Sunday, January 30, 2011

Overnight Trip to Gotemba & Hakone (Part 1) / 御殿場・箱根一泊旅行 (パート1)

The day after Christmas, Mikako and I headed down to Shizuoka Prefecture again, this time to spend some time with my friend Endo-san and his girlfriend. Endo-san lives in Mishima in Shizuoka Prefecture and it's been a few years since I've seen him. He had invited us to come join him to check out the holiday illumination at a place called [Toki no Sumika] in Gotemba. We took the highway bus from Shibuya to Mishima where Endo-san came to meet us. His girlfriend was still working so first we went out for a light lunch at a tiny ramen shop called [Shoen]. It looked like a little Mom and Pop place, but as it was around 3:00pm, there wasn't a lot of options to choose from.


View of Mt. Fuji from the bus / バスから見えた富士山

Shoen / 正園

Chashu-men / チャーシュー麺

Gyoza/ 餃子

We still had time before Endo-san's girlfriend got off work to head to Gotemba, so Endo-san drove us around town.


Another view of Mt. Fuji, this time from Mishima / 真島から見えた富士山

We finally headed to Gotemba where we had reservations for a place called the Blueberry Lodge.


Front for Blueberry Lodge / ブルーベリー・ロッジのフロント

We were in 202B which has two rooms, a large kitchen and dining area and of course a bathroom and shower stall (however, there is also two separate onsens here as well so I know we wouldn't be using the showers at night).


Our lodge / 私たちのロッジ

To be continued...


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ern's Monthly Visual Victuals (December 2010)


I know the month is almost over and I hadn't written my latest movie reviews. It was a simple act of procrastination. I watched a wide variety of films for the end of the year. Independent films, Hollywood blockbusters, domestic Japanese film, some animation, a lot of action flicks and movies from France, U.K., Korea, Israel, and Denmark. Enjoy!

MY LIFE IN RUINS (2009) – Nia Vardalos, star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is back with another delightful romantic comedy. This time, the movie not only features Greek culture, but a Greece location as well. Georgia is an American who was working at a university with ancient Greek ruins being her specialty. But she lost her university job and is now making a living as a tour guide and hates her job. For one thing, her boss keeps giving her the most difficult tourists, mostly Americans who don’t care about history or ruins, a bus with a broken air-conditioner and a driver who seems to speak absolutely no English. But an admirer keeps leaving her daisies, so Georgia thinks there might be some good fortune heading her way soon. It reminds me of my kindergarten days when I actually lived in Greece and do remember going to places such as the Acropolis and seeing the Parthenon or my father taking the family to the beach every weekend. Watching this film will make you want to take a vacation to Greece as well. Oh yeah, one last thing, the Japanese title of this film is "My Big Fat Dream". Sometimes I wonder who comes up with the title for the Japan releases. I mean, okay, Nia Vardalos starred in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" but this movie has nothing to do with that one, so I wish the Japanese movie title creators would stop trying to make unrelated movie seem like a sequel. I find that most annoying. Just had to get that off my chest.

THE BOOK OF ELI (2010) – An interesting concept and titled "The Walker" in Japanese. In a world ruined by war and chaos, Denzel Washington stars as a loner who continually walks across the land, always heading west. In his possession is a sacred book which may hold the secret to saving the rest of humankind, that book of course being the only copy left in the world of the Holy Bible. Of course any movie that deals with a Christian theme always makes me wonder how the Muslims would view this. I’m almost certain they would not make a movie where there is only one Qu’ran left in the world but I digress. This is enjoyable flick for those of you who like a bit of speculative fiction (yes, I purposely did not use the term science-fiction). However, there is another man who has been searching relentlessly for this book and will stop at nothing to possess it himself! Good clean violence (if you like that kind of stuff too) and Gary Oldman always makes a great bad guy!

GOEMON (2009) – Based on the Japanese folk hero, Goemon Ishikawa, who was considered to be a type of Robin Hood in feudal Japan. The Goemon bath which is a large iron kettle bath is named after him as he was known to be boiled alive in public in one after having failed an assassination attempt on the warlord Hideyoshi Toyotomi. The movie uses a lot of CG action, well known Japanese stars and was directed by Kazuaki Kiriya, who also directed the live-action, CG filled flick “Casshern” (which I have yet to watch). If you love samurai movies and a lot of martial arts action, then you will be thoroughly entertained by this film as well.

FUNNY PEOPLE (2009) – I love most Adam Sandler films because they are just so damn funny (even some of them are quite juvenile). And with Seth Logan co-starring in this I thought I might be in for one long laughfest. Alas, that was not the case. As I didn’t know much about this film (a friend had sent it to me from the States as it wasn’t yet available in Japan to my knowledge) and the only thing I did know that it had Adam Sandler in it. The Funny People of the title refers to the life of stand-up comedians. Sandler plays a veteran comedian who has just been diagnosed with a terminal disease and was given maybe a year or two to survive. Not wanting to let any of his fans or anybody to know, he hires Seth, an up and coming comedian, to be his writer of jokes, personal assistant and whatnot and slowly a trust and friendship develops.

12 ROUNDS (2009) – When I watched my first John Cena film, “The Marine”, I thought it was such a generic action film in which the WWE was trying to help another former pro wrestler make the change to Hollywood action star and not really succeeding. Then I watched “The Marine 2” which had nothing to do with the first movie and didn’t even star John Cena. However, I saw the previews for this movie on another DVD and decided to give John Cena another chance. I’m sure glad I did. The first thing you need to know is that this is not a boxing movie. Don’t be fooled by the title. This is one heck of an action flick. Cena plays a straight cop just doing his job and helps catch a highly wanted criminal who’s accomplice and lover was killed by accident on the day of his arrest. Cena gets promoted to Detective and a year later, on the anniversary of the criminal’s girlfriend’s death, bad guy has escaped prison and has taken Cena’s girlfriend hostage. Cena now must play the bad guy’s game and win twelve rounds to save his girlfriend’s life. This was a very exciting action movie which reminded me a lot of the first “Die Hard” film. I later discovered that the director of this film was the director for “Die Hard” and was also made with the producers of “Speed”.

SALT (2010) – Another Angelina Jolie action flick. Personally, I think she should have stopped with the “Tomb Raider” flicks, but I did rather enjoy “Wanted” as well. So this time, she is not Lara Croft, she is not a tomb raider, but she is a CIA agent. One day some Russian spy turns himself in and says he has information on an assassin who plans to off the president of Russia – and the assassin’s name is Evelyn Salt. I don’t know, I think this was more absurd than “Wanted” but what the hell, I liked her from the days of “Pushing Tin”. I’m sure I will eventually rent “The Tourist” when it comes out on DVD over here even if one of the reviews of it I read slammed it so badly and I quote, “that smugly attempts to overwhelm you with its stars and locale while paying cursory attention to story, detail and substance.” Yep, gotta watch it and decide for myself. But I’m pretty sure I will probably agree with review.

Jackie Chan takes the martial art genre to new lows. You must take into consideration this is a family flick to enjoy it. After all, the villains are caricatures of Boris and Natasha from the Bullwinkle cartoons (to me anyway). Oh, and the Japanese title is "Double Mission". Jackie is a retired CIA agent and only wants to have a nice, regular life with his girlfriend and next door neighbor, who also has three kids that think Jackie is one of the dullest guys around. But little do they know, Jackie is a secret agent. When Jackie’s girlfriend’s mother is in the hospital, Jackie offers to take care of her kids and says it will be a great way to get to know them and for them to get to know me and see that I’m not such a bad guy. But youngest kid takes a CD which he thinks is a new game but is actually has some top secret information on it, and those inept villains are after it as well, so Jackie must use his spy skills to protect the kids as well. Long time Jackie fans will recognize that the stunt scenes used in the beginning of the movie were borrowed from a couple of his Hong Kong films to add a bit of spice I suppose.

VALS IM BASHIR (2008) – One of the best films I watched this year. Even if you’re not a fan of animation, I highly recommend this. The English title is “Waltz with Bashir”. It’s an Israeli production and based on director Ari Folman’s experience of his time served in the military during the early ‘80s. The movie starts with a conversation Ari has with an old friend who served in the army with him. He tells Ari about this recurring dream he has where he’s chased by 26 vicious dogs. The same number of dogs every night. Ari says why tell me, I’m not a psychologist, but the more he thinks about, he realizes that although he served with his friend, he has absolutely no memory of it. His friend suggests talking to some of the other people he served with that might bring back some memories. He takes his friends advice and slowly, some memories return and until we as movie goers discover why he has repressed those memories. Very intense.

食堂かたつむり[Shokudo Katatsumuri] (2010) – The English title for this film is “Rinco’s Restaurant” but the original title directly translates to “Snail Diner” which would probably make no sense to an American audience. Rinco’s dream is to open her own restaurant. Her lifelong wish was about to be realized until she found that the person she married took all her money and ran. Since then, Rinco has not spoken a word. She moves back home with her mother (who told her she was the child of an affair and therefore has no real father) but that’s not an important part of the story. On her mother’s property is an unused guest house which Rinco remodels and opens as a restaurant with no menu. But whoever happens to eat the food Rinco makes, seems to have some magic power. This part of the story reminds me of “Like Water for Chocolate”. Soon, the story spreads about her restaurant and she gets a steady stream of customers. It’s a cute little movie for a relaxing evening at home.

FLOOD (2007) – An English disaster movie which was broadcast on network television and is titled "Day After" in Japanese. It reminded me of the German film “Tornado : Der Zorn des Himmels” in which a hard-head father is estranged from his son, yet a forthcoming disaster has them working together. I don’t think Hollywood would make a film like this only two years after Hurrican Katrina and since I was watching it like a zombie, I shall provide you with a better review courtesy of the IMDB website: [Flood is a disaster film set in London and Scotland. Estranged meteorologoist father Leonard (Courtnay) and Marine Engineer son (Carlyle) are caught up in a weather related disaster as spring tides meet a freak North Sea Superstorm, flooding London. Brought together at the Thames Barrier, they are flung apart again by the elements as Rob leaps into a swollen Thames with his ex wife. These two meet clumps of survivors and plucky London Transport Engineers as they journey upstream to Central London losing comrades to the waters as they go. Dad meanwhile is airlifted to the secret Government HQ to help save the capital from the flooding. With 200,000 dead and as many displaced in emergency refugee camps in Greenwich park only a bold plan to repel the rising waters will save Kensington and Battersea. Father and son unite again for the time pressured final action event back at the barrier with the added threat of a Dambuster's like air strike.] As I said, it was on television and it wasn’t such a bad movie.

BON APPETIT (2010) – Okay, so I have a weak spot for food-related films. This was advertised as a romantic comedy but I found it to be a comedy drama with more emphasis on the drama. This is an international production of Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Italy with the story taking place mostly in Zurich, Switzerland. A Spanish national has just moved to Zurich to work in a luxury restaurant. He falls in love with restaurant’s cute German sommelier but discovers that she’s having an affair with the married owner of the restaurant. And she is pregnant with the owner’s child. I would have to agree with the reviewer on the IMDB site who said “Ratatouille? Of course not. But you will wonder how an animated mouse can be emotionally more engaging then a real life human being?” This was kind of drab story and the ending is kind of meh as well.

9 (2009) – Not to be confused with the musical “Nine” is an interesting but dark little animation film. It’s really like an animated version of “The Terminator”. There was a war between humans and machines and the humans lost. The world is now without a human life. However, a burlap doll with the number 9 wakes to find himself without a voice and some strange object that he takes with him. He’s also being chased by a machine. #2 saves him and gives #9 a voice. #2 takes #9 back to his hiding place where he meets the leader #1. Then #2 is captured by a machine and #9 convinces some other dolls to save him going against what #1 says. When #9 and gang save #2, #9 finds a slot that the object seems to fit an inadvertently awakens a machine called the Brain which in turn attacks the remaining gang. #1 says “I told you so, but you wouldn’t listen” However #9 is determined. Since it was he who activated the machine, he plans on taking it down as well. Doing a bit of research on the film, I discovered that it was originally an 10 minute short film and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short (although it didn’t win). The director Shane Acker was then offered a chance to expand on his short to make it a feature film. Well worth watching.

IT’S COMPLICATED (2009) – No it’s not, really! I was taken in by the Japanese title of this film (Koi suru Bakery) in which the bakery would be the setting of the film and that it starred Meryl Streep who’s performance I really enjoyed in “Julie & Julia” (a great food-related film), but alas, I felt I was misled. The bakery pretty much has nothing to do with the movie. The main story is about a divorced couple who reunite after many years for their son’s college graduation in New York. And while the ex-husband has re-married the woman he had affair with, while in New York, the unfaithful man is now cheating on the wife he re-married with his ex-wife!! It had its moments but isn’t a film I would highly recommend.

鉄夫 TETSUO : THE BULLET MAN (2009) – You know how some blogs should not be published as books. Or how rap stars should star in action flics, well, here is another one to add to that list – some actors just should not be directors. I only have one thing to say about this film – STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! Period. Nothing else to say it. Well, if I must – bad, awful, waste of time, pathetic, boring, worthless. Yep, that about sums it up.

MADEO (2009) – The English title for this Korean film is “Mother”. It’s about a mother’s love for slightly dim-witted son. Won Bin fans will be shocked to see him in such as role. A young woman is found dead in a highly visible place. And Won Bin is arrested as the primary suspect. However, Mom thinks the police haven’t done a thorough job and no lawyer is willing to listen to her. So Mom decides to take things into her own hands and plays detective herself. Good movie but the ending is not what you would expect (however I’m not going to give it away). For the curious, you will have to check your foreign film section.

LES TRIPLETS DE BELLEVILLE (2003) – This is an interesting little French animation film. The English title is “The Triplets of Belleville” and has also been released as “Belleville Rendezvous”. Madame Souza is an old lady who also acts as a guardian to her nephew Champion. Champion at first shows no interest in anything until he is given a tricycle for one of his birthdays. Champions grows up with a love for bikes and with his grandmother as his trainer and manager, he enters the Tour de France. However, during the race, Champion and two other cyclists are kidnapped by some bad guys and are taken to the town of Belleville across the sea. Madame Souza along with her pet dog Bruno goes in search of Champion. In Belleville, Madame Souza is befriended by three elderly women who used to be a famous jazz group called the Triplets of Belleville. The women join forces to find Champion and to save him from the bad guys who kidnapped him. Very entertaining.

FLAMMEN AND CITRONEN (2008) – A Danish film based on a true story. Flammen and Citronen who were part of the Holger Danske World War II resistance group. Their main job is to kill Danish Nazis and sympathizers. They got their orders from another man who had a direct link with the Allies. But one of their targets says that the man giving them their orders is settling scores of his own which plants doubts in the minds of the assassins. Add to this, a woman who may or may not be a double agent and new orders to kill German Nazis as well and you have all the makings of an interesting flick. Unfortunately, the two men are betrayed and do not survive the war.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sabou Kohnoen / 茶房 香乃園

Although I labeled this under cafe, this is mainly a Japanese tea shop, a small corner of the store is used as a cafe space and outside of the shop is a large banner advertising their curry udon. On a cold winter day, nothing tastes better than a hot bowl of curry udon for lunch! I've been wanting to try their curry udon for some time and now seemed like a great a time as any.


Curry Udon / カレーうどん

And as this is first and foremost a tea shop, you are given a cup of tea at the end of your meal. A nice hot cup of green tea, which is also great on a winter day.

Bon Appetit!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Christmas 2010 / クリスマス 2010年

It was a pleasant evening for Christmas last year. Instead of our usual fried chicken from KFC (actually last year we had some great rotisserie chicken from a Mexican restaurant but it unfortunately went out of business or moved), friends of ours invited us to their home for a roast chicken dinner! As Mikako was still working, I took myself to the top of the Carrot Tower (26th floor and the observation area is free!) in Sangenjaya to get a this nice view of Mt. Fuji. Then it was off to my friend's house. Not only were we treated to roast chicken, but we had quiche as well and a delicious salad. For dessert, Mikako and I brought a cake in the shape of an igloo (although it was store-bought).

去年のクリスマスの景色。うちは毎年ケンタ(ケンタッキー・フライド・チキン)を買って食べるんですが、今年は違う。ま、去年は三軒茶屋にあったメキシコ料理店で凄い美味しいチキンを買いましたが、店が移転したかつぶれたか、とりあえず三茶にはもありません。今年のクリスマス友達が誘ってくれましたので、手作りのローストチキンを御馳走になった。美香子がバイト終わったら、直ぐ友達の家に行く。その日は僕の公休日だったので、三茶にあるキャロットタワーの展望台まで上がって26階から富士山を眺めた。 その後、美香子と合流して、友達の家に行って美味しいものを食べました。私たちはケーキを持って行きました(店で買ったものでしたが。)

Roast Chicken / ローストチキン

Quiche / キッシュ

Salad / サラダ

Christmas cake / クリスマスケーキ

And so ended our Christmas evening / こしてクリスマスの日が幕を閉じた

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ern's Monthly Page Turners (December 2010)

*本に関するネタは基本的に日本語書き込みません (一部あり)

I suppose you thought with the beginning of the new year that perhaps I had forgotten to write about the books I read in December. Fear not. However, this month is overwhelmingly filled with children's books. You see, for the past three years my New Year's Resolution has not changed. It is to read at least one hundred books. Before any of you drop your mouths in awe, I must confess that my list includes children's books, graphic novels, and literary magazines as well (and at times, a variety of magazine titles which I have read in there entirety). As I was reviewing my list of books read for 2010, I became aware that I was about two or three books short of my goal. Knowing that, I chose a variety of kid's book to end my year of reading. However, I decided to modify my resolution by trying to read more books in Japanese and at a higher reading level, even though I will probably check out some more titles from a kid's series I discovered at my local library. Now, grab yourself a drink, relax, and check out my choices for this month.

SUSHI & BEYOND : WHAT THE JAPANESE REALLY KNOW ABOUT COOKING by Michael Booth – What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when asked about Japanese cuisine? Seeing how the most obvious answer is in the title, I imagine most people would say “sushi”. But this isn’t a guide book about sushi and where the best place is to eat it. One must recognize the following words, “& Beyond” to know that there is going to more than sushi involved. His plan was to try a bit of everything from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Taking along his wife, Lissen and two kids, Asger (age 6) and Emil (age 4) for a three-month extended vacation. Their first stop of course was Tokyo where they rented a small apartment in Aoyama. Their first venture into the culinary heart of Japan was Shinjuku’s famous “Shonben Yokocho” which translates to “Piss Alley” and is full of small yakitori shops where he finds that there is more than just chicken breast on the skewers. There is nankotsu (cartilage), bonjiri (chicken butt), hatsu (chicken hearts) among other parts. They went to Ryogoku, Tokyo’s home to Sumo wrestlers and also home to an array of chanko nabe (one pot stews) shops run and own by former Sumo wrestlers. But you can’t also mention Sushi without taking a tour of Japan’s busiest fish market – Tsukiji. And there is so much more that Booth covers, that to summarize it one review seems almost criminal. He fills us in on the seafood of Hokkaido, the fugu (puffer fish) of Shimonoseki, Kobe beef and wagyu, the making of miso, takes a tour of one of Kikkoman’s factories that makes soy sauce, discusses the controversy surrounding MSG, checks out the food stall culture of Fukuoka in Kyushu, dines on a kaiseki meal in Kyoto and even manages to dine at the extra exclusive, members only restaurant called Mibu, “the place that made Joel Robuchon weep and humbled Ferran Adria.” Anyone who claims to be a “foodie” or a gourmand and sees those same two names in one sentence is definitely going to want to read about it…and enjoy it. I know I did!

CLASSIC ROCK PRESENTS AOR – Yes yes, I know, this is a magazine. But as it was part of the list of my books read this year, I feel that I shouldn’t neglect it. As you can tell from the title, this will have a limited audience. First, before you think what’s come over Ern – why is he reading about AOR (adult oriented rock or album oriented rock for those of you not familiar with the term) which I imagine conjures up images of Air Supply or America. Fear not. This is Classic Rock that’s presenting AOR. Oh, “Classic Rock” being a UK based magazine featuring classic hard rock music, which is mostly music from the 70’s and 80’s. So when Classic Rock talks about AOR, they are referring to those classic bands from the 80’s such as Foreigner, Night Ranger, Styx, Journey, REO Speedwagon, etc. This debut issue features an extended article on the making of Journey’s classic album, “Escape” and also includes an exclusive interview with former vocalist Steve Perry. Also includes the top 40 AOR vocalists of all time. An excerpt from Pat Benatar’s autobiography. Interviews with Reckless Love (the Finnish band I saw at Loud Park 2010), a Q & A with Europe frontman Joey Tempest and more. The magazine also includes a free CD featuring new tracks by Journey, Enuff Z’Nuff, Bangalore Choir and Triumph to name a few bands. I have yet to play the CD though!

ぞくぞく村のミイラのラムさん [Zoku Zoku Mura no Miira no Ramu-san] by 末吉暁子 (Akiko Sueyoshi)(作)・垂石眞子 (Mako Taruishi) (絵)– Being an avid reader and lover of books and also living in Tokyo, I am at a disadvantage in one vital aspect. As most of you know, the rooms of an apartment in Tokyo is about the same as an oversized linen closet with no room for storage. So I finally decided to visit my local library to see if they have a selection of English books which I can borrow, read, and return (thus saving me the headache of wondering where to store them). Of course I would prefer to buy more books and show them off and would one day like my own library in a room of my own. Unfortunately, the particular branch in my neighborhood is one of the smaller libraries and carries absolutely no books in English. I would have to make a further train trip to check out the largest library in Setagaya Ward. So I decided to browse through the children’s section to see if I might find something that would appeal to me. That’s when I came across this “Zoku Zoku Mura” series which could be translated into English as “The Spine Tingling Village” series. A Japanese version of “Goosebumps”. The first book in the series translates to “The Spine-Tingling Villages Mummy, Mr. Ram”. The first thing you need to know is about the village. Zoku Zoku Mura cannot be found during the day but if you passed by where it’s located, you would suddenly feel a chill up your spine. It’s that kind of place. When night comes, the inhabitants of Zoku Zoku Mura come out to shop, dance, play, eat out and watch movies. The village is populated with such characters as Mr. Ram the Mummy, Dracula and his son, a goblin and his wife and their seven children, a mermaid, an elderly witch, and a werewolf who at times turns into a creature with the face of a pig! In this first story, Mrs. Ram needs new bandages because her old ones doesn’t cover her entire body. Mr. Ram ventures out to buy some at the local boutique but there is so many sizes to choose from, in takes him a while to decide. After he makes his purchase, he runs into his friend the werewolf who keeps hiding his face with a hat. When Mr. Ram sees why, he suggests they go get a drink and to discuss how to take care of that problem. After leaving and nearing home, Mr. Ram discovers he does not have his wife’s new bandages and for the rest of the book he goes in search of them. Cute story with cute pictures and originally published in 1989. And since it was a quick read, I borrowed two other titles in this series.


ぞくぞく村の魔女のオバタン [Zoku Zoku Mura no Majo no Obatan] by末吉暁子(作)・垂石眞子(絵)– As I mentioned above, I went to my local library and actually borrowed three books. All from the “Zoku Zoku Mura” series. This second offering is about the elderly witch who lives on the outskirts of town in a heavily wooded area where she continues to practice trying to ride a broom. You see, she may be a witch, but she just doesn’t seem to be able to get a handle on how to fly on a broom. Her pets (or rather helpers) are afraid to ride with her because they all seem to get injured at the witch’s failed attempts to fly. And even though this series is all written in Japanese (in its simplest form), I was able to read each title in about a half-hour. All the villagers tend to run away when they see the witch because most of them are afraid she will land on their heads!

今回の主人公は魔女なのにほうきでうまく飛べない魔女だ。というより、オバタンだ!毎日オバタンの使い魔と練習しますが、使い魔たちも凄いやがる。なぜと言えば、いつも空から落ちて怪我するから。町の上に飛んでも、町の住民はみんな直ぐ逃げる。落ちてくるオバタン魔女が怖いですから! 使い魔たちがオバタンの体重が重すぎるから飛べないじゃないといますが、オバタンはそれを無視。今日も何本のほうきが犠牲になるでしょ?

BIG IN JAPAN : A GHOST STORY by M. Thomas Gammarino – You know that old cliché of “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” Of course you do, so sometimes you take a chance on picking up a book with terrible title and a not so memorable cover like I did with a book called “Q & A” which turned out to be one of my favorite books of all time and had even wrote in my blog that someone should make a film of this title before I was even finished reading it. Well, someone in Hollywood must have had the same thought, because that particular title went on to win the Academy Award for best film and the book was re-titled as well to “Slumdog Millionaire” by Vikas Swarup. I decided to do the opposite with this book. It had such a great cover art and also had the key word of Japan in the title which peaked my interest. Unfortunately, the cover art and title didn’t live up to my expectations. In fact, I would add this to my pile of unworthy trash that so far comprises DBC Pierre’s 2nd and 3rd books and anything written by Wendy Holden. Another debut title that’s so bad it’s surprising it even got published. The story is beyond absurd and you just want the protagonist to succeed in what he started out doing in Chapter 1, to kill himself! I nearly killed myself by reading this entire book. You see, I have a personal rule that if the book doesn’t interest me after reading 100 pages, I will toss it aside. By the time, this particular book got on my nerves, I had already passed the 100 page mark. I suppose I should have made an exception but that’s what I get for being as hard-headed as my father. And yes, I know I haven’t even mentioned the plot of the story. That’s because I’m saving you all the trouble of reading it by not recommending it or telling you about it.

ぞくぞく村の小鬼のゴブリン [Zoku Zoku Mura no Ko Oni no Goblin] by末吉暁子(作)・垂石眞子(絵)– The big news in Zoku Zoku Mura is the birth of septuplets by the Goblin family. Mr. and Mrs. Goblin are so busy looking after their little goblins that they put in an ad in the local paper for a babysitter so they could at least have a little time to themselves. A young woman who claims to be the cousin of the mermaid answers the ad and says she will gladly take the job. So they hire her and for the first time in a long time, Mr. and Mrs. Goblin go out on a date. However, what they didn’t know is that the woman who answered the ad was none other than Dracula in disguise who thought the little goblins would make a tasty treat for himself. But can he handle seven little goblins? And will Mr. and Mrs. Goblin make it home to find their little ones all safe and sound?


ぞくぞく村のおおかみ男 [Zoku Zoku Mura no Ookami Otoko] by末吉暁子(作)・垂石眞子(絵)– I returned the first three books from the Zoku Zoku Mura series but had such a great time reading them, I borrowed two more. The latest news in Zoku Zoku Mura is that the werewolf tends to avoid everyone when the full moon comes out. Mr. Ram knows why. It’s for the simple fact that when the full moon does come out, Mr. Werewolf doesn’t turn into a werewolf at all, but does change into what really looks like a cute pig-man! Mr. Ram suggests he seeks out the witch to find out why he turns into a pig or at least have the witch make a potion that will keep him from turning into one. Will he find the answers he’s looking for or will he have to accept the fact that he will turn into a pig?


ぞくぞく村のドラキュラのむすこ [Zoku Zoku Mura no Dracula no Musuko] by末吉暁子(作)・垂石眞子(絵)– There was one other reason why I was borrowing a lot of children’s books as well. I make the same New Year’s Resolution every year – that is to read at least 100 books (including children’s books, graphic novels, and photography books). It seems I was a few titles away from my goal and the year was winding down in about a week or so. This time around, the protagonist of Zoku Zoku Mura is Dracula’s son. Dracula is going away for the weekend and told his son to hold the fort. No parties and such. Having the house to himself, Dracula’s son of course writes three invitations to the three ghost sisters and was riding into town when one of the invitations floated out of his pocket and landed in front of Mr. and Mrs. Goblin’s house. So on the day of the party, it isn’t only the three ghost sisters who come, but the seven little goblins as well and a few other people. Will Dracula’s son be able to clean the house before Dracula comes back home?

ドラキュラがちょっと旅に出ることでドラキュラの息子がお留守番することになった。お父さんのドラキュラに大丈夫だよ。一人でちゃんと留守出来るから。本物の血も飲まないし(まだ大人じゃないから本物の血はまで吸ってない)、パーティなんかやりませんよと言ってお父さんを見送った。そのあとはさ~自由自在だ!早速冷蔵庫から本物の血を出して、町のおばけ姉妹にパーティの招待状を書いた。手渡しのほうが良いと思ったドラキュラの息子が自転車に乗っておばけ姉妹が居るところに出掛けた。途中で一枚の招待状がポケットから落ちて、風に乗って小鬼のゴブリンの家の前に途どり着く。パーティ当日三人のおばけ姉妹だけじゃなくて大勢なお客さんを招きすることになったドラキュラの息子。 みんな結構遊びまして、そのあとに帰ったら、ドラキュラの息子が急ピンチ。お父さんがもうすぐ帰るのに全然片づけてない。ドラキュラが帰る前に間に合うか、ドラキュラのむすこ?

MUD PIES AND OTHER RECIPES : A COOKBOOK FOR DOLLS by Marjorie Winslow – To reach my goal of reading 100 books, I picked out two more children’s books which could be read at one sitting. The first as you can see is a cookbook, but no ordinary cookbook. It’s a cookbook for dolls. Which means there are recipes which uses all natural ingredients such as mud, grass, weeds, flowers, and pretty much anything you find outside. You will find the recipes for such items such as “Wood Chip Dip”, “Seesaw Salad”, and of course “Mud Pies”. A fun little book, not that I’ve had any experience making foods for dolls! Of course I was born in the age where dolls were considered girls toys (with the exception of G.I. Joe and J.J. Arms) and boys played baseball (not that I was any good at that either).

READING CAN BE FUN by Munro Leaf – I discovered that this book was first published in 1954! However, it’s still relevant today as it was when it first came out. Any book that promotes reading cannot be a bad thing. And although I don’t have any children, I still think it’s worthwhile reading even as an adult. I love how Munro Leaf explains that there is only 26 letters to know and knowing those letters and putting them in different combinations can open a whole new world to you. The world of books and reading! This would be a great title to add to your collection of books that promote reading such as Lane Smith’s “It’s a Book” and Louise Yates’ “Dog Loves Books”. So when my sister has a child (eventually I’m sure), her kid is going to have one of the best book collections ever, because I will make it so!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tori Yoshi / 鳥良 (とりよし)

After the Eikichi Yazawa concert, I headed over to the JCB Hall near the Tokyo Dome to meet up with Mikako and Nana (my sister-in-law). We decided that we would have dinner together and wanted to take Nana to this place in Shibuya that serves some great chicken wings at a placed called [Tori Yoshi]. This would be me and Mikako's third time (second time at this particular branch) where we found the chicken wings to be just as good as the ones from [Sekai no Yama-chan]. Oh, and the gyoza topped with "raiyu you can eat" is just as awesome. Delicious! We also ordered a tofu dish and an avocado salad. All of the items were scrumptious!


Chicken wings / 手羽先 (大辛)

Tofu / 大吟醸絹仕込み豆腐(塩添え)

Gyoza topped with rayu / 水餃子の食べるラー油掛け

Avocado salad / アボカドのミルフィーユサラダ

Fried rice with chicken / 鳥ねぎチャーハン

Appetizer of octopus and mekabu / おとおし

Bon Appetit!