Month: September 2008


In Japanese, it’s very easy to confuse the words for “scary” (kowai) and “cute” (kawaii). This old sign is the perfect illustration.


Omatsuri in Suginami

The husband, Y. and I went to an omatsuri last night in Shu’s old neighborhood. Sorry for the dark video (and strange ending), but it gives you an idea of the music, chanting, and sweating involved.

In contrast to normal life in Japan, we ate some fun food standing up– I had a swarma, the huband ate okonomiyaki and agemochi, Y. ate chijimiyaki, anzame, blue chocolate banana, and we got some cookies for the in-laws and H. Because it was a festival, there were even public trash cans!

This photo was taken just because. Y. laughed about it, and then called him ikemen (イケメン or “hot guy”).

Fruit display in Nishi-Ogikubo

This fruit display is at a small store near the station at Nishi-Ogikubo, where we’re staying until we can move into our new Nakano apartment at the end of the month.

I bought mini-grapes, an apple and an amazing $3 nectarine. Our friend Kathleen might be right that Japanese fruit generally has less water and more sweetness. I think it makes them taste great.

The nectarine was individually wrapped in a protective cover. Check out how the melon stems are perfectly symmetrical.

Food display in Tokyo is often very artful. I am also amazed by the pride that even small shops take in show-casing their products and the extreme politeness in greeting customers, even those whose language skills are rough.

Some of the food I’ve been enjoying: tonkatsu, ramen, tanmen (noodles, light pork broth, cabbage, carrot and sprouts), pork with ginger, Indian curry and nan, “stand-up” sushi (たちぐちすし), Italian pasta, artisanal ham, perfect bagels, the husband’s home-cooking, and, of course, Mister Donut.

Sumo wrestlers expelled for dope

The Japanese media has broadcast endless stories for over a week about top Sumo wrestlers who have been expelled from Japan for pot smoking. Even Japan’s top sumo official has resigned in disgrace, and not a single person has defended the wrestlers, originally from Russia, or suggested that pot smoking is harmless.

This orgy of condemnation, shame and expulsion raises a few questions beyond health. How are these big boys going to pad on the pounds (or kilos) without a bit of reefer? Why are sumo leaders called “stablemasters” and what does that say about the humans who perform this ancient tradition? Which will take longer for Japan to accept, pot smoking or gay human rights?

Sayonara, big Russian boys! Good luck, ex-stablemaster daddy!

American Wife

Despite (or because?) of my Japanese husband’s objections, I must share my deepest fascination with Curtis Sittenfeld’s new novel, “American Wife.” It describes the life of a slightly ficitonalized Laura Bush. The book was published the day after we left San Francisco for Tokyo, but miraculously I found a copy at the SFO airport bookstore.

I love almost all first ladies, first lady candidates, and even VP candidate husbands. However, I’ve never much liked Ms Bush because of her probably Rx-induced vacant presence. Ms Sittenfeld, a confessed fan, has written *the* novel about this first lady and her unique contributions to femininity and country.

In the first section, “Alice” not only kills her high school friend and would-be boyfriend in a car accident, a fact that is documented. She also loses her virginity with the dead boy’s brother, and receives an illegal abortion performed by her grandmother’s lesbian MD lover. My favorite line, which I had to translate for my husband: “Andrew died, I caused his death, and then, like a lover, I took him inside me.”  

I already anticipate the sadness I will feel when I reach the end of this massive tome of unexpected vulgarity and sympathy. No doubt it will provide many lessons for me to become a better American wife here in Tokyo.

Is anyone else reading this book now?