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Showing posts from February, 2015

When yucky becomes yummy

When I first heard about a KitKat that could be baked, I snorted. "Bah humbug gimmick hmph," I muttered. When I realized it had a cheesecake flavour, I choked. Ugh.  Baked cheese chocolate?!
Then I innocently walked into a Natural Lawson, spotted a pile of them and once again -- the story of my life -- became a victim of my own curiosity. I bought one ...

Yes. Well. I bought two. One has to research these matters properly. The whole point of science is that you need an experiment that can be duplicated in order to verify your data.
Anyway, I bought two, baked them and now I'm in love. This could very well turn into my all-time favourite flavour.
The chocolate melts quickly and turns brown on top. It doesn't taste like cheese at all; as a matter of fact, it reminds me of condensed milk. I love the warm, gooey, sweet mess that it turns into. Yum.



Narrow land, narrow homes

Japan is not a small country, despite a widespread belief that this is gospel. It's the 61st biggest country in a list of 234, which ain't too bad. You can see the full list here, but I include a brief summary in km².
Vatican City                  0.4 Netherlands          41 543 Great Britain      229 848 Germany            357 022 Japan                  377 960 California           423 971* South Africa 1 219 090 Australia       7 692 024 Russia           17 098 242
* Not a country, but my students are always telling me very proudly that Japan is smaller than California. Duh. California has to be big to accommodate all those Hollywood egos.
So, the statement "Japan is a small country" is not entirely correct. What is correct is that its habitable land surface is only 33% of the country; the rest is mountains. 33% of 377 960 = 124 726.8 = just bigger than North Korea, which is number 98 on that list. (I'm pedantic. It's an INTJ thing. Live with it.)
What is also correct …

Tamagawa Daishi, a temple for sheep and godly guts

I promised you a sheep, so here’s your sheep. Or rather, here are your sheep, since there are two of them.
This is the year of the sheep, according to Chinese astrology, which means temples and shrines with a sheep connection, however tenuous, will be more popular than usual.
Yes, dear hearts, of course there are sheep shrines and temples!
Because Japan.

The two shrines that got the most attention in the media at the beginning of the year were Hitsuji Jinja (羊神社) in Nagoya and Hitsuji Jinja (羊神社) near Isobe Station in Gunma. 羊 = the zodiac sign of the sheep. Read more about them here.
Tokyo itself has two places of worship with a sheep association, Ōkunitama Jinja (大国魂神社) and Tamagawa Daishi (玉川大師), but the connection requires a bit of explanation. Hang in there; I'll keep it short.


Ōkunitama Jinja
The god that is enshrined at Ōkunitama Jinja is Kunitama, a very old deity that's regarded as the spirit of the land. He's associated with the sign of the sheep, for reasons that …

An open letter to Ayako Sono

Dear Ms Sono One of this country’s largest newspapers took the occasion of the Founding of Japan holiday earlier this week to publish a column by a noted author who advocates apartheid. Japan should solve the problem of a dwindling population by bringing in foreign workers, she wrote, but it should make sure that they live segregated from the natives. I read that excerpt in The Daily Beast. You can read the full article here.
As a South African currently living in Japan, I'd like to remind you that in apartheid South Africa you would’ve been classified as non-white or, at best, “honorary white”.

Japanese people were counted as honorary whites. Why this special status? When Yawata Iron & Steel Co purchased 5 million tons of iron from South Africa in the 1960s, worth more than $250 million, the South African government realized that it might not be a good idea to ban Japanese trade delegates to black townships. All Japanese people would henceforth be regarded as white, and they had …

Twitter Japan, you offend me

Dear Twitter Japan
I'm offended by the advertisements you're inserting into my Twitter feed. Not because you're including ads – for we shall always have taxes, egocentric politicians and moronic ads with us – but because you seem to think that my raison d'être is to lose weight.
I don't know whether you're targeting all customers with these ads, or whether you've picked up, through some Turing test, that I'm female, but your attempts to persuade me that visible hipbones, a concave stomach and a thigh gap are a woman's ultimate aim are getting tedious in the extreme.

First of all, you bloody idiots, I'm an old woman. I don't care about my looks anymore. I never really did, except possibly for one week when I was 14, but now that I'm in my dotage my interest in my own appearance is truly minus zero.
Secondly, I happen to be cursed – you would say blessed – with genes that have given me a small, restless, I-need-mountains-NOW body. You want …