Shamisen vs. Turntable

This is the coolest video I’ve linked to since Keltech’s Star Wars performance. Background: LiveJam 2005 was a concert produced by NHK that aired on Coming of Age Day (now observed on the second Monday in January every year. Prior to 2000 was Jan. 15.) this year.
Without further ado: DJ Kentaro vs. Shinichi “King of Shamisen” Kinoshita
If somebody has information on an official CD/DVD release, please drop me a line.

Conversational Patterns

There’s an old lady who lives a few houses down from us. I usually see her when I return home from work or go out for a walk. In the five years we have known her, she has been known to talk only about one thing, the weather.
– “Hot today, isn’t it?”
– “Sure is cold.”
– “Looks like it’s gonna rain.”
– Or some small variation of the above.
Even when you try to talk to her, she speaks over you about the weather. Once, I asked when Big Garbage day was, and she replied about the hot spell we were having. So I eventually gave up trying to talk to her beyond basic greetings and the weather. I accepted it; it’s just been like this for five years.
Then, last week, as I walked by she suddenly asked, “Why did the color of your work uniforms change?”
I was too shocked to reply at first, and the moment of silence that followed floated in the humid summer air, suspended for eternity. Then the words stumbled from my mouth automatically, “Sure is hot today…”
She seemed to accept this as an acceptable answer and kind of nodded as I walked away.

500-Pound Recruit

Continuing in the vein of WWII, have you ever heard the story of Voytek?
Check it out: The Iranian soldier-bear of Monte Cassino
Longtime readers have often heard of my plans to create a Monkey Army when I move to Thailand. I have thought of conscripting water buffaloes and elephants as well, but I never considered bears. One thing I do know is that any bears who joined my army would not be serving as porters – can you say “6-foot, 500-pound HOPLITE?”

Target: Sumoto

A colleague just related something that he saw on a documentary last night: During WWII, Sumoto was number 173 on a list of 180 Japanese targets to be carpet bombed by the US. Apparently, they got down to number 66 on the list (probably somewhere in Fukui prefecture) before bombing with conventional munitions was made unnecessary by Fat Man and Little Boy.
It took me a while to figure out what could possibly be of military significance on this island (Awajishima) until I remembered that there was a railroad back then (the Nankai “Shima Densha”) which might seem useless since there were no bridges to the mainland yet, but when coupled with the numerous deep water ports on the island might have seemed like a significant supply point.
Also, there were big bore gun emplacements that might have threatened the passage of ships through the Naruto Straits – I have to go hiking to that site soon to see if anything remains.

Sambo Revisited

A few months ago, I wrote a post about the republishing of Little Black Sambo by a Japanese publisher, and my mom left this in the comments:

You used to like the pancakes at Sambo’s Restaurant, remember? All that melted “tiger-butter…it used to make me uneasy to look up at the Little Black Sambo sign and wonder how blacks felt…

Ingrate that I am, I actually didn’t remember a Sambo’s Restaurant at all, and I forgot to ask my mom about it.
Today I happened across a link that explains it: McDonalds, Taco Bell, and the first fast food restaurants
There’s one thing though:
Is it just me, or is this Sambo sugar-coated?

Dream Soup

Sunday, in the early morning hours, I had a dream so very real that I woke up in a cold sweat.
I was riding on the Shinkansen from Los Angeles to Mexico (the first sign that this was a dream, which I realized even as I was having it) with my family. The other people on the train were mostly migrant workers, returning to their homes from a hard day in the fields. A few of them played cards on the floor, taking swigs from warm cans of Tecate and a dirty bottle of mezcal. They were kind of loud and obnoxious as drunken card-playing migrant workers on trains tend to be, but I really didn’t notice them at first.
I was speaking to my mom when my brother Adam suddenly stood up and started singing “Me So Horny” like a lounge singer (this part of the dream was clearly influenced by the Richard Cheese album I discovered recently) and leering at the senorita (muy bonita) sitting next to him:
Sittin’ at home with my dick on hard
So I got the black book for a freak to call
Picked up the telephone, then dialed the 7 digits
Said, “Yo, this Addy, baby! Are you down with it?”
I arrived at her house, knocked on the door
Not having no idea of what the night had in store
I’m like a dog in heat, a freak without warning
I have an appetite for sex, ’cause me so horny

I was horrified and shouted at him to shut up while eyeing the card players, who were just starting to notice to my brother’s impromptu serenade:
Girls always ask me why I fuck so much
I say “What’s wrong, baby doll, with a quick nut?”
‘Cause you’re the one, and you shouldn’t be mad
I won’t tell your mama if you don’t tell your dad
I know he’ll be disgusted when he sees your pussy busted
Won’t your mama be so mad if she knew I got that ass?
I’m a freak in heat, a dog without warning
My appetite is sex, ’cause me so horny

By now, the poker hombres had pulled out knives and were yelling at him. “Hey Ese, we gonna cut your worm off and put it in our mezcal!”
I jumped into their midst, swinging, but my punches in dreams never seem to connect and they swarmed over me. My last act, before fading out, was to scream “You can’t hurt him… He has HOT PANTS!”
Cue waking up in a cold sweat.
I called Adam later that day. He said he was at Osaka castle with some friends, so although I told him about how he had been singing 2 Live Crew on a train to Mexico in my dream, my heart wasn’t into telling him that his worm had probably been harvested and consumed with a slice of lime.
Also, I was still very much befuddled by the meaning of the dream and especially the concept of HOT PANTS. I have no idea what they are.
So I kept this all bottled up inside until Monday night, when I set out to create a dish to commemorate the dream and partially actualize its existence. There was a pot of leftover Tom Yum Goong soup stock left on the stove, so that’s what I started with.
1. Add the following into a pot of day-old Tom Yum Goong stock:
Fresh-picked button tomatoes, halved
Chicken broth
Chicken meat cut into strips
Daikon, cut into paper thin rounds
Tofu from overpriced & snobby Kyoto store, whole
Onion, sliced
Fresh habanero pepper from the garden, sliced
Dash of bourbon, for lack of mezcal
2. Season to taste with black pepper, white pepper, and Sriracha hot sauce
3. Top with diced green onions, fresh coriander, and slice of lime
So how was it?
Pretty damn good. Also, pretty damn spicy. Eat a couple big bowls of this and the secret of HOT PANTS will be revealed to you, too!

Marriage in Japan for Foreign Couples

This is a public service announcement to all gaijin couples thinking of getting married in Japan. If you indeed choose to make this wonderful commitment in the Land of the Rising Sun, be forewarned that you will be asked to write your name on the wedding registration paper more times and in more ways than you can possibly imagine. This is mainly due to corrections made necessary by the confusion caused when two non-Japanese want to perform some official action normally only performed with at least one Japanese counterpart.
Man, we ruffled the system up so badly they wouldn’t even let us get married the day we went in, they insisted on performing a day-long inspection of the documents first. Even after allowing us to get married on the second day, they called us back in because they had made another mistake. Then later that night, they called again announce yet another one – the lady in charge ended up coming by our house on our wedding night to get the papers in order.
All’s well that ends well, right? And we weren’t about to let the small things ruin it for us. It seemed it was all behind us, and all was good. Then today we found out they issued us the wrong wedding certificate (different from what we requested). Here we go again…

Knot, tied.

A couple hours ago, I sat here a happy man. I sit here again now even happier!
We are married! There is much rejoicing in the streets of Sumoto!
Next, the Wedding. Tentatively planned for next February. We’re thinking of a beach wedding in Thailand, and I, for once, am willing to deal with the yuppie resorts I usually detest… Somehow “wedding” and “private beach” just sound nice together.
And now, we are off to a nice dinner together. Just like we have a thousand times before, but tonight is special. Thanks for all your blessings.

An announcement

Hey all,
I have ten days off work and am spending most of them soaking up rays on the beach. We went to the Awa Odori in Tokushima last night and I took over a gigabyte of photos with my new D50 – I hope to be posting a series of these over the next few days. It was truly an awesome experience, the largest festival I have ever seen in Japan.
I have a bigger announcement, though. Nam and I finally got all the paperwork in order, and will be getting married at the city office within the next few days! I’ll post updates to let you all know, meanwhile, I hope you are all having fun during my summer vacation!