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August: The Return of Souls

August is peak summer season in Japan.  We can look forward to some of the most spectacular fireworks displays and festivals in the world, ...

Taste of Osaka

Good food can be had just about on every corner of the globe, in Osaka, good in the sense if you love batter fried cakes filled with vegetables and savory flavors.    Whenever I am sent out on assignment to Osaka city, I always spend the entire day walking round town  sampling a variety of food dishes.   In the Japanese language, it's called [ Tabe - aruki ] where you visit different restaurants in the local area.

In the above photo is a dish called [oko-no-miyaki] a savory Japanese pancake made with chopped cabbage, ginger, and whatever other ingredients you can think of, including meats.   I love my batter fried cakes filled with pork and vegetables.   The sauces at the top are a thick sweet soy flavored soysauce, mayo, and dollop of spicy mustard.  Yum.

This one has fatty bacon infused in it with the same vegetable goodness.   For the two photos above, you can find the restaurant next to Abiko Station in Osaka.  The restaurant is called "Okonomiyaki House."

Hachi-maru-hachi is the above photo of a traditional food stall which offers breaded octopus in the shape of a ball; a true favorite of Osaka.    In Japanese, this is called Tako-yaki.   Although these balls are a little heavy on the sauce they offer a glimpse into Osaka's food culture.   To wash it all down I love the apple chu-hi, icy cold.  

Next up is a place called Wanaka ( below pic) 

This is another top fav in Osaka, and honestly, I am sure I could eat here everyday if I could.  Beer and battered octopus pair very nicely together on a winter night.

 Osaka is not only famed for its octopus, but also its fried chicken, and I ate here everyday for dinner. Johnny Karaage!

Need I say more!?


Open tundra; neighing horses; warm rocking carriage cars meandering through  bitter cold  hinterlands along miles and miles of steel tracks cutting through vast windswept snow country - not a soul in sight.   The draw here is the relative quietude of the place.  If moving here, one must think of what benefit there is for old age.   Nothing.  But one must also think about how to earn money.  Nowhere.  One could also think about what's there to do here.  Nothing.  With that said, that's all the more reason to live here.   The routine of waking up in the morning to a typical Japanese breakfast, and then farming the land in order to yield crops.  Raising livestock for milk and dairy and perhaps grooming steers for beef would be the draw.   Your wife could walk around barefoot and pregnant ALL the time.  She never updates her wardrobe, she's a simple girl.   She spends her days making things for me and the kids and organizing meals all day.   I could watch her age with time over lunch, a long thin and fine streak of grey in her hair.  The weather is dry here, so it's never really good for her skin.  It's the little things that matter a lot.   If there's anything to look forward to, it's the delicious meals after working outside in the cold all day.  In the evenings, I always have her beauty to keep me warm; warmed by her bussom.

Inauguration 2017 Trump / Nation

 Inauguration 2017  Year of the Cock

[Cocking a snook at the establishment] an expression used to thumb your nose at derision disrespectfully. 

Get on with it, the people have spoken: 

A tribute to the celebugeeks who got it ALL wrong :  Celebrities, Pundits, and Politicians made their predictions and had their laughs like George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Bernie Sanders, Seth Meyers, Joy Behar (The View), Bob Beckel (CNN), Julia Roberts, Ann Coulter, Bill Maher (HBO), Stephen Colbert (The Late Show), Nancy Pelosi (congresswoman, former house speaker), Harry Reid (senator), Barack Obama, The Simpsons (TV show), Elizabeth Warren, Fareed Zakaria, George Stephanopoulos (ABC News), Mark Cuban (Billionaire), Chris Matthews (Hardball MSNBC), John Oliver (The Daily Show Comedy Central), Keith Ellison (Congressman), Ron Reagan....and More!

Americans elect people in office they hate, and then they re-elect them again only to belittle them on late-night television.  Does this only happen in the U.S.?   " It is over!" Joe Biden said after the House officially put an end to the vote count.   Donald Trump is now the 45th President of the United States.

America, like other countries, have voted-in some of the most outspoken, bigoted, and sensational mysognistic leaders of the ages.   The list is long, but just to name a few, you had the two Bushes, Bill Clinton, and now President Trump.  Obama's legacy  does not count because his presidency was 'rented ' in order to usher in a new era of liberalism.  Obama was more like the Chief - and - Facilitator, not the Commander - and - Chief.   Mr. Obama was a part-time Christian and a Muslim who supported gay marriage and made it constitutional to burn the American flag.   He disavowed his own pastor Jeremaiah Wright and rebuked his Attorney General for making incendiary comments about race relations in the U.S., so his agenda was somewhat muddled  and distorted because he did not have a clear agenda nor principle other then to disrupt American culture and push boundaries far beyond necessity.   In other words, you can't be a devil and a saint at the same time unless you ARE the establishment!

Here in Japan, we too have had our fair share of highly politically charged politicians who have left and indelible mark on Japanese society and politics.   Some of the most outlandish being former Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, an extreme right-wing learning politician who was elected three times as governor of one of the largest mega-cities in the world - Tokyo.   Highly unfavorable by women's rights groups alike, foreigners, lay judges, and the U.S. State Department for making incendiary comments about the gay community, women, contentious historical issues related to Japan's wartime guilt, and so on.    In many respect, Ishihara was more outspoken than the incoming president Donald Trump.  

The international community recognizes a pattern that's evident all over the world.   People elect unpopular leaders that go on to be re-elected.  The whole world decried the legacy of G.W. Bush Jr's. foreign policies in the Middle East.    All of us knew there were no WMDs and that there was no out of control terrorism in Western countries like  it is today  in the U.K., the U.S., and Germany.   Yet the world had to endure 8 whole years under the man that changed the course of the entire world.   We fight invisible enemies now.

The level of vitriol that was hurled at incoming president Donald Trump was unprecedented in history.   Effigies being burnt in the streets of America and Hollywood launching its   major offensive against a man they swore would never be the president of the United States is satirical in itself.   Unthinkable really.    Hollywood is not owned by America, didn't you guys know that?   Black music is not even owned by Blacks, right?   Kanye West knows who signs his checks?   America does not own American music ladies and gentleman!   The owners of American music love Donald Trump though, and your actions against him will be duly noted, just ask Mel Gibson, seriously.    Black rappers can make songs entitled "Fuck Donald Trump!" and think its okay because of Freedom of Speech have no respect even for themselves and the American flag.   Where are your morals and values?   

The mysognist card has been well played by every single political figure in the world, even your favorite  honorary American Black president Bill Clinton was a mysognistic adulterer.    Americans can ask themselves why they fail at the ballots, and to stop blaming the Russians.

John McAfee has enormous credibility in this regard because, even more so than the Intel Community.  Need I say more....?

In conclusion, America has proven to be one big internal failure one after the next.  A social experiment gone awry; in other words, most Americans still do not understand how the election system works, yet America's foreign policy dictates that  they are the champions of Democracy and therefore should teach other nations.  Some would say you must lead by example.   It's The Electoral College and the economy stupid.

The Beauty of Atami, Shizuoka and 日航亭

The very first white man ever killed in an onsen hot spring accident was here in Atami, in this well- spring, the source of most of all the water distributed to various luxury hotels here.    He died of a heart attack from exposure to hot water and the apparent holiness of the spring itself caused instant death to the foreigner!  I have prayed, so when I enter these waters I am safe and my energies are restored and then I am whole again.

The very first onsen experience I had had was about 20 years ago when I was visiting Japan as a tourist.   Four of us bathed in the mineral richness of Shizuoka's waters.  It was a blessing and a wonderful experience.   From that experience, I went on to travel the whole country to partake in the baptism of hot spring water while surrounding myself with friends and natural energy.   I have since published a book and have earned a sommelier certification by the Onsen Sommelier Association.

It's been awhile since I have blogged about my favorite national pastime.   The onsen or hot spring spa is one of the longest held traditional customs in Japan, and one that is still enjoyed today.  As the weather begins to cool and winter begins to set in, memories of onsen flood into my mind recalling a time when I sat up in an outdoor mountain spring atop a mountain resort with a sake while drinking the winter scene away.  I was captivated by the splendor.   Or, when I soaked away the cares of the world in a huge stone rock bath in the middle of a rice patty in Niigata with a lovely Jukujo under a full moonlit starry night sky.   Those were the days.

With a few more days left until the New Year, I took a jaunt down to Atami, Shizuoka to an old favorite of mine I had once visited 14 years ago.  It's called Yu - Ho -To -BA -shi - ru as the proper name title.   A true power spot source with great water.

The bitter naked chill outside from the eve of winter's kiss and then there's the hot mineral waters from the earth just waiting for you to dip into.   And if you are eccentric then you could sneak in a cold lager and sip on it a bit.  Great things never need to change, and they haven't even from all the years I have been throughout this land.   Nikkotei Oyu

Japan Condiments Series: Shishito Peppers

Japan condiment series:  Karaisuke!

Many of you may or may not be familiar with shishito peppers, the lion's head.   It's a widely recognized East Asian pepper all over the world that is often grilled and served either as it is, or as a condiment which can complement a wide range of food including Japanese white rice.   Even still many people are not aware of how prevalent this condiment is in Japanese cuisine today.

Since the days of Japanese Statesmen Ito Hirobumi,  spices like Togarashi were given to the Japanese by European traders in exchange for matchlocks, like many other commodities.    Kaiseki / or fine Japanese dining was incompatible with spicy food at that time, and still is among some foodies of today.   During the Korean Annexation, Japanese Statesman Ito Hirobumi gave the Koreans togarashi since it was impossible to incorporate it in traditional Japanese Kaiseki.  In order to perfect Korean kimchi, because original Korean Kimchi was just a brine with vegetables, not the spicy stuff foreign tourist and Koreans gobble up like it's their creation today, this new condiment was introduced.    As time went on Togarashi made its way back onto Japanese plates in the form of Japanese kimchi, but again, not everybody had adopted kimchi as a mainstay in the Japanese diet.   Next came shishito peppers ground up and served as a condiment and is considered more compatible with some Japanese food due to its relative mildness.

In reality,  for many centuries northerners in places like the Chuetsu region of Niigata enjoyed adding a very small amount of homegrown spices like shishito peppers to their rice and pickled foods.  This addition to Japanese cuisine reemerged and became a part of Japanese condiments.   Most locals in Niigata, from time to time, add it to their premium white rice, meats, or pickled vegetable.   Even soups.

Right now, as I am typing this, I am enjoying eating it over a bowl of Koshihikari brown rice ( husks still intact) and it is quite delicious.    If I were to rate this condiment according to the Scoville hot pepper scale, it would be about 500 heat units which is very mild and almost sweet.   It can definitely add a little flavor to food.


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