Friday, October 14, 2011
Thursday, October 13, 2011
A bit of a struggle getting through The Carolinan's lesson although not for the same reason that it usually is for her sister. This time the bugbear was perhaps the beginnings of a cold. My nose started flowing about half an hour before game time and then it was pretty much making sure the Kleenex was right by me for the hour that she was here. I had a double dose of my nose spray to little avail which could mean problems for the next couple of days.
Speaking about other problems, apparently a reading of 5.82 microsieverts of radiation was picked up in a park in Funabashi which is not only in my neck of the woods but it's also the hometown of the current Prime Minister. But as one of my former students replied on my Facebook, it was merely a matter of time before there would be fallout, literally and figuratively. I gather that the head of the Tourist Agency will be having his nightly headbashing against the wall again.
In some nice news, though, one of my former students contacted me from her home for the past several years, Perth Australia. The Hawaiian has been enjoying her life there going to school and work. She and I had a bit of a chat online. And she now knows my situation about going home. I just hope that my odyssey home doesn't have to happen much earlier than expected.
Thursday October 13, 5:21 p.m.
Well, the head of the Japan Tourism Agency probably has his own head bandaged up like that of a mummy right now. How else to explain the fact that he most likely banged his head against the wall of his office several times last night on hearing that a radiation hotspot had been discovered in Setagaya Ward, an area just west of Shibuya in Tokyo? This after either he or one of his staffers had come up with a plan to give out 10,000 free round-trip tickets to Japan next year to boost the flagging tourism rate. And apparently a fairly high dose of strontium has been discovered in soil in the Yokohama area. I'm gonna be a bit generous with my gallows humour and say that perhaps the government ought to be offering 100 million one-way tickets from Japan instead.
As for today, I went over to Ichikawa City Hall to inform them of my intentions to leave Japan permanently in December. When I got to the Foreign Residents' Desk, the lady there informed that I was a tad too early. She did this in a most apologetic way which I inferred as her way of saying, "You jumped the gun, dude!" However, I still gleaned some info from the 3-minute experience in that I will have to head to the Citizens' Affairs Desk and the National Health Insurance Department in mid-November to handle my City Tax payments and NHI premiums respectively.
In any case, I took the Sobu Line over from Moto-Yawata Station all the way to Shinjuku. I had my lunch at Jukeifu, my favourite Chinese eatery in the Shinjuku area. They serve a mean 1,000-Year Egg and Tofu Mix, and then a few hours later, I taught The New Yorker upstairs in the Starbucks. After all these years, it's still a struggle to get her to give full sentences with proper syntax. I should be seeing her sister in about 20 minutes here at Speedy's. Once again, I'm the only one in the school.
Ah, as for the kid in the picture. Her name is Kylee Saunders, and she is a half-Japanese, half-American 17-year-old being groomed to make her J-Pop debut. Born and raised in Arizona, she's been notable for putting on crowd-pleasing performances of the US national anthem at sports venues but now the fully bilingual girl wants to hit the big time in Tokyo. The reason I mention this is that she was featured on one of the morning wide shows today. Kinda reminds me of Hikaru Utada over 10 years ago except that Kylee doesn't seem to sing anything like the R&B that Utada started out with "Automatic". She's definitely more on the 21st-century idol pop beat. Still kinda nice to see someone come over from the States again as an alternative to all that K-Pop that's been hitting these shores for the past couple of years.
Anyways, time to get ready.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Finished with my lesson with The MedTech. She's a quirkily charming young lady. We didn't discuss too much about her training in Stockholm last month since apparently there wasn't too much time for her to see the sights there. And also she wanted me to go over some highly technical articles concerning certain radiation therapies for cancer...in very small print. Plus there were some photographs of post-op surgeries that I could've done without after dinner. Still quite an interesting talk.
I'm done for the day, but tomorrow I gotta head on out to Ichikawa City Hall first thing in the morning and let them know that I'm heading home for good since that entails the eventual return of my Alien Registration Card, vernacularly known as the gaijin card. The return of this card will also affect on how much more of my City Tax payments and National Health Insurance premiums I'm obliged to pay since I will be leaving before those payments are up. In any case, this is just the next step in my Operation Exodus.
Afterwards, I've got The Sisters of State at different times: The New Yorker at 2 and then The Carolinan at 6 with Mrs. Thursday wrapping things up for me.
This is the Hokkaido Custard Purin Roll. Now, purin is basically the Japanese linguistic bastardization of the word "pudding", but even the formerly mellow Bill Cosby wouldn't have been able to crack that code (for you readers outside of the States, Bill Cosby is a famed African-American comedian and actor who had hawked Jell-o Pudding for decades...you might say that he was the Will Smith of the 60s and 70s).
Additionally, Japanese purin and American pudding are far different animals. The local product here is more reminiscent of a wobblier and softer Creme Brulee. And it has been a popular sweet staple....along with roll cake. The Japanese love their cakes all rolled up in forms such as the German baum kuchen and the Christmas buche de Noel.
So I gather that someone in the industry got a light bulb blazing away over his or her head and came up with this culinary merger. Therefore, we have this dessert of a spiral of sponge cake surrounding a moat of whipped cream with the purin as the castle. A bit on the rich side but a fine addition to convenience store shelves everywhere.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
It's been a quiet week for me here...nice in all ways except financially, of course. I only had Cozy for his morning lesson and then it was 8 hours at the I-Cafe where I made my last entries to this blog.
Today, I've got two lessons. One is with The Kimono Nurse in about 45 minutes. She's been a pretty genki young lady so far. Hopefully, I can keep that good vibe going unlike the lost Bossa Novan who lasted about 8 lessons before giving up the ghost. The other student is actually Speedy's but since I don't have 001 and he's gonna be busy with counseling, I'll be teaching her later at 7 p.m. The MedTech isn't a high speaker in the language but she's definitely no shrinking violet. I've taught her before and she's pretty confident and sharp despite her linguistic improficiencies. She should have come back from her conference in Norway a few weeks ago. She might have some good insights about going over to a vastly different country.
The Anime Chamberlain has kept me updated. As expected, my old friends from Toronto, The Amiables, have returned to Tokyo after traveling through places like Kyoto and Nikko over the past week. They're due to head back to The Great White North this Saturday although I am concerned about this potential strike action by Air Canada. The Chamberlain will be seeing them tonight and tomorrow night for dinner and whatnot; they're staying for the last leg of their Japan trip at The Shinjuku Southern Tower Hotel across from Takashimaya Times Square, not too far away from where I'm teaching, but unfortunately I've got lessons over the next two nights. The next best chance for me will be Friday night.
We reached the 7th month since the March 11th quake. Once again, all of the media outlets noted the monthly anniversary like a tolling bell. It's starting to become a bit annoying to me but I gather that the updates are needed to make sure that none of the victims have been forgotten. As it is, apparently, the last of the quake refugees have been able to leave the shelters and find more permanent housing elsewhere.
Monday, October 10, 2011
It was indeed Sports Day in Japan yesterday, so instead of folks gobbling up turkey in Canada for Thanksgiving, folks here were getting involved in sports...the biggest being surviving marathon traffic jams. As you can see from these TV image shots from Mt. Takao, it wasn't too deserted. Mt. Takao happens to be the absolute western end of The Big Sushi...one of the very few countryside areas in the world's biggest megalopolis.
Yes, there are even lineups to get up a mountain.
Of course, being Sports Day and all, means that there are a lot of real marathons going on as well. Not that I would ever participate in one.
Ahhh...only in Japan. There's currently the trial of a major political kingpin in Tokyo, and the Arabian Spring, but one of the big stories on the news was the sudden snapping of a rope used in a tug-of-war contest. Of course, having 14 people, including some kids, injured in the fall is nothing to laugh at, but I think it's almost cute how much seriousness this rope story got. This is the suspect right here.
And since we are in the midst of specials between drama seasons, this is a shot of one such special starring the legendary Tamori. As I have mentioned in past entries about the guy in the black cardigan and sunglasses on the right, Tamori is the Japanese equivalent of Johnny Carson on TV here. But he hasn't only presided over his Fuji-TV noontime flagship show of "Waratte Ii Tomo" for nearly 30 years, but he also hosts "Music Station" and "Tamori Club" on TV Asahi. Usually his contribution to the inter-drama season specials is a 3-hour nighttime version of "Waratte Ii Tomo" in which the stars of the upcoming drama season come on to plug their shows and partake in various party games. However, this time, Tamori went for a different approach last night and held a home party on an elaborate home set which is far bigger than the actual home I live in. Along with a couple of members of SMAP, all of the major drama stars came on for a ton of food and drink. It was like watching a very congenial reality show of celebs eating yakiniku and karaage.
Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't have named this blog, "A Canuck in Emperor Akihito's Kitchen" instead with all of the food pictures I put up. But then again, since I'm almost down to my final two months in Japan, I'm trying to upload and load up on as many examples of authentic Japanese cuisine as I can before the final takeoff...then again, Air Canada is probably going on strike so I may be "forced" to stay a bit longer. In any case, this is my neighbourhood ramen restaurant, Kagetsu Ramen, one of a chain of noodle joints. In terms of Japan urban geography, the placing of a ramen restaurant in a station mall is a no-brainer. When you take into consideration the reasonable prices and the near religious devotion to ramen (there are monthly...perhaps even weekly....magazines published just for ramen), the existence of such a place pretty much guarantees as much of a multiplier effect as building the station itself.
And this is the bowl of ramen itself. Of course, the fans eat it all year but it's in the cool months that it is most appreciated. Over the noodles, there are the de rigueur pork slices, boiled egg, menma (stewed bamboo), chopped scallions and seaweed. Not sure what the soup is made from, but often restaurants make this a corporate secret. Kagetsu Ramen is notable in that it tried to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for cramming in as much garlic into one bowl of ramen as possible. I think the Guinness assessor may still be in a coma after talking with one satisfied customer. It is one of the zestier bowls I've had in this country. Pretty much once I leave, everyone walking by me probably knows where I've been.
My branch of Kagetsu has that ticket vending machine where you put in the yen and choose your ramen and side dishes. My choice has always been a plate of gyoza and a bowl of rice topped with stewed garlicky minced pork and chopped onions. As if my breath couldn't already burn down Tokyo after having the world's most garlicky bowl of ramen. And yup, I do eat all of it with gusto.
And here are the gyoza dumplings once again. Kagetsu only serves 3 per order, as opposed to some other places which serve 4 or even 5 of the stuff. But then again, these ones are a bit larger than usual.
Condiments are absolutely necessary. There are the bottles of chili oil, soy sauce and vinegar to whip up the dipping sauce for the gyoza. And what is unique to Kagetsu is that there is even special sauce (on the bottom left) to pour on the ramen itself.