Thursday, 30 August 2012

Roasted sardines

No, this is not a recipe for a new culinary delight, but a description of my daily commute. With summer electricity saving measures in force many train companies have turned down the air conditioning on their trains. This makes my commutes warmer and rather less pleasant - sweaty stinky salarymen are not the nicest of seat companions!

This morning I found myself even more crowded than usual. The seat on my left was taken by a biiiiig Japanese guy. It isn't often that I feel small, but his knees stuck out a good four inches farther than mine, and his shoulders could have covered another half me! I felt like I had drunk an Alice in Wonderland bottle and shrunk down, very curious!

it wasn't until just before I got off that it all made sense. I blearily looked at the mini DVD player he had pulled out mid-ride, and realized he was studying a rugby game with great concentration. Every few minutes he'd practice his elbowing techniques and jab my side as he used the remote control to rewind and rewatch sections.

On the plus side, different from most of the other commuters he was neither sweating nor stinky (did I catch a faint whiff of cologne?!) and his muscled shoulder sure would have made a nice pillow... ;)

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Back to the Grind

All five years of high school I used the same combination lock for my locker. And after every vacation I would panic as I walked into school, convinced I would forget my combination. I never did. Every time my fingers would remember the numbers and I would open my locker.

This morning I couldn't. I got to the staff entrance of the museum and my mind blanked. I couldn't remember the door pass code. Luckily a delivery man arrived just after I did, and got buzzed in.

Summer vacation is really and truly over.


Sunday, 26 August 2012

Trout Lake Farmers' Market

We arrived in Vancouver mid-day on a Friday and luckily I realized that evening that our only chance to go to the city's big farmers' market would be the next morning. I had been last summer and loved it, so I jumped at the chance of showing U the amazing abundance of local fresh fruit and veggies.

The Trout Lake Farmers' Market is a row of stalls set up in a park with grassy fields, a wooded area, and large pond.

But, pretty as it was, we weren't there for the view, we were there for the market - an amazing mix of veggies, fruit, baked goods, and all sorts of other yumminesses.

We started with breakfast crepes (with goat cheese and carmelized onions and spinach, or bacon and cheese and maple syrup, or... or...) from the crepe cart and and headed down to the lake to find a seat in the shade. Unfortunately we chose a rock that turned out to be a favourite among the four legged visitors, and as we licked our fingers of the last crumbs of our crepes we were forced to vacate our seat as two dogs in quick succession just about left their markers on my dad's pant leg instead of the rock upon which we were sitting.

Making our escape we headed back to the market and succumbed to the mountains of juicy cherries (perfect just as they were), tart raspberries (divine with vanilla yogurt for breakfast), and, to my delight, sticks of rhubarb (muffins!!).

And although we didn't buy any there was a stall selling fragrant herbs and another selling all sorts of flowers and greenery.

The veggie stalls were just as colourful with a rainbow of potatoes, beets, and carrots!

A great morning and one I wish I could duplicate here in Tokyo...

Home Again Home Again

Stepping off the airplane yesterday, a sigh escaped from both U and me.  The warm humid air hit us like a wall.  I whimpered and asked U if we could jump on a plane and head back to Canada.  I told him I bet we could both get jobs in the tourism industry in Jasper.  We could spend our days off kayaking and U could go fishing.  I could eat plenty of raspberries and cherries and blueberries and nectarines and... We could enjoy summer and wear long sleeved sweaters in the evenings...


Instead we got on a bus, transferred to a packed train, and then walked home. 

So we are home.

Kayaking on Maligne Lake and eating rainbow trout caught by U seem more than a world away. And they might as well be as all the things we have willfully ignored over the past two weeks (a translation contract and a few articles to be written for me and a conference presentation for U) are suddenly reminding us of their presence. Back to the real world, I guess.


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Canadian Flowers

Green Curtain a la Canadienne

After Rurousha's multiple posts (and here) on her photography blog about green curtains, I couldn't resist taking a photograph of a famous ivy-covered hotel (that does an AMAZING high tea... What more can you ask for, besides perhaps a moose or two?!  :D ).

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


We're in Canada right now, with only a few days left before we return to the sauna that is Tokyo. I had the greatest of intentions of blogging regularly throughout our trip but the combination of lack of reliable wifi and busy-induced exhaustion got in the way. I'll fill in with details and pictures when I have the chance, but here's a glimpse at what has been keeping us busy:

Day 1 - lack of sleep on the plane meant we were barely able to give coherent answers at customs and didn't get much better as the day wore on, but we did have good Canadian steaks for dinner.

Day 2 - off to the Trout Lake Farmer's market for breakfast and indulging in fresh BC fruit (raspberries and nectarines and rhubarb and blackberries and blueberries, oh my!!). Then shopping for me (yay jeans that fit!!!) and a tour of the gorgeous Vancouver waterfront for U. Then dinner with my aunt and the surprise of an old friend joining us.

Day 3 - up while it was still dark and off to the ferry to Vancouver Island for a family reunion in Naniamo (complete with second cousins I haven't seen in twenty years!). in the afternoon we drove to Victoria to stay with a family friend we hadn't seen in twenty years.

Day 4 - sightseeing in Victoria, the art gallery to make me happy and a sampling of seven craft brews at a brew pub to make U happy (and rather tipsy).

Day 5 - a walk on the beach (did I mention our friend lives right on the beach?!?) followed by a ferry back to Vancouver and dinner with my godparents (and their recently married son).

Day 6 - after tying my kayak to the roof of the car we got an early start and headed to the mountains. We stayed the night in a lovely B&B in Golden.

Day 7 - first stop was Lake Louise and then up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper. We took our time on the drive, stopping often for photographs and U marveled at the beauty that is the Rockies

Day 8 - spent at one of my two favourite places in the world, Maligne Lake. I saw old friends, we went on a boat cruise, and I spent nearly two hours paddling my kayak as the boys hiked. Breakfast at the wonderful bakery that is no longer so little and dinner at our favourite restaurant in town, a place we've been going to for at least a decade.

Day 9 - U rented a kayak and learned to paddle. We spent a glorious couple of hours paddling around and getting sunburnt. Unfortunately, however it was time to head off. The drive to Prince George was punctuated with a gorgeous and cloud-free view of Mount Robson, the culmination of absolutely perfect weather since we arrived. Dinner at our favourite pasta restaurant in PG, where dad ran into an old colleague and friend.

Day 10 - off even earlier in a biig truck with both my kayak and a 14 foot powerboat. Despite getting lost amid the myriad of island I succeeded in meeting up with the men in their powerboat, but the highlight of the day was U catching the only fish of the morning and the men coming home with four rainbow trout that proved to be absolutely delicious when fried up and accompanied with spinach salad for dinner.

Day 11 - driving the 800+ km from PG to Vancouver, stopping to meet up with friends twice along the way. Dinner out alone with U and running into family friends by chance.

Day 12 - after two 5 am wake up calls in a row in hoping this one starts MUCH later. With only three full days left we have plenty of people to see and shopping to be done and food to be eaten.

U doesn't want to leave either, so we're already planning our next trip!

Thursday, 9 August 2012


"Oh don't worry about it!" says the friendly salaryman beside me as he shoves his hard case briefcase into the rack above the seats. "Don't worry, there is plenty of space!" He beams at me as he shoves his briefcase in sideways - crushing the bag beside it.

"Actually..." I pause. How do I say this politely? Then, as he crushes my bag again, my desire to try and be polite flies out the window.

"Actually I'm worried about THIS bag," I say as I reach protectively for my own bag. "It would be problematic if it got squashed." ('problematic'!?! Well, that is one way of putting it, and a whole lot more polite than what I wanted to say, but seriously?!)

"Oh!" the salaryman jumps. "It is soft?!"

"Yes." I say, as he stands his briefcase up and angles it away from bag. "Yes, it is soft."


PS - Sharon, I'm afraid our offering for the family picnic on Sunday may be... rather squashed...


Well hello there iPhone macro lens! I haven't seen you in ever so long!

Monday, 6 August 2012

People watching

I love watching people, looking at what they do, how they walk or sit, what they wear, what they carry, how they interact with others they are with... I will unashamedly eavesdrop on conversations I can understand (getting to that point in Japanese was a huge milestone for me!) and imagine those I can't. I will dream up situations or stories for the people I see, quite often convoluted and rather unrealistic.

My daily commute offers plenty of fodder, but I did myself finding the most interesting of people when I'm sitting in a coffee shop studying. Perhaps it is a highly refined procrastination technique, but I always seem to be surrounded by... characters!

There was the guy at the Shibuya coffee shop who sat down and started typing away on his large laptop. Then he stopped and pulled out an iPad. After tapping away at it for a minute or two he pulled out TWO iPods (one black and one white). After checking something on one and plugging the other in to the laptop he pulled out a regular cell phone and proceeded to make a call. Not only was his entire table full of electronics, but he was using almost all of them at the same time! Whoever said men can't multitask needed to see this guy!

There was the little old lady at the coffee shop near my station who announced to her young companion (granddaughter?) that she wanted a "snack," and came back loaded down with a tray of goodies to fill the stomachs of a dozen or so. Her bemused companion suggested they eat the ones with ice cream and have the others wrapped up to take home.

Or the young (very thin) woman beside me at the Roppongi green tea cafe today. She wolfed her matcha parfait down with such voracity that I thought she might start chewing on the earthenware cup it came in. She looked quite pleased with her indulgence, unlike the harried young mother who was not impressed when, half way through her parfait, a toddler clambered into the seat opposite, followed by hubby and a baby buggy with a slumbering infant. Needless to say the toddler finished off the parfait as mommy glared at daddy.

And, oddest of all, on the other side of the cafe, tucked into a corner a brown-haired foreigner read a thick Japanese tome on management theory in museums and scribbled notes in English into a black notebook.

Lyrically Educational

When I was in Osaka on exchange my little host sister and I bonded over language acquisition when we watched "Okasan to issho" ("With Mother,", or check out YouTube for the many many videos).

The songs on "Okasan to issho" used props, often had subtitles, and were simple (the target audience was the pre-kindergarten crowd, after all!). They helped me learn a whole whack of Japanese vocabulary and I loved singing the silly catchy songs with my little sister.

Having progressed in my Japanese ability (not too many songs using 20th century archaic Japanese, sadly, else I'd happily listen to them on my commute!) and no longer having a little one to watch tv with (never mind the fact that my "little" sister will be graduating from high school next year!), I don't watch "Okasan to issho" anymore. This morning when I got out of the shower, however, I found U had left the tv on when he left for the morning. No longer showing reruns and highlights from the Olympics, the channel was now onto midday kids programming - a show introducing farm animals to the increasingly urbanized young generation.

At first this didn't seem odd. Until a cartoon character, acting as narrator, broke into song (I'm translating roughly, to the tune of "London Brodges"):

♫ Mrs Cow has four boobies,
Four boobies, four boobies!
Mrs Cow has four boobies,
Boobies that give us milk! ♫

So there you go. In case you (or any three year-olds in your life) didn't know. Cows have four boobies.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


I'm home from four days in the mountains of Nagano. Four days with fifty Girl Scouts and leaders. Four long and exhausting and exhilarating days. The torrential rains, thunder, and lightening that hit on the second evening was pretty scary for those in the tents, but after we got everybody into the main hall and then some warm food into them, everybody perked up in time for an indoor campfire.