Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Flash...Veggie Bento

A small but filling vegetable selection from a local supermarket.Looking from the front there are two slices of pumpkin on the left.Nestled beside these are a couple of slices of boiled or steamed red skinned sweet potato,satsumaimo.
Two white circles of potato squat on what tasted like sticks of celery in the foreground.Wedged between the potato balls and the two blocks of tofu are the heads of two small mushrooms.
Toward the middle on the left are two circular pieces of crunchy lotus root or renkon that remind me of catherine wheels or the old style rotary dial telephones.
Beside the renkon is what I believe is a bamboo shoot,takenoko, again crunchy and fibrous.
Atop the blocks of tofu is a piece of carrot cut out in the shape of a maple leaf.Behind the tofu are two slices of slippery gelatine-like konnyaku.Hidden away top left are two small lumps of lightly fried renkon which if I heard the shop assistant correctly was renkon no suage.
Quite a colorful collection for the start of autumn.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Waiting for the Train that Never Comes

Ive been reluctant to write about my current work situation over the last few weeks.Being a bit of a "doubting Thomas" Im not apt to believe the swirling clouds of rumours and unsubstantiated speculation from the chattering masses about its imminent demise.
I do know that this months pay,(actually wages for last months lessons taught), were late.Five days late.Regular rank and file instructors were paid last Wednesday while ATs and BTs will be paid tomorrow,Tuesday.Hopefully.
Its been unsettling.Not knowing whether you will be paid for work done and whether the last months work has been nothing but voluntary.Not knowing how you will meet this months local government tax bill demands or rent for your apartment.The weight and difficult task of finding another job.The real possibility of a drop in monthly salary.Having to start again in terms of holidays and seniority allowances.
The dilemma of whether to stay and look for a job here or return home or even look to another country.I mean whats wrong with Taiwan? has typhoons,earthquakes and a language I dont understand.Much like Japan really.
Curiously though,in the midst of this apparent turmoil things appear pretty normal.
Another bunch of instructors arrived,were trained and dispatched to various schools.Situation normal.Same same.Ignore the fact that the clock was taken down in the kids room because theres no money in the office account to buy a 100 yen battery or that there are no whiteboard markers and theres no A4 paper until next month.
Roll on October 15th.Prior to that theres tomorrows pay day for titled teachers and later this month the Japanese staff payday comes round.
But I have been encouraged by a fax sent from the President that arrived the other day.It contained such memorable phrases as "The dark clouds that have been hanging heavily over us will be cast aside" and "...finally the first light of dawn can be seen".Words to cherish.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Flash..Autumn Chestnut KitKats

Despite the continued heat being generated by a stationary high pressure area hanging off the Pacific coast of Japan there are some signs that autumn is coming.One sure sign is that on Monday its the autumn equinox.Another is the appearance of seasonal food,drinks and confectionery in the stores and supermarkets.
The latest limited release in the KitKat range is this chestnut flavour.It comes in a beige coloured box.The wafer biscuits are also encased in a beige-like chocolate.

Personally I dont think they taste much like chestnuts or marron at all.More like a light coffee, almost carmel taste.Two willing assistants who sampled the same flavour came to a similiar conclusion.Still they are edible and quite pleasant.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Irish Iron Merchandise

The photo above shows the back of a T-Shirt available from the Irish Iron,the offical supporters club of Scunthorpe United in Ireland.All the money raised through club membership and the sale of merchandise and fundraisers goes to Scunthorpe United in the form of player kit sponsorship.I recently ordered the T-shirt and polo shirt below from the Irish Irons range of merchandise.
Theres also a range of enamel badges,scarves,key rings,baseball caps and the like available as well.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Flash..Fishy Bento

This fishy snack has a variety of fish,textures and tastes to it.From left to right there is an omelette-like slice of egg,then a slice of Pacific saury or sanma,a fish that resembles a sword.It is often grilled with salt or served as sashimi.Next is a thick slice of salmon or sake,which apparently tastes good also grilled with salt.To its right is shrimp or ebi and finally a bite size morsel of eel.Each of the above sit on a small "finger" of rice.The usual condiments of parsley and ginger can be seen as well as thin green plastic strips which divide the various items from one another.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Interesting Advertising/Sumo

This photo shows part of an advertising poster that appeared last week covering the front wall of a sports club I regularly frequent.I did a double take when I saw the phrase on the front of the womans T shirt."Real women ride 20 inchers".I just wonder if the "humour " translates and is understood by the majority of those who pass by it every day.

Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament
The Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament began yesterday sans yokozuna Asashoryu.
New yokozuna,Hakuho,hoping to consolidate his position as sole active yokozuna since Asa's suspension lost on the first day to Ama.Kaio,the oldest active ozeki at 35 was also defeated.
However newly promoted ozeki Kotomitsuki,who at 31 is the oldest wrestler to be promoted to that rank since the 6 tournament system began in 1958 began with a win.

Tokugawaen Garden

Shrugging off the heat and humidity as well as the leftovers from Typhoon Number 9 I ventured forth to Tokugawaen Garden.Tokugawaen is a park about 10 minutes walk from JR Ozone Station on the Chuo Line from Nagoya.It consists of a shallow central lake around which various landscaped features have been constructed and a wooded area through which waterfalls and streams flow emptying into the lake.
There are also areas of plantings such as an irises bed and peonies to provide year round interest.
The lake mirrors the black pines and maples on its edges and provides a home for a small number of koi (carp) that seem to populate every Japanese garden I visit.

On Friday numerous dragonfly species flitted fitfully above the surface of the lake oblivious to the high temperatures.
The wooded area was very peaceful and pleasant to stroll around.The streams and various waterfalls have been built to provide visitors with the refreshing sound of running water.One of the waterfalls is a three tier arrangement.The rocks on each level have been positioned differently providing a variety of splashing sounds and spray as the water flow descends the fall.

Due to the heat there werent many visitors so it was possible to stroll leisurely around and take in views from the bridges and sit down in the shady coolness provided by the trees.Come autumn however Im sure numbers will increase as the maples and other trees put on their annual autumnal display of colour.
Entry to the park was 300yen.Theres the Tokugawa Art Museum next door which I didnt feel inclined to visit on such a stifling day.The Museum apparently displays some 10,000 items of the Tokugawa clan.You can buy a joint ticket to both the garden and museum but I might save the Museum for another cooler day.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday Flash..Vanilla Beans KitKats

Another addition,albeit on sale only for a limited time,to the growing range of KitKat flavours available here in Nagoya,Japan.As with the recent orange and chocolate kitkats I spotted late last month,these also bear a label indicating their short term availabilty.
Which got me wondering...if the flavour is a hit would the KitKat people continue making them or stop producing them after a short time as shown on the box and run the risk of disappointing consumers who have become addicted to that particular flavour.
Surely some flavours are more popular than others and deserve in terms of sales and customer loyalty to be available 24/365 at ones local convenience store.I mean surely the banana kitkats deserve a regular spot on the shelves more so than the sickly sweet lemon ones.
As for the vanilla beans kitkats above,they do taste and smell strongly of vanilla and bond well with the accompanying wafer biscuit.Nothing really special though as with the chocolate and orange ones or in fact any KitKat product eaten in the humid lingering Japanese summer they are best enjoyed after being briefly refrigerated.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Wake Me Up When November Comes

A story that seems to have dragged on as long as this summer came to some sort of resolution late last week.
Yokozuna Asashoryu left for Mongolia on Wednesday after the Japanese Sumo Association granted him permission to return home.Way back in July following the Nagoya Summer Tournament his stablemaster submitted a sickness note citing injuries and absenting him from a JSA regional sumo tour.He was then filmed playing in a charity soccer match in Mongolia.
On his return to Japan August 1st the JSA suspended him for two tournaments,forbid
him to leave his apartment except for hospital and training visits and a salary cut.

On August 4 a psychiatrist says Asa is melancholic and should return home.By August 6th his condition seems to have worsened as he is diagnosed as suffering from acute stress disorder.On August 20th he is further diagnosed with a dissassociative disorder by his personal doctor and a JSA doctor.On August 28 following an extraordinary JSA board meeting it agreed to allow Asa to receive treatment in Mongolia along with his stablemaster and doctors.
Asa's stablemaster attempted to set up a press conference earlier in the saga to allow Asa to apologise but reportedly couldnt persuade him to do so.
Hopefully Asa can recover back home in Ulan Bator.
Whether he returns to Japan and resumes his position in sumo after his suspension is lifted remains problematic.