Khaos

Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Sushi!

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

My first lunch time back in Tokyo and I had to resist buying far too much sushi.  I miss it when I travel.  I sometimes buy it in other countries but it’s not the same.  I worry about eating sushi in places far from the sea, or in places where raw fish isn’t commonly eaten, so I tend to buy rolls that contain vegetables or cooked fish. But never avocado as I can’t stand the green mushy stuff and hate that American sushi chefs are fascinated with it.

I did get a shock in a Japanese restaurant in Florida as they served an “Atom Bomb Roll”.  This horrifyingly named roll contained salmon and spiced tuna.  I can’t imagine that anyone Japanese was involved in that restaurant.  Oddly named sushi seemed to be a theme as they also had a “Beauty and the Beast Roll” that contained tuna, eel, crab, avocado, and cream cheese, which sounds disgusting.   Thankfully today’s sushi was amazing.

Back Home

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

I’m really pleased to be back home. But there is one thing that I really didn’t miss…

5.3 Quake in Ibaraki

5.3 Quake in Ibaraki

… my apartment block jerking and swaying.

Peaceful Japan

Friday, July 8th, 2016

I was reading the Global Peace Index 2016 [PDF] today.  Of the 163 independent states and territories ranked Japan came in at number 9, Ireland at 12, the UK at 47, and the United States of America is at 103.  I’m always surprised by how poorly the USA performs in these studies, as the parts I visit appear quite safe.  But there is no doubt watching the news tonight, from our New York hotel room, that the country seems anything but safe.   I’m also stunned that the index lists the national cost of violence in the USA as $2,028,740,716,654.  A number that doesn’t appear real.

“The 2016 Global Peace Index (GPI) shows the world became less peaceful in the last year, reinforcing the underlying trend of declining peace over the last decade. Results also show a growing global inequality in peace, with the most peaceful countries continuing to improve while the least peaceful are falling into greater violence and conflict.”

Big River

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

I have been busy rehearsing as part of the ensemble cast of Big River.  The musical opens on the 19th May, so not long to wait now.  The city is getting warmer and I am finding it hard dancing in layers of clothing in hot rooms.  It will be hot on stage, so I will just have to get used to it.  I am so glad that during the performance each dance only happens once, unlike rehearsal where the point is to keep doing them until they are right.

It’s been fascinating doing theatre work again as technology has changed so many things.  Now rehearsals are organised with web-based project management tools.  Nearly every cast member is carrying a device capable of recording the rehearsal.  Choreography steps are videoed so you can review them at home.  There are apps to help you run lines.  And microphones are everywhere.  I’m not completely thrilled about the microphones, as it changes vocal technique, but I love most of the other changes.  Now if we just had air conditioners that didn’t dry out the throat…

 

Black Stripe Theater – SEVEN

Friday, April 15th, 2016

I went to see the documentary play SEVEN last night, which was put on by Black Stripe Theater as part of International Women’s Month.  It’s an upsetting play to watch as it deals with rape, domestic violence, enforced prostitution, poverty, and human rights violations.  I won’t say that I enjoyed the play, but it was not supposed to be entertainment, and art can certainly make us feel uncomfortable.

I had not read about the seven woman before going to see the play so I was surprised that one of the seven was a portrayal of Inez McCormack, a human rights and trade union activist from Northern Ireland.  It was strange listening to a voice from my own culture and trying to work out how it fits with stories from woman from Afghanistan, Russia, Guatemala, Cambodia, Nigeria, and Pakistan.  I found myself feeling something like imposter syndrome for my home country as we do have a tendency to downplay what happened and the impact it had.

One of the aspects of the show that I really liked is that it depicted all seven woman together, in a way that they could not have been in real life.  It was beautiful in that it clearly showed that woman are the same all over the world.  That we all love, we all feel pain, and that we are more alike than we are different.  That there is hope for change.

Winter Trip

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

We spent three days at Niseko Village. I love Hokkaido in the winter. It doesn’t remind me of home, though lots of people in Japan think that Northern Ireland should be a snowy wonderland in winter. It looks like the sort of winter you see on old Christmas cards – more like Narnian winter than reality. If it wasn’t so cold it would be perfect.

We had wanted to try using a snowmobile for a while and this time we managed to hire one.  I didn’t have to drive, M did that, I just had to hold on.  That mostly worked but towards the end of the drive we managed to get stuck in a snowdrift and we both fell off the machine.  We were out with an instructor who was able to come to our rescue.  It’s certainly safer to fall off than a motorbike as the snow was very soft and deep. We also weren’t going very fast at the time as we were driving up the mountain.  It took a lot of effort to get back up as snow is surprisingly heavy when you end up buried in it.  It would also have been easier if we hadn’t been laughing so much.  It was a lot of fun and I would certainly try it again.  Maybe next time I’ll be braver and will try driving.

Niseko Village

Christmas Preparations

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Christmas always feels strange to me in Japan.  It’s a time for couples.  It’s a time for eating chicken and white sponge cake with strawberries.

Just like in the U.K. the shops are playing Christmas music but they are doing it in their own crazy Japanese way.  My local grocery store was playing four things at once today.   “Sleigh Ride” at a really fast speed, “All I want for Christmas”, some squeaky J-pop song, and someone was giving store announcements.  And then at the checkout area the “calorie mate” adverts were playing on little T.Vs.  I should really take earplugs when I go shopping to prevent the feeling that my head is going to explode.

I saw one nativity scene that made me laugh as it had polar bears and penguins. Odd looking Christmas trees are appearing across the city but I haven’t seen any yet that are actually made of tree.

Christmas Tree Eating Spider

Christmas Tree Eating Spider

 

Eating Out

Friday, December 4th, 2015

I still get amused by the concept of food courses in Tokyo.  Last night I had a nine course meal.  We started eating at around 7pm but by the time I got home shortly after midnight I was feeling hungry again.  The food was lovely, but the courses were incredibly small.  I’m not sure that in Northern Ireland you would get away with describing one small mushroom as a course.  Or one grilled scallion, or two tablespoons of shredded radish, or six ginkgo nuts.  Thankfully the eel, which was the main part of the dinner, was a decent size.

I wonder if the “no photographs” policy was to ensure that pictures of the tiny courses didn’t appear on the Internet?

 

 

Parcel Season

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Coming up to Christmas we get a lot of post.  The Japanese postal service and the various couriers that are used are impressive.  I have received many parcels addressed incorrectly in English.  Sometimes these find their way here because the couriers ring the apartment in advance to check the address.  Lately we have received quite a few parcels with the wrong apartment number, and they usually work that out without asking.  My favourite though was a parcel addressed to:

MINAMIZE JUST

Which is the strangest spelling I’ve seen yet of Minami-senju.

 

I <3 Garbage Room

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

When I first moved to Japan I found it hard to understand how to sort out garbage.  (I used to call it rubbish, but no-one knew what I was talking about.) There were so many things that need separated.  Burnable waste, non-burnable waste, PET bottles, glass bottles, cans, cartons, cardboard, paper, and white food trays.  There is also a separate garbage collection for items that are bigger than the 45L bags that we are expected to use.

We’ve been renting in Tokyo for a while and lately have been thinking of buying.  When we went to look at new houses I saw a yellow basket sitting outside one of them.  I haven’t had to deal with communal recycling baskets since we moved to this apartment.  I stared at it trying to remember if it was for cans or bottles… and then all the horrors of garbage came back to me.  I have learnt how to separate garbage but I no longer have to worry about when it needs put outside.  In our current apartment we have a garbage room.   It’s an amazing place full of bins for all the different types of garbage.  I no longer have to wait for the two days in a week when I can get rid of smelly food stuff from my apartment, and I don’t need to know which days are the right ones for different types of recycling, and I don’t need to store garbage in my apartment unless I’m too lazy to move it.

If I had a house I would have to learn the garbage cycle again.  Every day I would be putting out a different type of garbage.  I could end up responsible for washing out the baskets in the street, there would be crow nets, wild cats, and cleaning garbage off the street when a mess was made.  I would end up cleaning other people’s garbage off the street as I’m sure just like the last place we lived that they would blame the foreigners every time a crow attacked or some other person put their garbage out too soon.  I don’t actually mind helping out if there is garbage lying in the street as I love living in a clean city, but I disliked being blamed for this.

I did like the giant crows.  They seemed to know the schedule better than me and would sit on the electric cables outside our home just waiting for something tasty to be taken out.

Free Crow Nets

Free Crow Nets

Maybe houses are a better buy, because of the associated land, but I would miss my garbage room.