last updated June 27, 2006

layers

not content with failing to capture the local shrine's roof, today was another belter, and what with the heat beginning to make day time cycling exhausting, I scribbled a local house's roof on the way home from work. this must be a fairly well off family as it has many decorative layers and end bosses. the wall which is so important to keep your own space also works well as a deterent to burglars (british houses are often so open in this respect). most windows on this house were large but out of view - typically low, shaded and at just the right height to sit and look out on the garden. the wall is softened by the bushes and trees and these many layers build up what begins to look like a fortress. I got many a look of the locals as if to suggest I was casing the joint! as usual I met the old mens frowns with a polite "konnichiwa" and the children's "haro's" with "bonjour". it's a hell of a place.


Posted by stupot at 10:51 PM Tuesday 27 Jun

sumiyoshi taisha

we're lucky to live near a complex of shrines called sumiyoshi taisha. apart from anything else there is a bit of space and big trees which tend to be a rarity in osaka. however, sumiyoshi is a real historic site with ancient shrines similar to those at ise (in the back you can see the antler type roof details from the building behind). as I haven't sketched from real life for a while I thought I'd take advantage of the good weather and get the pens out. sketching really gets you understanding a subject so well - that's the beauty of it - you absorb the most minute details that you usually skip. well out of practice but good fun and worked on the tan.

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Posted by stupot at 11:15 PM Sunday 25 Jun | Post comment (2) comments

black sesame

I cracked it. the peanut butter substitute that is. this week I've been eating more than my fair share of black sesame. I found the jam which I've had on toast in my local supermarket and it tastes pretty similar to peanut butter and has the same constistency. I've had the raw seeds just sprinkled on top of noodles and salad for a bit of texture and also black sesame tofu (above) where again there is more tha a hint of peanut butter. the tofu also has a hint of chocolate (the mould leaves a relief of the the name which is nice).

fanny-tastic. and no head aches.

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Posted by stupot at 08:18 PM Saturday 24 Jun

omiyage

the reason I previously blogged about takkyubin was because I was reminded about omiyage (souvenir). just my thought process got a bit diverted as it does. yuka is away in taiwan this weekend (the island the japanese foriegn minister recently described as a 'country' whilst in talks with the chinese foriegn minister) but before she went she got a mail order catalogue from sanyodo who specialise in hassle free souvenirs: basically you don't have to go through the inconvenience of searching for and carrying back a present. as easy as it sounds I always thought the personal touch was half the deal, but no, no the japanese simply order or even pre-order. I guess at t he end of the day you don't really care what you get as long as it's sweet/strong and you can eat/drink it.

checking their site, I was impressed to see some beers from my local brewery on Arran included in the British list as well as tacky-tastic terry's chocolate orange: a thing of wonder from my childhood.

I have my fingers crossed for the panda topped tissue box cover but I'll just have to wait and see.


Posted by stupot at 06:33 PM Saturday 24 Jun

takkyubin

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you see the vans everywhere - parked illegally with high adrenalin drivers navigating in and out of them and up alleys and into buildings - you often see them running up a street with a huge trolley. despite high speed courier post being relatively new to japan compared to america, the black cats, sumo wrestlers and pelicans that adorn the side of trucks really dominate the cityscape. despite the postal service being totally relaible (as royal mail once was), most people in japan courier stuff because of it's convenience and presumably the face to face service. it also requires the use of the hanko 'signing stamp' which is still so important to japanese daily life. it's like it was made for japanese living. people receive important documents by takkyubin, people send luggage ahead when travelling by takkyubin and people send gifts by takkyubin - in december especially, the traditional boxes of fruit needing signed for come thick and fast as a sweating, breathless man jostles paper work with one eye on his watch.


Posted by stupot at 11:16 PM Wednesday 21 Jun

paku-paku

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when I was away in Yamanashi last week wiping down the bikes after the race, my friend came over and said "first you need to don-don". I didn't have a clue. My japanese is fairly limited but this was one of the many onomatopoeia's that litter the japanese language and I just couldn't work it out. she picked up the bike and bounced it a few times to rid it of the worst of the water. "ahhh" I said, "don-don".

actually it's simple language when you think about it - in the same way kanji (japanese written characters) is fundamentally a drawing of something. consider that in english you'd have to say "pick it up and bounce it off the ground a few times." I'd rather just say don-don. there are countless times and english speaker will be asked for a translation of a word and there just won't be one. japanese is a very formal language but it is also a lot more concise.

the difficulty though is that where english generally has sound words, like 'cock-a-doodle-doo' or 'bang' and 'crash', the japanese also have words to describe ideas or notions. like 'bara-bara' which means scattered or 'giri-giri' which means to just fit or just in time. there's a good page of examples here.

kari-kari.


Posted by stupot at 09:56 PM Saturday 17 Jun

yakisoba

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odd that you would steep 'fried noodles' in water before draining and adding sauce but nissin's UFO pretty well succeeds as a tasty emergency snack. the new tv commercial (or 'CM' as the japanese refer to it) is good fun - the designers playing on that child-like sensation of not being able to get enough of a pleasing scent. we've all done it I'm sure. I do it when I pass the local cream bun shop or ohagi shop. sometimes you just cannae draw enough air in.


Posted by stupot at 10:38 PM Wednesday 14 Jun

always wear a helmet kids

in appreciation of my father's nasty fall last week where he pulled his arm apart in a remote part of the scottish highlands (and was promptly airlifted to Inverness hospital for 3 lots of surgery over the weekend) I came off in slow motion today and my helmet smacked the tarmac a beauty. didn't feel a thing - felt almost comfortable had I not ripped up my hip and elbow. my wrist and shoulder shall be pretty tight tomorrow too. as the policeman who visited your school said: "that crack in your helmet could have been your skull, young man."

someone has to carry on the clumsy genes and I guess it's me. get well soon dad.


Posted by stupot at 07:24 PM Tuesday 13 Jun

Fujisan - day 2

I woke at 4 o'clock to the sound of a local cockerel who liked the sound of his own voice, having woken me twice before during the night. I'm not the heaviest of sleepers and the window being open certainly didn't help. I turned over after the hundredth 'ko-keeko-ko-' (as they say in japan) and woke fairly soon after to the sound of the hotel alarm I'd set and then again 5 minutes later to the sound of my mobile, flashing and gyrating on the side board which resembled a piece of furniture from the same doll's house as my bath, the portable TV hanging over the side precariously. as I took that special five minutes contemplating the day ahead I realised the other noise I was hearing was rain hitting the fire escape and tree leaves outside and then as I sat up and saw my jersey I realised I was here to climb a very big mountain as fast as my legs would allow......

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Posted by stupot at 01:37 PM Monday 12 Jun

Fujisan - day 1

to be perfectly honest, I still get that childhood excitement when I ride the shinkansen. everything about it says air travel opposed to just getting on an ordinary train. the sight of a wingless airplane approaching the platform is like going back in time to when trains were really respected for their engineering and speed with the barriers protecting you from the edge of the platform suggesting you are about to experience something altogether more thrilling and exotic. inside - the roof lights, the windows, the food trays - all of the interior is like a plane. when you bank on one of the few, but long corners you see the ground out of one window and sky out of the other. even the conductors are referred to as crew - it's fairly subtle language which works well.

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Posted by stupot at 12:06 PM Monday 12 Jun

beans

I remember 'getting into' pulses about ten years ago but it's not since I moved to japan that I really found out the versatility - even of the humble soy bean alone. soy makes up a crucial part of my diet from tofu, soy milk, miso and natto to name just the main sources. we've been eating a lot of south asian food recently and yuka mixed tapioca with mung beans to make a rare dessert which certainly satisfied my sweet tooth. the tapioca was mixed with coconut cream and peaches and the mung beans cooked down with sugar. pure magic.

the azuki bean is probably the most common bean used for sweet stuff though - it's widely used in ice cream, sugary soup with mochi, added to jelly, boiled down to make anko paste when mixed with sugar and I eat it on an almost daily basis. there are worse vices I suppose.


Posted by stupot at 11:09 PM Monday 5 Jun

just when they get comfortable

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my nice pair of brown leather shoes are near the end - the soles are going - they're still wearable but I've been concious of them looking decidedly more and more knackered as the days go by. today I had to put a good pair of chino's in the bin after a very good innings. again I could wear them but the holes were becoming a problem. throwing out clothes is difficult for me because they generally only become comfortable after you've had them for a few years, then they start falling apart. I'm the type of shopper who waits until everything dies and then goes and buys up a load of stuff at once. just now seems to buying season for me what with the bike and everything - it's been many years since I got new shoes so I went to shinsaibashi and bought some nice new leather shoes which will fit my feet in time. the arduous task of breaking them in lies ahead. I left the sensible birkenstock route and took a more japanese route of slightly pointed. I feel like ronald mcdonald without the dungarees.

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Posted by stupot at 12:31 PM Sunday 4 Jun

drill a hole in my head

peanut.jpg

food allergies are always an odd thing: different with each person and even within that person, subject to lots of change. when I was younger I just thought that you had an allergy and that was that - fortunately it's not that simple, but it's not an easy one to crack. my allergies pretty much vanished in my teens for some years and then came back with a vengeance. peanuts and fish though, have always been pretty much no-go zones due to the sudden and dramatic result of eating them (anaphylaxis). I try every once in a while, to eat foods my body can't cope with and sometimes I get a pleasant surprise. last week I noticed yuka had bought some peanut butter and I had nothing for my toast........

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Posted by stupot at 11:57 PM Saturday 3 Jun

tailor made

ps250.jpg

I just ordered my new road bike which will be my first custom built. I'm pretty excited. the columbus tubing has to be ordered though, so I must wait about 4 weeks which is a little frustrating. Due to a swollen ankle from jogging, and a subsequent cold, I have not been training so much during the latter part of may. this makes me only slightly anxious with the up and coming 'fuji hill climb' on the eleventh. it might only be to the '5th station' of fuji, but I think the generic term using 'hill' is a little misleading. having received my information pack (and signed the disclaimer) it seems like it's a constant 7% for the 25 kilometeres which is tamer than I had expected. the granny gear will none-the-less be seeing some action no doubt. my new commute has helped as gentle training and being out the saddle has quenshed my thirst for more. the theory sounds good.

I'm not usually a big fan of motors but I love the styling of the honda PS250 above. the military references are great and the first one I saw the other day had been well personalised with various attachments and netting on the back - very mad-max.


Posted by stupot at 05:48 PM Friday 2 Jun