The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Stuff I Eat

After my next-to-last post, I was thinking about the kind of food I eat here. I had a few questions like that over the summer: "What's an average meal for you over there?"
Average would be a bowl of rice with some meat on top; either shredded fried beef and onions, or a deep fried hunk of chicken or breaded pork. In the west, Japanese food has a reputation for being healthy (sushi is low-fat, at least) but everyday food is just as bad as in the west. The traditional diet used to be better until everyone started eating meat.
Anyway, you sometimes get more exotic fare. This was an appetizer at a little bar I went to a while back. It was pretty tasty. Pate of pork heart, with a dollop of salmon roe on top. The pate is mixed through with green peas, and the whole thing has a little bit of sauce. When I was a kid, the peas alone would have made me retch.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I Survived the Typhoon

Hi! The typhoon came and went. To my experience, it wasn't a big deal, although I turn on the news this morning and see that 2 people are dead and one missing; the entire train system in Tokyo was shut down for hours yesterday morning, stranding hundreds of thousands of workers and basically bringing the city to its knees.

We knew that a big storm was coming, and people were bracing for impact. The newspapers were blaring headlines about the impending "morning commute panic" which was expected to happen. We learned from some other teachers that the high school was to be shut down for the day, but the university side of things was going to be "business as usual". This despite the fact that all of our students were assuring us that they had no plans of coming to class...

So I woke up a bit early yesterday morning, braved the hurricane winds, and went to the station. There were noticeably fewer people on the platform, but the trains were running. It was actually kind of pleasant because the train was less crowded than usual.

The bus to school was absolutely deserted - it was just me and another teacher, but no students. We walked through deserted hallways and opened up our classes. About 2 minutes before 9, the professor in charge came around and told us that all classes were cancelled for the morning. I later learned that this information had been on the university website for some time, but telling us that wasn't high on our company's To-Do List, apparently.

So, we sat around and amused ourselves for a few hours. The weather that morning was very odd. It started out rainy and windy - typical stormy weather - but the clouds soon blew away and it was a strange mix of sun and high winds. It was actually kind of pleasant being outside, because it wasn't cold at all, but the wind was whipping everything around and making it difficult to walk.

By noon, the storm had faded completely and it was just a nice, warm, sunny day. People who had taken the whole day off must have felt a bit sheepish - although they had a beautiful day to enjoy from home. A few of our students changed their minds and actually showed up for afternoon classes.

The trip home was also very pleasant, with the buses and trains only half full, I'd guess. It kind of made me think what a nice place Tokyo would be if about half the people moved away.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Weekend Update

Hi. It was a good September, overall. The weather was generally good, and I was especially happy that it wasn't too hot. We've had a few storms, but I think the sunny days have outnumbered the rainy ones.

I think I mentioned that I'm living in Yamato city now. Yamato is actually the ancient name for Japan; the name that Japan gave itself before it adopted the name that the Chinese had for it. The sun rises in the East, which, from the Chinese perspective, is where Japan was; hence "the land of the rising Sun", which is more or less what "Nihon" means. Yamato means "great peace", which is kind of ironic when you think about it.

Anyway, commuting into the center of Tokyo (the far side, actually!) from Yamato was kind of taking its toll on me. It was a 90-minute commute, which meant getting on a train at 7:12 every morning, and then not getting home until about 8 o'clock at night. Some people do this every day, and have done so for 40 years, which is probably why there are so many miserable-looking people on the trains here. But I'm back to work at school now, so my commute is only about an hour door-to-door, which is manageable.

I had to work both days last weekend, which meant I worked 11 days straight with no holiday, so I made sure to get the most out of the last weekend. I went to Jodo practice Friday night, and went out for drinks with everybody afterwards, which was fun. I don't understand a lot of what's being said, but people at least try to include me, which is nice. Mr. Matsui, one of the teachers, is a retired newspaper man; I asked him about the change over to computer-based publishing that happened in the 60's and 70's, and he happily told me all about it. I missed a lot of what he said, but I did pick up some interesting tidbits.

Saturday I slept in and that alone made my weekend. I did a bit of laundry and was off to iaido practice. I pay $50 a month for iaido, and it's not pro-rated ... if you attend for one week in September, you have to pay for all of September. So it was good that I went the first week of October. Hopefully I'll get my full money's worth this month. Practice itself was good, although I was really feeling the 2-month absence.

I hurried home and went shopping for Saturday night's dinner. I promised to cook for Yoshie, so I got the ingredients for chicken parmagiana. Of course I forgot a few crucial things (for example, I only had one plate!) so I had to rush back to the store again. By the time Yoshie arrived, I hadn't even started cooking.

Dinner turned out okay; not great, but okay. I cooked waaaay too much food. One chicken breast would have been enough for both of us, so if I make it again, I'll be sure to cut the chicken in half. It'll cook faster, too.

Sunday, we decided that, since the weather was nice, we'd go to Enoshima. This is a small island that has been a vacation spot for Tokyo-ites for centuries. You can see Mount Fuji from the island too, which is very nice. The most famous woodblock print of all is Hokusai's "Great Wave off Kanagawa" which could be set somewhere near Enoshima...

The island used to be accessible by boat (of course) and on foot at low tide, but now there's a bridge connecting it to the mainland.

It's kind of a funky place. It has a really nice "vacation" feeling about it. There are lots of tourist shops and restaurants, and the place is thronging with surfers, jetskiers, people with dogs, and families with kids. Yoshie had heard about a famous restaurant selling shirasu, or baby sardines. These are just tiny little fish with very little actual flavour. I gather that they swim around in big schools, and they are harvested using fine nets. She got raw shirasu with pickled ginger on rice (the far dish) and I got a kind of deep-fried seafood cake with salad on rice. The white stuff on top is a pile of steamed shirasu. It was really, really good. We also had a locally-made beer each. Yoshie's was made with salt water and was kind of interesting.

Yoshie asked me if we eat any kind of similar fish in Canada. I told her No, most people don't like the idea of eating fish whole - eyes, guts, and all - even if they are tiny.

Stuffed to the gills, we walked around the island for a while. Pretty soon the sun was going down and the full moon was out. It's not much of a photo, but you get the idea.

We really enjoyed our afternoon on Enoshima, and decided to go back, possibly next weekend. There seems to be a lot more to explore, so I'll take my camera next time, and hopefully have some better pictures to show you.