Daniel in Japaniel

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Happy New Year

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We’re making mochi, so you don’t have to.

Love and Happy New Year.


Written by Daniel

January 2, 2009 at 8:11 am

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Ultra-tour; Stewrat

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Ultra-tour 2008

Perhaps it is fair to say, of my 2008 trips (considering Mexico by BBQ, Arizona, Milwaukee, Boston by Cr-V) this next week will be my last span of hyper-traveling of the year. We don’t go out of style though, we spread our eyes and wallets to the seams until we break.

Ideally, I can make promises to myself of future journeys spanning further; however, I’d rather say I am traveling now.

So it seems appropriate to discuss Ultra-tour, while my Uncle is somewhere sleeping miles above the Pacific, his ass traveling god knows how fast.

But first, let’s play catch up from where we last left off.

Amongst compiling my letters, journals and blog entries in an attempt to humorously Anthologize myself, I met up with my Soshi-pals once more, this time Hiroshima-Okonomiyaki style.


Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki or Hiroshima-fu-okonomiyaki. Not really sure how to classify it other than Japanese Banh Xeo. I did make Banh Xeo recently to repay them for such a fantastic meal, but sadly- my Banh Xeo skills are lacking.

I have been cooking though (of course… always cooking). But I tried my hand at Shoujin Ryouri, and my mother’s Stone Ground Mustard and thyme recipe.


…burned the kiriboshidaikon, だけど.

… grilling eggplant without a grill- very difficult.

After sharing a delicious meal, Daisuke put me on the spot for a mini-mandolin concert for them. I played “Dawg’s Waltz” as usual.

But a prefer playing with friends,

Cleaning dishes like fiends, we finished up and hurried off to Akasaka for a concert at “Note Akasuka” to see Kento Arai… potentially the cutest Japanese man I have met to date.

Working the relatively unfocused crowd, he asked who liked Christmas, “Just me?” he responded to the inaudible mumblings. He then sang songs about his home town, and his grandparents. “Let’s have a fun time” he added.

We hung around for the second act. As the lights dimmed on a stage with a Green Mustang RC car strapped to an amp, and a table covered with pedals and mixers. A man dressed in all black was doing yoga of stage, when Daisuke leaned into me and asked “Is this a a new religion?”

No, actually it was our first “Noise” experience. The RC car’s… engine… started up, and began driving back and forth creating a distorted effect. This, however, was the highlight of the man’s performance. He proceeded to run onto stage and ruin the sound by turning it to something one step lower than a bat screech, which continued throughout his performance. The performance consisted of the most intense I have ever seen someone tap away at a digital equalizer followed by some steel can thrashing (he smacked it around for awhile with a metal chain).

We left shortly after. Caught a glimpse of another gorgeous illumination and then returned to Soshigaya and called it a night.

The next day was spent, as I said, anthologizing myself. I spent a good whole day away at Excelsior Cafe, titter tatter tapping away.

Recently William and Mary sent out acceptances to 2009 study abroad students. Well, I am making a guess because this week I met two future Tribe folk. For a good years worth, Kazue and Sanami will study in America. Exciting. I gave them what I knew in terms of W&M文化 but it pretty much degraded into me telling them how to spend their free time traveling the U.S., recommending East Coast, Amtrak Boston to Williamsburg before the fall semester and a West Coast trip… starting in Texas via Greyhound.

Later, met up with Marie and Yuki at the daycare in Tamachi only to get schooled at Japanese tops and memory games.


It only took two games before I called them out on cheating, and subsequently admitted defeat. Elementary school girls are still as vicious as I remember.

On the bright side, I learned how to say, “you lost a turn” in Japanese. Always a plus.

Met up with Marie’s senpai, Ochi-san who is writing a thesis on the Modern influences upon Japanese Contemporary art, and has some tough criticisms on Gaiatsu (foreign pressure) and its role in confining Japanese originality in the art world. From there we talked about superflat, which he holds as a step in the right direction for Japanese art, something homebrewed and insightful. I reminded him, however far we step, we’re all caught in this global community, influence is a hard thing to remove oneself from- unless you are pure genius. We ended up exchanging numbers, and have setup a tentative reunion tour.

After a night spent at a delicious and cheap Chinese restaurant, I took my bloated body back home, Odakyu style.

As for Thursday, Marie expressed surprising interest in the home-town of Ultraman; I invited her to take the plundge into mild mannered Soshigaya.

The tour begins as soon as you get off the train and hear the famous notes, the theme song of “Ultraman”.

To those uninformed, like myself, tune into wikipedia. In the distant future, 1993, Earth unexplicably becomes vulnerable to sinister aliens (a la Godzilla) and the only task force prepared to stop these beasts, Science Special Search Party, led by Captain Mura. Now this is the part I get foggy on, as actually wikipedia can’t keep my attension for more than two minutes at a time, possibly Mura goes comatose and pilots/becomes Ultraman to defeat these monsters using his various trademark attacks (my personal favorite: Giga Specium Beam)

At any rate, the creator, special effects pioneer, Eiji Tsuburaya, owes his roots to Soshigaya-Okura.

After leaving the train station, at the north end you can find a life size (human sized) statue of Ultraman, the original, himself. On occasion his eyes light up, and parents, children, college students alike gather around, watching the spectacle.

Marie and I quickly made our way to Cafe Melody, which shares its establishment with “Ultraman’s Shop Shot m78”. There the wife and husband (who I assume own the respective shops together), have a nice little operation going. Regulars come by for the cheap rice/pizza sets. Running about six to seven dollars, you can get a decent helping of food, soup and your choice of drink.

Yes, so this place, needless to say, is the holy grail of Ultraman paraphanelia. From toothbrushes, chopsticks, towels, masks, key chains, soaps, candy, bibs, models, to finger puppets, you can get your fill of Ultraman goodies. On the opposite wall are dozens of visitor’s crayon doodles of the hero. If you make the trip out, I suggest you check out the guest book. It has some gems like “I have to go the bathroom!” and “Ultraman Number 1” scribbled in it. I contributed.

Halfway through our lunch, I get a call from Marie’s friend Eisai, where he spent the conversation explaining Ultraman Legacy with suspicious amount of detail. But Marie and Eisai both convinced me, their interest grew out of a Contemporary art. Like SuperFlat or some Warholian dream, the artist simply displayed his figures- and made art.


Art? Discuss.

Marie and I then spent the afternoon walking from Soshigaya to Seijo and back again; she, speaking in Japanese, and myself, English. Marie is an interesting case. Her English comprehension is fluent, by all means, but to squeeze an English word out of her is difficult. We spent most of the afternoon chatting about American movies and future travel plans.

Taking French now, Marie hopes to get some traveling around the country during and after a Keio University summer program in 2010.

Perhaps we’ll meet up.

Time in Japan has made me focus on the future, perhaps, while immediately glued to the present moment. However, it is impossible to not experience every high moment traveling without the background thought of, “how can I sustain this?” My return, and resuming three semesters of college will be spent finding an end to this desire, hopefully by getting a suitable job that can assure a life of travel.

Here on out, it is an ultra-tour.


Bunbun-san is possibly my new mascot.

Which reminds me, after spending a thrilling hour of adorably nervous and hilarious “travel etc.” conversation with friend and Shiga-native, Yukiko (met at Long Island Cafe), I came back to Soshigaya-Okura for a farewell, Banh Xeo party at the Kanonpu household.

There I failed horribly at making Banh Xeo, but still managed a meal out of it. After the meal, I told Daisuke and Rie about my family, particularly Momma Wolfe and her story. We then ate some of the spiciest fish eggs in the world. Heralding from the Fukuoka, these fish eggs, well… they were different.

I spent the rest of the night, pen in hand- doodling to chorus of praise from Rie and Daisuke. We goofed off until near one in the morning, Daisuke gave me a commermorative Kanonpu-T-Shirt (photos of this are bound to appear at some point) and I wished them a Merry Christmas, and Happy New Years as I left for the last time this year.

But, this story won’t end. I actually plan on returning to live in Soshigaya-Okura one more time before leaving for the States. From the 5th until the 14th of January, high school alumnus, Marco Brundelre and I will be seen pacing the streets of Ultraman.

But really… in a few hours-

Guess who is coming to town?

uncle stewart

Ultra-tour guys.

Thank you for 2000 views.

Written by Daniel

December 17, 2008 at 4:36 pm

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Slight Cold

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“I don’t care what you say, I’ll add cilantro to anything.”

This is the result of one of my more mindless arguments with myself after three days of staying indoors, more or less.

Luckily my first day here I had the forsight to make a grocery store excursion, picking up orange juice, gingerale, 2 salmon filets, 2 packs of firm tofu, frozen cut spinach, a six-pack of Sapporo’s winter ale, a half-loaf of wheat bread and some parsley.

The parsley was a mistake. A mistake only I can take credit for, obviously I had wanted cilantro, as parsley is disgusting and has no use in the kitchen. Even the label says “Pa-Sa-Ri” to anyone, that should scream, not cilantro. An amateur mistake. A mistake I kind of sat in my mucusy cocoon stewing over… damnit… cilantro is called “Pa-Ki-Chii” here.

After my painful experience trying to imagine parsley tastes the same as cilantro, I picked up some of the real stuff on my walk back from Ookura eki today.

Actually, yes I have been out. At least once a day, I have been outside for longer than an hour, in order to keep my morale up. After sleeping for a good 14 hours… I woke up this morning  (12:30), and willed myself to bathe. There I decided to make a little trip to Shibuya.

I was counting my blessings when I thought, at least I didn’t have a headache, just a backache and cough. I came back from the busiest train-station/intersection in the world with a stuffy nose and feverish headache. Luckily those have calmed down a bit since then.

The sights were worth it though. More of the usual, crazy colors, a uniform 35 under crowd. People taking pictures of the giant intersection. Couples, foreign or local alike sitting cross legged, visible through the third or second floor windows of the Starbucks they populated.

My trip was simple enough, check out the local musical instrument stores. It’s become actually a regular routine of mine when going into a new town here. Usually I dick around on whatever selection of harmonia’s are available (here they are called pianokas), or oggle the ocarina selection. I was little too congested and considerate today to spread germs, so I limited my activities to browsing mandolin books.

It’s amazing how little I feel like speaking Japanese when I am sick. I almost feel completely innept when faced with conversation. This especially bothers me with my host family, since I want to speak so much more- but whenever I get excited, I simply, literally, get clogged up.

Past few days though have been great rest though. As Jay reminds me from back home, there is really no rush.

And really, I don’t feel all too bad. Shibuya looked exactly the same. When I got there, I realized- oh yeah, the welcoming party tomorrow is going to be in Shibuya. I slapped myself and went about the window shopping.

Some great sleeping and reading has been done. But really, the greatest achievement lately is getting a copy of Dave Brubeck’s “Live at Carnegie Hall” put on my computer.

Nothing compliments a cold in the cold better than side 2.

Good night!

Written by Daniel

December 6, 2008 at 3:13 pm

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Back to Tokyo

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Perhaps never I’ll admit it; I may or not be sick. I have been able to dodge the cold so far in Japan. The cough so far has all indications of something wholly uncomfortable.

There’s a health update, as for everything else- the Antioch program is finally at an end. We returned a few days ago with the exception of two students unfortunately displaced by the Thai protestor’s airport takeover. Luckily they did make a flight out of Malaysia in time to see everyone off yesterday.

Presentations were the day before that. They went by simply enough. The director continued to insist it was a celebration, while presentations were approached either as paper recitation or casual discussion. All good, though.

At anyrate, two thirds of my time here and Japan have gone by now, and I am actually sitting in my home for the next 10 or so days.

I am doing a homestay program with a young couple Noe and Yuki. As I haven’t met Noe, and I have barely talked to Yuki- I can’t say too much about them besides that Yuki is a fireman and Noe is a photographer.

Now really, I am probably going to bed, but if there is anything you really need to know. The biggest thing that I have found out lately… it is that…


Noe will have an exhibition on December 27th. She will put on display 200 pictures of Japanese babies.

Alright, time to sleep off this cold. More info to come on where I am living, and my plans for Tokyo.

Good night and good morning.

Written by Daniel

December 3, 2008 at 10:34 am

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November in Japan

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The smell of November is universal. Kyoto weather is a different beast since those days of humidity. Now the sun is bright and tastes like tomorrow, while the shade is chilly and reminds us of what’s really to come. Neither is better than these warm drizzles that punctuate my days though.

Enough fluff as usual, finals are done today. My return to Japan was a busy one. There was no real adventure aside from a stop at Fukakusa for their school festival. Everything else has been the rhythm of keyboards clicking while GirlTalk blares in my headphones. It’s absolutely fine though. These days were spent in investment and anticipation of the new stage of this trip. This month marks the beginning of my research period, which has finally been focused: traditional and contemporary manifestations of Zen cooking as an analogy for the permeation of Zen in Japan. In short, eat, eat, eat and write about it.

This is all too much, the good things to write about. Of course there are always great things, but the freedom of travel is up there. It’s that promise of things I’m savoring right now. It’s the same as looking forward to an Obama administration with all the hopes and dreams to manifest. Yes I want them too, but if they don’t, there is no way it can damage the unbridled anticipation I feel today. (Oh, and GirlTalk is coming to William and Mary? yes, good job yes yes)

While everyone in the program gears up to leave, I am looking at a few more days in Kyoto. In an attempt to save money, I hope leaving the 13th for travel will guarantee a free bullet ride to Tokyo come the 3rd of December. But let’s outline my travels from here on out, shall we? [meaning, humor me while I organize what’s floating in my head anyway]

I will work on the source material portion of my paper from now until the the thirteenth when I will visit a temple in Uji to have a taste of their Shoujin-Ryouri (Zen Cooking). After a night spent somewhere in that area, I will take the rapid ot Osaka to meet up with one of the Kitchen staff of Hokyoji (rewind here) to study here cooking techniques, as well as sit in on a lecture by the prominent chef Tsuji at his school (also in Osaka). On the 16th, she and I will go for some zazen at a temple called Saikouji. When we get back, I will thank her and take the late train to Nagasaki. There intend to visit their Peace Musuem and a friend’s grandmother’s sushi restaurant. On the 18th, I will visit Hiroshima’s Peace Musuem on my journey back north. There I’ll decide to stay another day or press on to Sapporo. Sapporo there is plenty of things to do. Mostly, I intend to embrace the cold until the 22nd in a cabin hostel called the Autohouse, drinking instant ramen like a champ and wandering the forest. By the 23rd I should be at the KEIO festival staying with two friends for a couple days. Later Julian will meet up with me for a Thanksgiving extravaganza that only Tokyo can provide (I only say this… because I have no idea how Tokyo will provide). There is probably a visit to Takashi Murakami’s exhibit at Tokyo’s Modern Art Musuem, somewhere in there. With the end of November comes the end of the program (for real), we return for a couple dinners and presentations, while I return to pick up one last Long Island Cafe shift and say goodbye to my Ryu-dai friends.

That is phase two of this three pronged trip. December brings me a new life in Tokyo, sharing my sleeping space with a homestay family, KEIO students, my Uncle Stewart, my friend Hiro, and then a reunion with Marco Brundelre. But who can really anticipate where I will be at that point. Now with the steady flow of tourists, small, big, Japanese, gaijin or otherwise, it’s easy to see my transition out of Kyoto; as the leaves turn their firery red, my anxiousness to travel this nation destroys me. Though today seemed planned enough for me, I look forward to the last hurrah of this program. I have one last group cleaning of the temple, some “group bonding” moments, and a dinner of the best sashimi that comes to Kyoto (for twenty bucks).

Tomorrow begins the book end of the research. But as most things seem these days, action always carries the burden of investment, I’ve been trying to invest in simply the action itself. Hard to do with so much to look forward to though.

If you haven’t already checked it out, my picasa account has all of my photos from Vietnam, including the Cao Dai temples I visited and the new and old family I met.

Written by Daniel

November 7, 2008 at 1:46 am

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For the first time

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I voted.

Took a few days to register. Mailing a computer print out from the corner post office with Hello Kitty stamps isn’t exactly the forefather’s vision (perhaps neither is a half-vietnamese non-land-owning male). However, it sunk in this morning.

That’s really all.

In terms of my day, past few days, future days, I got some exciting things to write about. This may or may not include: TAing a Film Media course, finishing Dharma Bums, witnessing the installation of a new Abbott, entering the “Prince’s Hot Spring”, and watching a 7-hour (possibly not all) Japanese Dance Off at Heian Jingu.

Also expect a photo post.

Written by Daniel

October 1, 2008 at 12:59 am

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Greetings, it is 11:30 here, back in Kyoto.

Won’t inundate you yet with the experience at Hokyoji. Needless to say it was a beautiful experience for my heart.

Be prepared, starting tomorrow I will consolidate my notes into a nice little story for you all. Tonight is some well deserved rest.

In the meantime (since it is 10:30 back home) I did upload 3 new baby pictures and 66 new Japan pictures. Sub-note, in the Japan pictures there is in fact 2 pictures of babies but I don’t feel they fit my rules for the Japanese baby pictures. If you check out the album, you will understand.

Until tomorrow.

Written by Daniel

September 16, 2008 at 11:51 pm

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