Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Folktale for the New Year

Long ago in the mountains of Niigata Prefecture (or Echigo Province, as it was then called) lived a man known far and wide for his honesty. He farmed a meager patch in the mountains, growing black beans in poor soil, and just managed to eke out a living.  One winter's night, on the second of January, the man had his first dream of the New Year, and this is what he dreamt.

In the dream God appeared to him and said, "Hey, you, you're always working in that field of yours, and yet at the end of the year you're no better off than at the start. And anyway, don't you know that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy? Listen to what I'm saying to you: There's a chap that lives in the village the other side of the mountain. He's got a garden, and in the garden is a plum tree.  You just take a shovel with you and dig around a bit under that tree and see if you don't find a pot of gold buried there." 

The man was overjoyed, and the next day he set out for the village over the mountain.  It was getting dark when he arrived, but he found the house and knocked on the door. It was opened by the homeowner himself. "Excuse me, sir, but God told me in a dream about this house and the plum tree in the garden.  He said that if I dug around under the tree I'd find a pot of gold. If that's true, we'll go halves. What do you say?"

The other replied, "It's late, too dark to be digging up the garden. Why not in the morning?  You can stay the night here."

...to be continued     

Monday, October 09, 2017

大松庵 蕎麦屋 Daishoan Soba-ya, Tsuruoka, Yamagata

Soba-ya Daishoan is located near Mizusawa Station in Tsuruoka, Yamagata. Housed in a trad former farmhouse, 大松庵 offers a selection of hot and cold soba dishes with buckwheat noodles handmade on the premises.The atmosphere is serene in the best soba-ya tradition.

大松庵 鶴岡 に対する画像結果

Friday, March 11, 2016

Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami

The earthquake and tsunami have claimed 21,865 lives, to date. This figure includes 2561 individuals who remain officially missing as well as 3410 persons who died later owing to disaster-related complications. The number of residents of temporary, pre-fab housing is 57,677, while that of evacuees stands at 174,000. As I wrote earlier, this situation is definitely not under control.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

3/11, Five Years On

By 2:48 the continuous shaking had stopped, but we waited outside another ten minutes, just to be sure.  Then the three of us ALTs and our soon-to-retire Japanese advisor headed back into the three-storey governmental building we (and dozens of others) had vacated some fifteen minutes earlier, reversing our evacuation route to a cramped room on the top floor, where we reconvened and shortly ended our interrupted quarterly meeting.  All we knew at the time was that a massive quake in Tohoku, Japan, had generated an unusually prolonged tremor measuring five in Niigata City, hundreds of kilometers away.

 More than two hours would pass before I first learned of the killer tsunami, which by then had already begun devastating coastal communities in northeastern Japan.  In the days to come, horror would follow horror, culminating in catastrophic damage to Fukushima Dai-ichi.

 Five years on, and the reconstruction of Tohoku has been spotty, to say the least.  Thousands remain in temporary housing.  Thousands more who lived within the evacuation zone in Fukushima are unable or unwilling to return.  And the situation at the nuclear plant is decades away from being completely under control.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

View 35 from Utagawa Hiroshige's 53 Tokaido Views Series

東海道五十三次之内 御油 旅人留女

A present-day view (Wikipedia) from Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture.

I know what it is, but what's it called?

This is a meteorological data collection station, and you may have come across a few in your day in Japan.

Rendered in English, it's the "100 Leaf Box", or 百葉箱 (hyakuyoubako) in Japanese.

Lyrical name for a box containing remote weather monitoring apparatus.


Summer Cycling: Castle to Castle


This summer (August 1-2) several cycling mates and I will be riding from the castle town of Tsuruoka, Yamagata, to Aizu Wakamatsu, Fukushima, itself a castle town (hence the ride's moniker).

Should you be interested in joining us for this event, Japan's first ever brevet not geared toward road cyclists, please see here.

Deleted Posts, Self-censorship

Criticism of the current administration's position regarding Japan's wartime past has caused more than one outspoken academic considerable grief.

With an application for a university instructorship pending, I thought it wise to remove certain recent posts.

I desperately need the job.


Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Japanese Curry

Forced to leave neighboring Fukushima after the tsunami and nuclear plant disaster, the proprietor of this 200 yen curry shop moved his business to Niigata City. On a good day he moves 500 servings of curry.  As a native of Louisiana, USA, I especially like the hot sauce and the New Orleans jazz he plays at the shop.


Yamagata Prefecture Specialities

A stall at a recent food festival in Niigata featured authentic Yamagata いも煮 (imo-ni, or boiled potato stew) and すじ肉煮込み (suji-niku nikomi, or stew with meat and vegetables). Very tasty, and just the thing on a cold winter's day.

Japanese School Lunch: The Real Deal

Read Mother Jones' piece here about the kerfuffle surrounding health- conscious restaurant chain Sweetgreen and its "School Lunches around the World" photo essay, in which "representative" lunches from Finland, Italy, and France, among other countries, shame typical fare served in US school cafeterias.

Unlike the "staged" photos in the Sweetgreen gallery, those of Japanese school lunches shown in these pages are the real deal.

Yesterday's lunch (with a touch of hinamatsuri, or Girls' Festival, which is observed on March 3):