Friday, October 18, 2013


Today I finally got a chance to try the KISS-themed steamed bun. (See previous post for more details.)

Sadly the logo on my bun was rather off-centre...

I didn't get the rare design (which features all four of the other regular designs) for the wrapper, but I think I got Gene Simmons? (Other than the name and a vague image, I know absolutely nothing about KISS, in case you couldn't tell...)

The chili inside was quite shockingly bright red. There was chicken and some veggies (green pepper? sorry, can't remember!) inside so it felt heartier than I expected.

All in all, quite a tasty bun. It costs 128yen regularly, but until this Saturday, October 19, 2013 Circle K/ Sunkus has a steamed meat bun sale where all buns under 150yen are only 100yen (anything over 150yen is 20yen off) so it's a pretty good deal. Definitely worth a taste test. I might even go back for another one...

(See RocketNews24 for another fun review of the bun.)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

KISS themed steamed bun on sale soon!

A KISS (as inthe band) themed steamed bun will go on sale at Sunkus/Circle K convenience stores on October 15, 2013.

The dough is black (apparently it has charcoal made from bamboo mixed into it) and is imprinted the the band's logo. There are 5 different paper wrapper designs, one of which is supposed to be "rare." The filling is 激辛チリトマト (gekikara chilli tomato)  which translates literally as "puking hot chilli & tomato."

Not a fan of the band, but I kind of want to try it just to see how spicy it actually is. =P

See RocketNews24 (article is in Japanese) for images and more information.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

2013 Towada Yosakoi Yume Matsuri

Towada Yosakoi Yume Matsuri 2013 とわだYosakoi夢まつり
Date: September 29, 2013
Location: Around Kanchogai Street 官庁街通り周辺
Update: There are 3 "stages":
1) the parade route goes along Kanchogai Dori from the east end of the hospital to City hall,
2) in front of Sakura Hiroba (where the big horse shoe statue, fountain and public restroom facilities are)
3) in Chuo Koen (Central Park) just south of Sakura Hiroba.
(See map in Japanese here
From 10:00-13:00 performances will be along the parade route and in Chuo Koen. From 13:00 on performances are in front of Sakura Hiroba and in Chuo Koen.
Description: Lots of groups performing yosakoi--an energetic choreographed dance for large groups featuring the use of lots of props (fans, small wooden handheld clappers called naruko, umbrellas, etc.) and on-the-spot costume changes

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Guide to the B-1 Grand Prix in Towada

(Updated with pictures and information from the Saturday, September 7 event.)

Hokkaido/Tohoku B-1 Local Gourmet Grand Prix in Towada
2013 北海道・東北B-1グランプリin十和田
Website | FlyerMap (all in Japanese)
Date: September 7- 8, 2013
Time: 10:00-16:00
Location: Around Kanchogai Street 官庁街通り周辺
Admission: "Event Tickets", a book of ten 100yen coupons (i.e. 1000yen total value) can be used towards the purchase of food. You cannot pay for food with cash. Event Tickets can be purchased in advance online, or in various supermarkets, bars/restaurants, shops, etc. around Towada. (See website (Japanese) for complete list of places selling tickets.) Tickets can also be purchased on site during the event.

Parking: There are 5 free parking lots near the venue as well as a few paid parking lots. The free parking lots have a total capacity of a little over 900 cars, so they are likely to fill up fast. (See map at the bottom of the post for locations--indicated by P1~P5.) You can also park at the Towada Aeon Supercenter and take a free shuttle bus to the venue.

Food Stalls:
Kanchogai Street (官庁街通り会場)
1. Yokote Yakisoba (Yokote City, Akita Prefecture) 4 tickets (400yen)
Yakisoba (fried noodles) with a sunny-side up egg on top.

2. Nayoro Nikomi Genghis Khan (Nayoro City, Hokkaido) 5 tickets (500yen)
Sukiyaki-style stewed thinly sliced lamb, vegetables and udon noodles.

3. Iwate-Machi Cabbage Shio Yaki Udon (Iwate Town, Iwate Prefecture) 3 tickets (300yen)
Fried udon noodles with cabbage, flavoured with olive oil and a salt-based sauce.
4. Aomori Shouga Miso Oden (Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture) 3 tickets (300yen)
Ginger and miso oden (daikon radish, fried fish cakes, boiled eggs, etc. stewed in broth)
5. Ichinoseki Harami Yaki (Ichinoseki City, Iwate Prefecture) 3 tickets (300yen)
Grilled chicken harami (tender meat around the diaphragm)
6. Kuroishi Tsuyu Yakisoba (Kuroishi City, Aomori Prefecture) 4 tickets (400yen)
Yakisoba in broth

7. Kamikita Croquette (Kamikita City, Iwate Prefecture) 3 tickets (300yen)
Sato imo (taro yam), Japanese "black" beef (from black-haired cattle), and asparagus mixed together into a patty, breaded and deep-fried.
8. Yamagata Imo-Ni Curry Udon (Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture) 4 tickets (400yen)
Stewed curry potatoes (and other vegetables) and udon noodles.
9.  Koufu Tori Motsu-Ni (Koufu City, Yamanashi Prefecture*) 4 tickets (400yen)
*Guest group from outside of Tohoku/Hokkaido
Flavoured and stewed chicken motsu (offal/guts)
10. Kuji Mamebu Jiru (Kuji City, Iwate Prefecture) 3 tickets (300yen)
Niboshi (dried infant sardines/anchovies) and kombu seaweed and soy-sauce based broth with gobou (burdock root), carrots, fried tofu, and flour dumplings with walnuts and kurozato (a type of raw sugar, Japanese "black" sugar)
11. Otaru Ankake Yakisoba (Otaru City, Hokkaido) 4 tickets (400yen)
Yakisoba topped with vegetables and seafood and ankake sauce (a kind of thick, flavourful sauce).
12. Honjou Ham Fry (Yuri Honjou City, Akita Prefecture) 3 tickets (300yen)
Breaded and deep-fried ham.
13. Ishimaki Yakisoba (Ishimaki City, Miyagi Prefecture) 3 tickets (300yen)
Ishimaki Yakisoba uses a special type of twice-steamed yakisoba noodle that is brown even before cooking.

Shoutengai (商店街会場)

14. Towada Barayaki (Towada City, Aomori Prefecture) 3 tickets (300yen)
Grilled onions and beef bara (belly meat) with a special sauce.
15. Kahoku Tsumetai Niku Soba (Kahoku Town, Yamagata Prefecture) 3 tickets (300yen)
 Chilled soba (buckwheat) noodles and chicken in a chicken and soy-sauce based broth.
16. Toyoma Abura-Fu Donburi (Toyoma City, Miyagi Prefecture) 3 tickets (300yen)
Abura-fu (deep fried bean curd formed into a stick) on rice.
17. Namie Yakisoba (Namie Town, Fukushima Prefecture) 4 tickets (400yen)
Thick yakisoba noodles with bean sprouts, pork and special sauce.
18. Omagari Natto Jiru (Daisen City, Akita Prefecture) 3 tickets (300yen)
Natto (fermented soy beans) miso soup topped with onsen tamago (hot spring egg--i.e. a very softly boiled egg) and okoge (literally the crispy/burnt rice you sometimes get at the bottom of a rice cooker, but in this case it's made to be crispy but not browned/burnt).
19. Ohoutsuku Kitami Shio Yakisoba (Kitami City, Hokkaido) 5 tickets (500yen)
Sea salt yakisoba with onions and scallops--all local Hokkaido ingredients.
20. Oga Shottsuru Yakisoba (Oga City, Akita Prefecture) 4 tickets (400yen)
Shottsuru (fish-based soy sauce) yakisoba with crab claws, shrimp, squid.

21. Hachinohe Senbei Jiru (Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture) 3 tickets (300yen)
Vegetable and meat soup with senbei (a type of Japanese cracker).

Towada Barayaki Kids Park (十和田バラ焼キッズパーク会場)

Three local Towada elementary schools present their own versions of barayaki (3 tickets (300yen)). Takashizu ES (left) uses Aomori beef, Shoyo ES (center) uses garlic pork instead of beef, and Sanbongi ES (right) uses onions that they planted and grew themselves at Sanbongi Nogyo (Agricultural) High School.
Sanbongi ES barayaki
Leftover Tickets:
You can use any leftover tickets at a variety of shops, restaurants, bars etc. in Towada including Sakura 156 (the souvenir shop inside Art Station Towada), most grocery stores, and even Eagle Bowl (bowling). A complete list (Japanese only) of participating locations can be found here.

How to Vote:
voting station

Put your chopstick(s) into the ballot box of the group you liked best--consider the personality/performance of the group as well as the actual taste of the food.

Only brown chopsticks can be used to vote. White chopsticks (e.g. from Towada Barayaki or Koufu Tori Motsu-Ni) cannot be used.

Even if you buy from more than one stand, you can only use one set of chopsticks to vote.

Each individual chopstick can be used to vote separately, i.e. you can vote for two different groups with one chopstick each or give the pair of chopsticks to a single group.

Suggestions to get the most of the event:
 - Be patient. Expect to spend a lot of time waiting in line.

- Go from west to east. To see everything, start from the west (around stall number 10) and head east (towards stall number 1), swing by the Towada Barayaki Kids and Towada Market and then go a little north to the Shoutengai venue. Be warned that the Kanchogai Street stalls (numbers 1-13) tend to have longer lines (on average 30-40min?) than the Shoutengai venue (numbers 14-21), where waiting times were from 5-20min.
 In particular the Koufu Tori Motsu-Ni (stall number 9) has extremely long line-ups--at one point it was a 150min (2.5hr) wait! You can see below, this is towards the end of the line (approx. 2hr wait from here). The stall itself is located about where the third tree from the left is (with the white flag).
 The stall is finally in sight ahead (the blag flags on the right), but it's still about an hour's wait from here. The people standing on the left side are in the front of the line from the above picture (the 2hr+ wait). You can see that it still's a fairly long line on the right, too.

- Plan ahead. Decide what you want to eat, look at the map and plot out a course ahead of time.

- Divide & conquer. If you're going with friends or family, make a list of what people want to eat, assign people to go to different booths, and set up a place to meet once everyone has got their food. (Or tell everyone to look for you in the motsu-ni line if you decide to get some, because they can probably get 2-3 dishes and you'll still be in line.) This way you can reduce the amount of time spent waiting in line and share food so you can try more types. A lot of the dishes are fairly hearty--lots of yakisoba (fried noodles) and fried things, so if you try to eat everything by yourself you'll probably get full by the second or third dish.

- Bring drinks/sweets. Most of the food is salty/savoury so you will probably get thirsty and/or start to crave sweets. There are drink stands, but it will cost about 150yen for a bottle.
tea mascot next to drink stand
The vending machines in the Chuo Kominkan (central community center), inside the library, and near the public restrooms (by the big horseshoe statue) on the park side are probably cheaper but they might sell out fairly quickly. There are Lawson, Mini-Stop and Circle K convenience stores within walking distance (see map) but it's nice to be able eat your B-1 dishes with drinks and have dessert on hand rather than having to go out to get it afterward. There's also an excellent patisserie/cafe called Shiroi Mori nearby if you want to sit down and have some tea/coffee and cakes afterward (the banana milk tea is a favourite among local ALTs).

Friday, September 6, 2013

Director Hayao Miyazaki's retirement press conference

Studio Ghibli held a press conference regarding Director Hayao Miyazaki's retirement today, Friday, September 6, 2013 at 2:00pm (JST). Miyazaki himself, as well as Studio Ghibli President Koji Hoshino and producer Toshio Suzuki were in attendance to answer questions from various press members. The event was live streamed on the Niconico video service with options for either (the original) Japanese audio or English audio translation.

(Edit: Kotaku has a nice and concise summary of the actual reason Miyazaki gave for retiring and mentions some other points that came up during the press conference that slipped my mind.)

I was lucky to be able to watch the press conference (I chose the English audio option) but it went on a lot longer than I expected. I thought it would be about thirty minutes but it went on for a little over an hour and a half! Here are some thoughts and tidbits from the conference.

(Disclaimer: After the first twenty minutes or so, I started cooking while listening so my recollection may not be exact.)

I really want to read Miyazaki's official retirement press release/statement! 
All the press members received an official statement written by Miyazaki explaining his reasons for retiring and future plans. Hopefully one of the many news groups present will publish the document in its entirety online--an English translation would be nice too. (Edit: You can read the official press statement here in Japanese. If another site doesn't put up an English translation within the next day or two, I will probably try to make my own (very rough) translation.)

Get the hint already! He doesn't want to give specifics about his future plans.
 There were a lot of variations on the question: "Can you tell us what exactly you plan/want to do during your retirement?" And pretty much every time he explained that although he had some things he wanted to do, he didn't want to set up any expectations (in case he might fail) and therefore preferred not to give specifics. You'd think that after the first or even second time people would get the hint and stop asking the same question and use their (and everyone else's) time more constructively by asking more different questions.

Miyazaki's idea of R&R is probably rather a-typical
Although he (apparently) wrote in his retirement statement that he was planning on "taking a break" (or something along those lines), when asked if he was really going to be resting and relaxing, Miyazaki said that his idea of resting might not be the same as other people's. For him, sometimes doing "work" (i.e. drawing) is relaxing while taking a nap is conversely tiring. Aspects of the "job" like doing paperwork/desk work, giving instructions to people, being in meetings, etc. are tiring for him, but the actual "work"--that is to say, the art/drawing is not. So chances are, we will still be seeing (or at least hearing about) artistic works from Miyazaki, even if they're not feature or even short animated films.

More reasons to visit the Mitaka Ghibli Museum!
One thing he did say about his future plans, however, was that he would like to continue to be involved with the Mitaka Ghibli Museum. In particular, he said he wanted to fix up/update some of the exhibits since some of the drawings were starting to fade.

Unfortunately, when asked, he wouldn't commit to doing any more short films for the Ghibli Museum theatre. (Because now that he is retired, he is "free.") But on the bright side he didn't exactly say that he definitely wouldn't (at least that was my sense)--just that he wouldn't make any commitments to doing so.

He also said (jokingly) that he might even be an exhibit himself one day. Can you imagine if he made an appearance (or appearances) at the Ghibli Museum? They'd had to hold a (domestic and international) random lottery to distribute tickets because absolutely everyone would want to go.

Future of Studio Ghibli
As one reporter commented, Studio Ghibli was made to produce films by Miyazaki and Takahata Isao. Miyazaki is retiring this year at age 72. Takahata is 78 and is expected to retire after the release of Kaguya Hime no Monogatari (The Story of Princess Kaguya). So what will happen to Studio Ghibli? Producer Suzuki didn't give any details, but he did say that there is a film in the works for potential release next summer.

After that, both Suzuki and Miyazaki said that the future of the Studio would depend on the current young(er) staff. If they have a strong vision and stories that they really want to tell, Studio Ghibli might be able to continue a while longer. And Suzuki indicated that he would be willing to carry on a little longer since he is still (a bit) younger--at 65 years old--than Miyazaki and Takahata. 

The Ghibli Blog wrote this past April that Disney would acquire Studio Ghibli in 2014, with Ghibli retaining its autonomy in Japan, but neither President Hoshino nor Suzuki mentioned that--and no one from the press asked about it either (as far as I can recall). So I guess we'll just have to see what happens after the November 23, 2013 release of Kaguya Hime.

The movie that left the strongest impression on Miyazaki
I read somewhere that Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) is the first movie where Miyazaki himself cried while watching it, so I was surprised that when asked he named Howl no Ugoku Shiro (Howl's Moving Castle) as the movie that he had the strongest "image" (impression) of. Unfortunately, for the life of me, I can't remember what his reasons were for choosing Howl out of all his works. @_@

France vs Italy
Miyazaki has used Italy as a setting for a number of his films and when asked (by an Italian press representative?), he said that he really likes Italy--the food, the beautiful women... =P But when asked how he felt about France (by a French press representative), he had to admit that he likes Italian food better than French food. Apparently when he recently went to France (this past winter?) he was constantly served foie gras, which was a bit too much for him.

A "mom and pop" operation
Apparently Miyazaki doesn't think of himself as an internationally-renowned director. He doesn't have a particular message that he wants to impart to global audiences either. To him, his work is like working at a small mom-and-pop factory, just producing things that he likes and that convey the feelings and thoughts he wants to convey at that time. Suzuki also agreed that at Studio Ghibli they try not to look back too much on past works/accomplishments or to pay much too much attention to outside expectations. They just keep looking forward trying to make new movies.

When asked about his thoughts on "Cool Japan"--the campaign to harness the "soft power" of Japanese culture by promoting it overseas--Miyazaki basically said he didn't know anything about the campaign and didn't really care about it. A big ouch! for the Japanese government, I'm sure.

A bit of a troglodyte*
(*Troglodyte is my description--not Miyazaki's) Miyazaki admitted that he doesn't really watch recent movies or TV, particularly when he is working on a film. At the most he listens to a little radio in the morning and skims through the newspaper--which is why he didn't know anything about the "Cool Japan" campaign.
I really admire Miyazaki's wife
For the past ten years(?) or so, Miyazaki has basically stopped eating out. Every day he eats a solid breakfast, brings a bento (packed lunch) made by his wife to work, and eats dinner at home with his wife. When he told his wife about his plan to retire, apparently he also told that he still wanted a bento every day--to which she (jokingly?) replied that most people don't have to keep making bentos at their age and that shouldn't she also become "free" with his retirement. (I was cooking at this point in the Q&A, and I'd briefly switched to Japanese audio, so I'm not sure how accurate my recollection and/or interpretation of his words are.)

Having basically become a housewife myself since getting married, I can say that preparing/cooking three meals a day is not easy. This past week, with even just a small increase in hours for my part-time work--combined with daily festival taiko (Japanese drum) practice--I had to resort to buying sushi from the supermarket for dinner one night, and my husband even had to make do with cup noodles one day when I had a party in the evening and didn't have time to prepare dinner for him beforehand. So the fact that she has faithfully made him three meals a day for ten years is mind-blowing-ly amazing to me.

There was a lot more (as I said, the Q&A session was just over an hour and a half long!) but these are the points that stuck out the most to me. If I remember something later or find a good article about the conference--or the translated text from the official press release--I will try to update this post.

Monday, August 26, 2013

2013 Autumn Events in Towada

Hokkaido/Tohoku B-1 Local Gourmet Grand Prix in Towada
2013 北海道・東北B-1グランプリin十和田
Website | Map (Japanese)
Date: September 7- 8, 2013
Time: 10:00-16:00
Location: Around Kanchogai Street 官庁街通り周辺
Admission: "Event Tickets", a book of ten 100yen coupons (i.e. 1000yen total value) can be used towards the purchase of food. You cannot pay for food with cash. Event Tickets can be purchased in advance online, or in various supermarkets, bars/restaurants, shops, etc. around Towada. (See website (Japanese) for complete list of places selling tickets.) Tickets can also be purchased on site during the event.
Description: Sample B-1* local gourmet dishes from 21 Hokkaido and Tohoku area cities.
(*B-1 dishes are not high concept gourmet dishes, but rather relatively inexpensive--"B-class"--local foods such as Honsou "ham fry" (Akita Prefecture), or Tsuyu Yakisoba (Kuroishi, Aomori Prefecture)--fried noodles in broth.)

Aki Matsuri (Fall Festival) 十和田市秋祭り
Date: September 13-15, 2013
Location: Old Rte. 4 旧国道4号線 (Sep 13,15) Kanchogai Street 官庁街通り (Sep 13-14)
Admission: Free
Events: Mikoshi (portable shrine) carrying みこし運行,  hayashi (festival music) competition 囃子競演会, dashi (float) parade 山車運行, etc.

Towada Yosakoi Yume Matsuri 2013 とわだYosakoi夢まつり
Date: September 29, 2013
Location: Around Kanchogai Street 官庁街通り周辺
Description: Lots of groups performing yosakoi--an energetic choreographed dance for large groups featuring the use of lots of props (fans, small wooden handheld clappers called naruko, umbrellas, etc.) and on-the-spot costume changes

Towada Koma (Horse) Festa 十和田駒フェスタ
Date: October 19-20, 2013

Location: Towada Chuo Koen (Central Park)
Admission: Free
Events & Activities: yabusame (horseback archery) competition; show jumping competition; children's horseback performances; horse-drawn cart rides; horseback riding experiences; leather craft making, etc.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Toilet paper fit for an Emperor

Hanebisho is probably one of the most expensive toilet paper brands in all of Japan.

As you can see, it is 5000yen (~$53 CAD) for 3 rolls, or 10,000yen (~$107) for 8 rolls. If you set up a standing order for 8 rolls every 1-3months (you can choose the frequency at which it comes) the cost drops down to a mere 9000yen  (~$96) per order. (Note, you cannot cancel your standing order until after the 4th delivery, so you'd still be spending at least 36,000yen (~$384) for 32 rolls of toilet paper!)

Breaking this down to a per roll price, that's between 1125-1667yen (~$12~$18CAD) per roll!

What exactly is so special about this toilet paper?

(Loosely translated and summarized from the product website)

Presented to* the Emperor for five years. 
(*and presumably accepted by him as well)

The ultimate softness
Feels as if your skin is being gently swathed in silk

Created by the most fastidious of fastidious artisans
The ultimate softness and Japanese modern design
Each roll is carefully selected for production
Japanese modern design
Carefully designed to look stylish no matter where the paper is torn.

High quality Tosa washi (Japanese paper from Kochi Prefecture)
Each roll is carefully wrapped in Tosa washi.

Box handcrafted by Kyoto washi artisans
Each box is handmade by Kyoto washi artisans.
The interior of the box is done in silver leaf.

Only 150 rolls are produced each day
Each piece is individually checked for quality so production is highly limited
The secret of Mochizuki Seishi's* toilet paper
(*company name)
The company president has checked the product on his own skin every day for over 10 years! Every day the maker of each roll writes their name and the date on the roll. The president checks these daily.

Production method adjusted daily
The production method is adjusted for temperature and humidity daily. No two days' production methods are the same.

Pancake method
Mochizuki Seishi toilet paper is made the same way as pancakes. Do you know how to make delicious pancakes?  If the heat is too high the bottom will burn and the middle will be dry. Deliciously fluffy pancakes are cooked slowly at the perfect temperature. In the same way, Mochizuki Seishi toilet paper is dried more slowly than usual methods. Careful attention is paid to the temperature. Time is no object in the pursuit of perfect softness.

Water from the clearest stream in Japan, the Niyodo River 
The Niyodo river ranked 1st in the 2010 (Japanese) National River Water Quality Ranking.

Highest quality pulp
The most important ingredient in making toilet paper is pulp.
Our company uses 100% Canadian pulp.  

So there you have it--toilet paper fit for an Emperor. But you don't have to take just the company's word for it. Here is what a satisfied customer has to say about the product:

Decorating the living room! 
I gave my father Hanebisho for a Father's Day present. He thought the wrapping paper and toilet paper itself were so beautiful he put them on display in the living room! He looked very happy.
Kochi City Customer


Thursday, August 1, 2013

News & Media Round-Up, July 16 - August 1, 2013


The Beaverton (satirical news site)
- Parrot removed from Montreal Biodome after learning too much English

The HillTimes
- Ironically, economy may turn out to be one of the Harper government's biggest failures

Huffington Post (Canada)
- How Harper Uses Psychology to Peddle Myths
- Ontario's McLobster Dreams Have Come True

Toronto Star
- Suspension of EI whistleblower sets dangerous precedent, critics say

Winnipeg Free Press
- Slurpees & Winnipeg: A love story 
- Winnipeg sucks! Slurpee king again


ak47: tumblr
Poor Pikachu! (my caption)

enRoute (Air Canada)
- Inside the Nebuta House Wa Rasse Museum

Japan Pulse
- The last of the McDonald's Jewelry
- Limited-edition burgers, ep. deux
(- A Tale of Two Limited-Edition Burgers: Lotteria's Twin and McD's Gold Ring - July 9)

Japan Times
 - Mount Fuji fee charged, but signs in Japanese
- Plant by numbers
- Unique Japanese Mail Boxes Are Wonderful in Rain or Shine
- How a Japanese Radish Became an Internet Hero
- Ferrari Lovers, This Anime Stunt Might Horrify You


The Beaverton (satirical news site)
- Kate Middleton gives birth to beautiful, healthy news story
- How Chinese Ingenuity Destroyed Salad Bars at Pizza Hut
- Man Caught Driving With Pliers For A Steering Wheel
  The White House
- President Obama: Trayvon Martin Could Have Been Me

- Just What I Always Wanted!: Raw Meat Gift Wrap Paper

-15 Over-Used Movie Poster Clichés
- How To Turn Your Cat into Totoro
- Act fast and you can snag this hilarious Mario warp-pipe cat complex from CatistrophicCreations on Etsy

- Crisp Illustrations Of Creatures From Japanese Folklore


- Japanese Animator Films Mesmerizing Lightscapes in Downtown Tokyo
- Rad Kids React to Racists Freaking Out About the Cheerios Commerical
- The Daily Show's Zimmerman Coverage Is as Rage-Filled as It Should Be

Entertainment Weekly
- PopWatch: Here's what happens when 280 movies are edited together to sing Vanilla Ice's 'Ice Ice Baby'

- Shut Up & Sit Down, Season 2, Episode 12 - Introduction to Board Games


Friday, July 5, 2013

More easy summer veggie recipes

(See the original "Easy summer veggie recipes" post from last year for two super easy dishes that only require one type of vegetable plus some seasonings.)

Although I hate the heat and humidity of summers in Japan, the one good thing about summer is the abundance of fresh and delicious vegetables. (Living in a rural area means these veggies are also cheap!)

So here are a few refreshing and simple summer recipes:

Easy Zucchini Side Dish 

Zucchini *– 2 medium-sized
Olive oil – 1 TBSP
Sesame oil – 1/2 tsp
Toasted white sesame seeds – 3 tsp
Parmesan cheese (from shaker) – 2 TBSP
Garlic salt/powder – 1 tsp
Cayenne pepper (一味唐辛子 ichimi tougarashi)– 1/4tsp

*I used 1 green and 1 yellow zucchini

1. Wash and trim the zucchini, peeling about half and leaving the rest with the peel on. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise into two pieces and then slice each in half (lengthwise) again. Cut each of the four pieces into 1/2-inch (12.5mm) slices. Make as uniform as possible.
2. Take a sealable plastic bag (Ziploc, etc.) and put the zucchini and everything else into it. Press the air out, close the bag and knead the zucchini and oil and seasonings until all the zucchini slices are covered evenly.
3. Pre-heat oven (toaster oven also works just fine!) to 200ºC (400ºF). Line a cooking sheet/baking tray with parchment paper. (Don’t grease it.) Spread the zucchini in a single layer on the parchment paper.
4. Bake the zucchini in the oven for ~20min. (After 15min check every 2min until it is to your liking.) Delicious warm or cold!
(Optional: Add 1 small tomato, diced, to the zucchini and toss before serving.)

Tofu Salad
くずし豆腐と野菜のサラダ (kuzushi tofu to yasai no sarada)
(Source: 手間なし、カンタン!得ごはん (Tema nashi, kantan! Toku gohan) No hassle, easy and cheap meals by Orange Page, p.56)

Ingredients (serves 2):
Momen (coarse-grained) tofu – 1 block (300g)
“Whole” (kernel) canned corn* – 100g
Tomato – 1 large
“Salad” (vegetable) oil – 2 TBSP
Vinegar & soy sauce – 1 TBSP each
Pepper – a dash, to taste

*You can also use fresh corn, boiled and removed from the cob.

1. Drain the canned corn. Remove the stem and cut the tomato into 6-8 wedges. Drain the tofu.
2. Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl.
3. Put the tomatoes on a plate, crumble the tofu over it and put corn on top. Pour on dressing and serve.

Salad Udon
Ingredients (serves 3):
Udon noodles - 3 packs (mine came as a pack of 3 packs of 200g each)
Bagged salad* - ~100g
Mentsuyu (bonito-based noodle sauce) - ~2 TBSP

*I find it cheaper and more convenient to buy pre-packaged, bagged salad (usually I get one with a couple of kinds of lettuce, radish, red & yellow bell peppers, carrots, onions) but of course you can make your own salad using whatever vegetables you like—even just shredded cabbage will work.

1. Boil water in a pot and cook udon noodles according to package directions (usually 2-3min). Drain and rinse thoroughly under cool running water (to remove the starch).
2. Put udon in a bowl and top with salad.
3. Dilute mentsuyu in an approximately 1:3 ratio of mentsuyu to water (so 2 TBSP mentsuyu, 6 TBSP water--or to taste). Pour mentsuyu over salad udon and serve. (Optional: Top with mayonnaise, sesame salad dressing, soft or hard-boiled egg, fake crab meat, etc.)

Friday, June 28, 2013

News & Media Round-Up - June 20-28, 2013

Here is some stuff I've read/watched online recently:
- Move Over, Wonderbread: Superman Logo Sandwich Bread
- Animated GIF of All 151 Original Pokemon As Cats 
- 25 Of the Most "Canadian" Words
- 10 Reasons Why Calgarians Love Nenshi (or, How to Be a Leader)
- Mitch Joel: Don't Turn Off Technology -- Turn Off Your Bad Habits
- Elizabeth May: 10 Reasons Why Harper Isn't Really Canadian
- Jeff Rose-Martland: Why the Governor General Should Remove Harper (actual petition to the GG to remove Harper at
This Is "Tank Sushi"
- Japan's Amazing Rice Paddy Art Continues to Dazzle (note: most of the pictures of rice fields using classical Western (Napoleon) or Japanese (samurai, etc.) imagery are from Inakadate, Aomori Prefecture!)
- Toronto Mayor's Crack Scandal Lands Him His Own Video Game

- (Baskin Robbins) "31" Print Underwear for Women (Japanese)
- Convos with my 2-year old (About this series: "Actual conversations with my 2 year old daughter, as re-enacted by me and another full-grown man." Particularly love episodes 2 & 3!)
Extra Credits, Season 6, Episode 16 - Not a Babysitter (About this series: "
- Shut Up & Sit Down, Season 2, Episode 07 - 1812, The Invasion of Canada (About this series: ")

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Seriously, Japan?

Only in Japan? (Edit: Apparently this is a promotion done in Canada and the US as well. Still, I wouldn't have expected Japan to go for it. -_-;; )

I try not to post too much about how "weird" Japan is because every country has quirks/customs that might seem strange to others. But for a country with an image of having "healthy eating habits/diets," I found this really bizarre.

All-You-Can-Eat Kentucky Fried Chicken

You can pay 1200yen for 45min of all-you-can-eat (original) chicken, fries & soft drinks at KFC on July 3 & 4, 2013. One "child" (age 3-6) can eat free with each paying "adult" (i.e. elementary aged students and older). (You can also pay 600yen for each additional "child.")

Reservations required (limited to 2-hr periods in some locations).

More information (Japanese) here:

Friday, June 7, 2013

Mastering the one-armed crane

How to get big prizes from one-armed crane machines!
(Updated Jun 15, 2013)

OK, so I always thought you had to know some crazy super trick in order to win big prizes from a crane/claw machine.

But then today at Shimoda Jusco I was able to get not one, but TWO of the big Nameko plushes.

Completely by fluke, I managed to figure out the trick to getting the prizes from the machines with the prize two prizes, each hanging from a loop on a pole and a one-armed crane/claw.

Bad drawing of what the machine looks like. ^^;;
The (An) actual machine

You can kind of see the loop thing

I'd tried getting prizes from such machines before, but my strategy was completely wrong! I thought the aim was the get the claw to hook the bar part of the loop thing and lift it off the pole, but the claw is way too weak to lift it.
Even with perfect positioning this method doesn't work.

The trick is to get the claw to come straight down on the bar thing so it pushes it down and knocks it askew and eventually off the pole! (At first I was still trying to hook the prize but ended up knocking the bar accidentally and getting the prize really close to falling off.)

So all you need to do is line up the claw with the outer edge of the bar thing. (If the machine has two prizes to choose from, I recommend choosing the one further away from the claw since closer one might be too close, making it difficult get the crane in the proper position.)

Then when moving the claw backward, aim to have the "elbow" part line up with where you want the claw to hit the bar. The claw will move up and backward before scooping forward a little so if you aim for the front part (instead of the elbow) of the claw to hit the bar, it'll end up too far forward and you'll miss.

After the first hit it will probably take a couple more strategic hits before it falls off, but it's definitely doable! I really hope the 100 yen (per try) crane machine promotion at Shimoda Jusco continues for a while so I can practice/refine my technique!

(Edit: You may actually need to get the claw to hook and push the loop thing off for machines with just one prize hanging from the middle, or for other machines depending on the weight/balance of the prize and/or bar thing. I tried a machine with one Toy Story pig in the middle and the claw didn't go down as far or was just too weak to move the bar by pushing down. The push method seems to work best for the Nameko machines with two Namekos--maybe something to do with the weight/balance of the Namekos themselves? I don't know...)