Skip to main content

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 groups

2. Pre-Koshien Regional Baseball Tournament
The Koshien is effectively the holy grail of high school sports tournaments. It's fanatically followed and televised every single year. The official tournament is composed of 49 teams: one from each prefecture (except Tokyo and Hokkaido, which get two apiece). When I arrived at the office on Thursday, I was handed a taxi-ticket and suddenly told to go to the Ishikawaken Ritsu Baseball Stadium.

Attendance included former pro-baseball player (in both the US and Japan) Masao Kida (left), who is now the assistant general manager for the Nippon Ham Fighters and co-owner of Miyabi Sushi in Seattle, in case any of you are in the mood for some grub.

I was sitting in the reporters "dugout" of sorts behind home plate so it was difficult to watch, but I got to see an entire game. Each school's entire population, it seemed, came to cheer in support with highly coordinated chants, dances, and drumming to rival the bucket-boys that hang out on Chicago sidewalks. I'm constantly surprised, awed, and inspired by the 100% dedication that is thrown into everything here--even if it's just cheering.

3. Professor Hirose and the Ig Nobel Prize (oh and Hydrogen Coffee)
Today I went to Kanazawa University to speak to Professor Yukio Hirose about his work with arsenic-alloy and his new project, hydrogen-infused coffee.

Professor Hirose was an enthusiastic, talkative man who used hand gestures and laughed often. He recounted the story of how he discovered that a statue in Kenrokuen--

--didn't attract birds. When he was allowed to analyze the statue's components, he realized that compared to other statues that did have birds (cough bird poop) all over them, the statue was an alloy of 15% arsenic, which repelled birds, compared to a normal statue's 2-3%. He was able to test this theory by making his own alloy (at risk to his own health--arsenic isn't the safest of substances) and in 2004 he won the Ig Nobel prize of Chemistry. (For those who didn't know what that was, like me, the Ig Nobel Prize is a parody of the "real" Nobel Prize for sciences that make people laugh and think.) What really fascinated me was that Professor Hirose's initial observation of the birds (or lack thereof) was when we was 18--and he didn't solve the problem (and the reason WHY arsenic repels the birds) for 44 years. 

I am including a link to a very well-written and easily-understandable article about Professor Hirose and this research (and the long process). I highly recommend reading it--I certainly did after listening to his explanation in Japanese to make sure I'd understood everything!

Technically retired, Professor Hirose's current project is infusing coffee beans with hydrogen to make it healthier. 

A selection of beans at different roast times/ different types...I like the color gradient. 

Yeah. There was an explanation for why he's doing this infusing-thing, but it wasn't easy to understand. The coffee was pretty tasty, though. 

That's the machine that puts the hydrogen in the coffee beans.

Apparently the ice was also infused with hydrogen. And this cup of coffee is really expensive! $12! Wow. I admit it was tasty, not bitter, and easy to drink but $12 is a lot for some iced hydrogen coffee...and I haven't been able to find anything online written in (understandable) English about it. He gave us some to take home (along with these ginger snacks enhanced with calcium and magnesium) so I'll give it another shot.

Since Kanazawa University is in the foothills of some nearby mountains, this is the coffee shop that sells said hydrogen the middle of the mountainous nowhere...go figure. 


Popular posts from this blog

Taking a Breather

Sometimes when you're in Tokyo, as wonderful as its bustling atmosphere is, you just want to forget you're in the middle of Tokyo.

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a guy from Sweden who regularly came to Japan on business and he said that despite how much he loved Tokyo he could never live here because of the lack of green space. Tokyo has its parks, of course, like all major cities, but if you want unspoiled greenery you have to be willing to head at least forty minutes outside of the sprawling metropolis limits. In winter this desire to surround oneself with greenery might not matter as much, but now that spring is seeping into the atmosphere and the upcoming sakura season is on everyone's mind (NHK even puts out an annual "forecast" for sakura!) the neon lights and concrete jungle start to feel a little oppressive.

That's when little hideaways like the Sato Sakura Museum and Kohmeisen come in handy.

The Sato Sakura Museum is a small museum in Nakameguro…

Short Hair, Don't Care: Model Behavior

I like to think I have a wide range of accomplishments under my belt:

Accidentally over-caffeinated myself conducting ethnographic research--check
Read 3+ books in a single day--check
Never (yet) pulled an all-nighter--check
Sung at Carnegie Hall--check
Published a poem--check

But now I can add a decidedly interesting item to that list:
Been a hair model in Japan--CHECK.

It's a bit of a long story.

It all starts with coffee, actually, like many of my adventures here in Japan do. I was checking out a coffee shop in the too, too cool area of Daikanyama (no, seriously, that entire neighborhood is just Too Cool for me, I don't even know why I was there). There I met stylist Yusuke, who asked if I wanted to appear in a PR photoshoot for the opening of his salon brand's newest branch, boy Tokyo, Harajuku. They're (wisely!) making a site to appeal to foreign clientele--it's a smart move because it's really hard to find a place that has stylists who truly are comfortab…

Feeling a Bit Blue

It astounds me that it's already the end of August. Time has seemed to pass in a bit of a blur: one hot, sticky mess of 100-degree days and only mildly more bearable evenings. I was also fortunate to visit the U.S. for a week (not Chicago I'm afraid, but Wheeling, West Virginia and then San Francisco) for a family reunion. It was lovely to see all the aunts, uncles, and cousins who I hadn't seen in person for several months, if not years. But given the short visit I essentially spent two weeks with my body clock completely confused about what time zone it was supposed to be in.  However, I'm now I'm back in Japan for the near future and have essentially settled back in to my usual rhythm of life. 
This past weekend I decided to engage with my arts-and-crafts side. The summer of 2009, when I first visited Japan, I was lucky enough to try my hand at aizome (indigo dying) in Kyoto. Recently I had a hankering to try it again, and e-stumbled upon a shop in Asakusa call…