Monday, April 29, 2013

Weekend Away: Guam

One week of rushing between Yokohama and Tokyo, organizing and supervising events for the institute I represent. I took the very last train home every night. However it was alright, as in my mind I visualized my goal: 4 days in sunny, warm Guam.
A friend was kind enough to share her free tickets with me, so we had an impromptu long weekend in the sun. Unlike last year, the weather was absolutely perfect, a segue of of bright blue skies, clear blue water and white sand.

Guam is kind of strange, a mishmash of American, Chamorro and East Asian influences. When we danced at The Beach, a bar on Gun Beach, it was interesting to hear the MCs speaking the local dialect.
We hung out on the beach of the Fiesta Resort (relatively convenient, not too overpriced) and ate our way through a ton of good food. Besides Proa (already mentioned in this post) and their astounding Taro Creme Brule' Cheesecake, this time we also tried Meskla Dos and their heart stopping sandwiches (double grilled cheese sandwich, with eggs, tomatoes and special tartar sauce, accompanied by cinnamon dusted sweet potato fries- oh my arteries). A little place called Dr.Kabob also furnished us with good falafel, lentil soup and cardamom tea.

I got up bright and early to try paddle boarding, which is immensely awesome and I would definitely like to do again. In the evenings we ran on the beach, and picked our way around the wilder edges of Tumon Bay. Ms.R had to endure my squeals of delight about every moment of Guam's gorgeous sunsets (yup, the subset obsession continues unabated). Hitting up the Ross allowed us to contribute to the economy a bit, and benefited my ever growing running and yoga wear collection
While it is very touristy, I still find it a very relaxing place to go, as the basics can all be reached by bus, and the plane ride is only 4 hours.

It seems that, with age, my ability to take an actual vacation (instead of fun but exhausting trips where I rush around, hitchhike, and wander about constantly) is increasing. Four days is probably the limit, but it is really nice to just chill and take in the beautiful vistas.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hidden Tokyo: Eating

Like other people collect shoes, figurines or books, I collect restaurants. You have to admit, it is a space-friendly hobby, for a country where meterage is always in contention. A couple lines in a book, or online, and it is yours (until it closes, at least).

A couple of my latest acquisitions are a bit eccentric. A brief walk from Shirokanedai takes you to David's Deli, the oldest Jewish restaurant in Tokyo. The interior has not changed in decades, and the stairwell is graced by copies of Chagall's biblically inspired stained glass (as are some of the plates).

My quest this time was varnishkes, a dish of pasta and fried buckwheat. We also added falafel and hummus for good measure, with cups of nana tea. Lovely. There is also a tahini cake available, but that will have to be for a different time

Completely across town, in a tiny corner of Okusawa, is Onibus Coffee. A friend of Wave-chan's owns it, and is dead serious about coffee. He also did all the wood decor, and the staff are all super sweet, not to mention make a killer cappucino! But beware, don't come here looking for food, as the menu only extends to carefully chosen biscotti.
I am afraid the quick picture doesn't do it justice, but tucked away by the stream in Ebisu is a wonderful udon place called Yamacho. Not only is the decor totally wa-chic, but the menu is also quite interesting, and you can choose the thickness of your udon. I went for the soy milk broth udon, with tuba and umeboshi. You should also order a plate of their dashimaki tamago, which is outstanding.

Finally, a brief ode to ochazuke, in the unlikely locations of Akihabara (or Narita's departure hall). I adore this simple, comforting food, and Dashichazuke En is a simple, cheap option. This is a chain, but the quality level is very high, and I am a big fan of the pickled vegetable set.

Monday, April 8, 2013


On my way to and from work I have been distracted by the televised ads for a certain English conversation school (which will remain nameless). There are a couple different versions, so it took a few views for it to finally hit me.

Basically, one of the ads shows a man going into a one-on-one eikaiwa session thinking: 'Me, alone with a foreigner?!'  (and yes, it is written out exactly like that)

Sincerely, I find it rather annoying, bordering on the offensive.

1- I hate the term gaijin/gaikokujin. It still smacks of that 'everyone over there, who isn't us'. As if other countries are all the same, lumped together by their non-Japaneseness. I can deal with oubeijin,as I know it is very difficult for non-EU/US citizens to distinguish between Western countries. Nonetheless, I never use those terms, usually saying 'non-Japanese' or indicating someone's nationality specifically.

2- What is with this 'omg, I will be alone with someone from another country! What will I do? Will he/she try to eat me?!' mentality. Others have written extensively (and far more eloquently) on the subject of (especially non-Asian) 'gaijin' not truly being viewed as actual people.
And this is the problem. Because most people would not say 'Me, alone with another person?!', unless said person was a recognized axe-murderer, known flasher or other dangerous critter.

No matter what my boss says on the subject, it is subtle discrimination, from what I can imagine very similar to that African Americans face in the US. The constant 'oh, your Japanese is so good' comments. They are fully acceptable if you are a student. Not if you work full time for a Japanese company, and still occasionally get the keigo wrong in your frequent e-mails. The questions like 'are foreigners ever shy?'. Who? Everyone outside of Japan? 10 people, 10 colours ya'll.

Okay, enough from me. I shall go have a cup of tea and stop being crabby.