breaded, deep-fried pork (or chicken) cutlet sounds like the invention of a west of scotland chip shop, but infact it's the brainchild of some gifted japanese scholar. in an event that must have been like stumbling upon the holy grail, another genius decided to stick it in a sushi roll. fantastic. the combination of health and heart-disease combine to leave only the feeling of deep satisfaction. curry-katsu is also fairly high up on the mouthwatering scale. if only lunchtimes were always like this. who says it's all about raw fish anyway?
Posted by stupot at 11:50 PM Tuesday 29 Nov
Posted by stupot at 07:26 PM Monday 28 Nov
as the karaoke didn't happen last night after a drink I decided to head over to yoshino in nara today which is famous for its cherry blossom. obviously I'm aware it's not that time of year but I reckoned the dying leaves would be a nice backdrop to a long ride. the 120kms didn't hurt too much probably due to the decent breakfast and eating sensibly, at the right times (for once) during the day.
one thing that's worthwhile to bear in mind if you're cycling in japan is the amount of tunnels. they are certainly no place for cyclists as they often have heavy traffic as well as poor lighting and air and many are very long. it's pretty essential to have a good map for reference or even to take with you: if there isn't a pass you could be in for a very long detour. the bonus is though, that the passes are beautiful, generally car-free areas - so if you have the lungs you'll get a very satisfying view from the top.
the map of the route above shows a spine in the middle which is the border of osaka and nara prefectures: the final climb today is a favourite but pretty tough little bastard which brings you down into tondabayashi on the osaka side. the pass - the mizukoshi toge - is a lovely, quiet road with springs to fill your water bottle (often with locals stocking up with huge containers like today) and little if no traffic. it is a hard climb though with some severe gradients - I affectionately know it as the muzukashi, or, 'difficult' pass.
I need a massage.
Posted by stupot at 09:51 PM Saturday 26 Nov
was in muji this week and spotted their new (and really nice) christmas campaign. it's a modest selection of goods on a world theme, from all over the place - the catalogue is on a good recycled stock with simple photos of the products in use and some sketches where instructions are needed. traditional green and red run through the stores with classic snowman and stocking silouettes. there is nice new stuff like the 'cities in a bag' - paris, london, new york and tokyo - as well as old favourites like the wall mounted cd player in ltd edition black. all very nice - all very muji. check it out.
Posted by stupot at 09:41 PM Saturday 26 Nov
Posted by stupot at 11:56 PM Friday 25 Nov
the hoops go prime time
yuka's been finding it difficult to fully erase the memory of glasgow as she sits across from the bright sports papers and their full page pictures of celtic strips on her monday commute to umeda on the JR line. it could well be the number 62 to bailleston with a daily record being wafted in front of her. since nakamura's signing at parkhead there has definitely been more green and white around the place: certainly in the horizontal band department. it's interesting to see the strip in it's plain form, minus the carling logo - wonder if you can buy like that?
anyway - more recently big shun has been doing the advertising for oronamin c, so now it's even more strange to see the bhoys on prime time adverts on the goggle box. bizarre. you can watch the advert on the official site if you click the CM button up top followed by the red logo. this also links to other major brand campaigns under the otsuka umbrella including keifer sutherland in a very dramatic 24esque ad for calorie mate and an almost fruity fibemini ad. it's all quality stuff. enjoy.
Posted by stupot at 11:27 PM Friday 25 Nov
Posted by stupot at 11:49 PM Wednesday 23 Nov
it's nabe time again and there's nothing better than getting home to a hot mixture of chicken balls, shrimp, tofu, cabbage, pork, mushies and leek. or whatever. cooking it up on the table whilst sheltering under the kotatsu is a one of the great joys of autumn and winter. we were given the pot for our new home by our sister in law - so cheers naho! when the ingredients are gone we usually finish off the soup by adding ramen noodles - I'm not the biggest fan of udon (much to yukas continual grief) it's a texture thing - how do you eat yours?
Posted by stupot at 06:07 PM Monday 21 Nov
today was another peach of a day weather wise and after stretching the legs along the river I popped out to get some ohagi cakes from our local. the women are dead nice and the smell of the steamed hinoki wood, grilled rice and sweet red azuki beans is a very tempting combination.
today was also a day for picking up the new year postcards. I can't believe it's almost that time already - last year we left it too late so I made sure we got our pack of postage paid, plain postcards for the printer (easy for you to say) before they sell out. got some long johns from uniqlo as well: they have a big warm-biz campaign on just now. perhaps now I'll fit in a bit better with all the old timers at the bath house.
Posted by stupot at 06:27 PM Sunday 20 Nov
cycle mode, osaka
today was cycle mode - the main industry event in japan. I hoped it would fulfill but let's face it - the chances of a keen cyclist who is also an exhibition designer not enjoying a trade show with bikes would be pretty difficult. thankfully the show was really good - mainly due to the fact that it wasn't precious. you could try out just about everything - just grab a bike and jump off to the indoor circuit: 20,000 yen foldables or 400,000 yen colnagos. you had to queue for the italian stuff right enough. mr armstrongs face adorned most stands, with them thriving off his connection. his clothing company, his bike company, even his energy bar supplier and toilet roll maker. fair dues.
the highlights for me were: the cateye vibration activated, solar-powered light (spring 2006) and the ingenious foldables. given I'm looking for one I gave them close attention: in terms of all round value the best was probably the handybike from bridgestone. at only 33,000 yen or 160 pounds it's a great deal though the small wheels mean that cornering can be tricky. a bit more clever, and with suspension but more moving parts was the koma from smartcog. at 89,250 yen this is a fair hike up in price. I was happy to see that the strida now has a distributor in japan although their web site gives little away.
it was a very good mix of mountain bikes and road bikes. even recumbants and bmxs. no kick bikes though, I don't think. trek was the most popular stand probably due to it's links with the yellow band man and it was nice to sample the pinarellos and de rosas although I think I'll need to rely on my lungs and calfs for the mean time.
I think I speak for most of the country when I say the past week has been colder than a norwegian witches' tit. the cold air in osaka, which has presumably come down from russia, has brought with it clear skies, sun (albeit distant feeling) and a touch of frost in higher places. it makes for fantastic cycling weather and today was no exception. the mountian leaves are dying in spectacular fashion and thankfully in various colours. more straw was being burned today as harvest is in full swing and so the shafts of sun through the cedars were given a three dimensional quality that always makes the air look colder than it actually is. my body - almost used to the summer weather - was struggling a wee bit with the dawn temperature but nothing twenty minutes of spinning couldn't cure. it's funny but most folk think scotland is colder than japan. I've had to give a lot of gulf stream reminders as well suggesting that not everywhere enjoys 4 seasons of such stark contrast.
thankfully no puncture today like last week (my first in japan) - riding in a bunch sometimes has it's drawbacks but 'riding a wheel' is a joy after so long fighting the wind on my tod.
Posted by stupot at 11:22 AM Sunday 20 Nov
Posted by stupot at 09:13 PM Friday 18 Nov
flags and maps are great - aren't they? 2 totally opposite devices to describe a place: one conveying a massive area with a symbol of just a few marks and the other depicting the same land in explicit detail. with the advent of satellite imagery, now nowhere escapes their dirty laundry being out in public.
city and prefecture symbols in japan are beautifully simple - one of my favourites is the tottori emblem which symbolises a bird (tori) and is also a play on the character for to ("toe"). 'a lot of birds' as I understand. as a lot of modern graphic design (advertising) in japan is so cluttered it's good to see the simplicity of these marks from time to time. dead clean. dead nice.
Posted by stupot at 08:47 PM Friday 18 Nov
the fact that the new bugatti veyron can do 0-60 in 2.5 seconds really doesn't do much for me. tokyo motor show has been getting a lot of press recently but if you live near osaka why not get along to the massive cycle expo in nanko this weekend. an opportunity to buy things you don't see in the shops and try out bikes. think what you could buy with the money you would spend on a car! what sundays were made for.
Posted by stupot at 11:21 AM Tuesday 15 Nov
Posted by stupot at 03:55 PM Sunday 13 Nov
after a pre-dawn rise (that hasn't happened in a while, especially on a sunday) and my first run with the new 'club' (seems my fitness is not so bad) - we went for a quiet stroll around the local shrine, sumiyoshi taisha. it's pretty famous but usually not so busy. today was hoachin' - we had forgotten about shichi-go-san - the celebration of 7, 5 and 3 year olds and so it was crawling with wee people in bright get-up. very cute indeed though. despite them praying for a healthy life, the usual stalls of tat were most evident and the kids were lapping up all the attention, toys and sugar coated crap. I felt sorry for all the siblings (kyodai) who were of even age. never mind - their time will come.
Posted by stupot at 03:40 PM Sunday 13 Nov
we use a haramaki (stomach wrap) in japan for keeping the stomach warm when chilled and for preserving energy - just as in the west we wrap the extremities when we are cold. granted; fingers; toes; head are all suseptible to low temperatures but in 'eastern' theory the stomach is not only mathematically the centre of the body but it also is the centre of balance for our energy or ki. presumably it's no coincidence that disembowelment (seppuku: - or 'harakiri' to use its popularised western name - a better known aspect of japanese culture) was a traditional form of suicide.
many years ago I may have put it all down as mumbo jumbo but I had a very physical, slightly scary but extremely positive introduction to my own ki at my accupuncturists. I had had some seriously painful and sharp lower back treatment (usually for organ balance) but I had also experienced the needles being drawn like magnets into my wrists: the feeling of the strong dull ache was addictive but a prelude to a much more awesome display.
about 5 years ago my accupuncturist in glasgow was working on my stomach as I wasn't sleeping well and his earlier efforts hadn't helped. I wouldn't call my experience 'out of body' but my stomach certainly was high above my body, having rotated slowly, 180 degrees in an arc (my head and feet remained 'in place' but were being pulled). the release of built up emotion was overwhelming and my whole body started shaking and shivering uncontrollably on the table as needles fell out my hands and feet. I think my man was about as surprised as I was although he kept his cool - it was a great example to both of us of the power of ki. he'd never seen such a thing before. I felt great after. a sense of deep, deep relief and peace.
anyway - I've found an accupuncturist who does work under shakai hoken (social insurance) here and so I'm going back to the needles.
Posted by stupot at 10:02 AM Sunday 13 Nov
you don't stick it in your ear and it can't translate every language, but the new talkman audible translation software from sony may well prove to be helpful in some basic situations. crucially, I wonder if it does swearing? click on the left most picture in the link to view the 'talk mode'. it's out on thursday.
Posted by stupot at 10:47 PM Saturday 12 Nov
Posted by stupot at 07:36 PM Friday 11 Nov
I got given some great cheap, gimmicky toys today - a kaiten zushi (revolving sushi) pen with stacked plates and food on top that revolves when you click it (it's a pun so it's funny). also a great 'haaaaaay' button keyring from the japanese TV show 'trivia' which will mean very little to those reading this from abroad but slightly more to viewers in japan. the noise 'hay' used in it's elongated form kind of means 'I didn't know that' or 'you're joking?' and the show is based on interesting and unusual facts which a panel of guests use 'hay' buttons to register their astonishment on. and now I have a portable one to really annoy people with. god bless the gimmick.
Posted by stupot at 07:14 PM Friday 11 Nov
Posted by stupot at 12:12 AM Thursday 10 Nov
virtual fire escape
this is the fire escape from the '3rd' floor of my office. you throw a ladder out the window and descend to safety. actually it all looks like fun (excluding the possibility of flames and falling to your death) and I'm secretly hoping we might have a fire drill sometime soon. given my accident record though, it may end on that canopy or at least in tears. I like also how the building regulations presume you are young, agile and have a head for heights! quality stuff.
bang and olufsen meets muji
amadana by realfleet is a new japanese company we found this week which has well priced home goods and uses (to my delight) timber in many appliances. it's nice stuff. they have an english site and a japanese one. if you scroll down in the product pages they have really nice 'caution' notes.
Posted by stupot at 11:33 AM Tuesday 8 Nov
Posted by stupot at 04:16 PM Monday 7 Nov
down by the river
as I live in the city, most rides start along the river. I like the riverside because apart from the lack of cars, there is a lot of open space and it's a bit like a really long park. it's ceratinly a sanctuary amidst the madness of twenty first century city life and the sea of houses that is urban life. rivers are given their due respect and flood plains are allowed for before high, high levees. the plains are filled with tennis courts, baseball fields, croquet lawns, people fishing, (usually illegal) golf practice areas, seating for picnics and barbeques, cycle paths and, last but not least, nature. there's even a path that runs all the way from Kyoto to Nara if anyone is interested.
I went to visit the mother-in-law at lunch time today and chiefly chack - the family shihtzu. chack has a tumour of cancer inside him the size of a tennis ball and the wee man must be near the end. I have affection for chack but we've never been that close: he's furry and I have serious allergies - which is not the recipe for a great relationship. today was pretty sad - half his fur has fallen out and he's been bed-ridden for quite a while - his eyes were popping out his head he's that thin. sad stuff.
on the plus side today I managed to sort a training ride for sunday morning through the local bike shop/builder: looks like it's back to (very) early morning rises and pain. nice. also - on the way home the high grasses were being stripped away before the winter and I spotted a council worker watching a lawnmower. it appeared to be unmanned and then I realised he was driving it by remote control.
Posted by stupot at 03:48 PM Monday 7 Nov
it's often said that japan is the home of technology - and in the most part this is true these days - japan is a wonderful place to live for finding out about and being a part of new trends and gadgets. I find it interesting now to read UK reports of what life is like here (as opposed to when I used to read them from scotland in awe). I'm often still in awe about amazing breakthroughs and whilst I now have access to some of the ideas I also have a proper view of what is really going on as a culture.
I read an article last week from the beeb about smart mobile technology as a method of payment. there's no doubt that the technology is available and is being used but to say that the average japanese will be saying "sayonara to their wallet" is pretty difficult to believe given the countrys dependency on cash. talking to the trouble and strife tonight we concluded that scotland was a far more convenient place in terms of money and payment (even if you can pay your bills at convenience stores - you still need to get cash from somewhere and conbini atms charge). the article also states that you can charge your mobile at stations where you feed in cash. I mean does that not strike you as being a bit middle ages in the fact we're still using paper money in this equation? the debit system doesn't even happen widely in japan yet. atms have charges unless they are used in your own bank and during office hours (though atms here are almost always indoors) and other banks will charge you too, at any time. iceland this is not.
I for one hope the technology takes off but I fear the strangle hold of the japanese bank could halt the idea in its tracks. here's to being proven wrong!
Posted by stupot at 07:58 PM Thursday 3 Nov
manbags at dawn
"I was in america," says this girl to me today, "and we had shoulder bags but the americans had nothing - so where do they put their wallets and cell phones and mp3 players and everything?"
a very valid question.
I explained to her that whilst most of europe enjoys very liberal views of fashion (and bags are no exception) the UK (and US) male population find anything other than a utility rucksack 'gay.' whether it be pride, or whatever, they certainly struggle with being in touch with their feminine side. in japan it's quite the opposite - canvas shopping bags, shoulder bags and french-style wrist bags are absolutely normal - and usually combined with long, dyed hair. it kind of goes more to describing how uninspired the US and UK are than the other way around. many 'furners' I meet here are australian, british or american who generally don't understand a lot of stuff (fashion, good food, language) - the ones that do tend to hang around for a bit. no doubt all the europeans love it though. it should be noted though that the japanese buy far too much vuitton: the city arcades become virtual catwalks on saturday afternoons.
a friend in the UK mentioned a discussion he'd had recently with a colleague about exactly what to do with the increasing amount of gadgets which were slowly causing his trousers to fall down. I guess the issue has been raised. just don't mention it at the pub.......
Posted by stupot at 07:22 PM Thursday 3 Nov
Posted by stupot at 12:13 AM Thursday 3 Nov
old money rules
decimalisation was still happening when I grew up - when I was sent for a 'pound' of potatoes it was very confusing. it's still going on in many parts of the UK: supermarkets enjoy the clever con of measuring packaged meat in grams and unpackaged meat in feet and inches. even drugs come in grams and others, ounces: though that, presumably, is a just a consequence of their origin.
when we were at art school our continually dark and greasy metal workshop was still using the kings foot to measure with (it was like glasgow didn't want to let go of it's heavily industrial past) while just a few paces away and not even seperated by a door was the wood workshop - airy and so contemporary and european with its simple metric system. we actually had to pass a test in old money to use the metalshop because no-one had a bloody clue. cut to yuka, the (then) timid japanese student who was justifyably bewildered by the whole thing. I mean - at least we'd had some contact with double sided rulers and stuff when we were growing up: yuka was still trying to grasp the english language never mind the glaswegian accent and this archaic way of counting.
anyway - the point of all this was that when I was out on the bike last week and found myself on that old trail - I discovered 'Ri' - the old japanese system of measuring distance. never heard of it before. the modern sign told me that the ancient signs used this. as I remember it said the Ri is about 3.9 kms but in any case the japanese have gotten over it. a shame the US and the UK can't do the same.......
Posted by stupot at 11:16 PM Wednesday 2 Nov
there was these two folk on the train having a conversation. it was a very open and animated discussion yet hardly anyone noticed or understood it.
sign language must be a great ability to have.
Posted by stupot at 08:55 PM Tuesday 1 Nov
shake, rattle and roll
it's not so much the earthquakes that bother me as living in the shadow of a recently completed 18 storey apartment building. I have come to have a lot of faith in japanese structural engineering. lunchtimes sway measured a modest 4.5 on Mr Richters scale, but the epi-centre was far away.
Posted by stupot at 06:50 PM Tuesday 1 Nov