Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nadeshiko No. 1!

I am thrilled that Japan's women's soccer team won the World Cup on Sunday. My mother was stunned that I would root against my own country, but Japan is my country too, and the Japanese needed something to celebrate after a spring from hell.

Yūshō omedetō !!!
Congratulations on the victory!

Image: AP

Sunday, July 17, 2011

'Hope for a Radioactive-Free Future'

UPDATE 11/15/11: Just read in the Oct 17 issue of The New Yorker that while sunflowers can leach some of the radiation out of contaminated soil, Japanese scientists have since concluded that those that were planted in former rice fields near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have had little effect.

Here's an interesting story by Matthew Battles in Fast Company...

A young Japanese entrepreneur is trying to convince people to sow sunflower seeds in Fukushima Prefecture, intending the plants to cleanse the soil of radioactive contamination. Project leader Shinji Handa has sold some 10,000 packets of sunflower seeds at 500 yen ($6) to people throughout Japan, ostensibly to produce seeds that will be sent to Fukushima to create a sunflower maze.
Given the scope of the Fukushima disaster, planting sunflowers may seem quixotic at best, but the principle behind it is sound. Many plants have evolved mechanisms to adapt to high levels of toxins and even radiation, taking up heavy metals and radioactive isotopes and sequestering them in disposable parts like stems and leaves. Scientists last year reported on several varieties of domestic plants, including sunflowers, that are thriving around Chernobyl, gradually reducing contamination levels in the soil...
Click here to read the rest.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

about that beef

Headline in the Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, July 13, p. A13:

"Tainted Beef Enters Japanese Food Supply"

The lede: "Japan grappled with a fresh radiation scare Tuesday, as authorities found that beef contaminated with radioactive cesium had been shipped to shops and restaurants throughout the country."

Uh, oh.

The story continues: "The beef, from six cattle raised on a farm near the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, registered radioactive-cesium levels up to seven times that permitted by Japanese food-safety standards. Some of the meat had already likely been eaten..."


"Experts said the level was too low to create health problems in people who ate just one or two servings."

Oh, well, ok.

By the way: "Radioactive cesium emits gamma rays, which can damage cellular DNA and raise the risk of cancer."


"The levels found in the beef, though, would become a health concern only if a person ate large quantities every day for a year, said Shizuko Kakonuma, a researcher at Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences who sits on an independent committee investigating the Fukushima Daiichi accident."


Still: "The government ought to increase its testing of cattle for radiation contamination..."

Hell, yeah!

Monday, July 4, 2011

The amazing Maru

Last Friday Terry took me out for the best birthday dinner ever: modern kaiseki at Maru, a charming basement-level restaurant off Aoyama-dori, near the Omotesando crossing (same block as Las Chicas, but closer to the main road -- around the corner from Muji and Crocs). Very reasonably priced too.

a few of the dishes we had, all of them scrumptious:
fried lotus root, in a glaze of arum root, red peppers and soy (renkon no kinpira)

corn tempura (toumorokoshi no kakiage)

I think this is duck (kamorousu to nasu moriawase) or it might be the beef (kuroge wagyu isozuke sumiaburi)

chicken with spring onions in a citrus-soy sauce (jidori no tatsutaage negiponzu)

We also had shitake mushrooms stuffed with chopped shrimp cooked in a taijin pot (futami shitake to yasai tajin) and shrimp and summer vegetable croquettes with sweet miso (sakuraebi to okara korokke) -- not the best of the night but still tasty.

As for drinks...
Terry tried three kinds of sake while I worked my way through the umeshu menu.
I think the one of the left was my favorite. It tasted vaguely of apricots.

At the end of the evening our server pulled this fourth bottle of umeshu out from his special stash. It was also very good. I need to stop drinking the cheap stuff from the grocery store. These were so much better!

I always have my umeshu with rocks. Sometimes with a splash of soda if it's too syrupy-sweet but I didn't have that problem at this place.
why is the ice in Japan so good?

From The Japan Times' review:

Rakushokushu Maru

Location: Aoyama KT Building B1F, 5-50-8 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
(03) 6418 5572

Open: Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (Mon.-Fri.); dinner 6 p.m.-1 a.m. (Fri. 6 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sun. 6 p.m.-midnight)