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June 21, 2004


dollsWatched the movie called "ドールズ" (Dolls) in my Japanese class today. It was produced by the famous Japanese director "北野武" (Kitano Takeshi) in 2002. Originally a comedian, Kitano has produced a variety of movies on different subject matters that range from action/violence to kids' story. And in "Dolls", Kitano tested his horizon again by portraying three very sad love stories.

Using "文楽" (bunraku) as a symbolic notation, the backbone of the story describes a couple detaching themselves from the society in search for their forgotten memories. The main characters basically tie themselves up with a red cord walking through different places from start to finish in the movie and finally, in the end, they fall off the cliff and die. During their passage, two other love stories intertwine together to portray love from different angles. One thread depicts the lost love of a yakuza boss and the other thread illustrates the kind of worship that a fan has for his idol singer.

If you are a rational person like me, you probably won't understand the message that the director is trying to deliver. Because the whole movie is so irrational to a point which is unreal. In order to feel the sadness behind the story, you really have to put yourself in an imaginary world. And then, you may be able to feel the power of love and the kind of harshness that the movie conveys. If you are not sensational enough, you may even think the movie is absolutely boring. However, as an artistic touch, the whole movie is packaged with nice sceneries of Japan's four changing seasons, designer's clothing and famous composer's music as the backdrop.

The atmosphere of the movie is definitely pessimistic and emphasizes the dark side of life too much. It is not for the type of people with the faintest hearts who would get depressed easily...

June 07, 2004


夏学期が今日から始まりました。 これから十週間上級の日本語を取ります。 二学期分の内容を十週間で終わらせるので、大変だなぁと思います。 毎日六時に起きて、家から学校まで往復二時間ぐらい通勤して、授業は三時間ほど受けて、午後は勉強するばかり、という暮らしです。学期が終わったときに、まだ生きているかどうかと心配していますが、日本語がもっとうまくなるように、一所懸命勉強しなければなりません。

今度は尾本先生と浦山先生と、もう一度お会いできてうれしいです。 これからもよろしくお願いいたします!

June 06, 2004

Buckwheat Pillow

Many people know there is a Japanese noodle made from buckwheat called "そば" (soba), but do you know that the hulls of buckwheat are not wasted either and are used in making pillows in Japan? I tried the buckwheat pillow "そば殻枕" (sobagara makura) when I was visiting a friend's home in Japan and fell in love with it right away!

I was constantly in search of THE perfect pillow that would maintain its firmness to support my head and neck. There are at least six or seven pillows sitting in my house right now and none of them satisfies my requirements. I have basically tried every kind of pillows out there that I could purchase easily at the stores in the States - cotton, down feather, synthetic foam and none of them works. They are either too high, too low, too soft or lose the firmness in several months. What even worse is that I would get neck ache or headache from sleeping on those pillows time to time. Finding the right pillow had become a mission for me until I tried the buckwheat pillows from Japan. Visit the pillow museum for a list of materials that Japanese use in making pillows.

Unlike conventional pillow, buckwheat pillow will not lose its shape no matter how you abuse it. It conforms to the individual's head and neck contour to provide the perfect support at the right places. it also allows air circulation and thus your head feels rather cool which is important for a good night sleep.

I was trying to buy buckwheat pillows in Japan but they were just too expensive. I found some fancy ones with cute prints on the pillow covers at department stores in "横浜" (yokohama) and "お台場" (odaiba) and although they were on sale, it was like 5000 yen for a pair which was a little bit out of my budget.

Luckily, I was finally able to find the buckwheat pillows in the States yesterday and guess what, it was only US$10 each. Now, I am a happy camper and my mission is accomplished. I slept on it last night and it is indeed the best pillow I have ever had!

Here is some reference about the story of pillows in Japanese. Try the buckwheat pillow yourself if you have a chance and you would agree with me that it is the best pillow on earth!

June 04, 2004

Future Japanese Look?

Japanese are always said to be a homogeneous race of people nowadays. This is quite true if you exclude the people from "琉球" (ryuukyuu) - mainly residing in "沖縄" (okinawa) and "アイヌ" (ainu) - indigenous people living in "北海道" (hokkaidou). For people living on the mainland, if you look back in Japanese history, their roots are basically of two types - "縄文人" (jyoumonjin) and "弥生人" (yayoijin). And modern Japanese people are said to be a mixed-blood of these two races. This may help in explaining the wide varieties of Japanese facial features.

Ten of thousands of years ago, it is said that the Japanese islands were occupied mainly by Jyoumon people of Southern origin who had bigger physical built and more prominent facial features such as angular skull, higher nose, thicker lip and eye-brows etc. Later in history around 300 BC, another group of people called Yayoi of Northern origin migrated to Japan and became quite a dominant race. Their look was quite the opposite from the Jyoumon people though - round face with flat nose, smaller eyes and thinner lip etc... For more detail analysis of ancient Japan, read Yayoi and Joumon.

Due to several thousand years of evolution and inter-racial marriages, you can hardly find a person in Japan who is pure jyoumon or pure yayoi type. Modern Japanese facial features are more likely to be a mixture of both. However, you can still find Japanese who tend to have either stronger jyoumon features or stronger yayoi features. A good example of jyoumon type is the famous male singer "平井堅" (hirai ken). I thought he was half Japanese and half Caucasian in the first place but I turned out to be wrong.

Somebody at Tokyo University did a simulation to predict the look of future Japanese people, what do you think?

June 03, 2004

Tongue Twisters

I have learned several Japanese tongue twisters "早口言葉" (hayakuchikotoba) but still cannot master them. Boy! I tell you, these are tough and just drive me nuts!

(namamugi, namagome, namatamago)
Raw wheat, raw rice, raw eggs.

(akamakigami, aomakigami, kimakigami)
Red rolled paper, blue rolled paper, yellow rolled paper.

(akapajyama, aopajyama, kipajyama)
Red pajama, blue pajama, yellow pajama.

(tonari no kyaku wa yoku kaki kuu kyaku da)
The guest next to me eats persimmons a lot.

(bouzu ga byoubu ni jouzu ni bouzu no e wo kaita)
A monk drew a nice picture of a monk on a folding screen.

(kaeru pyoko pyoko mi pyoko pyoko awasete pyoko pyoko mu pyoko pyoko)
Frogs jump three "pyoko pyoko (jumping sound)", in total of six "pyoko pyoko".

(uraniwa niwa niwa niwa niwa niwa niwatori ga iru)
There are two chickens in the backyard and two in the front yard.

(sumomomo momo momomo momo momomo iroiro aru)
Plum is a kind of peach, and peach is also a peach. There are many kinds of peach.

(toukyou tokkyo kyoka kyoku)
Tokyo Patents Licensing Office. (Actually there is no such office with this name in Japan.)

June 02, 2004

Free Book

Found a book called "Just in Tokyo" today - another American's perspective on Tokyo. Maybe helpful for those who have never been there before.

June 01, 2004



I had heard enough about Japanese eating horse meat so when I went to Japan during X'mas of 2003, I was determined to find a restaurant where I could try it. Luckily, we were able to find a "回転寿司" (kaitenzushi) in the "上野" (ueno) area which served horse meat sashimi "馬刺し" (basashi) at a very affordable price - 120 Yen for a serving of two pieces! What a good deal! There were lots of ginger and green onion on top of the sushi. I fell in love with the taste of it right away and had several plates in no time. I can tell you if you like raw beef, I guarantee you'll like raw horse meat also. The texture is even more tender!

If you feel uncomfortable eating raw meat, there are restaurants in Japan that serve horse meat cooked in "鍋物" (nabemono) too. It is a hot pot with the meat and vegetables boil in a delicious soup base. We found a restaurant specializes in that but it was a little bit at the high-end. Maybe next time when I go again!