More excellent photos and restaurant reviews from Brian over at Ramen Adventures:

His articles always make me hungry. Check out his review of the Hirugao at Tokyo Ramen Street. Brian and Daniel from How to Japonese have made a video review together of it, but what are those guys making in the percolator things? The broth for ramen? To much background noise for me to hear it in the video. Tokyo Ramen Street is definitely on my list of places to visit in Japan next time we go.

Mix in the cramped living spaces of Tokyo with the expense of land and the myriad legal requirements of building codes and you get some really unique houses and buildings.

From ArchDaily comes this example of a house split in two:

Back in the halcyon days of the early 1980s when America was still climbing out of the 1970s, the hot trend in movies (between Star Wars movies) was the Ninja movie. Despite the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment garnered by the economic problems of the USA, the ninja was adopted whole heartedly by American teen boys looking for a new martial arts hero. The trend was started by the Golan and Globus brothers production of Enter the Ninja with Sho Kosugi. Two more films were made in the Ninja series with Sho Kosugi going on to star in followup Revenge of the Ninja and several more martial arts films. Even in the cheap and somewhat shoddy Cannon films productions Kosugi’s work as a martial artist stands out. He garnered much praise and he still stands out in the pantheon of martial arts stars. It also pays to remember how unusual it was for a Japanese to star in an American movie production. From the Sho Kosugi website:

The Ninja sensation was so big that when Pat Rod, of the Hollywood Reporter, was in countries like Greece and Turkey she said,”Movie enthusiasts there never asked me about Stallone, Cruise, or Harrison Ford; it was always,’Have you ever met Sho Kosugi?'”

He did recognize that the ninja craze was a fad and moved on to more general action movies by the late 80s. But his sense of timing left an indelible impression on the ninja craving fans.

Sho Kosugi went on to found the SKI Institute in Hollywood teaching everything from taiko to gymnastics along with other martial arts schools in Japan. His two sons, Shane and Kane have also appeared in movies and are occasionally competitors on the Sasuke TV show in Japan (Ninja Warrior here in the US).

M.O.V.E.One of my favorite bands:


One of the most creative bands right now, funky europop music:

m.o.v.e (also spelled as M.O.V.E; formerly known as move) is a 3-member Japanese musical group. The group consists of Yuri (Masuda Yūri(益田祐里?)) on vocals, Motsu (Segawa Mototaka (瀬川素公?)) on the rapping, and T-Kimura (Kimura Takashi (木村貴志?)) as the producer.

m.o.v.e is perhaps best known for the unique style with which they blend rock, rap, electronica, metal, and many other genres into their music. m.o.v.e are also well-known for their contribution of opening and closing theme songs for the Initial D series. These include around the world,Rage your dreamBREAK IN2 THE NITEBlazin’ BeatGamble RumbleDOGFIGHT, Blast My Desire, Nobody Reason and Noizy Tribe. The also provided the opening theme for the anime series Ikki Tousen with their song Drivin’ Through the Night as well as the ending theme for the anime Final Fantasy UnlimitedRomancing Train, and the ending credits for KOEI’s Dynasty Warriors 2 video game, Can’t Quit This!!!! ~KNOCK’EM OUT~ [SH FUNK MIX]

Gonna move ya:

departuresWe watched Departures this weekend – amazingly beautiful, sad, funny, uplifting film.

A premiere symphony orchestra in Tokyo disbands, leaving Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) suddenly unemployed.  Suffering from an innate sense that he is a mediocre musician, he faces up to the fact that not everyone who has devoted their life to music can become a top artist. With wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) in tow, he moves back to his home town in the northeastern prefecture of Yamagata.  They move into the crumbling remains of his mother’s house, which doubled as the local pub.

Spotting a Help Wanted ad featuring the word “departures,” he is excited about the prospect of trying a new career in the travel industry.  He arrives for the interview, curiously eyeing the coffins lining the back wall of the office.  The company owner, Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki), hires him on the spot, with only a cursory glance at his resume. Daigo finally ventures to ask what is involved, exactly, and is stunned to learn what he has gotten himself into: the ceremonial “encoffination” of corpses prior to cremation.  Sasaki urges him to take the job, proffering large amounts of cash.  He’s getting older, and needs someone to carry on the tradition.

In desperate straits, Daigo overcomes his initial trepidation and begins to travel around Hirano with Sasaki. Sasaki is comically matter-of-fact but firm in his directives and the contention that they are providing an important service to their community.   Some cases are markedly traditional, featuring beatific family members in time-honored transition.  Others highlight family dramas fraught with inevitable collisions, eased into unexpected conclusion.  True to Sasaki’s expectations, Daigo develops a deep respect for life in all its variations, and a profound empathy for people trying to make peace with the finality of death.

Too embarrassed to tell his wife about his conversation-stopping profession and admit that he has fallen in love with the townsfolk, Daigo vainly tries to keep his new life secret. As their relationship hangs in the balance, the big question is how he’s going to react to surprising news she brings, as an encoffineer, as a husband, as a son and as a human being.   It is Daigo’s turn to deal with life and death among the people who are dearest to him.

A story of love, of discovery, of revelation and of the transcending human spirit, “Departures” will linger in your heart and mind long after viewing.

makeupI loved this movie, gorgeous scenery from Japan, insight into traditions and culture, humor, philosophy, etc. It has it all. Showing the traditions of funerals in Japan and how the times have changed them. A glimpse into something rarely seen. Daigo’s acceptance of his role and growing care and respect in the rituals of encoffination and the way he uses his skill at the end of the movie to resolve his feelings was very poignant and well done. Very good movie, very deserving of its accolades.

jstuffI just added some new items to my Nihongo library. Some Uniball .18 mm Signo pens, a Showa kanji/kana practise book and a kanji practise book. I should have added a headband for studying. Ganbatte!!!

mugichan_wPeter Payne of Jlist has an interesting post up pointing to how small details that in anime can reveal a lot about the culture:

It’s always fun to observe the little bits of Japanese culture that are communicated through anime. I was re-watching the moe anime K-On! the other day, and I caught an interesting gesture that seemed to speak volumes about Japan’s group-oriented society. Tsumugi had just joined the keion-bu (light music club) and was eating in a fast food restaurant with her new club members. As the other girls talked about how to find the fourth member they needed to keep their club from being closed, Mugi (who has some awesome eyebrows, let me tell you) picks up her “potato” (french fries) and adds them to the pile Mio and Ritsu are eating from. It’s the ultimate gesture of group membership, mingling one’s food with your new friends so you can all eat on equal terms, and it communicates a lot of information about what kind of girl Tsumugi is to viewers. I’d probably have hoarded all my fries, and when they were gone I’d steal from the others…

HellohatoyamaMixing a controversial political speech onto a girl giving instructions for a group of kids waiting to see Hello Kitty. Our Man in Abiko comes up with something very funny.

21sep09_leafevThe new all electric Nissan Leaf will make a whoosh sound, copied from the Police Spinners from the movie Blade Runner. via EnGadget:

One of the major disadvantages of electric vehicles, for petrolheads at least, is the lack of engine noise. How can you be proud of your beastly motor if it doesn’t roar? There are mundane considerations like pedestrian safety too, but that’s beside the point. Nissan seems to have uncovered an old copy of Blade Runner in its toolshed and decided that, yes, it might be a good idea for the Leaf EV to emit a whooshing sound inspired by the Philip K. Dick adaptation. If implemented, this will raise the car’s price somewhat, but wouldn’t you pay a premium to have your auto sound like a jet taking off? The Leaf is expected to arrive in the US in 2010, replete with its reputed 367 miles per gallon efficiency.

Cheese and shiso gyozaReading sleepytako’s review of Gyoza 603 and it makes me hungry for dumplings…

Cheese and Shiso gyoza, thats different but also scrumptious if done right…

We have been trying to find someone who imports good gyoza but nothing beats a freshly made gyoza dumpling.

hands down my favorite issue so far of Oishinbo manga is the Ramen and Gyoza issue.

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