Race Day

•4 12 2006 • 5 Comments

 I openned my eyes.

It was dark, it was cold, and it was still rainning from last night.

There were no more doubts, today was race day.


Above: The masses assemble as people queue up to receive their numbers on the morning of the race.

I run about five or six kilometers everyday… -ish, and I usually run in several 10 kilometer races back home in Toronto (such as the “Nike 10 km” and the “Rat Race”); so in my mind it only made sense that I should be running right here in my new home, Nagoya.

It was Katsumi, one of my students at Nova (and a runner himself, in his youth), that first told me about the event in early October after the two of us got onto the subject of running. The very next day I found him waiting outside the teachers room, not waiting to take a lesson, but for the sole purpose of waiting to give me an entry form for the Nagoya City Marathon; obviously he wasn’t going to let me back out of this one; I was going to run.

After I’d registered for the race I really did put all thought of the event to the side, and it honestly never crossed my mind again until one Tuesday evening while riding the train to work I noticed my cell phone was blinking cheerfully at me, trying to get my attention.

“Race Thursday.”, was all it said; a simple reminder I’d written nearly two months earlier.

I smacked myself in the forehead.

My first thoughts were that I wouldn’t actually be able to finish the race; for the past couple of weeks I had been so busy with sight seeing that I realized I had actually woken up to run in about two weeks! But of course, by the time my train pulled into Tajimi Station my confidence had overridden whatever traces of self-doubt I had, and I was almost certain I would finish, if not win the race entirely =P


Above: In one man’s opinion, there’s no better way to prepare for a run than by smoking a cigarette. Although I never actually saw him again that day, for however poorly my time was I think I can safely assume I beat at least one person to the finish line =)


Above: The runners assemble on the grounds of the race track at Mizhou Undojo Nishi, the name of the stadium at which the race started and finished.


Above: Our cheerleaders for the day (from left to right): Kae, Miki and her husband Eiji.


Above: Every runner has a support group, so it’s no surprise that hundreds of runners together can amass a support army =)

My friend Danielle (at right as seen in the photograph below) and one of her friends were also running that morning, so the three of us met up before the race to warm up =)


Above: Before.


Above: After.

Unfortunately, there’s not much for me to tell about the race itself; and to be honest, I don’t think I could recall much if there was anything to mention because while I was running my concentration was entirely fixated on mainting my pace =P

When I crossed the finish line the official timer read 1:56:24, unfortunately I haven’t any clue as to how that stacks up against the competition. I know that I certainly wasn’t the fastest that day, but coming in under the two-hour mark for me was something I was personally quite proud of =)

I met up with Danielle and our friends after the race, and we were directed to join a line of thousands of runners, all of whom were eagerly waiting to turn in their race numbers to receive a small certificate heralding their completion of the race (be it the 5 kilometer walk, 10 kilometer run, or 22 kilometer race). Unfortunately, with work looming only three hours away for me I decided I’d much rather keep my race number as a souvenier of the day.

I quickly escaped the crowd, and my friends, and made my way to the subway. Though I was still sweating quite a bit, the adrenaline coursing through my veins was keeping me thoroughly energized… at least, it was keeping me energized until I reached Kanayama Station. For whatever reason, the moment I stepped off of that subway a wave of pain surged through my body and the only thing I wanted to do was collapse, or puke… or better yet, both =P I hurried home in a half-hunch, and immediately passed out; remaining concious only long-enough to mumble a “Hello =(” to my housemates.

Fortunately, I woke up several hours later with just enough time left to get ready for work. Surprisingly, I found that although I could feel that my back muscles were a little stiffer than usual, virtually all other traces of my previous condition had otherwise vanished. I lept out of bed, threw on my close and headed out the door.

Inspite of my miraculous recovery the previous day, the next morning I decided that it might just be okay to forego my usual morning run.

I switched off my alarm clock, pulled the covers on a little tighter, and went back to sleep =)

Alexander

 This post is a little bit overdue; the Nagoya City half-marathon was held on the 23rd of November.

QQ

•30 11 2006 • 4 Comments

I’ve recently discovered a wonderful little chain of stores that go by the name of “Shop 99”, which in Japanese is pronounced “shoppu ku-ku”, hence their logo “QQ” =P

Anyways…

The store’s wares are mostly Japanese, so certain specialty items such as coffee and peanut butter I still have to purchase from Daiei (the big-name grocery store where apples cost more than ¥100 each *lé groan*), but since quite nearly everything in Shop 99 only costs ¥99, I’ve suddenly realized that I can make eating at home economically feasible again =D

So, thanks to this little store I’ve now been able to really start exploring some genuine Japanese cuisine… if you can apply the word “cuisine” to meals that are prepared for less than ¥100 =)


Above: My typical breakfast consists of a bowl of miso soup and rice. To the miso soup I’ve added chopped green onions, negi, and some diakon raddish. On top of the rice I eat nattou (fermented beans) and have added sesame seeds, flaked nori, and diced green onions for flavour.

But inspite of, or perhaps in addition to, it’s awesomitudinality I guess QQ wouldn’t truely be the Japanese wonder it is unless it doled out healthy bits of Engrish on all of it’s packaging, such as this little gem I found on a package of bread I bought the other day:

Shop 99 original bread is soft dough and the skill of pan-original which has admiration gently can be tasted. If it toasts, you can enjoy fragrance further.

Bread that tastes like admiration?

Only in Japan.

Alexander

Atsuta Jingu

•25 11 2006 • 3 Comments

Shintoism within Japan today is vastly different from the manner in which it was practiced one-thousand years ago, or even one-hundred years ago. It is a religion that has had to adapt to a people whose lives and ideas of the world in which they lived suddenly stopped on a dime and took on a whole new direction.

But inspite of the religious upheaval, Shintoism remains very much alive within modern-day Japan, and while many of the core beliefs are no longer adhered to, many Shinto traditions and rituals are still observed, if for no other reason than because they are just that… traditions.


Above: The second torii on the pathway leading to the main shrine at Atsuta Jingu. The dreary weather seemed to have driven away most crowds, and amongst the quiet pattering of rain and occassional bird song, for the first time since my arrival in Japan I truely felt like I had stepped through a portal into some forgotten past; the Japan of my dreams.

Atsuta Jingu is the second most venerated shrine in all of Japan, second only to the Great Shrine of Ise, but is actually several hundred years older than Ise. Believed to have been built in approximately 100 AD it is undoubtably one of the most important sites on Earth for followers of Shintoism, and during New Year celebrations the shrine hosts nearly 2-million people per day during the three days of festivities.

Although there a number of deities enshrined at Atsuta Jingu, chief amongst them is “Atsuta no Ookami”, represented by the sacred sword “Ame no Murakumo” (“Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven”). Tradition states that Atsuta no Ookami was the first manifestation of the Heavenly Father into our world and who taught to mankind the virtue of love.

The sword Ame no Murakumo (more commonly referred to as “Kusanagi no Tsurugi”, meaning “Snake Sword”) is one of only three sacred objects in Japan that (by tradition) represents the divinity of the Imperial Family; however historians are uncertain as to whether or not the sword actually exists today since only the Emporer himself (or Emporess, although their have only been two in all of Japan’s history) are allowed to even look at the sword.

According to legend Ame no Murakumo was found inside the body of a hydra after it was slain by Susanoo (the God of Seas and Storms) and was presented to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu as a gift of reconciliation for past grievances. She later bestowed the sword to her grandson whom she chose to unify Japan. In both the Kojiki and Nihonshoki (two of the earliest written works in Japan which detail the history of the Japanese people) it was this grandson that eventually became Emporer Jimmu, the first Emporer of Japan. Unfortunately, most historians agree that such a character likely never existed and that the Imperial Family created him centuries ago in order to better establish their family as the patriarchs of Japan.


Above: A small wall along the path toward the temple bears dozens of ema; small charms on which visiters to the shrine can write down their wishes to kami, thereby ensuring that kami does not forget them.


Above: At the main shrine a number of people gather together in service to read aloud a sutra. Though few people participate in such recitals today, the practice is often observed by those elderly Japanese for whom the days of kami worship are still quite reminiscent.


Above: I’m not quite sure what to say about this picture other than that it’s probably one of my favourites taken so far; two turtles sitting motionless on a crop of stones shaped like a turtle in an absolutely still pond. I think with images like this you either get it or you don’t.


Above: Another of my favourites; this statue adorned the grave site of a warrior burried on the grounds of Atsuta Jingu. I added a colour filter to my lens to make the greens a little more vibrant, and I think the over-exposed skies in this shot add a great ethereal effect.

Omikuji, literally meaning “devine lottery”, is a type of fortune printed on small piece of paper that you can purchase for ¥200 at nearly any shrine. At Atsuta Jingu omikuji are obtained by shaking a box that has a small hole in the bottom, out of which a numbered stick will fall, with each number corresponding to a different type of fortune.

While there are a dozens of different kinds of fortunes available, they can all typically be classified as belonging to one of seven different categories (in descending order): dai-kichi (meaning, “Great Blessing”), chuu-kichi, shou-kichi, kichi, han-kichi, sue-kichi, sue-shou-kichi, kyou, shou-kyou, han-kyou, sue-kyou, dai-kyou (meaning, “Great Curse”).


Above: The kanji 末吉 is read sue-kichi, meaning “Near-Blessing”. Each box on the omikuji represents a set of fortunes regarding a different aspect of life, covering everything from love, personal relationships, and work to lucky colours and numbers.

I decided to take my omikuji to work so that I could have some of my students translate it… unfortunately, by the time I’d gotten around to actually writting this particular article I realized that I had completely misplaced the sheet of paper onto which I had so carefully written down my fortune =(

Traditionally the omikuji are tied to ad hoc scaffolding located on the grounds of the shrine. As it is here that the kamis can peruse the fortunes of the shrine’s visitors at thier liesure working to the best of their ability to make the promises of the omikuji a reality and to ward off whatever misfortunes it may have predicted as well. Not one to break with tradition, the following morning I bicycled back to Atsuta Jingu where I dutifully tied my omikuji to the scaffolding and said a quick prayer of apology to Atsuta no Ookami.


Above: A wall of barrels containing nihonshuu (“Japanese rice wine”) sits just inside the second torii of Atsuta Jingu. Such displays serve a dual purpose at these shrines; the first of course, is religious piety, the second reason is premium advertising, as each barrel is adorned with the logo of a particular brewery.


Above: Rows of trees wrapped with bamboo “garters” adorn the pathways of Atsuta Jingu. Since all things born of the Earth can be considered as sacred manifestations of kamis, these belts serve to enshrine even the trees themselves so that we never fail to recognize the presence of the kamis in the world around us.


Above: A little girl mocks the camera after I’d asked her parents if I could take a photograph of her during “Shichi-go-san” (literally translated as “7-5-3”). At these ages children don kimonos for the first time while visiting a shrine at which their parents will pray to kami to bless their children with a long and happy life.

Alexander

Update

•8 11 2006 • 4 Comments

So much for being a daily blather, eh?

I can’t believe how quickly time seems to pass here in Japan, and how easy it is to suddenly become caught up in my own little world and almost forget about my friends and family back home; for whom I decided to create this weblog in the first place =P

I’m going to take a more active role in fleshing out some solid ideas for weblog entries. So, while it maybe 02,30 here in Nagoya and I really do need to get some sleep, let me give you some idea of things to come:

Halloween: my friends and I kicked off the weekend at a small bar in Nagoya and in the words of Nick (the proprietor), “made this night!”

Run: I’ll be running two half-marathons this month, one in Gifu-city and another in Nagoya; I’ll provide some information on those runs as they approach.

A Typical Day: while this is by far the simplest to produce of the aforementioned articles, I’m confident that I can now complete it entirely in Japanese… well, kind of confident =P

Photography though I’ve always been a fan of photography, I recently took the plunge and bought myself a digital SLR camera; I couldn’t be happier.

Shintoism: I took several days last week to thoroughly explore the nuances of this ancient aspect of Japanese culture, with some unfortunate consequences =(

Phenomenology: I spend quite a bit of time studying Japanese from a linguistic point of view in addition to my interest of developing my speaking ability.

Elliot: one of my best friends from university stops to visit me in Japan while touring around the world himself.

In the meantime, I need to get some shut-eye; sorry again for all of the delays =(
Alexander

D. Gray-man

•14 10 2006 • 10 Comments

I’ve never really been a fan of comic books, North American or otherwise, though I know that somewhere in a closet back home in Canada there is a stack of them sitting covered in dust and yellowing with age =) But in Japan, 漫画 (pronounced manga) is fulfilling a completely different role than that of entertainment for me, it’s helping me learn little nuances and colloquialisms that I’d never imagined I’d be using having been here for such a short time.

The literal translation of the word 漫画 is “whimsical pictures”, although in it’s present form the word is used to describe any manner of comic book published in Japan. Though there are many similarities that may be drawn between 漫画 and it’s North American counterpart, 漫画 occupies a significantly different cultural facet here in Japan. Economically, the number of 漫画 sold in Japan in a single week is equivalent to the number of comic books sold in all of North America in an entire year and within Japan 漫画 is well respected as both a form of literature and as an art form, with historical pieces of 漫画 dating from as far back as the middle of the 18th century.

In North America the content published within a comic book must adhere to the regulations of the Comic Code Authority (CCA). Established in 1954, the CCA was created in response to mounting public concern that the material being printed in many comic books was inappropriate for the medium’s target audience. While the CCA possessed no actual legal authority over the industry, many stores simply refused to sell books which did not brandish the CCA’s seal of approval. As a result, many once popular comic book characters simply vanished as the stories with which they were associated were essentially prohibited.

In my opinion, one of the reasons why 漫画 has become so prolific within Japanese society is because there is no analogous organization or set of rules dictating what can be published, aside from basic indecency laws that apply to all printed materials. As a result, the authors and illustrators have been allowed to explore a myriad of genres and ideas through their art form, and this in turn manifests itself in the form of 漫画 suitable for anyone and everyone.

North American comic books exist within two main genres, comics (often refered to as funnies) and classical stories of good versus evil, often detailing the exploits of super heroic characters, savoury and otherwise. In Japan however, 漫画 are generally classified as belonging to one of five categories: 子供 (kodomo, meaning “children”), 少女 (shōjo, “teenage girls”), 少年 (shōnen, “teenage boys”), 女性 (josei, “women”), and 成年 (seinen, “men”). Within each of these categories exist a veritable array of genres covering nearly every subject imaginable.


Above: A 漫画 titled “Jesus” that I found in a used bookstore. The caption underneath the title reads, “It is a legend of the god of death smeared with blood and eveloped in a blaze. He is a professional combatant and assassin who has never missed the target he aimed at. He is called Jesus. A revenger. No one knows his real name and his past.”; a true testament to the lack of understanding of Western culture that seems so prevalent in Japanese society. I still think of going back there to buy it, if only for it’s novelty =)

The vast majority of 漫画, within the context of 子供, focus on stories of children learning to come to grips with the trials of everyday life, such as academic pressure from teachers or parents, and learning to cope with feelings of ostracism from fellow students, though usually these stories are done in jest or contain fantastic elements.

Personally I perceive 女性 and 成年 to be the most diverse categories of 漫画. The story lines within these books is often as intricate as a television drama would be in North America. Since these 漫画 are aimed toward adult audiences there really is no limit as to what manner of imagry can be portrayed and all genres are healthily represented, from stories involving ordinary people and their daily lives to outright pornography and any fetish you can imagine.

But it is 少女 and 少年 with which the word 漫画 has become synonymous within North America. Analogous to 子供, 少女 and 少年 deal with issues pertaining to teenage life, typically set against a backdrop of comedy or action and adventure. Academic success and popularity are cornerstones of these categories as well, but unlike 子供, romantic interests also tend to occupy a significant amount of character development. Differences between gender roles in Japanese society are echoed within 少女 and 少年, with 少女 art often being very flowery and romantic interests often being the focus of major story arcs. In contrast, 少年 tend to revolve around action sequences, with the art work being more fierce and the language slightly more abrasive.

平仮名 (hiragana) and 片仮名 (katakana) are comparable to large alphabets, containing 42 characters each (though specific combinations and the addition of diacritics allows each syllabary to represent more than 100 possible sounds). 漢字 (kanji), on the otherhand, is ideogramatic and each of the more than 2,000 characters can be used to represent combinations of sounds or specific ideas. Unfortunately, written Japanese is a seemless blend of all three scripts, and for many foriegners this can make the very idea of trying to become literate seem more than overwhelming.

However in 子供, 少女 and 少年漫画 all 漢字 is paired with 振仮名 (furigana), small-font 平仮名 used to indicate the pronounciation of the associated 漢字; the reason being that even children born and raised in Japan are not fully literate until they’ve completed all of their mandetory schooling. For somebody such as myself though, this means that even a limited literary ability can be put to good use.


Above: Set in a fictious 19th century Europe, D. Gray-man is an interesting series that revolves around the life of an exorcist named Allen Walker (the character at left in the above image). Walker is part of the Dark Organization, a loose nit agency tied to the Vatican whose purpose is to prevent demonic forces from destroying mankind; the character beside Walker in the above image is Satan. I have yet to figure out why the series is actually called D. Gray-man =P

I purchased volume one of D. Gray-man, and I’ve been slowly translating it hoping to improve my vocabulary. Unfortunately, what I started to realize is that colloquial Japanese is considerably different than the Japanese taught in most textbooks. But even though it often takes me on the order of an hour to properly translate a spread of text, I’m finding the experience to be fun and extremely rewarding.


Above: On page 27 of volume one we meet the main antagonist, Satan. In this panel he is encouraging one of his アクマ (akuma, meaning demons) to grow stronger before revealing it’s true form; in D. Gray-man, アクマ reside within the bodies of those people whose lives are wrought with despair.

Remembering that Japanese is read from top to bottom and from right to left, I managed to translate this particular scene as:

Bubble 1: Yoo-hoo; my menace!
Bubble 2: My lovely Akuma…
Bubble 3: More and more killing is the way to grow stronger.

Hrm… perhaps that wasn’t exactly the best panel to use as an example =(

But let me remind you that this is 少年漫画. While some dialogue may seem quite abject at first glance, D. Gray-man is a simple story that revolves around the struggle between good versus evil, and aside from the occassional terrifyingly depicted demon, this 漫画 is just plain fun. I’ll be able to provide more of a synopsis and analysis of the story once I’ve been able to translate a more substantial amount of the work.

To ensure that my translations are at least relatively accurate I’ve gotten into the habit of bothering some of the Japanese staff at work. Typically after work, on the train ride home, I’ll pull out the 漫画 along with several pages of notes and ask either Saeka or Yurie to look over my interpretations. So far they’ve been more than happy to oblige and they seem to think that the rate of my progress is more than fantastic, so I guess I’m doing something right =)

Well, to those of you that sat around long enough to make it to this paragraph, let me apologize for trying to use so much Japanese in today’s entry. I’m really trying to make an effort to use the kanji I already know as much as possible so that I can become all the more familiar with the symbols. It’s a bit of a personal goal of mine to complete at least a brief weblog entry entirely in Japanese before my birthday in November.

Whether or not I can actually achieve that goal is a different story, but until that time passes I’m going to study like it’s 1999… or something =P

Alexander

CMB Anisotropy in 100 Words

•2 10 2006 • Leave a Comment

Well, that special time of year is upon us once again; it’s time to see who the winners of this years Nobel Prizes will be.

As of this posting, the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has already been awarded to Adrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello for their discovery of RNA interference – gene silencing by double-stranded RNA… which has something do with stuff… I guess… but that’s medicine, and it’s not like medicine has ever done anything important for us =)

As for this years Nobel Prize for Physics, it’s been awarded to two quite famous individuals, John C. Mather (NASA’s Godard Space Flight Center) and George F. Smoot (University of California, Berkeley), for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation.

Today we take the Big Bang Scenario for granted, and even elementary school children learn that the universe was born from nothingness in a single massive explosion. However, for more than fifty years there were numerous theories floating around about how our universe may have formed and evolved into the current state that we observe today. By the mid-1980s the Big Bang Scenario was certainly the most widely accepted of formation theories, however it was by no means a certainty.

After more than a decade of delays though, under the supervision of Mather and Smoot, NASA launched the Cosmic Microwave Background Explorer (CoBE) in 1989, the worlds first satellite dedicated solely for the purpose of cosmological observation. Within nine minutes of being activated CoBE had gathered enough data to convince even the most ardent skeptic that the universe did indeed form during a colossal explosion, the Big Bang.

What CoBE was able to measure is known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), remnant radiation from the instant in time at which point the universe began (more or less). Moreover, CoBE was able to detect small perturbations in the CMBs otherwise istropic temperature profile. We now know that these small fluctuations acted as the seeds from which all of the universes larger and more complex structures (such as galaxies and galaxy clusters) formed.

When the results of their initial observations were presented at a conference one month later they received a standing ovation.

CoBEs contribution to the success of modern cosmology is the result of the work of more than 1,000 physicists from around the world; but it is because of the co-ordination of John C. Mather and George F. Smoot that the project came to together at all, and it is because of these men that cosmology today can be regarded as a precise and empirical science; and certainly that is worth a Nobel Prize.

Nobel Prize

Alexander

J-Para

•1 10 2006 • 4 Comments

The French Paradox was first cited in 1819 by an Irish physician who noted the French were considerably less predisposed to developing coronary-related illnesses despite their heavy consumption of foods containing high amounts of saturated fats.

Although the notion did not receive much interest at the time, today it is a closely monitored subject, especially by Americans, whom consume one-half of the amount of saturated fat per day, yet suffer from three times the number of coronary-related illnesses (US Department of Health, 2003).

Oddly enough, nobody has ever thought to consider the Japanese paradox (or as I’m sure it would come to be known, the “J-para”… I apologize if you don’t find “J-para” funny, but trust me, it’s hilarious if you’re living here). In the west we often perceive Japanese people as being naturally slender and we’re usually content to attribute it to their diet, which we believe consists of small portions of rice and fish.

Oddly enough, the majority of Japanese people I’ve met do not like fish, and they’re genuinely baffled as to why I’m head-over-heels for sushi and sashimi; to them, it’s just far too bland. They prefer rich foods, like Italian pastas and French deserts; McDonalds and it’s Japanese counterpart (Mos Burger) are giants; and every time I go to my local Mr. Donut to study I watch literally dozens of Japanese people helping themselves to five or six donuts each.

So, how in the world do the Japanese stay so slender while at the same time continue to consume foods loaded with saturated fats and containing so little, actual, nutritional value?

Simple; by embedding bits of solid gold into every piece of food sold in Japan, companies are forced to charge ridiculously high prices for nearly every food item. Hence, since people can only afford to eat once a day, nobody can ever gain substantial amounts of weight.

The present exchange rate between Japanese and Canadian currency is perfect for somebody such as myself that’s new in Japan and is still accustomed to thinking of prices in terms of their native currency. Currently, CDN$1.00 is equivalent to about JPY¥106, which for all intents and purposes means that when I look at price tags I can simply divide by a factor of 100 in order to put items into a context with which I’m more familiar.

So with this in mind let me take you on a quick tour of my neighbourhood grocery store so we can look at some common Canadian food items.


Above: The hiragana on the sign says “ringo”, which means “apple” in Japanese. Here we can see four “ringos” (that’s one, two, three, four; as in less than five) apples for the equivalent of CDN$5.80…


Above: A little further down the isle we find delicious kiwi fruit… for the equivalent of CDN$1.28, each! Apparently, the golden colour of the skin of a kiwi fruit must come from actual gold dust that’s been sprayed over each piece of fruit.


Above: Finally, at the end of this section of the store we find individually packaged carrots; heaven forbid a carrot should ever come into contact with… another carrot?! Again, notice that each carrot is just under CDN$1.00, each.


Above: Although they’re nothing special, I seem to have taken up the habit of eating peanuts after a swim or class of capoeira. The past few years I’d thought I’d become allergic to them, but whatever allergy I had, has completely vanished… unfortunately, the peanuts in Japan are grown in soils fertalized with flecks of solid gold.


Above: I have no clue how to pronounce the kanji that’s written on these boxes, but I do know that the katakana is pronounced as “fure-ku”, so I often refer to the cereal as “Kanji Flakes”. At CDN$4.10 for only 220 grams of cereal, I can only assume that this cereal is frosted with gold dust, as opposed to sugar. Needless to say, for as long as I live in Japan I imagine that cereal will never be apart of my diet.


Above: At the end of the isle we find a shelf filled with various spreads such as jams, a variety of nut-based spreads, butter, and even Nutella =D Although I don’t think you can make it out in the photograph, these jars are only 340 grams; unlike most other foods, crunchy peanut butter is worth every yen in my opinion.

In the last isle of the store we find meat and breads…


Above: Perhaps the reason I’ve taken to eating peanuts and why I don’t mind “splurging” for peanut butter is because I know that I wouldn’t be able to get protein from anywhere else; in Japan, even thinking about buying meat is expensive… and apparently this package is on sale?!


Above: This was perhaps one of the most heart-wrenching sights I’ve witnessed in Japan. Bread, a simple staple that we take for granted in Canada, is now a luxuory for me. Gone are the days of buying a full loaf with 24 slices for CDN$1.25; in this country you pay CDN$1.58 for just six slices…

Honestly though, the last thing I want is for people to feel sorry for me. The fact of the matter is that Japan is just different. Eating-in is often as expensive (and sometimes more) as eating-out and so most people only have one actual meal per day; for the other meals usually onigiri is sufficent.

Having to adapt my diet is something I am quite enjoying (and believe me when I say that many other foriegners seem content to gouge themselves in order to enjoy the foods they’re used to), and suddenly I find that I’m no longer such an outsider when I can tell students and other Japanese friends that I love eating, and can even prepare, many traditional Japanese foods.

Sure, I didn’t have to move half-way around the world in order to learn how to cook Japanese food, but there is more to the act of eating than consuming the food itself. Meals are an experience in and of themselves and I could live my whole life in Canada eating sushi, sashimi, and tempura everyday; but that still wouldn’t be Japan.

I’ll leave it at that for now. I’ll get into the details of a typical day for me another time, and what I feel makes Japan… well, Japan =)

Alexander