Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's Always Fun When Peter Payne's Blog Updates Overlap My Own Experiences...

Peter Payne has a fun entry on his J-List Side Blog about Brad Pitt's recent appearance on Bistro SMAP, the talk show where members of SMAP cook for their guests. Read his entry, because it has a screen cap from the show featuring Pitt and his partner-in-crime, Quentin Tarantino. You will also learn the meaning of SMAP, which came as a surprise to me.

It's an acronym! Who knew? Probably lots of people. But not me.

Anyway, Pitt's appearance on Bistro SMAP must have been a big hit, because it was mentioned to me on three separate occasions this week. Usually I have to interrogate people viciously to get even the slightest mention of something they did recently or watched on TV. It's almost as if these things are state secrets. But Brad Pitt on Bistro SMAP?

That's something to talk about freely!

One of our movie buff girls discussed it and actually mentioned Tarantino. That's what she called him-- simply Tarantino. She smiled and added, "He talks... A LOT." That was my cue to launch into my world famous Quentin Tarantino impression (although I didn't do the weird lip thing he does because I didn't want to frighten away the students). I talked in a Tarantino-esque voice about how great and cool Japanese movies are, spewing it out rapid-fire with no pauses even to breathe for close to thirty seconds.

She's right, by the way.

I didn't do the Norm MacDonald version. MacDonald's is brilliant, but I believe in making a character your own and not doing some other person's take. So yes, I do a Quentin Tarantino impression which I think is quite good, aided by my slight resemblance to him. The giggles greeting my little performance made it worth the effort. I find that ESL students, especially here in Japan, tend to worry about speaking speed and find demonstrations of lightning fast American-style English to be hilarious and frightening simultaneously.

It's like a magic trick involving fire. How did he do that? Do I still have my eyebrows?

This is probably one reason the students are usually afraid to tell me these things.

When You Want Good Food, Go to Tokyo!

The newest Michelin Guide awards more three-star ratings to restaurants in Tokyo than in any other world city. More even than in Paris. That's barely scratching the surface, because there are thousands upon thousands of restaurants in Tokyo.

I'm sure that's true of any city of equivalent size. But I'm from a small town so having access to this many eateries blows my little provincial mind. I wonder how long it would take you to eat at every restaurant in Tokyo if you ate three meals a day and never repeated. Could you do it in a few years? Would it take a lifetime?

Someone should make the attempt and blog their experiences. As for me, I'd be happy just hitting a few of these three-star culinary superstars before I die.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


This is a video by Hiroshi Hiyashi (I don't know him personally but if he happens to read this, I want to tell him great job!) of Hamamatsu Castle. Hamamatsu Castle is a reconstruction of the original castle and it sits within a park not far from downtown Hamamatsu. Hamamatsu-jo is known as the "Castle of Success" because its rulers each went on to illustrious careers. Most prominent among these is Tokugawa Ieyasu, who completed the unification of Japan and established the Tokogawa bakufu, the shogunate dynasty that ruled Japan for about 265 years. The park features a large field that's popular for frisbee tossing, soccer ball kicking and baseball tossing... and the ever-popular hanami, or cherry blossom viewing picnic.

There's a carp pond, shady garden paths and even an art museum within the park. When the weather's pleasant, Hamamatsu Castle is a relaxing place to spend an afternoon.

The castle was the first touristy spot I visited on my very first trip to Japan way back in 2003. My friend Mike and I were still a bit jet-lagged but I was definitely feeling the excitement of having fulfilled a lifelong dream-- visiting Japan. We got lost looking for the castle, turning back at one point; a few years later I learned we were mere yards from the park entrance and there would have been no way to miss it if we hadn't psyched ourselves out.

I'm not a believer in destiny or fate, but I do enjoy coincidences. We came to Hamamatsu because we have friends here, without knowing the Tokugawa connection. Since my interest in Tokugawa Ieyasu-- extending back into my childhood-- was one of the reasons I initially came to Japan, it was thrilling to learn I was beginning my personal journey here in a place where he had some of his earliest successes.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Melt-Banana: "Green Eyed Devil"

Here's someone's energetic but unfortunately blurry video of Melt-Banana performing their song "Green Eyed Devil" from their 2007 album Bambi's Dilemma.

Their newest sound sensation, Melt-Banana Lite Live Ver 0.0, hits November 3rd. The smart kids are already lining up at the record stores.

Melt-Banana is Now in the US!

According to their MySpace blog, Melt-Banana is in San Diego and marveling at the number of In-N-Out Burger restaurants there. Perhaps this video has something to do with their hamburger fascination:

If they come to your town-- or within driving distance-- you really should go see them. But don't tell them I sent you. They don't know me from Ronald McDonald.