Friday, April 30, 2010

Shizenha Restaurant Obanzai

Mia (vegetarian) is overjoyed!

If you ever visit Kyoto, do not miss Shizenha Restaurant Obanzai... an all-vegetarian, all-scrumptiously-deliciously-fantastic (and I say that as a fairly avid meat-eater) buffet style ("Viking Style", as the Japanese would say) joint. Obanzai ryori, where this place gets it's name from, is the traditional Kyoto-style home-cooked cuisine... and one meal at this fine establishment gives you an extremely delicious impression of it on your taste-buds!!

Lunch (11am-2pm) 840 yen. Dinner (5-9pm, last order 8:30) 2100 yen. It's a short walk northwest of the Karasuma-oike train station.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Mini Mini Mini Mini

We saw this car today in our local grocery store parking lot. An original Mini complete with Rolling Stones stickers. It makes even little kei-cars look big!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Missing L?

I'm pretty sure they meant "SPLASH"

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Moco

There are two types of cars in Japan: regular cars and kei-cars. Essentially, reguluar cars include your standard Toyota, Honda, etc cars that you would see in the US with all the features like automatic windows, remote locks, etc. Kei-cars are cheaper cars with less features and much lower taxes. For example, our kei-car has only one reverse light and a visor only on the driver's side, but we pay only 20-50% the taxes of a regular car.

One of these kei-cars is the infamous Nissan Moco.

For those who speak Spanish, you already get the joke. :)

The word "moco" in Spanish means "booger" (the hard crusty version of 鼻水-hanamizu).

It even comes in moco colors - green, yellow and brown.

So cute.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Yamaguchi City does not have quite the same grocery food selection of say, Tokyo... In particular, cheese - not being a major part of the "normal" Japanese diet of miso soup, rice, fish, veggies, tofu, soy sauce, mirin, various kinds of seaweed, and more recently, meat (etc.), can be a challenge to locate.

However, through sheer force of will (in actually just going to each of the handful of supermarkets in town) we have managed to find and sample a decent number of Yamaguchi cheeses:

The funny thing is... the cheese here is not always what you'd expect...
(front to back, right to left)
Cheddar slices (a recent discovery), fine.
New Zealand Gouda, great!
American Cream Cheese, perfect.
Emmental Switzerland Swiss, fine for Mia.
Grated "Natural Cheese" (like mozzarella), good stuff.

BACK TWO: Cottage Cheese & Cottage Cheese? How do you have two different types of cheese named the same thing? So, as we discovered to our delight, the blue one is actually Feta (woohoo! and the photograph on the carton looks like Feta in a salad anyway), and to our dismay, the orange one is some sort of sour-tasting cream cheese-like concoction that is probably meant to go into cheesecake if the picture on this one is in any way accurate. Either way, neither of these cheeses was Cottage Cheese.

The last cheese (not pictured) was a small green carton labeled "Sour Cream" which got me real excited because when I saw it, I got an instant craving for it (having not had it in over a year). However, when I got it home and opened it, it turned out to be more like sour-tasting Philadelphia cream cheese (not creamy, not watery, not really sour cream if you ask me). I'll post a pic the next time I see it in the grocery store.

take care, and enjoy your cheese!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Red Quince "Knap Hill Scarlet" Flower in Kyoto

Red Quince "Knap Hill Scarlet" Flower in Kyoto
Originally uploaded by bderstine

Took this photo on our recent trip to Kyoto... there are more on my flickr page (just click the photo to see the rest!).



Friday, April 2, 2010

"You look hot"

At Chicago's 2008 Lollapalooza summer music festival. It was a hot day.

I was wearing a short-sleeved polo today, apparently a rather chilly spring day (10-14° C/50-60° F), which most of my students found rather surprising and brave of me. Some said I was "young" and "strong", implying that young folks like me have a different concept of weather than folks like them. However, one student in particular (a typical middle-aged or elderly Japanese mother or grandmother (somewhere between 35 and 65) who looks and dresses like she's in her late twenties) saw my outfit and said: "Eeeeehhhh?! (a typical Japanese expression of surprise, with rising inflection, sounding like a very long letter "a") You... look... hot."

Now, I'm pretty sure she meant something like: "Honorable teacher, you appear to be clothed for a day of warm weather." But Japanese-to-English translation being the difficult task that it is, what with English's rampant idioms/clichés/phrasal verbs/slang/irregular verbs/et al ... I totally understand her statement. However, there were a number of things that made her statement funny and interesting.

First of all, saying "you look hot" when I'm wearing a short-sleeved polo on a 'cold' day is a bit odd, because it implies that I'm showing physical signs of having a high body temperature (such as sweating, which I wasn't), even though I was under-dressed.
Therefore, "you look cold" makes more sense.

Secondly, "hot" has many different meanings in English, and in that context, this otherwise innocent "you look hot" statement becomes an instantly recognized compliment or come-on for native English speakers:

"You look hot." = "You look sexy/attractive/beautiful/pretty/handsome."

So the appropriate native response in this case would be "Thank you very much! or ... Domo Arigatou Gozaimas!"

Anyway, I spent the next several minutes explaining all the different meanings of 'hot' that I could think of... here's what I could recall from today:

Hot food = spicy food like the hottest curry in Tokyo.

Hot item = popular item like the hottest Christmas toys of 2009.

Hot person = popular person like Hollywood's hottest young stars of 2009.

Hot team = a team that has won all or many of their recent games, something also known as a 'hot streak'.

Athletes (especially basketball players) are sometimes described as having a 'hot hand' or 'being hot' when they score many points or baskets in a row. 'Hot hand' is also used to describe a gambler at the head of a craps table who is winning a lot of money.

Hotshot = someone who acts very confident or arrogant, see HotShots! (1991 movie spoof)

-Brian Sensei