thanks to A, I learned that it is possible to make english muffins in a skillet.


Monday, March 2, 2009

More Stovetop Cooking

One of this past weekend's cooking adventures (some you'll see posted about later - others like pretzels, you won't. They tasted pretty good, but sure weren't photogenic!) was to create a veggie-friendly reuben sandwich. I used Vegan Dad's recipe and although it didn't come out quite right, it was still appealing enough to give it another shot. Along with our sammies and salads we had Pringles' spring flavor "Mayo Cheese Potato," which were not worth a repeat purchase!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hard to Come by Cash

Well, I guess any cash is hard to come by these days.. but this note in particular is pretty unique. Below is the front and back of a 2000 yen note (about $20 USD) which M brought home a few nights ago. I hadn't seen one of these before, and wondered if it was like a $2 bill - an older note with a low level of circulation and production.

In fact, it's a new note, it was first issued on July 19th, 2000 to commemorate the G8 Economic Summit in Okinawa as well as the millennium. Pictured on the front (top picture) of the note is Shureimon, a famous gate in Okinawa near the site of the summit. The other side (bottom picture) features a scene from The Tale of Genji - a classic work of Japanese literature and one of the first novels of all time - and the author Murasaki Shikibu on the lower right corner.

These notes are rare in the market, but like $2 bills, they are readily available at banks. Many Japanese consider the 2000 yen note a novelty as it is the only Japanese denomination in the factor of 2. To promote the circulation of the notes, some companies had started paying wages in them. (Thanks Wikipedia!)