November 29, 2008

Japan 2008, Day 6


We woke up and got to the sumo stadium before the gift shop opened. It was absolute heaven. There was so much knick-knackia of a sumo nature! Flags and shirts and cards and fans and Hello Kitty in a mawashi.

The saleslady was so nice. I think she was mildly perplexed that I had no language skills other than sumo nouns. Sorry! I saw the old stadium cushions in the back room and asked if I could buy one. They're experimenting with replacing them with double cushions that are harder for fans to throw during tournaments. She would not hear of selling one, but it was worth a try.

Then we went on an adventure in Ueno, wherein mrguy found the store he was looking for that sells Japanese denim.

Then off to meet acquaintances who took us to a forklift factory and gave us a tour of their machine room.

They handed us off at Shibuya Station to wonderful friends from the Japanese tour of the forklift exhibition, and we got to spend the rest of the day with them. Sweet!!

They took us to a formal garden that had colorful maple trees and a gorgeous lake filled with big funny koi (am I the only person who thinks that carp have a sense of humor?) and herons and egrets and beautiful stones. As night fell, Ms S noticed that a building right next to the footpath was actually an apartment and they were watching sumo (Baruto vs Dejima). Good eye!

We took the subway to Rappongi, and had the culinary experience of a lifetime. Mr H identified our spot as a "Robota" restaurant. The ingredients were all laid out before us like a Japanese version of a Dutch still life. The chefs cooked everything to order, and our every move was shouted to the entire restaurant. Mrguy has been joking that when we had the tasty little salad with shirako in vinaigrette, the waiters and chefs were probably shouting "The Americans are eating shirako!!" I tease, but the shirako was tasty (anything in ponzu has my vote). However the texture was a little wiggly for me :)

I know this isn't a food blog, but I need to geek out a bit. We ate the largest oysters I've ever consumed. I'm not a fan of big oysters, because I've never eaten a delicious one. This oyster was a Pacific oyster of some sort and every piece of it was that perfect "crispy" texture and fresh-fresh-fresh. It took three bites. And the eggplants were that inky indigo color that you only find in Japanese eggplants in Japan. All of us were right about the hairy tubers by the way. I said they're taro. Our hosts said they're potatoes. According to the world wide intertubes, they're "taro potatoes."

The whole time we were with our friends I could *not* get over how delicious it was to be with them and for mrguy to finally meet them. Sometimes you meet people and just feel like you're supposed to be friends and hope that feeling is mutual.

Awwwww. It was sad when we had to say goodbye.

After all of this fun I could not stay awake on the subway. On Friday I had had the experience of being the gentle pillow for a sweetly sleeping school boy. Now mrguy was mine.

Japan 2008, Day 5

We started the day in Chiba. Packing took some time, and then we were off. During the ride our taxi driver fed us candy, tangerines and asked us if we wanted to make a stop to use the restroom. Now *that's* service. As a point of comparison, during the taxi ride from home to the rail station the driver *accelerated* down the hill and ignored most of the stop signs.
We got to our hotel (good choice, mrguy!) and found that we were across from the Inari Shrine. So pretty and peaceful, with the statues of kitsune and bells and incense.
We found a restaurant a few blocks from the hotel, where a local woman encouraged us to eat, took us in, asked for our likes and dislikes and ordered for us. I wish we'd exchanged name cards. She was so kind. If you're ever in Akasaka, eat here:

They'll make you a gorgeous chirashi sushi salad thingie that'll blow you away.
Then off to Yanaka to take a walk suggested by our guidebook. It's peaceful and suburban. Lots of cemetaries and shrines, where ravens make gargling sounds and cats sun themselves on large monuments.

Our next stop, the sumo museum, was closing in an hour. It also took three subway lines to get there. Studly mrguy got us there in 20 minutes. It was fabulous. The vintage kesho-mawashi were beautifully constructed, and an oval photograph of the 25th yokozuna laying down at home was very tender and dear. They don't allow photography, but here are the murals at the stadium:

Then to Beer Club Popeye to try some of their 40 beers on tap. They had a large tv or two, which allowed me to watch the sumo tournament in real time. Patient mrguy!

Our friends from the forklift factory met us, and we had a great night with them, eating chanko-nabe at Yakitori Bar Toriyoshi. I now know that certain chrysanthemums are edible. Yum.

November 25, 2008

Japan 2008, Day 4

Today was the big day, but something was wrong. My innards were not right. Neither were mrguy's. After he ducked out to find us a pharmacy, I fingered the culprit: it was the Dundee Cake and its hundreds of raisins. The moment passed, so to speak.

I played the uke to calm any nerves. I met the translators, and my fellow panelists. One was famous enough to get several double-takes in the restaurant where we ate lunch.

The presentation went well, the other presentations were interesting, the whole sessio
n went over by an hour and a half, and I was BEAT! But wait...another reception on the 35th floor of a hotel in the area. It was cozy to hang out with our hosts and look at their cat pictures and eat Japanese pizza and see the far away Tokyo skyline where we'd be tomorrow.

We gathered more swag, and mrguy took me to an arcade, and then to the grocery store.

My favorite vacation pastime. I bought beer and Japanese cheese weenies and ice cream and CalBee chips. Outside the supermarket, I considered sleeping on the sidewalk from exhaustion.

Japan 2008, Day 3

It's all about the rosette.

A Japanese ribbon cutting ceremony is the height of cool. A long red ribbon is held aloft by chrome stanchions and is studded with ribbon rosettes. In between each rosette stands a white-gloved person wearing his or her own rosette, waiting for the cue to cut. Simultaneously, each dignitary makes his or her cut with a pair of golden shears.

I'd seen it done before, but this was my day. The gloves, the rosette, the was awesome.

I was under strict instructions from another english-speaking person that I was to wear the rosette at all times on this day, especially at dinner. I felt even more conspicuous than usual.

After the keynote presentation by our colleague we ate by ourselves at The Plastic Wasabi.

After our second colleague's presentation, which included the thoughtful proposition that one of the stakeholders in any company is the environment, we went off to the exhibits. My favorite? The people who make big colorful buttons that light up. Their website doesn't do justice to how beautiful their switches and buttons are. I'm such an analog girl.

The sounds in the exhibition hall were multitudinous and deafening. The rosette was noticed by every single person we passed. The stimulation was intense.

We found an oasis of calm at a booth manned by a fellow ribbon cutter. He served us tea and Dundee Cake and we chatted with yet another ribbon cutter who had spent his entire afternoon in interviews. The forklift company doesn't allow interviews, so I was in luck.

Then we made our way to our room to practice the presentation one last time. Having nowhere else to go, mrguy stuffed his ears with earbuds, turned on his iPod and put a pillow over his head until I was finished.

Dinner was at a banquet hall in the convention center. Hundreds of people stood around round tables drinking Suntory whiskey and water and eating gorgeous sushi. Each of us presenters and our hosts made an appearance on stage (this is the reason you need to wear the rosette), and at the end of introductions and kudos and shout outs for people who have worked hard to make this happen, we on the stage simultanously clapped once, on cue. This signified the almost halfway point of the exhibition. We have no equivalent gesture in America.

After the banquet we considered eating this:

but ate ramen out of the vending machine instead. Soooo tired.

Japan 2008, Day 2

This is where the fun begins.

Just like in the movies, a nice man with a sign saying "mrs guy" met us at the airport and took us to our hotel. Japan started happening in front of us and it was all I could do to keep my focus. If only I'd taken a picture in the airport of the large, free-standing plastic hot dog squirting catsup onto himself, my life would be complete.

Moving on, we had a little time to relax before work began. I got to watch sumo on tv, and was a happy girl. Our evening's activities included meeting our hosts and fellow presenters, eating and drinking and taking turns hooking up our presentations to work out any bugs.

Left to our own devices, mrguy and I found the vending machines and bought beer and snacks.

Japan 2008, Day 1

I should just title this "The Foods of ANA".

Flying on ANA is so heavenly that nobody in their right minds wants to get off the plane. The flight attendants lavish you with attention and food. I was stuffed when I got to Tokyo.

First there was champagne. And then shochu. I chose the type made from barley, and mrguy chose the one made from sweet potatoes:

Then came the ANA Signature Amuse, featuring the best cheese sticks in the entire world. I have craved those cheese sticks for two years:

Then the first course, featuring the best daikon flower I have ever eaten, lovely surf clam, salt-grilled saury, hoshigaki and many other taste treats.

Then the second course. Fish and vegetables in a delicate broth, served with pickles.

The meal ended in an enormous parfait that guilt prevented me from refusing. Followed closely by the offer of after dinner drinks and truffles.

Because of the girl band back home, I watched a movie about a girl band in Japan, then I woke up and studied some for the forklift presentation.

November 23, 2008

What we didn't do

Tomorrow I will commence the Japan blog, but before we go, our list of the things we didn't do:

Nakano Broadway Mall (including the store that sells stuff people left on the subway)
Flea markets
Golden Gai
Kiwaya Ukulele Museum
Ukulele Weekend
Sumo basho
Art/history museums, but especially the Edo Tokyo Museum
Coco Palms / Mehana (Hawaiian restaurants)

I can't think of any food items that I especially craved that I didn't have.

Looking forward to coming home, eating a burrito and resting.

November 22, 2008

I know what you fed me

If u r reading this, I know what that is now.

You said "it's part of a fish".

It isn't really part of a fish, but is more like what makes fish in the future and isn't an egg, if you get my drift. Some call it "white children".

Another blogger says this of shirako "It was something like a high quality silky tofu. Yet, it has the umami that you would not find from tofu." I cannot disagree. However mrguy says:

"Ooooh, Mommy!!!"

November 19, 2008

How the Mighty Have Fallen

After a day of being secretly famous I am eating Cup O Noodles in bed, with mrguy's used chopsticks, and am completely happy. Maybe I should have thrown down for a meal in another eating establishment in the hotel (the storm petrel nest soup with crab seemed a bargain at $36.00 for a cup), but I kind of love the dissonance of starting the morning with a face full of cameras and ending it eating chez vending machine. I have suggested to mrguy that tomorrow perhaps we should eat at AM PM.

If only I could find *one* english speaker in this country who likes sumo...

November 18, 2008

The Punchline

Is that we got to our hotel room just in time to see the last 5 matches of day 10 (?) live on tv.

How cool is that?

November 15, 2008

Bidet 2008

One reason mrsguy has been relatively silent lately is that the creative juices have been diverted to a presentation I'm giving in Japan about forklifting and how the factory sets out to make those forklifts so nice.

And because of the timing, certain celebrations are being observed early. The first wave was last night. Ms scandiwaiian and mrguy and I went to see our friend's piece exhibited in a museum. And since we were together, I got some niiiiigh birthday swag:

Check it out. Coin purses in the image of the amazing cassette tapes I have owned. The first is Wow Booty Shake Vol. 2, a tape I bought just for its title. Every song is vile, catchy and funny in an awful way. I sang along with it so much that I ended up having a dream that I had found Wow Booty Shake Vol. 1.

The second tape is Funny Tape. You may recall this from mrsguy. Again, fabulously commissioned for me by ms scandiwaiian for my birthday. I am honored.

We came home from our adventure (o.k., I picked up my car from work, and took a detour to give a ride to a damsel in distress), and there was a box waiting in the hallway. omg. A gift from that nice boy: two bottles of pear eau de vie, two bottles of kirsch, two bottles of raspberry eau de vie.

Bidet is off to a nice start :)

A Last Election Note

Joe the plumber, like Willie Horton before him, will soon be a person we only discuss every four years in the fall.

Last week while driving past a famous sex novelty store in the big city we saw this marquee and paused just long enough in the intersection to snap this photo...

November 5, 2008

Election Bunker in Action, Part 2

I can't believe that I woke up and it's still true.

Yes, the potholder candidate went down in flames. But the biggest carbuncle on the flank of our city council got enough votes to last for another four years. His anti-yoga mailer (I'm not kidding), intended to harm one of the other candidates, did not work. That candidate got the most votes.

In other political news, The Sun has scrapped its "Page 3 Girl" today for Barack Obama.

November 4, 2008

Election Bunker in Action, Part 1

In 2004, mr middleguysis ate a record number of slices of pizza, perhaps as many as ten, in protest of the unfolding election returns. I think this year he might be able to eat more lightly. And this may be the first time in years that I've been asleep at a reasonable hour knowing what happened.

Regardless of whether you're happy about how things turn out today, one thing we can all get behind is how many people went to the polls and voted. Here's how I saw it...

I was out there at 7:30 this morning. I was so excited to see that I had to stand in line. I remarked on the turnout to a poll worker, and she told me that during the February primary only 140 people in my precinct voted...shocking!

I don't know about you, but I like to vote. Let's keep it up, people! That's how we change the world.

November 1, 2008


This morning mrguy took me to Carrows to help feed my cold the egg breakfast it desired. We returned to find our mailbox full of rain-soaked campaign mailers. Why couldn't the mail carrier get them all into the box?

I felt one of the envelopes, a puffy envelope marked "a gift for you"...


I am now the proud owner of a potholder from city council member M., up for reelection. His potholder wins my affection, but not my vote. I'm no fool.

"Hardworking Joe C.," however, totally got my attention a few years ago by sending us gardening gloves emblazoned with his motto. How funny!

Back to the potholders, though. I wanted to know more about the tradition of the campaign potholder. From info on the Internet it appears that Gerald Ford gave out promotional potholders when running for Congress. Calvin Coolidge may have also used the promotional potholder. And Magi claims to have started the political potholder trade.

There is little hope that city council member M. will not be re-elected. That may be sad, but I'll buoy myself with the thought that the next time his term is up, there may be a potholder in it for the guy family.
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