Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Turn left at Wonder Goo

In Japan they don't name their roads. Some of them have numbers like "route 17", but they don't like to use them. It just makes the road seem too impersonal.

This makes it hard to get directions if you want to drive anywhere.

Most Japanese people know how to get somewhere, but they couldn't tell you how (even if they are capable of explaining it in English). Usually you will either get "It's near 7-11" or a hand drawn map that looks like this:

My boss drew this for me so I could get to a teaching job that was an hour away. Mister Donut is at the top left.

They are pretty good with landmarks, however. For example:

"Turn right at Mister Donut."

"Turn left at Wonder Goo."

They do name their intersections. But nobody remembers them. And don't bother consulting a map, because they're all written in Kanji (the most complicated of the three Japanese alphabets). So my advice is to either stay where you are or memorize where all the 7-11s in Japan are.

New and Better Ways to Subscribe

We've added 2 new ways to subscribe to "Have You Had Your Rice Today?" The first is through a better e-mail subscription service. The old e-mail delivery system took about 24-48 to deliver our latest posts to your inbox, and then did so in plain text. With the new system (available to your left), updates should be quicker and include the photos (if your e-mail has html display enabled). So, if you want, you can enter your e-mail into the box at the top left to subscribe to the new system, then unsubscribe from the old (you should be able to do that through the e-mail alert in your inbox). Or, you can stay on the old system. It'll still forward you our posts the way it always has. No action required.

The second way to subscribe is through your RSS feeder of choice. Just click the RSS icon to the left, and you should be able to subscribe through whichever feeder you use. If you don't know about RSS yet, either check it out here or don't worry about it. That's why we have a good old fashioned e-mail subscription too.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Last weekend Christin and I went to the Tanabata festival in Maebashi.

Lots of girls were wearing these traditional dresses.

Tanabata is a star festival that originated in China. It comes from a legend of two celestial lovers that could only be together once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month.

Those are pigs made out of styrofoam bowls hanging from the trees.

We basically just ate a bunch of Japanese festival food. Some of it was pretty standard -- chocolate covered bananas and tornado potatoes -- and some was extremely Japanese, like the BBQ sauce covered shrimp balls that were filled with gooey liquid and octopus tentacles.

Where's Gaijin?

As we were leaving we saw this guy selling peaches. Totally worthy of a Japanese infomercial.

He actually sold a ridiculous amount of peaches this way. We bought some.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Caspian Sea Yogurt

My latest favorite thing is my Caspian Sea Yogurt, which I got from a friend and colleague, Heidi. It's name references the fact that a researcher, Yukio Yamori, professor emeritus of pathology at Kyoto University, brought it back from Georgia where he was researching longevity. The name is a bit of a misnomer, since Georgia actually borders the Black Sea, not the Caspian Sea, but who's really checking. It was a big craze here in Japan about 6 years ago, and apparently it's still getting passed around.

Just add milk

The cool thing about the yogurt is that I get to make it myself. Heidi gave us a starter, which was about an inch of some of her yogurt at the bottom of a jar, and we just add milk, cover with a tissue, leave it on the counter, and wait 10-15 hours. Voila! Homemade yogurt. Whenever we get low, we just add more milk and wait.

The yogurt itself is mild and extremely viscous, making it somewhat akin to eating slimy milky boogers (in a delicious way of course). It's only a little sour, but I'm a sour wimp so I add honey or fruit when I eat it anyway.

See how slimy? It just runs right off the spoon.

It purports to have a variety of health benefits, including supplying high quality protein and calcium, increasing the body's beneficial intestinal flora, helping the the body digest proteins and glucides, and helping the body absorb vitamins B and K. Lastly, it's unique viscosity helps intestinal health by acting like dietary fibers.

Mmm.. sweet booger milk, here I come.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Her Name is Yoshimi...

Yesterday we bought a hamster. Her name is Yoshimi. She's still really tiny and afraid of us. She would easily fit in the palm of Christin's hand if she would let us pick her up.

Right now the most popular place in the apartment is right in front of the hamster cage.

She wants to poop everywhere except her little toilet box, so we have to constantly pick up tiny little turds with a pair of tweezers and drop them in there. We think it's the only way she'll learn.

Yoshimi discovers how to get food out of the box

...and finds her favorite place to hang out

Like with most babies (and everybody else if we're honest), the most interesting thing about her right now is her poop. I'll let you know if other things about her become interesting.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Horse Ninjas are Here to Protect You

In Japan, all official messages are communicated on signs through cute cartoon characters. Allow me to translate a few for you...

Don't cross this fence! It's unsafe!

Don't eat the ice! It may hurt your teeth!

Bags of poop make little girls and dogs super happy fun!

It is the duty of police and ninjas who are horses to protect you! Have a nice day!

Digging up phone lines with evil bulldozers makes telephones cry! Exercise caution!