Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To Aomori I Go / 今日から青森県、青森市行きです

NOTICE / お知らせ


I will be leaving for Mikako's hometown of Aomori this afternoon for the New Year's Holidays so there will be no new posts for about a week. Pictured above is the symbol for Aomori Prefecture.


夕方から美香子の実家青森県に行きますので、一週間くらい、ブログはお休みに入ります。上記にある写真は青森県のシンボルです。





Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ern's Monthly Page Turners (December 2008)

*本に関するネタは日本語書き込みません

Merry Christmas Readers! By the time I post this, Christmas may already have passed. If that is indeed the case, then I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. This being Japan, Christmas is just another day. Of course, you will see a lot of Christmas illuminations at most shopping centers, not as much in residential neighborhoods. It may be a day to take a date to a nice dinner. But as with most Japanese, Mikako and I will be spending the day working. On both Christmas and Christmas Eve. We will have chicken instead of turkey and a kamakura cake, that would be a cake in the shape of an igloo (in case you were wondering what kamakura meant). In Japan, it’s not the Christmas holidays that are special, its the New Year's Holidays. From New Year's Day until the 5th, you will find many stores closed, and many people will be heading to their hometowns to visit family and friends. Mikako and I will be joining the masses as we will head to her hometown of Aomori on New Year's Eve. We should make it to her house before at least a couple of hours before the countdown will begin. Which also means I will be taking another break from posting anything new on my blog.




HEAVY METAL ISLAM: ROCK, RESISTANCE, AND THE STRUGGLE FOR THE SOUL OF ISLAM by Mark Levine – Heavy metal and Islam? An unlikely combination to be sure, and even I was surprised by that there exists a heavy metal rock scene in the Middle East and North Africa (the MENA). The author, who is a musician and is also a professor of Middle Eastern history writes a fascinating account of a world that few know and even fewer have ever heard of. And not only is heavy metal popular in the MENA, so is rap and hip-hop. Not only is this book about a little known portion of music, it also reads like a travelogue as Levine travels the MENA and interviews the musicians of those countries. A dangerous profession for those who play in countries who’s governments can be oppressive as well (and are a lot more effective than the prissy PMRC, which was a bad joke to begin with) – Shame on Tipper Gore! I’ve been listening to heavy metal since the fifth grade and I’ve never had the urge to pledge my soul to Satan, kill cats, eat bats, or take my life. I’m still here and I still listen to heavy metal. And it isn’t just the the PMRC that think heavy metal is satanic. Levine writes about an incident in Morocco where fourteen metalheads were arrested, tried and convicted for the crime of being “Satanists who recruited for an international cult of devil worship” and of “shaking the foundations of Islam”. I really get sick of people and parents, and now governments placing the blame on heavy metal for actions that the music has no relation to. It gets my goat when I think of that stupid woman who blames Judas Priest for the suicide of her sons. The media always neglects to mention the fact that the boy in question had history of drug abuse and such. Or the farcical Judas Priest child. Not only should the parents of those idiot sons be slapped upside the head, so should the lawyers who thought they could cash in on some of the biggest selling bands of that era. Back to this book, Levine travels to Morocco, Egypt, Israel and Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, and Pakistan, and covers the heavy metal and rap scene of those countries. But it seems there is hope for heavy metal in the MENA. One of the most successful rock festivals, called the Dubai Desert Rock Festival, was headlined by none other than Iron Maiden!! Iron Maiden in an Islamic country. Heck, that just shows that music brings people together, no matter what their governments say.


THE BEST AMERICAN TRAVEL ESSAYS 2008 edited by Anthony Bourdain – Last month I read so many travel essays that if publishers were to give out frequent flyer mileage, I could probably travel around the world a few times. But if that were the case, I’m sure more people would read travelogues. My armchair traveling took me to many places – I traveled with Brandon Wilson and his wife as they journeyed the length of Africa from Morocco to Cape Town. I traveled with Brandon again as he made a pilgrimage with an older Frenchman from Dijon, France to Jerusalem. I traveled with Tara Grescoe as he toured the world in search of banned or forbidden food items and I enjoyed my trip around the northeast of Brazil with Thomas Kohnstamm who wrote what it’s really like to be a travel writer. And now, its once again time for Houghton Mifflin’s annual “Best American” series. This book is a collection of the best travel essays and articles from a variety of sources – international periodicals, internet magazines, and even the travel sections of local newspapers. This year, Anthony Bourdain (author of “Kitchen Confidential” and host of the Food Network’s “No Reservations) you can be sure he chose some choice articles for this collection. This year’s choices will take you to Brazil as you learn about the gourmet chocolate business, a tour through Phnom Penh, following the footsteps of some World War II soldiers who traveled across the Kapa Kapa Trail in Papua New Guinea, getting a driver’s license in Beijing, unwittingly providing a forum for dissidents in Turkmentistan when that crazy guy who proclaimed himself “President for Life” was still in office, or crossing a not so well established border between Mali and Cote D’Ivoire, just to give you some ideas.


THE PILGRIMAGE by Paulo Coehlo – If I hadn’t read Coehlo’s book “The Alchemist” and enjoyed it so much I may have skipped on reading this. This is Coehlo’s debut novel and the Pilgrimage in question is the El Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James. The trail that starts in France and ends at the Santiago de Compestela. However, the core of the story read more like some New Age philosophy, complete with exercises to be able to become a more enlightened person. Or rather, a blend of New Age philosophy, some Templar history, and a search for a sword to become a true Master. However, if I wanted to fill myself with a whole lot of New Age philosophy, I would have read Shirley McClaine’s “Out on a Limb”. So, where is Ramtha these days anyway?


FATAL TIDE by Iris Johanson – I decided to read more fiction this month and picked up titles that sounded interesting to me. This book was a blend of suspense, adventure, exotic locales (the West Indies and the Canary Islands), romance and a search for some place called Amarinth, which was believed to be the true Lost City of Atlantis. Yeah I know, it sounds pretty far-fetched – that’s because it is. And it read more like a romance novel than anything, as it should, because most of Johanson’s books fall into that category. Hey, what can I say. I like variety and sometimes it’s good to read a genre you don’t usually read.


TONE DEAF IN BANGKOK AND OTHER PLACES by Janet Brown – This is a little strange for me as not only do I know Janet, but consider her a friend as well. This would be my second time reviewing the book written by a friend. The last one was Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers with his “Schizophrenic in Japan”. I worked for the same company as Janet back in the late ‘80s even though she went to a more independent and well-loved book retailer while I continued working for the same company. And I became great friends with her son, who probably read this book before me and stated in his short review, “…too many cats.” I beg to differ, as there was only one chapter concerning a cat. This book is Janet’s story of leaving behind a well-established life in Seattle to pursue a new one in Bangkok, Thailand during the years between 1995 and 2004. I myself had become an ex-pat in 1995, but I digress. Her book is filled with beautiful pictures by Nana Chen and she makes you feel as if you were in Bangkok sharing in her laughter and tears. I felt a little uncomfortable reading about her sex life though (not that it was explicit or anything). It’s just the fact that I’ve spent more time with her son than I had with her, and I am sure most of my readers would agree that they don’t really want to know about their good friends’ mother’s love life. Too bad she didn’t write a chapter about the time me and my friend visited her in Bangkok on our way back from Laos, and took us to a Thai Rock bar and got us drunk off our ass. I actually had to go to the men’s room, puke, and then she made us drink more! But then we were probably too drunk to remember it anyway. Not as if she twisted our arms though. We were willing subjects to her generosity. Unfortunately for you, my American reader, will have to wait until April of next year when it should be available in the States.


ODD THOMAS by Dean Koontz – Some people may consider Koontz a lesser King (as in Stephen King) but I find his stories to be more entertaining and not so descriptively long as with a lot of King’s novels. This story can be summarized as the kid from the “Sixth Sense” grows up, moves to a small town, and tries to live a fairly normal life – normal as person can who can still see dead people and who still want him to help them with unresolved matters. The surprise ending is also a little reminiscent of the “Sixth Sense” movie as well. But don’t let that stop you from reading this. It was quite entertaining.





THE INTERROGATION by Thomas H. Cook – The back of the book provides a better summary than I can come up with on my own so I shall borrow it – [A man has been accused of a terrible crime. There’s no witness, no evidence, but the police are convinced he’s guilty. They have twelve hours to find out the truth…]. The time is 1952, the place small town America. The terrible crime – the murder of an eight year old girl. The cops don’t have much to go on and the suspect who endures the endless questioning (thus providing the book with our title), does not succumb to any of the officer’s head games and sticks with his story of being innocent.




DON’T GO THERE: THE TRAVEL DETECTIVE’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO THE MUST-MISS PLACES OF THE WORLD by Peter Greenburg – A slightly different kind of travel book. But first, let’s not confuse Greenburg’s book with Robert Young Pelton’s “Peterson’s Guide to the World’s Most Dangerous Places”. Greenburg does not write about places like Baghdad or Mogadishu or other areas of civil unrest. No, Greenburg’s book is put together more like an almanac giving you information on the world’s most polluted cities, cities with the highest crime rates, countries that are disaster prone, areas that are susceptible to disease, and chapters on the worst hotels, worst airports, worst airlines, worst cruises, and of course the most corrupt countries as well. Although the title says the world, his focus his mainly on the United States. He would probably have to write another book to cover all the world’s must-miss places of the world. I enjoyed the chapter on the lamest claims to fame such as cherry-pit spitting capital of the world (Eau Claire, Michigan), the sink-hole capital of the world (Fountain, Minnesota) or the armpit of America (Battle Mountain, Nevada). I was surprised that he didn’t list Wall Drug, South Dakota though. You have to see it to believe! I know, I was there! I’m sure we all have our own “worst place” story as well. Mine? Getting ripped off in Tunis, Tunisia wasn’t all that bad – just a bit of carelessness on my part, sometimes you really shouldn’t be too trusting of people who want to be your friends. But I must say, I’ve had more positive experiences than negative ones.


WORLD FOOD: IRELAND by Martin Hughes - So what do you think of when you think of Ireland? Shamrocks and Lucky Charms? Guinness, of course. Irish Whiskey? A given. But Irish food? Potatoes, you say. There's more to Irish food than mere potatoes! Irish Stew. Connemara Lamb. Or what I imagine what my favorite would be - the Irish Fry, which is described by the author as a "heart attack on a plate"! Just check out this recipe for a traditional Irish fry: 2 slices bacon, 2 sausages, 2 slices black pudding, 2 slices white pudding, 2 eggs, 2 tomatoes halved. The instructions are quite simple too, "start with the bacon and fry, fry, fry." And if you were like me, not knowing what black pudding is, it is a traditional Irish food made with "pig's blood, pork skin, and seasonings" while white pudding is "a version without the blood which is made from the remaining offal pieces of the pig and various cereals". And of course, I had to read this book while drinking a pint of Guinness (okay, it was can).

And so ends my year of reading. I hope you enjoyed my choices. I believe this is my third or fourth year of reading more than 100 books in one year (of course that includes children's books and quite a few photography books as well). Also thanks to my friend Janet's blog "Asia by the Book", as I stumbled across some choice morsels that were feautured there. Among the gems were "Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos" by Natach Du Pont de Bie and "The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir" by Kao Kalia Young. Some of my other personal favorites I read this year were Brandon Wilson's travel essays "Dead Men Don't Leave Tips: Adventures X Africa" and "Along the Templar Trail: Seven Million Steps for Peace". The author even kindly left me a message on this blog. I will definitely be reading more of his books. Morgan Spurlock and his search for Osama bin Laden was most entertaining - "Where in the World is Osama bin Laden". And the book on nuclear trafficking "The Atomic Bazaar" by William Langewiesche - intense! Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx "Heroin Diaries" was another piece of work. And what would my year be without reading about the adventures of food provided by Fuschia Dunlap, Jay Rayner, Tom Parker-Bowles, and Tara Grescoe with their books "Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper", "The Man Who Ate the World", "The Year of Eating Dangerously", and "The Devil's Picnic". I also went back to my roots of fantasy and science fiction with the reprints of John Wyndam's novels and the original story of "I am Legend". I hope to read another 100 or so books for the coming year as well. I've already bought two more books in the "World Food" series - what can I say, I love to read about food as much as I like to eat it! But currently I'm in the middle of another violent-filled story concerning Algerian terrorists and covert agents working black ops - I guess I will have to check out DiCaprio and Crowe's "Body of Lies" as soon as it's available on DVD.

Happy Reading!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Walk around Minato Mirai (Part 1) / みなとみらいの散歩 (パート1)

Last weekend we ventured a little outside of Tokyo to a place called Minato Mirai - located not too far from Yokohama's Chinatown. Today's main event for heading out there was to check out our friend's free Christmas tap dance show that was being held in a building called the World Porters (it's like a Macy's) at 2pm and 4pm. As we arrived a little early, we took a little walk around the area.

先週の休日、東京からちょっと離れて、みなとみらいまで行きました。今回の目的は友達のクリスマススペシャルの無料タップダンスショー。(友達はタップの先生です)。ワルドポーターズのビルの中で二回の公演がありました。二時と四時。ちょっと早めに着いたので、ブラブラの散歩しました。


Art object at Queen's Square / クインズ・スクアーのアートオブジェ


Landmark Tower / ランドマークタワー


A bit of America - the Hard Rock Care and Bugs Bunny and Pals

アメリカ? ハード・ロックカフェとバグズバニーと仲間たち















Our friend is pictured second from the left / 友達は左から二番目の人

As I only have permission from my friend to post her picture, I will need to edit the short video footage I shot. Sorry.

友達の許可しか貰ってないので、撮った動画を編集する必要があります。申し訳ございません。


Tap dancing Santa / タップするサンタさん

















We only watched the 2pm performance. Afterwards, we walked some more and headed towards the Red Brick Warehouse area for a bite to eat.

二時の公演だけを見て、その後は赤レンガ倉庫に行って、何か食べに行きました。


The Landmark Tower / ランドマークタワー


Navios Yokohama (I have no idea what kind of building it is but the design was interesting)


Red Brick Warehouse / 赤レンガ倉庫

We had a late lunch at a place called Tachibanatei in the Red Brick Warehouse.

赤レンガ倉庫の中にある立花亭でちょっと遅めランチを食べました。

Hayashi Rice / ハヤシライス

Curry rice with pork cutlet / カツカレー

We continued with our walk (and I continued with my picture taking) as it was getting dark, but I will save the pics for the next post.

まだ散歩をつづいて(写真撮りも)、でも撮った写真はまた今度のポストにアップします。

Saturday, December 27, 2008

More of Life's Little Pleasures / またまた人生のプチ幸せ



video

If you're wondering what he's making, it's Turkish ice cream! Very light and fluffy and as you can see it stretches quite a bit.

動画の映像はトルコアイスののびるアイスを作ってる最中です。

Friday, December 26, 2008

Life's Little Pleasures / 人生のプチ幸せ


Cream cheese-filled Imagawa-yaki / チーズクリームの今川焼き

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Book Break / 本の紹介



Of course I've been keeping up with reading books in Japanese as well. And no, it's not about food this time. But it is another title by my current favorite Japanese author, Ayumu Takahashi. The title is "The Life Map". As with most of his books, they are filled with great pictures and a bunch of anecdotes about his own life's journey as well as the voices of others. The book is divided into seven chapters - Desire, Job, Partner, Choice, Action, Rule, and of course Life Story. I've already bought his new book as well, but you will wait until I finish reading it before I can tell you about it.

もちろん日本語の本読みはつづいてますよ。今回は食べ物に関する一冊ではございません。でも、今一番気に入りの日本人著者の歩高橋さんの本です。タイトルは「人生の地図」。写真もいっぱい載ってるので、文書も僕が気軽に読める範囲です。自分の人生に語りながら、他の人の声もいろいろ書かれてます。チャプターは七章に分けられてる‐欲求、職、パートナー、選択、行動、ルール、と最後に物語。高橋さんの新作も買いましたが、まだ読んでないので、それはまたこんど。

Monday, December 22, 2008

Zazie Burger's Bleu Cheese Burger / ザジバーガーのブルーチーズバーガー

After getting my haircut today, I treated myself to Zazie Burger's Bleu Cheese Burger. Mikako had gotten her hair cut a few days before. And as she despises the smell and taste of bleu cheese, I ventured to the burger shop on my own.

今日髪切った後に、ザジバーガーのブルーチーズバーガーを食べに行った。美香子は数日前に髪切ったので、今日は一人でした。美香子はブルーチーズも大嫌いなので、僕が食べ終わったら合流する事にした。


Bleu Cheese Burger / ブルーチーズバーガー

The burger alone isn't enough for lunch so I ordered it with a deli set. You can choose from a variety of items in their display case. Today, you had a choice of ratatouille, mixed olives, chicken salad, squid, and a couple of other items I can't recall off the top of my head. I chose the mixed olives. The set is also served with a drink.

バーガーだけじゃもの足りないので、デリセットを注文しました。今日のデリのチョイスはオリーブとかラタトゥユ、チキンサラダ等。僕はミクス・オリーブに決めました。飲み物も付いてます。


If you do not like bleu cheese, then you would not order this burger. Definitely only for lovers of bleu cheese. Although I like bleu cheese, the burger was just okay. I enjoyed their Zazie Burger much better although the addition of baked apple was rather strange.

ブルーチーズが好きじゃなければ、このバーガーは無理でしょう。自分はブルーチーズが好きですけど、バーガーとしてはなんかもの足りないな。まずいとは言えないですが、前に食べたザジバーガーのほうが美味しかった。中身の焼き林檎はちょっと不思議だったけどね。

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tsukesoba "Chabuya" / つけそば「ぢゃぶ屋」



This ramen shop, or rather the building this ramen shop is located in, may look its standing on its last legs from the outside, but I assure you, the ramen shop itself does good business. And once again, its located in our neighborhood. As its a tsukesoba shop, which means that the noodles are served separate from the broth. You dip your noodles in the broth and then eat up. Although, the smell outside the shop may take a little getting used to, the ramen itself was quite delicious. On one wall you will find signs of a lot of Japanese stars who have also graced this establishment with their presence.

このラーメン屋があるビルが壊れそうなんですが、いつも賑やかで込んでます。ここもうちの近所にあるらーめん屋は世田谷通りの「ぢゃぶ屋」です。つけそばの店です。店から溢れだす臭いはちょっときついですが、店のラーメンは絶品です。店内に有名人のサインもいっぱい飾っております。


The Broth / つゆう


The Noodles / 麺


Once you've eaten all the noodles, you should leave some of the broth in your bowl. Then you will add soba-yu and enjoy a slightly different flavored soup.

麺を食べ終わったら、つゆうをちょこっと残すべき。それにそば湯を入れたら、さらに違う物が味わえる。

Soba-yu



そば湯






End your meal with the rest of the broth.



閉めはそば湯いりのつゆうだな。

Friday, December 19, 2008

Our Walk Continues / 散歩のつづき

Just in case you didn't read the previous post, we were walking around Roppongi Hills and the Tokyo Tower.

前のポストを読んでなかれば、今回の散歩道は六本木ヒルズと東京タワーの周り。

As its Christmas season, there were holiday illuminations at the base of the tower but as it was still light outside, it didn't make for a good picture.

今はクリスマスの季節なので、東京タワーの下のほうにもイルミネーションもありました。でもまだ明るすぎて、写真撮るのはを辞めた。

Also at the base, is a small monument to the sled dogs that a couple of Antarctic explorers had to leaver behind, they were the inspiration for the Hollywood movie "Eight Below".


あと東京タワーの下にあるのは、南極で残された犬たちの懸念日。




The next area we walked around was the Zojoji Temple and Shiba Park

次歩き回ったのは東京タワーの近くにある増上寺と芝公園。


I just love the contrast of the temple and the tower.

増上寺の隣に東京タワー、このコントラスト良いね。






















What's so special about this tree?

この木、何の木、気になる木?



Check below for the answer.

下記に答えがあります


And some views from the nearby Shiba Park.

芝公園から撮った写真。



Flame of Peace / 平和の塔


Tokyo Tower from Shiba Park / 芝公園から見た東京タワー



Japan Cultural Treasure "Yushoin Reibyo Nitenmon" / 重要文化財 「有章院霊廟二天門 (ユウショウインレイビョウニテンモン)」

And we finally ended our walk at Shinbashi Station's SL Plaza.

散歩は新橋のSL広場で終了。







I hope you enjoyed our walk.

散歩を楽しめたら光栄です。

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Walk around Roppongi Hills and the Tokyo Tower / 六本木ヒルズと東京タワー周辺の散歩

On a previous day off, Mikako and I spent the day walking around Tokorozawa and its nearby Aviation Park. This time around, we decided to walk in a neighborhood closer to home. I've been wanting to check out what the fuss is about Roppongi Hills (yep, I still haven't been there). Mikako really didn't have a desire to walk around there either as it's mostly known for its brand stores and is just expensive in general. But hey, walking is free. So after having lunch at our favorite Indian/Thai place, we hopped on a bus to Shibuya, then hopped on another to take us directly to Roppongi Hills. The bus stops right at the entrance to the Mori Tower, a Roppongi Hills landmark. This was the start of our walk. We decided to walk around the inside of the building first.

前に休日はちょっと時間をかけて、所沢と航空記念公園の周りを散歩しまた。今回はもっと家の近くの場所で散歩しようと考えてた。僕は六本木ヒルズを行ってみたかった。美香子はその辺にあんまり興味はなっかたけど、ブランド品の店や、なんでも高いイメージがあるので、でも散歩はただなので。行く前に私たちの気に入りのインド・タイ料理店でランチ。食べたあとにバスに乗って渋谷まで。渋谷から直行のバスで六本木ヒリズまで。バス亭は森ビルの入口前。この時点で散歩開始。最初は森ビルの中。





Another view of the Mori Building.





森ビル。







One of the things I was looking forward to seeing was the artwork of a giant spider. Did I say spider? Why yes. I like to go in search of the unusual in my favorite city.


自分が一番見てまたいものが森ビルの周りにあるでっかい蜘蛛のオブジェー。蜘蛛?そう。自分の好きな街に変わった物を発見するのが好き。


And check out this view from one of the smoking areas of the Mori Building.

森ビルの一つの喫煙所からこの景色を見て下さい。


Our plan today is to walk around Roppongi Hills and then head over to that large red and white tower you see in the picture. That of course is the Tokyo Tower - 333meters tall and was finished in 1958. We only plan on walking around there, we decided that we were not going to go up it. And if you search, you can find some green in this concrete jungle called Tokyo.

今日の散歩の予定は六本木ヒルズからあの白と赤の塔まで歩いて行く。日本人なら誰でも知ってる東京タワー。登ろうとは考えてませんけど。探せば、東京にも緑の場所もあちこちありますよ。



















Before heading to the Tokyo Tower, we came upon a couple of those little car cafes. One was called the Allo Cafe serving French snack foods (I think), and the other was called the "Hachi Bus", which sold scones and honey and coffee as well. The scones with honey were only 150yen so of course we had one.

東京タワーに行く前に、移動式の屋台二台を発見しました。一つは「アロ・カフェ―」でフランスのスナックフーズを販売してた。もう一代は「ハチバス」というやつでした。そこに蜂蜜とスコーンとコヒ‐を売ってる。蜂蜜とスコーンはたったの150円だったので、もちろんいただいちゃいました。







It's always amazing what you discover when you walk. Take the next picture for example. A mysterious chair?

歩くといろんな面白いものも発見するよ。次の写真を見て。謎の椅子?




This should bring back memories for my sister. We went out drinking here when we were on a family vacation almost fifteen years ago. Ooh, and the Tony Roma's - haven't been there in almost ten years either. I could go for some baby-back ribs.

ここは妹にとって思い出の場所かも知りません。15年前の家族旅行で僕と飲みに行った場所です。あ~、一階にある「トニ・ロマ」も懐かしいな。そこも10年位行ってないな。スペアリブ食いたくなった。


















The Tokyo Tower / 東京タワー


I took so many pictures that this post shall be continued...

写真がいっぱい撮ったので、このネタはつづく。。。