Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Huffington Post on Japan

Just read this on "tracks-less-traveled" destinations in Japan.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

More Japanese School Lunches


Most meals are served with rice, all with milk, regardless of the menu (see http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/niigata-town-drops-milk-from-school-lunches for the decision of a nearby city to stop serving milk from Dec. 1- the last day for school lunch in March; see my comments for additional information not in the JT article). 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ippudo: Authentic Hakata Ramen in Niigata

I have it on the authority of a Kyushu native that the only authentic Hakata-style ramen in Niigata is to be found at Ippudo (一風堂).  It certainly was tasty.  Hakata ramen originated in Fukuoka City in either 1941 or '42 at the open-air stall 三馬路  (Mimaji? Mibaro?), operated by one Morii Kentaro. The ramen is characterised by a pork-based soup and thin, straight noodles.

Yesterday's School Lunch

Chinese-style tofu over rice, salad dressed with vinegar, pear wedge

Thursday, November 13, 2014

School Lunch for November 14

Chinese cabbage soup
miso-flavored fried tofu and pork
corn dumplings dressed with vinegar and sesame

*The average school lunch in November contains 845 calories.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Persecuted Christians and Miracle Soba: A Traditional Story from Kyushu

Long, long ago, in the islands of the Amagusa archipelago, there lived many who believed in the teachings of Christ. However, Shoguns Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu banned the Christian religion, arguing that it was a pernicious foreign influence.

The authorities hunted down suspected Christians, burning some at the stake and waterboarding others.  And so it came to pass that many were executed for their beliefs.

One autumn's day a certain peasant, Shinkichi by name, was planting a soba field with seeds with the aid of his wife.  All of a sudden the two were startled by a clatter as of running feet, and before long they beheld a small band of people running towards them, the band comprising a few peasants led by  men who were most certainly not Japanese serfs; as the group advanced, the Shinkichis could make out the brown hair and towering forms of two foreign gentlemen.

"Help us, do help us, we are being pursued by the authorities", the fugitives implored.  "God will reward and protect you if you do."

"But we have no business succoring those wanted by the law," replied Shinkichi.

"We may be outlaws, but our only crime was to pray to our God," remonstrated the group.

And then it occurred to Shinkichi that these were not ordinary fugitives. "So you're Christians", he said. "In that case, see that you run as fast as you can yonder, where you'll find a cave at the base of a cliff.  You'll be practically invisible there."

"God will most certainly reward you for your charity. If the authorities come looking for us, be sure to tell them you saw us fleeing in the direction of the cliff at the time you were sowing your field with soba."

So saying, the two foreign men led their small congregation in the direction pointed out by Shinkichi.

Shinkichi and his wife watched as the group receded into the distance.  Then, turning their attention back to the field they were sowing,  the couple were startled to see that the seeds they had planted just moments before had already begun to sprout. And lo, before their very eyes, the sprouts became fully grown and the field a blanket of white.

Just then a party of soldiers appeared. "Hey, you there.  Did a couple of foreigners with some peasants in tow pass by here earlier?  Speak up.  You know what happens to those who harbor fugitives, don't you?"

"Yes, most honored sir, a group like you described did pass by here in the direction of the cliff. But that was when my wife and I were planting the field," replied Shinkichi to the leader.

"What's that you say?  But the soba's now fully grown."

"Indeed it is, honored sir.  I am certain I saw the people you seek when I was planting the seeds."

"Well, that must have been quite some while ago.  I suppose it can't be helped. Let's go, men, back to the fort." Thus ended the interview between Shinkichi and the leader of the posse.

As soon as the men were out of sight, the soba began to wither. Magically the field returned to its earlier condition.

"Truly, God did come to our aid just then.  Come what may, God will always keep us from evil."  With clasped hands Shinkichi and his wife fervently thanked God and asked His blessing.

News of Shinkichi and his soba passed from person to person, from village to village, until few were those ignorant of the story, and even fewer who didn't believe in God's mighty and mysterious power.

Translation: Brian Southwick, 2014


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Trains and Bikes

Japan Rail assesses passengers no surcharge for traveling with a bike. Such passengers are, however, required to use a bike bag. 

Junior high school lunch

A recent school lunch.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

School lunch for October 30

rice, miso soup, 2 vegetable dishes, fish, squash pudding, milk (not pictured)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fact Checking Japan Today

Japan Today is one of the major online media outlets for news in English about Japan.  Unlike The Japan Times (which publishes a print edition), the former is free ( TJT limits online users to just a few free reads per month).

(Readers may recall a post from a couple of years back regarding removal of comments critical of Japan Today's parent company, INTERAC, a major player in the private ALT industry.)

Japan Today produces little journalism of its own; rather, for stories not already available in English, it provides translations from the Japanese. So far, so good.

Except that Japan Today's translations are sometimes inaccurate or incomplete.

Case in point: http://www.japantoday.com/category/crime/view/19-year-old-arrested-for-pushing-man-off-train-platform

The story contains one not insignificant error: the 2 men did not continue their argument after exiting the train.  Instead, they calmed down.  The older man was waiting in line for his next train when the younger man pushed him from behind onto the tracks.

And there is an omission of important information: a train was approaching the station at the time and had to be stopped by an alert station employee, who pressed the "Emergency Stop" button.

Yahoo Japan's reporting is here: http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20141029-00050069-yom-soci

Japan Today owes it to readers unable to make sense of Japanese to provide better translations.

An update (Oct. 31)   Japan Today is reporting that police have arrested a 25-year-old man on suspicion of attempted extortion.  The alleged incident took place in August, when one Hashimoto, the suspect, is said to have threatened his then-girlfriend into signing an IOU for over 3 million yen.  JT omits important details: the accuser is the ex-girlfriend, and the incident took place weeks ago.

My comment below:

  • Hashimoto was arrested this week for allegedly threatening and attempting to extort over 3 million yen, in August, from his now ex-girlfriend. The timing is an important detail missing from the article (Some readers seem to think the police acted with dispatch).

The original article:

A 25-year-old man who works as a host at a club in Tokyo’s Kabukicho district has been arrested for trying to extort 3 million yen from his girlfriend by threatening her.
According to police, Hiroyuki Hashimoto forced his girlfriend to sign an IOU stating that she owed him 3 million yen, TV Asahi reported. Police said he threatened to kill her and her family if she didn’t sign it.
After the woman fled, Hashimoto emailed her mother and demanded to know where her daughter was and that she owed him money. However, the woman’s mother contacted the police who arrested Hashimoto.
Police said Wednesday that Hashimoto is also suspected of beating up another woman in her 20s in July. In that case, the woman suffered broken bones, police said.
Japan Today

Thursday, April 03, 2014

A Roadside Shrine

A more common sight in Japan than even the ubiquitous convenience store is the roadside shrine (Yes, I know, a most bold assertion). Such shrines come in all manner of upkeep and repair. I pass numerous wayside shrines on my commute, most of them tidy and of weathered, untreated wood, and lacking in any ornament or statement of artistic originality.

 Not so this shrine.

The shrine, with its figure of Jizo, bell pull, flowers, and general appearance, is not unlike others I pass on the ride to school.  However, the artist/ builder has let himself go on the "pediment" (What is this part of the shrine called, by the way?), writhing, serpentining figures and all. 

Jizo is the protector of travelers, women in childbirth, and children. According to Buddhist thought, the souls of children who die during childbirth or at a young age are sent to sai no kawara , a dismal place where they must erect piles of stones, which are promptly scattered by demons. Someone has erected such a pile here. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Update on Death of Visa Overstayer While in Detention

Some while back I wrote briefly about the death of Ghanian national Abubakar Awudu Suraj while in the custody of Japanese immigration officials. 

In a landmark ruling, a Japanese court has ordered the state to make a 5 million yen (roughly 50,000 US dollars) condolence payment to his family.

A paltry sum. 

But for perspective, consider this.  Or this.