The tests are in from the bird flu-infected poultry farm in Miyazaki Prefecture, and it's the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu. This is the fifth avian flu outbreak in Japan, and killed 3,500 chickens last week.
No word on people, however. That's the good news. In other good news... and to get off a potentially morbid subject... I had ramen for my early dinner today. It's the first ramen I've had in over a year.
Ramen is the same thing as lo mein, imported from China but transformed into something indelibly Japanese. If you were one of those destitute Dostoyevskian university students who grew a beard and seldom bathed while subsisting on 99 cent instant ramen packets, you're woefully unprepared for the full Japanese ramen experience.
This is a country where there are ramen museums. Ramen museums! Entire museums devoted to a noodle dish.
This is shoyu ramen. Mine had onions all over it, and half an egg.
Plus seaweed. The lone cook thoughtfully included a spoon.
Ramen shops are fixtures in any city large enough to have restaurants, and most people have their favorites. Some are large, and some are tiny hole-in-the-wall places, but most feature ticket machines where you make your choice, and bars where you sit and eat, elbow to elbow.
I'm pretty sure I had shoyu ramen, which is a brown, soy-based ramen. But mine had a pork slice in it, so it possibly could have been chashu ramen, or chashumen. Beyond the noodles and pork, ramen's a pretty hearty soup, full of shredded onions, seaweed, half an egg and nutritious lard.
Lots and lots of lard.
Being an illiterate here, I had to carefully compare kanji and katakana under the wall-mounted photographs before approaching the ticket machine. Some machines have pictures over the buttons, but many have hand-lettered cards instead. My advice is to be extremely cautious in pressing the button...
Not once but twice, I accidentally ordered some kind of spicy chili powder-infused ramen. The first half of the bowl was delicious, with a playful biting sensation on my tongue and lips. The second half was like drinking from a lava flow in the depths of Hell.
My lips and tongue began to melt, then my eyes exploded and ran from their sockets, down my cheeks while my nose spewed a thin, clear liquid that, after careful laboratory analysis, was determined to be my brain and other internal organs.