Washington Post article that states that Japanese women in their 20s have less body mass now than they did 25 years ago.
Based on these pictures it's not surprising that healthcare costs are rising and diabetes is* rampant. That, and apparently, they need to bring back the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy dudes and have them stationed at Walmart as greeters.
Heading down to the dining room, we are greeted by what we'll come to know as typical breakfast fare. Homemade bread, cured meat, cheese, and other light sundries.
We decide to forego our original plan of staying close to the hotel and instead decide to take a trip south to Montepulciano to visit a winery and then lunch at a restaurant from one of Misa's guidebooks. The previous night's hair-raising journey on the autostrada still fresh, local roads seem the best choice. Relying in equal measure on a map and our car navigation system, we head out. Directly we're rewarded for choosing the long cut. Post-harvest fields and stone and brick farmhouses appear with increasing frequency as the road, at first parallel to the autostrada, burrows farther into the hills. Soon we're passing Lucignano. It sits resolutely atop it's hill as it must have done for centuries. The scenery continues to breathtake and after an hour of successive vistas one as beautiful as the next, we arrive in Montepulciano.
Montepulciano is like the cities we've scene along the way, but on a grander scale. Large and imposing. For some reason the GPS won't accept the exact address of the vineyard, so we stop to ask for directions. An affable fellow at a hotel doesn't know the winery, but gives us directions to the area, Acquaviva, and tells us to ask someone there. The unlucky person works in a flower shop in what looks to be Acquaviva's city center and he manages with a few English words to direct us. A few kilometers later and we're pulling in to the winery property only to discover it closed. We hadn't anticipated that it might be closed on a Sunday. A little disappointed, we decide set out for the restaurant. This time we call ahead.
Again the GPS is less-than-helpful and so we head back to Montepulciano hoping to find another samaritan willing to point us in the right direction. Near the center I steer the car onto what I believe is the road where we spoke with the helpful hotel guy. A fortuitous mistake this turns out to be. We come upon a large wine store/ristorante with a bunch of cars in front and turn in. The rotund young woman near the door perceives immediately that we speak no Italian and switches to faintly accented English. She knows the restaurant and provides us with precise directions including landmarks and approximate driving time. Hitchless we pull into the parking lot of La Casina.
La Casina sits a bit back from the road and has a patio out front, which must be, with its view overlooking some beautiful scenery, an incredible place to dine in warmer seasons. Misa orders the seasonal menu and I the tasting. In the end we end up with an amalgam of the two, a recommendation from our affable waiter. Affability seems to be an italian trait. With our meal we order white wine and are brought one from San Gimignano (2006 Cusona 1933 from gucciardini strozzi). The waiter informs us that most wines from Tuscany are reds, but the one we're drinking is one of the few good local whites. It lives up to its billing. While intermittently chatting with an (you guessed it) affable older gentleman who is dining in the corner and seems completely unfazed by our not speaking Italian, we are served an inordinately large lunch. A meat and cheese plate with three pieces of cheese, roughly 3 sq. inches each, and five or six slices of cured meat. What our waiter claims is a half portion of soup, which, it should be known, we didn't order, but he just wanted us to try it. A pasta course with spinach and ricotta ravioli (awesome) and noodles with rabbit sauce (me) and porcini sauce (Misa). For our next course I had what must have been most of a rabbit, including a section of the torso that included the liver. Very, very tasty. Misa had a plate of assorted pork that included sausage and chops. After coffee and 68 euros lighter, we waddled out to the parking lot.
Retracing our path home we stopped at the wine store and picked up two bottles of Ercolani Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (2006).
That evening we ate at the hotel restaurant. It was an unremarkable meal aside from a jaunty waitress that speaks English, French and Spanish and both of the other couples in the room being from the US, one from Boston.
The internet here is bad.
When it was first installed it was very fast; seemingly close to the maximum of 12 Mbps in Misa's plan. Over time it's become slower, and worse, the connection sometimes drops. After enjoying the steady-state and high speeds of fiber optic it has been a bitter pill indeed.
Things appear likely to improve before long. I hesitate to be jubilant as we were close before, but Misa has been doggedly assaulting the involved service providers' customer service blockades. It looks like for about ¥300/month I can keep my old email address even after the switch to the building's contractual provider.
So some time in the next month or so, the unstable SKYPE-ing should cease.
For those outside Japan:
Connection speeds are comparatively good here for the cost, but installation/modification of service tends to take a few weeks (at least).
I just read June Thomas's fifth post in a series on Japanese craftsman. She describes talking with brush maker Yoshio Tanabe.
Matsuzo Tanabe, whose only schooling after the age of 7 had been his brush-making apprenticeship, pushed his son into the family business. Yoshio's rebellion was to insist that he be allowed to graduate from college before he moved into the workshop, but once installed, he never left. Nothing has changed in his five decades of brush-making. Is he bored, I asked. "Yes," he answered flatly, though he didn't seem to consider that such a terrible fate.
I haven't read the rest of them yet.
An article on shotengai from the Japan Times archives. One of the big draws of my neighborhood is the very long shotengai. It allows me to shop for pretty much all my everyday needs on the walk from the station to my apartment. It's lined with privately-run (though interspersed with chain) stores and in ways seems to be the bastion of the past in a city that continually pushes to modernize.
Worth a look, especially for new profs that have to teach survey history or other courses that dip into realms beyond their past and current research.
Literally 'To die on tatami.' This phrase means to die of old age or in a 'normal' fashion. I heard it in the negative (彼が)畳の上に死なない. 'He won't die on tatami.' It was used to describe someone who is considered by his friends to be a bit off and also likely to piss off the wrong person and therefore come to an ignominious end.
you can think back to this. I ordered a pizza from Domino's. the total was ¥3288, I gave the delivery person ¥5508 and she had to take out her cell phone to use the calculator function to figure out my change.
It's in the news today that some members of the rugby team at Kanto Gakuin University have been charged with cultivation of marijuana. Somehow I had a feeling that foreigners, the root of all drugs in Japan, would somehow be implicated. Checking out the article in the Asahi online, I see that one of the accused claims that he got the seeds from Britain via mail order. Seems he didn't know that they are readily available for sale in Tokyo.
It's unfortunate we can't go back to the time when Japan had no relationship to cannabis<Japanese>.
A Jubako is a square-ish box, often multi-tiered that holds food. Sometimes that foodstuff is rice -- usually with something on top -- and the square construction makes getting the last grain out difficult. From this, there have come a few idioms having to do with detail.
Lit. 'Pick at the corners of a Jubako'
This expression is glossed as splitting hairs in my dictionary, but I don't think that it has the negative nuance that hairsplitting conjures for me.
Lit. 'Swipe at the corners of a Jubako with a (rice)ladle'
To do something sufficient to get the job done, without worrying about it being perfect.
Lit. 'Pick at the corner(s) of a Jubako with a toothpick.'
To stick one's nose into an affair. To meddle.
For the past few weeks I've been studying to get my driver's license. My short-term goal is to get a 中型 (medium-sized) motorcycle license -- there are different licenses for different engine sizes -- but I've been told that once I pass the written test, I'll be qualified to take the auto road test as well. Why is this worthy of a blog post and not just a trivial matter you may ask? The answer lies in the study materials that I picked up the last time I was at the DMV.
When I took my driver's test in Massachusetts, lo those many years ago, I studied the rules and regulations of the road (about 100 or so if memory serves), and was able to pass after only a few hours with the manual. Not so here. The study materials, rather than being a list of the rules and road sign meanings, are a set of questions to which one has to answer (the Japanese equivalent of) true or false. What makes it such a bear to study is that the questions are purposefully misleading. For example, rather than a question such as 'You must follow no closer than 200 meters behind an ambulance: T or F?', they are structured like this: 'You are approaching an intersection at which you intend to turn left, and you put on your directional signal 30 meters before the turn, Right or Wrong?' When you turn to the answer key it says, 'Wrong. You must turn on the directional 3 seconds before the turn.' This to me seems to unnecessarily clutter one's mind with the idea, in this case, that distance rather than time might be the important point. Add to this that there are upwards of 500 questions and I think you can see where studying for the test can be quite an undertaking. In addition, nowhere is there a simple list of the road signs and their meanings -- you just have to read through all the questions AND answers to figure them out, and you end up on the verge of going postal after each study session.
In talking to some folks, I've learned that it's not uncommon for people to fail multiple times before finally passing. Not hard to believe.
Well, that's enough kvetching about this for now, but expect another post if I end up failing...
Today, rather than going out somewhere, which we often do on Saturdays, I decided to make sumthin'. So I decided to go for samiches.
Fried up some chicken breasts, finishing them in a mix of water, rosemary, mandarin oranges, ketchup, some Chinese sauce that Misa has, onions for some earthiness, and of course, salt and pepper. Before doing the chicken I sauteed onions and some white mushrooms (w/o oil) to put on the top. Und on the side, oven roasted potatoes. I've become a convert to roasting since I've tried my hand now at turkey a few times. I have to say that I've always been much more of a top of the oven guy -- control is an illusion you egomaniac -- but I think because I have no oven, when I get to Misa's I'm often inspired to use hers. Anyway, it's also kinda nice to have something cooking without you.