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Showing posts from 2015

The Wrap-Up Post

Dear Readers:
For any of you that still get notifications or such when this blog updates, I'm sorry this wrap-up post is essentially a month late. I, of course, meant to write it earlier, but packing to return home, unpacking at home, and packing AGAIN to head off to my Junior year of college quite stole my time and attention away.

The last week at the newspaper passed quite quickly. I had many long pieces that were simply waiting for enough space to print, so in the last week I had a piece published every day. It's hard to not feel like quite the celebrity! And even though I had a "welcome party" the previous week, at 11pm on a Thursday the society section threw me a "goodbye party" where everyone I worked with, including camera men, came to eat and drink. One of the members used to compete in university-level sumo wrestling, and at the urging of our society chief he, ah, took off his pants to demonstrate...

Then I took another night bus from Kanazawa to T…

Kaiseki and Fireworks

Saturday was probably my longest work day: 12 hours (though since it was a lunch-time event and an evening event I did have like three hours in the afternoon where I just sort of sat around and finished a book on my phone, but since I was AT the office I maintain that it counts as work).

For lunch, Kitamura took me to a ryokan (Japanese-style inn) called Kojohrou for a traditional kaiseki meal. Kaiseki is a multi (5-9ish?) course meal of traditional Japanese food. Like multi-course meals in the States none of the portions are huge, and there's lots of emphasis on plating and service.
I confess that I usually don't end up liking kaiseki meals--traditional Japanese food often equals "difficult" textures--like slippery--and fish with the heads still on. But nevertheless I gamely soldiered through the meal.

First course: beans and corn in some sort of mayo sauce, very fishy-smelling fish in a jar, green peppers, fruit (?), and two chunks of what tasted like pate...


Some Translations for You

Here's the next round, of sorts, of articles that I've written: one was the interview of the minor-league pitcher, the next is an article on the Gion Matsuri I went to, and the last on is on the kagayuzen kimono dyer I went to visit. I've also been requested to provide a translation of one of the articles, so I'm going to translate this last one for you here, albeit very roughly:

[The one thing I like most about Japan is its "harmonious contradictions." Traditional and modern things are often mixed together in interesting ways. In Kanazawa's 3-choume, I went to visit Mr. Masanobu Ota's studio, Bunan, where he spoke to me about his work combining the traditional "kagayuzen" dying technique with his own modern twist.

Kagayuzen is very difficult and requires a lot of time. First, a base design is drawn in a blue, washable ink made naturally from flowers. Then, on top of that design, a paste made from rice is squeezed out from a tiny tip and is…

I Finally Get My Welcome Party

So. 6.5 weeks into my internship, there's finally enough time for the society section to throw a small "kangeikai" or "welcome party" for me. So in the early evening, the society section chief, who we refer to as "buchou," and the reporters I spend most of my time with all went out for yakitori.

The man making the weird face is Buchou, next to him is Kitamura, who I often go out with, then me (obviously) and finally Morita, who is in charge of my schedule (and therefore my life).

It was really nice to feel like a true part of the company and the society section. They made me go around and say what animal each person reminded me of (which put me on the spot to make sure nothing I said was bad) and just generally had a good time. They said that next week (probably Thursday) they'll have my "Going Away Party," so I apparently get two parties in short-succession.

In other news (and I'll have another post tonight or tomorrow filled with o…

Beer Train

Yes, readers, this post is titled "Beer Train". What is a Beer Train, you might ask? It is a delightfully Japanese summer train event, apparently. Every Saturday, a two-car train is commandeered for the express purpose of all-you-can-drink fun. Tables are set up between the banks of seats and staff members supply the lucky riders with as much beer and/or rice wine as they can drink in 80 minutes.

That's the beer-station where there were coolers of canned drinks and whole jugs of beer that were poured via tube "taps". And they weren't insubstantial mugs:

And just to clarify: only ONE of those mugs is mine. Not both. One.
The ride also came with dinner: skewers of yakitori and a variety lunchbox. Not bad.

Here's my host family and I on the train. You can't see in this photo (and I have no digital copies of photos that do show it), but both my host mom and I are wearing yukata (summer kimono) because women that do get their tickets for about $10 cheape…

Baseball and Coffee (Again)

Sorry I haven't posted in a while (or a week...). To be perfectly honest, the past few days haven't been the most interesting--and most mornings I've just spent putzing around on the internet and making myself hungry by reading the Restaurant and/or Dining section of the Chicago Tribune online. But from here on out the weekend is setting up to be pretty interesting.

Three brief events of note this week:
1. PII (or half of them anyways) visited the top high school in Kanazawa for a cultural exchange-conversation practice thing. I attended (and participated), but the topic this year was food culture and food manipulation issues (think GMOs) which is difficult to talk about in one's primary language--let alone when half the participants are struggling in a second one! Half the discussion took place in Japanese and the other half was in English so it wasn't a one-sided struggle, but I still noticed conversation lagging--or turning to tangents--in many of the small grou…

Smashing the Patriarchy

Today has been a day of challenges, one emotional and one physical. Both of them involve the Patriarchy.

Challenge One: Lunch
You wouldn't usually assume lunch to be a challenge. I definitely wasn't. I realized that a restaurant with very high reviews on TripAdvisor was just behind my office and before I left for work today (even though it was Saturday I was going to a festival in the neighboring region of Noto--more on that later!) I figured it would be a good place to eat. Nick joined me, and we went to The Cottage, which is run by an Irish man named Tony and his wife, Momo. So far so good. We each order lunch--I ask for potato gratin and Nick gets lasagna--still so far so good.

The emotional challenge begins when it comes out that I'm interning at the newspaper. That's not usually a problem because people usually ask what we're here for. I say that I write articles from a foreigner's perspective about Japanese cultural events upon which Tony asks me what my …

Wish I Had $200 to Drop on a Pair of Sneakers...

Second day back to work. Motivation: struggling, but functional.
Today was a pretty simple day though. In the morning I went to visit the studio (i.e. house) of a traditional kagayuzen artist. Kagayuzen is a dying process for kimono, and Ishikawa is well known for its artistry. Simply put, it's a lot like dying Easter eggs. First you draw the design on paper and then trace it onto the kimono silk with a plant-based, washable ink. Then with a very small piping bag a paste made from rice is traced over the drawing, so that dye is confined to small sections and won't bleed around. Then you use brushes to hand-paint each design and add color gradients for maximum natural effect (which is a goal of kagayuzen--they even depict insect eggs on leaves!). And then you dye the background (protecting the details with some sort of coating) and then wash the paste and blue ink off, leaving a beautiful, and time-consuming wearable piece of art.

This is what he's working on presently. I f…

Hiroshima Day 2: Miyajima

Hiroshima Adventure Day 2: Miyajima Edition.
Miyajima is an island a little ways away from Hiroshima, which is famous for the Itsukushima Shrine. It's simply..well, you'll see in the photos below (there will be many).

Miyajima isn't terribly difficult to get to since it's a huge tourist destination for foreigners and Japanese alike. It's a half-hour train ride to Hatsukaichi and then a fifteen minute ferry ride from there to the island.

We were greeted on the island by deer. Small, curious, perpetually hungry deer. They're so used to people that you can get right in their faces and the most they'll do is sniff you to see if you have food. Or paper...they ate paper too...

The shrine and it's immensely famous torii (gate) was a mere ten minute walk from the dock. Nick and I timed our arrival for around 11:30am which was the high-tide point; when the tide gets low you can walk all the way out to the torii but it's not quite as picturesque when the lowe…