January 25, 2004

Slice Slice Revolution

When people ask why I'm in Japan, I tell them that I'm here to eat.

This is not strictly true. I'm here to eat and play weird Japanese video games. The one I ran across today in Shinjuku is a classic. You get to play sushi chef. LED renditions of live, writhing fish appaer on the screen and you use a plastic knife to try and slice them up in the limited time available.

I saw octopus, fugu and hirame during the demo sequence, but I'm sure there are more.

Unfortunately my quick photocam shots cropped out the name of the game. It was all in kanji anyway, so I couldn't tell you what it was called. What I can tell you, however, is that the title ended with the number "2". So, this was the second in an ongoing HIT SERIES of food-related video games. Excellent.

Posted by pmk at 1:10 AM | Comments (4)

January 23, 2004

First Earthquake

Experienced my first earthquake in Japan today. You could feel this one easily -- The building shook several times over a span of about two minutes. No damage to anything.

Earthquake epicenter was about 100 miles north of Tokyo. Registered 5.3 on the Richter scale. The USGS has more technical data on it.

From the map, it looks like the epicenter was just off the coast of Honshu. I figure it was probably Godzilla waking up from his oceanic slumber...

Posted by pmk at 8:13 AM | Comments (2)

January 19, 2004

Onsen Eating

Shamelessly stolen from a recent email:

Yukari turned (insert number here) this weekend, so we went to a Japanese hot springs resort (onsen) that is known for their food to celebrate. Dinner was a 12 course meal, kaiseki style, served in our room.

Kaiseki can often be beautiful but bland -- all sorts of effort goes into how the food looks, but the food itself plays second fiddle. Also, dishes get fussed over so much that by the time you get them, everything is the same temperature: tepid.

Fortunately, not the case here. Hot dishes were served piping hot, including a fantastic fried fish ball served in a smoky dashi, with the rich, smoky flavor coming from some sort of green that was infused in the broth and floating in our bowl. My Japanese/English dictionary drew a blank on it, but it was incredibly umami, if you believe in that sort of thing.

Probably the best dish of the whole meal was an incredible one-pot stew, presented with the first course with instructions not to eat it until it began to steam. As it turned out, this took about 20 minutes or so, despite the fact that the bowl sat on top of a ceramic brazier that contained a few coals from the kitchen.

By either coincidence or design, the flavors from the stew slowly crept up on us as we ate some pickled mountain vegetables, a bit of sashimi (including an incredible hirame) and tiny squid served with grated daikon. The aroma evolved over multiple courses -- at first you barely knew it was there and by the time you started to think "Boy, I'd really like a bite of that" it was done and you could have it!

(Update: Forgot to mention that the stew was made of everyone's favorite neurotoxin-laden fish: fugu.)

Posted by pmk at 3:14 AM | Comments (5)

January 16, 2004

I Heart Google

I've been running a number of Ad Words on Google. I initially got started with this as a sort of MoveOn.org popularity contest. If you are the only person running an ad for a given set of keyword(s), you can effectively count how many times that word has been searched for on google. Very sexy.

Anyway, I setup ads for some of the folks at MoveOn and now try and incite revolution by goading the folks who are not at the top of the list. Thusfar I've been unsuccessful, but I'm keeping hope alive.

Two days ago, I added my dear friends at Stamen to the rotation, along with the phrase "Amputee Ballerina(s)". A day later, I received this charming message from Google, saying that they'd disabled my new ads, since they didn't meet their editorial guidelines:

    Action taken: Suspended - Pending Revision
    Issue(s): Unclear/Inaccurate Ad Text

    -> Ad Text: Please edit your ad text, as it is either unclear or does not accurately reflect your site content.

    Suggested Ad Text: "Tragically Obfuscated", "Read about Skiing Ostriches", "and other fascinating topics"

Google rocks. They disabled my ad, sure. But a real person looked at it and chuckled under their breath/shook their head sadly first.

Thank you, anonymous Google ad reviewer! Also, please note that the ad text now does accurately reflect the site content. How meta.

Posted by pmk at 4:02 AM | Comments (1)

January 15, 2004

Skiing Ostriches

So Japan Rail has been running a bunch of ads to promote their packaged ski trips. One ad features an incredible skiing ostrich. The crappy digital encode here makes the effects work look a little cheezy, but when you see it on a TV, it is totally fluid and believable. If there has ever been a time when the world needed a skiing ostrich, that time is now.

Now, a word from JR:

Q. Why, it is the ostrich?

A. Skiing CM of this year aimed toward the revival of the snow leisure movement, aimed toward CM where there is an kind of impact which in many ones you can make topic. Because of this, the origin change of the person who, "did skiing in the main character and applies why? "With, it seems that unintentionally can have doubt there was a" unexpected characteristic ", the very thing was unique and it has pleasant image, we had decided to appoint the ostrich.

Thank you.

Posted by pmk at 3:11 AM | Comments (1)

January 14, 2004


Back to Imoya for lunch today. I got the tempura set and added a Japanese eggplant (なす).

The eggplant was revelatory. It was everything that a piece of fried eggplant should be. It was lightly battered with the slightest hint of a crunch on the outside. The flesh of the eggplant was completely soft, but not greasy, and simply melted away in my mouth. It was, quite simply, the best piece of fried eggplant that I have eaten in my entire life.

I watched as the chef prepared the eggplant and noticed that he scored the eggplant flesh lengthwise three times through to the skin before battering and frying it. I assume this helped cook the eggplant quickly and evenly.

The kicker? The whole meal was 700 yen ($6.50).

Posted by pmk at 12:53 AM | Comments (3)

January 13, 2004

Best. Music Video. Ever.

Surrender to the saccharine! You probably remember The Ukes of Hazzard from their last hit, I Can Hear My Roommate.

Well, they've got a music video now. And a dance remix in Britain, but let's stay focused on the music video. The title of the song is "Gay Boyfriend" and it's about as poppy and jangly as it gets (uhhh, ukeleles anyone?).

Click below to experience this musical masterpiece:

(Postscript: they are now called The Hazzards, due to an apparent Foxing)

Posted by pmk at 4:29 AM | Comments (2)

January 12, 2004

Tear Off Your Own Head

What better way to prepare for the upcoming Doll Festival than to display ceramic doll heads on spikes at a major department store?

Posted by pmk at 3:58 PM | Comments (0)

January 9, 2004

Broadband Addiction

19 days without broadband, longer than I've been without high-speed Internet for almost a decade. After this experience, I can say, without any doubt, that I am an addict.

The joy that I experienced after the crappy cable modem got installed yesterday was enormous. My mood lightened, the sun seemed brighter, people happier. I can only imagine that this is how a crack addict feels right after lighting up.

Right now I'm stuck using fairly low-quality bandwidth (3mbit/sec down, 256kbit/sec up, no public IP), but next week some grade-A, high-end Bolivian bandwidth will get installed. I think I'll make it.

Posted by pmk at 7:53 AM | Comments (7)

January 4, 2004

So much to post

So little time. I'll catch up later this week, but until then, please consider living your lives according to the following tenet:

Be like Gamera -- mighty, a friend to children, and always, always screaming.

Posted by pmk at 5:55 AM | Comments (12)