Showing posts from November, 2008

Food Photos

I had a wonderful day yesterday way up in the central Saitama mountain range, where we took photos for my food book at a small restaurant in Shomaru.

Enomoto-san used to have a fancy eatery in Yoyogi, but got tired of that kind of lifestyle, and found this location instead.

He made traditional foods including seasonal vegetables, tamagoyaki, and grilled tai, red snapper: since tai rhymes with the word medetai, or "congratulations," it is regarded as a good luck dish in Japan.

Kodansha is going all out to make this a best-seller, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed...

Japanese Children Worried About The Environment

I wrote a post for Treehugger about the campaign over at Japan's Environmental Ministry, where kids are contributing drawings on the theme of global warming, pollution and other concerns. The children are clearly concerned about the future, their future.

I got a pretty nasty comment already from someone who thinks this is all due to propaganda, brainwashing, and: "Seriously, it's the modern day equivalent of the Cold War. I'm sure in the 60's you'd have had the same number of drawings from kids told they were going to die from A-bombs and nuclear winter."

Oh well... That kind of comment really makes me think we all need to work even harder for the future of the kids on this beautiful planet.

Swan Lake

Have you ever seen Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake performed on stage? I was lucky as a young boy to see both this and the Nutcracker at the Malmö Stadsteatern (built in 1944), and then the Aida opera by Verdi, around the time when I was 9 or 10.

Swan Lake was written in the 1870s and received its premiere on February 27, 1877, at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, but credit for the version we are used to seeing belongs to the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg.

BBC last year made a fantastic documentary, now available on Youtube. Here is part 1:

If you like Japanese animation, I'm sure you know that Toei did a wonderful Swan Lake (白鳥の湖, Hakuchou no Mizuumi) back in 1981...

The first performance of Swan Lake in These Parts Of The World was on August 9, 1946 by the Imperial Garden Theater. Their roots go all the way back to 1911, when Toho opened a theater in Marunouchi, central Tokyo. Today, Tokyo has seven major symphony orchestras. And classical music is incredibly popular. According to …

The Plan

I have had the most amazingly busy week helping a very professional and inspiring Swedish film team do a documentary here in Tokyo. Their emails turned into phone calls and then increasingly - concerns/joyful requests/questions/whatnot.

The team that made The Planet will now go further to talk to some very special people around the world, trying to find out what we all can do to change things.

If you are familiar with Thomas Kuhn/Paradigm Shift-kind-of-thinking, this will sound familiar.

There are moments in history when great changes occur. An old epoch gives way to a new, shifts in ways of thinking or paradigm shifts, as the philosopher Thomas S. Kuhn chose to call it. What is it that drives forth and triggers these changes or sudden shifts in our lives and in our minds?

Yet, somehow, it all boils down to logistics. I found a truly marvellous driver, Mayumi-san, with a Toyota Hiace van big enough for the five of us and tons of gear, including a brand new camera that is good enough to l…

Making Wine From Viburnum Berries

I went to a "Eco-tourism" event in Hanno, up near where the hills become mountains and there are rivers and lakes.

We took a long walk in the morning, with the guide helping everyone identifying edible plants and berries, such as gamazumi, that we picked. We then got the entire, full-monty lecture and started clean the matatabi, yamaboushi, sarunashi and gumi. Adding alcohol, we were told to wait for 3 years to get the special flavour... Our guide had plenty of bottles, all properly labelled, some dating back 20 years or so. The older the better ;)

Gamazumi is a plant we actually have in Sweden too, it is called olvon. The Latin name is Viburnum dilatatum.

Making sake from rice of course happens in late fall, after the harvest. Around here, and in the far western part of Tokyo, and into Yamanashi, there are lots of wineries and sake breweries. Many of them are having events and guided tours.

With my UK friend visiting, I had an opportunity to go to Mercian, the large winery in …

Evening Meditation

Sunset on Lake Kitaura, Ibaraki-ken

and the moonrise

Groovisions: "Ensuring the Future of Food"

Pink Tentacle spotted the new video Tokyo-based Groovisions motion graphic design crew made for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), to highlight some of the serious issues surrounding the future of food in Japan. The video with English subtitles was posted on the official MAFF YouTube channel, which was created last month.

Groovisions usually makes design projects like Spank the Monkey or stuff for MTV, so I wonder how they felt about this project! Do watch, they have managed to cram a lot of facts about Kurashi issues into a very attractive package.

Hanno Matsuri 2008

Hanno City has a couple of amazing festivals, and last weekend I was lucky to meet up with an old friend from the UK who happens to be a great taiko drummer.

The largest taiko drum in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records? Tom loved it. If you ever visit Yamanashi prefecture, pick up the wooden sticks, take off your shoes, and hit the skin.

Tom has been to some 38 prefectures around Japan, usually on the special 18 Seishun JR tickets that allows unlimited train travel on local lines. Tom was back briefly for the 2002 World Cup, but this was his first real "deep" visit since he lived here back in 1989-1994.

And, what a coincidence, having 50,000 people on the streets for 2 nights, just as my old friend was back. Luck... 一期一会!

Caster: Lung Cancer Causing Cigarettes From Japan Tobacco

If you ever have watched Tetsuya Chikushi, a newscaster and journalist who hosted Tokyo Broadcasting System's "News 23" program, you will be sad to hear that he died in lung cancer yesterday. He was fluent in English and interviewed presidents and foreign guests with confidence.

I have no evidence that his favourite brand was Japan Tobacco's Caster, (with a hint of vanilla from Madagascar, apparently) but cigarettes are the cause of 98% of all lung cancer cases around the world. The brand name obviously tries to milk the sense of kakko-ii (stylishness) associated with a TV news caster, but the era of such murdeous marketing scams ought to have ended a long time ago. Tetsuya Chikushi, we miss you.

Kei-Car Sales Up 6.2% In Japan While New Car Sales Dropped 13.1%

Macho car journalism will never be the same... NHK World notes that Kei cars, the 660 cc engine size vehicles that are already so common in Japan, are now selling like hot cakes, no make that omochi (rice cakes). The association of mini-car dealers, Japan Mini Vehicles Association, says October, 2008 new car sales were up 6.2 percent from the same month last year, indicating that many motorists are opting for cheaper, more fuel efficient vehicles.

More details over at Treehugger!