Saturday, August 30, 2008

Yamanaka Hideki's Black Tantan Men / 山中秀樹のブラック坦々麺

The second in my series of instant noodles. This was produced by free journalist Hideki Yamanaka in support of the news variety program "Sunday Japon" and is called Black Tan-Tan men.


The main seasoning is black sesame. To tell you the truth though, this didn't taste very good.


Thumbs down!

Friday, August 29, 2008

This Evening's Weather (Aug 29, '08) Night / 今夜の天気 (8月29日)夜


Taken from our veranda around 9:00pm on Friday night.


It's almost midnight and it's still raining, and we're still seeing lightning and hearing thunder!


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More Birthday Snacks / 誕生日おつまみ

Birthday snacks from Tochigi Prefecture for me and Mikako from my friend Ayako. My brother would probably love the gyoza-flavored rice crackers pictured on the bottom left. Sazae-san cookies on top of the box and lemon-milk cookies, which are quite delicious.



Tuesday, August 26, 2008



It's time for another post of what I've been watching. Most of you might have a hard time finding some of these films as the majority of them are either Japanese or Korean. Oh, and one Argetinian film, one German film, and one Indian film (actually, I think the film was a U.S. independent release). The only Hollywood blockbuster (don't know if it was really a blockbuster or not) is the Will Ferrell Figure Skating movie. Damn funny that. But as you can tell with this crop of choices, I have been taking a break from Hollywood. Unfortunately, most of the Japanese films I chose were not ones I could highly recommend to friends and readers. There were a couple of gems in there though. Take a look:

崖の上のポニョ 「PONYO ON THE CLIFF BY THE SEA」 (2008) - The lastest film from Japan's animation genius Hayao Miyazaki. So much for not making any more movies. But fortunately, he has gone back to writing an original story instead of animating some known fantasy ("Tales of Earthsea", and "Howl's Moving Castle"). This little fantasy is about Ponyo, a human/fish child who is befriended by five year old Sosuke and falls in love with him and wants to become a real human child so she can stay with him. This isn't "Totoro" but it has all the makings of a classic Studio Ghibli film. I'm sure it will be released in the U.S. in the near future, however the title may change. It truly is a picture book come to life.

めがね 「MEGANE」 International English Title:「GLASSES」(2007) - From director Naoko Ogigami who brought us the wonderful "Kamome Shokudo" (International English Title - "Kamome Diner" - also titled "Ruokala Lokki" - Japanese/Finnish production) comes a new film with two of the stars from "Kamome Shokudo" - Satomi Kobayashi and Masako Motai. Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival. This is one strange but beautiful movie. What makes it strange? The fact that there is no plot is one. And although it's slow-moving, you never get bored of watching it. Weird. A woman from Tokyo goes to one of the smaller islands of Okinawa and has a hard time learning to relax and do nothing. The small inn she stays at, Hamada Inn, has a sign so small, the owner says most people cannot find the place on their first try. As to why not have a bigger sign, the owner says, "Too many people would come". Then, there's the mysterious woman who appears every spring and sells snow-cones by the sea. I suppose this could filed under "different". I still enjoyed it. You've heard of BGM (back ground music)? In this case, it would be Back Ground Movie.

PUBLIC TOILET Original Title:「HWANJANGSHIL EODIEYO?」, Japanese Title: 「トイレ、どこですか?」 (2002) - A Korean film that we thought might be fun to watch. Mikako and I love Korean comedies. And this appeared to be a comedy. Damn, were we ever wrong. It was a drama. And although it has received excellent accolades from a variety of film critics, this should seriously be flushed down the toilet. Okay, guy is born and left at a public toilet. It becomes his home. When he grows up, him and his friends hang out at the toilet and shoot the shit (so to speak). Add to this a woman who lives in the sea and has no bones (are you still with me?), and some relatives with a terminal illness where young dudes go out in the world in search of some medicinal plant that's guaranteed to cure a number of ailments, one guy goes to New York, another goes to India. This film is so messed up and hard to follow that I couldn't wait for it to end. I really hate it when others say that something this bad becomes a style all it's own. If this is the epitome of director Fruit Punch (yes, that's really the director's name), then I know I won't be renting any of his other films any time soon. This definitely belongs in a public toilet!!

サイドカーに犬 「SAIDO KA NI INU」 International English Title: 「DOG IN A SIDECAR」 (2007) - You may have noticed that I've been watching mostly Japanese or Korean films. This stars one of my favorite Japanese actresses, Yuko Takeuchi. The story centers on the relationship between two women, Yoko (Takeuchi), a woman in her twenties and Kaoru, the ten year old daughter of the man who Yoko is either friends with or is his mistress (it's never made quite clear). The movie starts out with Kaoru as an adult. And then it reverts to one long reminiscence of the time she spent with Yoko. The core of the story takes place in Japan in the early '80s, but the only thing I found nostalgic about it was the table style Pacman video game. Aside from that, this was a pretty boring flick.

亀は以外と早く泳ぐ 「KAME WA IGAI TO HAYAKU OYOGU」 International English Title 「TURTLES SWIM FASTER THAN EXPECTED」 (2005) - Weird! Quirky! Wonderful! Finally, a gem in my choice of Japanese movies. Starring the lovely Juri Ueno ("Swing Girls", "Nodame Cantabile"). Ueno is a bored housewife who's husband is working abroad somewhere. The only conversation she has with him is his daily phone call to see if she hasn't forgotten to feed his pet turtle. Then one day, Ueno discovers an ad to become a spy. She answers the ad and is met with a middle-age couple who take Ueno under their wings. Her first assignment at being a spy is to continue her everyday, ho-hum life and to not bring attention to herself. Which means, she's to continue to be a bored housewife. And yet, now that she's a spy, she finds life more thrilling. Defintely go check this out in your foreign language section at your local DVD rental shop.

ショコラの見た世界 「CHOCOLAT NO MITA SEKAI」 English title: 「THE WORLD ACCORDING TO CHOCOLAT」 (2008) - A little fantasy that once again stars Yuko Takeuchi. Unfortunately, just when you thought the movie might get ends! Okay, here's the story. Takeuchi has passed away. A few years down the road her younger sister meets Takeuchi's boyfriend by coincidence. It's raining, so boyfriend suggests going to grab a cup of coffee. Talk turns to older sister. Young sister says whenever she was sick, her older sister would tell her such marvelous stories that she totally thought were true. Of course now that young sister is an adult, she realizes they were fairy tales. But then, old boyfriend shows young sister, video clip messages that she had sent to boyfriend. All her stories were true!! The two decide to check out the last place where older sister sent the message, and here's when you think the movie will really get started...It ends! Only for fans of Yuko Takeuchi I'm afraid.

図鑑に載ってない虫 「ZUKAN NI NOTTE NAI MUSHI」 English title: 「THE INSECTS UNLISTED IN THE ENCYCLOPEDIA」(2007) - Also has the alternate English title of "Deathfix: Die and Let Live". Weird! Bazaar! Trippy! You might want to be drunk when you watch this. Free journalist working at some magazine called "Black Book Monthly" is given an assignment to go find the "shi no modoki". Which happens to be a bug that has the power to bring people back from the dead. Editor wants journalist to die, come back, and write about the afterlife. I did say weird didn't I?

PLEASE TEACH ME ENGLISH Original Title: 「YEONGEO WANJEONJEONGBOK」 (2003) - Korean comedy that Mikako picked out. The unfortunate thing was, we had already seen this film. But, what the heck. We decided to watch it again. Actually, we just put it on but and it became the background movie of the night. I think I even reviewed this in a previous post. If not, civil service worker is chosen to be sent to English school so she can deal with foreigners living in Korea who cannot speak Korean. At English school, she meets "Elvis" who wants to learn English so he can speak to his sister he has never seen who lives in the U.S. This was just as funny the second time watching it even though we weren't paying that much attention. My mother might enjoy this.

BLADES OF GLORY Japanese title: 「おれたちフィギャースケーター」 (2007) - After watching a series of Japanese and Korean movies, I was ready for Hollywood again. Mikako had seen this on our flight to the States last year. As I didn't see it from the beginning, I think I watched "Hellboy" instead. I had to wait almost an entire year before it was finally released on DVD over here. Standard Will Ferrell fare. So corny and out there, it makes you laugh. Mikako and I had a great time watching this.

アヒルと鴨のコインロッカー 「AHIRU TO KAMO NO KOIN ROKKA] International English Title: 「THE FOREIGN DUCK, THE NATIVE DUCK AND GOD」 (2007) - Another misjudgement on my part. I was fooled by the previews on a separate DVD. From the preview, it looked like a pretty funny comedy. But it turned out to be a rather dark drama of revenge and justice. And it all centers around Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind". Um, yeah - forget this one! And who translated that title anyway? The actual translation of the Japanese title would be "The Duck and Goose Coin Locker".

BURIED ALIVE (1990) - I know I said I wasn't going to review any movies I watched on television but I just loved this low budget made-for-tv movie, I had to share. Hey, and one of the stars is Jennifer Jason Leigh who plays a bored housewife who's having an affair with a doctor, and they plan to kill hubbie for the insurance money. Doc gives wife puffer fish toxin, wife injects toxin into hubbies wine, hubbie falls. They bury him in a cheap coffin. But, the poison doesn't kill hubbie. He manages to break out of the cheap wooden coffin, and then the fun begins. Doc is that annoying reporter from the first two "Die Hard" movies - William Atherton. Tim Matheson plays the good guy who gets his revenge! You couldn't help but cheer for him.

象の背中 「ZOU NO SENAKA」 International English Title: 「WALKING MY LIFE」 (2007) - If you know your Japanese, you will know that the International English title is not a direct translation of the original. That would be something more along the lines of "The Elephant's Back". Standard tearjerker of a family man diagnosed with cancer and is told he has about six months left to live. Man chooses not to undergo any kind of therapy and tries to live his life as normally as possible.

EDEN Japanese title: 「厨房で会いましょう」(2006) - A decent German movie about the relationship between a lonely but well-respected and quite overweight chef who begins a friendship with a married woman and her daughter. Chef learns woman's daughter is having a birthday and decides to make her a chocolate cake. Woman takes a little taste of the cake and with that little taste, woman starts to frequent chef's place on a weekly basis which blossoms into a type of love. Of course, husband does not understand this friendship and his friends laugh at him behind his back.

BOMBON Original title: 「EL PERRO」 (2004) - Argentinian film about a man who worked for over twenty years at a gasoline stand who finds that one day he is out of a job. He tries his hand selling home-made knives, but business is bleak. On the highway, he helps a woman who's car has broke down and in exchange for his help, the woman gives the man a beautiful white dog. Other people take an interest in his dog and convince the man to enter a dog show. His new dog wins in his division and the man now finds himself working in the dog show business. Interesting, but not great enough for me to recommend it to friends.

THE NAMESAKE Japanese title: 「その名にちなんで」(2006) - A movie about family-ties, tradition, and being Indian immigrants in the U.S. based on the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri. A Bengali woman marries a Bengali man and starts a new life in New York. When their first child is born, he is not given a name. It's tradition for the grandmother to name the baby. But as the baby was born in the U.S. and requires a name, the father names him Gogol, after the Russian writer. As a teen, Gogol hates his name and wants to change it and asks his father, "Why Gogol?". It isn't until the near the end of the film that you find out why. Very decent movie.

腑抜けども、悲しみの愛を見せろ 「FUNUKE DOMO, KANASHIMI NO AI WO MISERO」 International English Title: 「FUNUKE SHOW SOME LOVE, YOU LOSERS!] (2007) - Once again I was fooled by potential previews. It looked like it was going to be a hilarious movie. Unfortunately, it only a got a few chuckles out of me. The rest of it made me want to slap the good for nothing older sister upside the head. Played by the beautiful Eriko Sato. But it's the younger sister who steals the show, as she draws manga of her sister's antics, which gets her into big trouble, which older sister never forgives her for. It's a little roller-coaster ride of humor, drama, love, sex, and whatnot. It makes you tired but not quite to the extent of something like Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner's "War of the Roses".

I hope you enjoyed my little International Film Festival. I'm always open to suggestions as well. I still have two films I need to watch which have been recommended to me by some friends. The Thai film "Ruang rak noi nid mahasan" which star Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano and the Indian documentary "Born into Brothels". No, I have not forgotten either title.

Happy Film Watching

Monday, August 25, 2008

Azabu Juban Festival 2008 (Part 2) / 麻布十番納涼祭り 2008 (パート2)

Continuing from the previous post, more pics of world cuisine.


Egyptian shawarma / エジプトのシュワルマ

Syrian kebob (I think) / シリアのケバブ(かな?)

German sausage / ドイツの焼きソーセージ

Turkish shish-kebob / トルコのシシケバブ

Pakistani curry and nan / パキスタンのカレーとナン

Korean Sangyopusal / 韓国のサムギョプル

Thai pork sticks / タイのポーピアムゥトード(豚スティック)

Laotian herb chicken / ラオスのハーブチキン

Palestinian maftul (I really don't know if that's the correct spelling or word) / パレスチナのマフテュール

Not sure which countries food-stall served these red beans / どこの国の屋台でこの料理が出たのか分からない。

Indian samosas / インドのサモサ

Falafels most likely from one of the Middle Eastern food-stalls / ファラフェル(多分中近東の屋台から)

Mexican nachos (seems very American to me though) / メキシコのナッチョーズ (僕にとって、アメリカ料理に入るけど)

The last bits of Spanish Fideua (pasta paella) / スペインのフィデワ(パスタのパエリア)の残り

Chinese gyoza (very, very delicious) / 中華の餃子(これは超旨い!)

Chinese manju / 中華の饅頭

Peking duck / 北京ダック


This year's member. Mikako and Ayako are out buying gyoza. They are featured in the next clip.


And as always, a group photo.


Until next year...


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Azabu Juban Festival 2008 (Part 1) / 麻布十番納涼祭り 2008 (パート1)

It's my favorite time of year in Japan. The summer is filled with festivals. And every year for the past ten years I've been going to the Azabu Juban Festival. The main event for me and my friends is the International Bazaar where you can travel around the world in just a few eating the cuisines of about 30 different countries. With the crowds getting ever larger every year, I have come up with a motto for me and my friends - "Eat! Drink! and Leave!". Eat as many different cuisines as you can, down it with a beer or two (or some mango juice, etc.), and then leave before the area gets even more crowded. The festival is held for three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), and starts at 3:00pm and lasts until 9:00pm. I was meeting my friends on Sunday at 2:15pm and as Mikako and I arrived a little early, we started off by eating a couple of items from the Japanese food-stalls. We started off with a jumbo pork skewer, followed by some large tako-yaki (octopus snack, filled with a whole little octopus) with our friend Uchi which I enjoyed with my Orion Beer from Okinawa.


And now for the variety of food:


Swedish meatballs with cranberry sauce / スウェーデンのミートボール

Tunisian brique / チュニジアのブリック

Tunisian couscous / チュニジアのクスクス

Laotian curry / ラオスのカレー

Italian rice croquette / イタリアのライスコロッケ

Too many picture for one post - to be continued...


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nissin Noukou Kara Tonkotsu / 日清濃厚辛とんこつ

I thought I'd share with you the variety of instant noodles that's available over here. This is my first installment. I will add more from time to time. This ramen has a pork-based soup with chili peppers.


Rating: thumbs up!