Archive for February, 2005

Waribashis and Counting Methods


I noticed two things while having a nice steaming bowl of miso ramen today; waribashi used as sort of a meishi, and a counting method.

I don’t think this is uniquely Japanese, but restaurants here usually have their business info on the chopstick wrapper. Most establishments use waribashi, which are wooden disposeable chopsticks. The waribashi are covered in a paper sleeve, and some places use custom designed ones.
I haven’t really noticed this until today, but if I had a nice time at the restaurant I would put the waribashi wrapper into my pocket.

Counting Method:
There’s a kanji character with five strokes that’s commonly used to count things. It’s similar to using four sticks with a slash to represent five, except use 正 instead. The photo of our bill shows how many beers we had with our meal. A google I’m Feeling Lucky search for “正 counting” (without the quotes) resulted in a Wikibooks entry.

Immigrant’s Cafe

In my nine months here I am mostly shocked by how little I have seen and done in relation to what is available. I think this is somewhat normal, at least for me. I have a burrowing type of personality and so it is an effort (though almost always a rewarding one) for me to make the trips downtown, compounded by the disincentive of the language barrier, a vaguely oppressive feeling that is always worse in my head than in reality. But in a city like Tokyo, which has no parallel for me save New York, I think the sheer abundance of options makes this feeling inevitable, and so I do not feel so bad about all of the things I am “missing out” on…or at least that’s what I try to tell myself.

One area where the wealth of options and the language barrier converges strongly for me is restaurants. I’ll read the English-language reviews, but my price-range and tastes and opportunities rarely coincide to produce an exciting new dining experience. O woe is me. But happily there are a few exceptions and here’s one.

Immigrant’s Cafe

2004 Tokyo Design Week

I took these pictures back in October. I finally got them up on Flickr, so I hope you enjoy…

Box of Lights

The Shopping Meme


Richard Dawkins: Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leading from body to body via sperm or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.

It is no revelation to any casual observer of modern Japanese society that consumer behaviour or materialism defined in western terms as “fad”, “craze”, or “fashion” is taken to a different level in urban Japan. I have read of shopping defined as secular religion in Japan, and while this might be a slack comparison based on nothing other than Sunday being the traditional “shopping day” in modern Japan, the acquisition of material goods is treated with an unabashed seriousness here that I think strikes most western products of the Protestant Ethic as quite…foreign (for me it also is a fascinating counterpoint to the lust/shame paradox I see in American culture re. material objects, the friction between our individualist ideology and the desire to have that iPod mini). What interests me is that it seems “fads” can be created within certain contexts here in Japan in ways that would not work in America. My case in point being the Walt Disney film, ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’.

Football Night

Just came back from yet another eventful night at the Towncryer. It was football night and as usual the pub is packed with local supporters. The match had been quite interesting as the Japanese team faced off with the North Koreans. Being a loyal fan of football myself, I was amazed at how good and skillful the Koreans were. It was definitely a match worth watching. Not only was the match itself entertaining, the fans put up a pretty interesting show as well. With every single goal attempt by the Japanese team, most fans can be seen raising their pints and saluting their beloved players for the attempt. When the Japanese team scored, the fans roared with excitement. Some were seen stomping their feet, chanting slogans and even dancing on top of tables still holding their pints. The first half had been breathe taking with each team scoring one goal each. Both teams were desperately trying to score the winning goal. The score was at a stand still throughout the second half. Eventually, the final score at full time was 2-1 as the Japanese team managed to slot in a final goal within the last 3 minutes. Would have taken pictures if I wasn’t working. I guess I’ll do so the next time.


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