March 2011

ramen from Shinasoba KibiBrian from Ramen Adventures checks in to update on the ongoing Ramen Champion contest in Shinjuku.

Its still going despite the blackouts in Tokyo although it did not seem crowded from his pictures.

Lovely bowls of soup, visually my fav is the Sinasoba ‘version up’ pork ramen.

Interesting way of voting for your champion too, just drop your spoons in the bin corresponding to your choice, 4 spoons is 4 votes. Who will win the ramen championships?

I was reading my friend’s blog post “Tohuku disaster helps explain why I love Japan” and he struck a chord. If you are a Japan enthusiast and not reading Jamaipanese blog, then shame on you. To quote the relevant part

Japan itself isn’t perfect but seeing videos and pictures of Japanese citizens lining up for supplies, helping each other out and not looting and rioting says a lot about the people. In Japan from an early age you are taught to be considerate and to deter your personal interests for the betterment of the larger group.

One thing which has always fascinated me about the Japanese is their stoicism and efficiency; and the reaction in the aftermath of the tsunami was very uplifting to see, it was devoid of the panic and desperation that many recent disasters have sparked.

There also is the gaman effect. Living on an island prone to volcanoes, typhoons, earthquakes  has bred a resilience and perseverance into the Japanese that other people would do well to learn from.

Work together and help each other, do not panic and you will go on. There is more strength in yourself than you would ever have known possible.

Ganbaru Japan!

We watched the movie The Road Home this weekend. An excellent movie about life and love and tradition.

from the IMDB:

City businessman Luo Yusheng returns to his home village in North China for the funeral of his father, the village teacher. He finds his elderly mother insisting that all the traditional burial customs be observed, despite the fact that times have changed so much, and that it involves many people carrying his father’s body back to the village – the road home. As Yusheng debates the complications involved in organising such a big feat, he remembers the magical story of how his father and mother first met and got together.

I love how Yusheng comes to realize what is so special about the past and the his mother’s insistence on observing the old traditions of the past for his father’s funeral. The significance of the road and what happened in his parents courtship becomes especially poignant when you realize how infrequent marriages for love are amongst the arranged marriages of rural China. His parents marriage was a break from tradition but with the changes of modernity Yusheng sees the importance of observing the old tradition of walking the departed home.

The Road Home is available through Amazon here.

commercial break … showcasing weird, funny and just plain fun commercials from Japan. In the midst of all the heartbreak and tragedy sometimes you need a little levity…

Morning Rescue was my favorite to watch during the tsunami, and quake aftermath. Who wouldn’t want a rescue team rappeling into the room to save the day after an epic disaster….

Tepco is enduring plenty of criticism for the lack of redundant systems at the Fukushima no.1 Nuclear power plant, here is an old commercial for Tepco’s heaters/AC units with a Harry Potter look-a-like:

Moving to a new area, brings this young fella more than he bargained for:

Food time out!

Ochazuke is the green tea over rice dish that is beloved in Japan and steeped in tradition.. It is one of those foods that can be both beautifully simple and yet hard to master.

Basic ochazuke is a handful of rice with salmon flakes or or umeboshi on top, flavored with a bit of nori or daikon radish. Over this is poured hot green tea making a soup.

from the Wiki:

In Kyotoochazuke is known as bubuzuke. When a Kyoto native asks if a guest wants to eat bubuzuke, it really means that the person has overstayed and is being politely asked to leave.

Now, though, instant ochazuke mixes just use hot water, the tea and other ingredients are powder and freeze dried.

Ochazuke instant is one of my favorite lunches and I am going to have to try this in a traditional way with Salmon and hot tea.

One of the funniest videos I have seen lately from YouTube, the cat cracks me up:

Here is the post I have been needing to make for several days now, an 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Japan. The earthquake didn’t cause anywhere near the amount of damage as the resulting Tsunami that flooded the coast. Destroying everything in its path, up to six miles inland, whole towns and villages were wiped out.

One amazing thing in all the mess is the way the internet became the best resource for information. With virtually realtime commentary and news from Twitter feeds of various people living in Tokyo to the English broadcast of the NHK and Japanese TV. The link to the live UStream broadcast  of NHK World (English) is here NHK Ustream. Some really good folks to follow on Twitter with news and translations of press conferences are @gakuranman @kenmogi @HirokoTabuchi and @stevenagata.

The Japanese people are stoic and efficient but the scale of this is simply staggering and our hearts go out to the people of Japan.