Month: November 2008

“Er, well, I suppose I was in love with a man myself”

Junjou romantica

Following a few blog links, I discovered this year’s most popular Boys Love anime, Junjou Romantica, with seasons 1 and 2 appearing on television. With a cast featuring university students, professors, and a famous novelist, this story tells the connected stories of four male couples.The title can be translated as Pure Romance.

Like all Boys Love, this anime is clearly written by and for women. Gay romance and sex is a fantasy displaced onto men for maximum erotic exploration. Few if any of the characters identify as gay. The sex is generally forced and desire denied, while simultaneously there’s also sweetness and true love.

Super hen, ne. ちょう変、ね!(Very twisted).

Equally amazing is that these shows have a huge international fanbase, who fansub them into English within a week or two of broadcast. All episodes can be found online for free. Season 1 can be found here.  The first five episodes of Season 2 here.

Here’s some more stills, showing ostensible rejection of attention, “but” . . .

Junjou Romantica

Sex that’s borderline rape.

Junjou Romantica

More denial of desire.

Junjou Romantica

A rare role reversal, saved for the finale of Season 1.

Junjou Romantica

The voice actors are hilarious, and the visual style very entertaining. When the characters frequently become mad, the drawings get simplified, and characters regress to children. There’s also some excessive use of falling flowers.

Season 1 has a rock and roll love song in the opening. I’ve learned most of the lyrics:

君に会いたくて会いたくて
I want to see you, just want to see

二人でいればいる程寂しくなるなら
If the more we’re together, the lonelier we get,

寂しくなくなるまで手を繋ごう
Let’s hold each other’s hands until we’re not lonely anymore

その手離さないで離さないで
Don’t let go of that hand, don’t let go

僕がそばにいるから
Because I’m here beside you

どんな時でも笑って笑って
Keep on smiling, always smiling

花を咲かせてよ
And make flowers bloom

Junjou Romantica
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Students’ ceramics show

Students' ceramic show

Last week was the students’ ceramics show in Nishi-Ogikubo. Fourteen students plus the in-law teachers exhibited their work in a cozy two-story gallery. After just two months of ceramics lessons, it seemed a little early for me. All credit is due to my excellent teachers.

I showed almost twenty flower pots, and put flowering plants in six of them and pre-refrigerated bulbs in several more. I was very surprised to sell seven flower pots– four to my aunt K, and one each to ceramics student S, our friend K from Yokohama, and generous W from Peru and Chiba.

Here’s two other views, an overview of floor 1 and another image of my pots, including the giant one which will soon hold my lemon tree.

Students' ceramic show

I missed it, but I heard that the 11-month-old S who comes to the studio with his mom climbed into the giant pot below.

Students' ceramic show`

Quick trip to Taipei

Din Tai Fung window

I made a 44 hour trip to Taipei this week: the visit focused on eating, buildings and streets, contemporary art, and botany. The trip started at famous Din Tai Fung, with soup dumplings, hot and sour soup, shrimp and pork dumplings, and pea shoots. The place was mobbed, with many Japanese tourists.

Din Tai Fung soup dumpling

Other food highlights was the Japanese style onsen at Villa 32 in the northern suburbs, with indoor and outdoor hot spring pools and a delicious Italian restaurant. I took the combo public bath and lunch special, which was very relaxing and a chance to see the local upper class in action.

Villa 32 restaurant and onsen

Other culinary treats include beef noodle soup, pork chop noodle soup, Mister Donut (imported from Japan). I was amazed at how international Taiwan is, including my “Norwegian-style” budget chic Hotel Dandy.

Walking around Taipei, it’s striking just how many scooters fill the streets and sidewalks.

Taipei scooter traffic

They also occupy a majority of the sidewalks.

Taipei scooters on sidewalk

Vernacular architecture includes vertical commercial buildings and aging concrete, including this sublime corner building in a wave shape:

Vernacular Taipei architecture

The wonderfully tropical weather was a great change from fall in Tokyo. It also seemed in many places that the jungle would soon re-occupy the city without constant human vigilance.

Jungle reclaims Taipei building

Of course, I also saw and entered some spectacular buildings, including the Spot, formerly the American ambassador’s residence and now an art theater, bookstore and super-chic cafe. Also the 300 year old Longshan temple, full of worshipers, offerings, incense and candles.

Longshan temple in Taipei

And on my way back to the airport, I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art and saw its show of young local artists called Super-Generation. The art was fun, as were the friendly art chicken docents. One of whom described how the building was constructed by the Japanese, who were “taking care” of the Taiwanese during the first half of the 20th century. An odd choice of words to describe an occupation.

Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei

Also on my last day, I strolled through the gorgeous Botanic Garden, which includes many palm trees, and sections based on “idiom plants” and “literary plants.” Lots of older people doing qi gong exercises and school children.

Taipei botanic garden

Mount Fuji, from our apartment balcony

Mount Fuji, from our apartment

I was awake early yesterday, and was surprised to see Mount Fuji with no cloud cover from our balcony. You can see the snow cover, and even the crevice running down the right side. Below is a cropped version of the photo.

Mount Fuji, from our apartment, cropped

Now I know that the sacred volcano is just to the left of the garbage incinerator smoke-stack.

A calendar of chocolate

A calendar of chocolate

My sister-in-law Y. visited last week at midnite, while I was sleeping. Like the husband, she’s a night owl. To celebrate my ceramics show starting this Friday, she left an extravagant chocolate calendar.

Two large boxes with two chocolates for each day of November and December, and six medium boxes for each day of the show. Daily flavors include pistachio, nuts praline, creamy cheese, peru/hi-milk, madagascar & indonesia java semi-sweet, cameroon & venezuela chuao milk.

It’s so delicious and very extravagant. It’s from the 100% Chocolate Cafe in Ginza. I want to take Y. there as a thank-you-excursion.

Chocolate potato chips

Chocolate potato chips

Will living in Japan shorten my life? With chocolate potato chips, at least it’ll be a happy life.

Apparently this is a common snack food here. (Note: the subtitle says in English: “By breaking down old customs and producing consistently original items, we are pursuing a new level of chocolate enjoyment”).

Thanks okaasan sensei (お母さん先生)!

Fall chill

Fall chill

It’s been cold this week as fall deepens. We’ve turned on our new gas heater, made plans to put up curtains to better insulate the apartment, and bundle up when going outside. It’s hat, gloves and scarf weather.

This being Tokyo, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to wear my favorite passive-aggressive “health” product, the face mask. It can be seen as a sign of courtesy since you don’t want others to catch your cold or flu. It can also be a way to ward off others’ contagions. Wearing it requires some adjustment, especially on a bike, when the mask tends to fog up your glasses.

The other strange cold weather accessory is the kairo (カイロ), an often disposable heat pack you put in your coat. My baby friend Akachan at the ceramics studio has a cute woven cozy, shaped like a turtle, for his plastic warmer. I will have to try this out soon.

Kairo カイ

Celebrating new niece, with tonkatsu

Celebrating new niece, with tonkatsu

I received the exciting news that my neice was born last week in New York. The husband was still asleep, so I celebrated alone at my favorite neighborhood restaurant that specializes in the very best tonkatsu in the world. A 70+ year-old chef masterfully coats and deep-fries pork cutlets that taste heavenly. As you can see, the lunch special is huge: pork-cutlet (fatty or lean, I always choose fatty), cabbage (endlessly re-fillable), tomato, parsley, soup, pickles, rice and potato salad (or the other salad I never choose). Green tea, also. If I were to re-marry, I’d marry the chef!

ps: How can any religion prohibit something this tasty?!