Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Simpsons Eat Fugu

A look back at that famous Simpsons episode, in which the family goes to a local Japanese restaurant, "The Happy Sumo", and Homer is poisoned by improperly prepared fugu. If this is your first time hearing about fugu, I should note I've eaten it several times and, as far as I know, I'm still alive.

"Poison... poison.... tasty fish!"



via videosift.com

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wrist Watch

Original Injury: December 18th, 2007

Eleven months in, and I just had a final evaluation by a orthopedic surgeon in Austin. Where do I stand?

Alignment - excellent
Range of Motion - 99%, pushups are no problem
Grip- 80 to 85%; obviously not thrilled about this, but it will improve slowly

The doc concluded that the surgery in Japan was properly done, with A+ results. I don't need to have the titanium plate removed anytime in the near future unless there's significant pain or problems. I am set for New Zealand.

To celebrate my injury and raise wrist awareness, I will be hosting a Wrist Anniversary Party in Austin. Come one, come all. First drink is on me if you've broken your wrist.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Now This is Just Plain Funny

Apparently my Truth About AEON posts have gotten so much attention they've been the subject of forums discussing AEON policy on 2 Channel. Check it out:

October discussion

November discussion

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Japan Photo of the Week

Inspired by other travel and Japan blogs, it's high time I promoted some of my own shots around Japan. Granted, many of you heroes have been following my photo updates on Flickr, but it's still best to bring a few back into the spotlight now and then. This week...


Sata Misaki (佐多岬)

Sata Misaki is the southernmost cape in Japan, two thousand kilometers south of its counterpart in Hokkaido, Soya Misaki. I had the opportunity to do a great cycling trip from Kagoshima to Sata last year. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ten Tips for Beginning Marathoners

Courtesy of Matador Life. Enjoy

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Times They Are A-Changin'



Greetings KPIJ enthusiasts.

As many of you know, I have been back stateside for about four months now. The time is at an end. Soon I will be traversing the Pacific once again, to end up in Auckland, New Zealand. Of course, this is all dependent on the results of my working holiday visa application.

I will be working just outside of the city at a Buddhist monastery, Vimutti, for a few months, then WWOOFing it for a bit while I await the results of two potential jobs: one, escorting groups of high school students on tours around Asia and Oceania; two, an engineering position which may be awaiting me in The Netherlands. Time will tell.

In either case, I will be in Texas until Christmas, then hopefully spending my New Year's in NZ, jetlagged and happy. Otsu kare sama desu.

The Japan memoirs are not over... not quite yet. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pension Tax Refund

So... you've received your Japanese pension refund after 6-36 months service in Nippon. A few hundred thousand yen in your trusty bank account. Now, what to do to receive the tax refund? After all, it's 20% of your total pension refund.

Well, for one, you should have designated a tax representative to act on your behalf before you left Japan. If you didn't do this, it's too late for you. Sorry. Tax representatives can be appointed with a "Declaration Naming a Person to Administer the Taxpayer’s Tax Affairs (for use by aliens)" form at your local tax office. If you need the kanji for the paperwork, it's 納税管理人の届出書(外国人用).

1. In Japan, file your 納税管理人の届出書 form at a tax office.

2. Outside Japan, send in your pension refund paperwork.

3. Receive the pension refund receipt. Mail the original receipt to your tax representative in Japan. He or she will then go to the tax office and file the final paperwork (確定申告書) on your behalf.

4. Your tax refund will be deposited into your tax representative's Japanese bank account.

5. Your tax representative can mail you an international money order or wire the refund.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Taste of Japan: Uchi in Austin



Uchi, a contemporary Japanese restaurant set just south of downtown, is truly like being back in Nippon. After being settled at the sushi bar and given an oshibori and a menu, I casually asked the waitress if the head sushi chef was Japanese. Indeed he was.

”日本人ですか?”
“はい、日本人ですよ!”
”そですね。。。どこ出身ですか?”
”大阪です”

An Osaka man right in my own backyard. It turns out that of the five sushi men cutting the fish that night, four were Japanese and had been in Austin between 5 and 18 years, and the one closest to me was Thai.

(upon seeing my Buddha medallion from Nakhon Si Thammarat)
"それは何ですか?”
”これ。。。タイ国から。”
"Oh, really? He is from Thailand!"

Which followed me asking "khon tai mai?" (are you Thai?) and remembering some of my Thai phrases that had not quite recessed into useless memory. When Masa-san and the other Japanese heard me speaking Thai, the response was immediate: "smart! smart!" (日本語で) It took me a few minutes to stop from laughing and just explain to them that I had lived in both countries.

Masa-san's (perhaps I should have called him Salo-san, but every Masamichi I knew in Japan preferred Masa-san) English was nearly perfect, but we persisted in Japanese for the rest of the night. He and the others even gave me a free sampler of some excellent fried sushi, which another customer apparently misordered. Thereupon I asked Masa if he could recommend the best sashimi for someone wanting to remember the tastes of Japan, and he suggested the salmon toro platter.

Wise decision. For $18, you get six slices of fresh salmon in a sundae glass decorated with leaves, ice, and seaweed. Fine presentation, and the taste was extraordinary. With the ambient Japanese, my oshibori-dampened hands gripping the chopsticks, and too much food for one man to handle, I felt as if I were right back in the heart of Kagoshima.

Cheers to you, Uchi of Austin, and I will be back.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Blogger Persecuted



And this is worst sentence I've heard of:

Myanmar blogger jailed for 20 years

Foods You Won't See in Japan



Sandwiches

I've spoken about the various kinds of sandwiches, or lack thereof, in Japan, but it's only when you come home, and find yourself eating fresh turkey with fig spread, spicy mustard, spinach, and Swiss cheese on soft sourdough bread that one truly learns to appreciate options. Sandwich options. Japan has next to none, and of those, 90% have mayonnaise included. Here are some of the choices available to you, in my order of preference:

Subway (サブウェイ)



http://www.subway.co.jp/index.html

Pros
- Fresh bread
- Mayonnaise not included
- Options, options, options!

Cons
- Only iceberg lettuce, fewer vegetable choices
- Cheese costs extra
- Expensive: about 800 yen for a sandwich, drink, and cookie

Doutor (ドトール)


Picture courtesy of nobuojp


http://www.doutor.co.jp/index.html

Pros
- Not ready-made
- Good quality meat and bread

Cons
- Only about three different sandwiches available
- VERY spicy mustard (maybe a pro)

Bakeries (パンや)


Picture courtesy of
Dotted Line Girl


Pros
- Sandwich bread is less than 2 inches thick

Cons
- Ready-made, sometimes soggy

Convenience Stores (コンビニ)


Picture courtesy of PFC


Pros
- Cheap and fast

Cons
- Always has mayonnaise
- Bad quality: flimsy bread, lousy meat

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Michael Crichton Has Passed...

In the midst of all this election turmoil, I almost overlooked a significant death. Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park and creator of ER, passed away on Election Day. He was 66.

Crichton was my favorite author due to his well-researched books, which brought science fiction into our modern world. Timeline remains the most interesting work of fiction I have ever read; who else could have successfully combined quantum mechanics and 14th century French history into a thriller of a novel?

You will be missed, sir.

"Companions whom I loved and, still do love.... tell them my song."

CNN Story

The Next President of the United States



This guy!

Now the people of Obama, Japan have something to celebrate along with the majority of Americans:



What does Barack Obama as president mean for Japan?