Shochu Is The Real Sake Of Japan

Most non-Japanese know about Japan’s rice wine, but few know about the true ‘hard stuff’sake of Japan – shochu (焼酎).  This is the tough stuff and it’s drunk by Japanese people of all ages and walks of life.

What Is Shochu?

Shochu is a kind of distilled liquor that is indigenous to Japan.  It can be made from just about anything and it can be drunk in lots of different ways.  By the way, the character sho (焼) means ‘fire’ or ‘fried,’ so this is literally ‘fire water.’ Continue reading

The Yankees Of Japan

At my apartment there’s a group of guys that hang out at the bottom of the stairwell.  japanese vanThey’ve got died, weirded-up Ziggy Stardust hair, they ride bikes, they smoke and they spit a lot.  They’re the bad guys on the block and they’ve got their little gang together.  When I come down the stairwell with my bags of trash to dump, they bow, apologize and move out of my way.

Is it because I’m ultra-bad?  Not at all.  It’s because even the baddest tough guys in Japan have a little bit of consideration for others.  These guys are ‘yankees’ (ヤンキー). Continue reading

Goya The World’s Bitterest Melon

I went to the dentist the other day.  He’d installed a “green wall.”  This is a wall of vines andgoya foliage that covers the southern side of the clinic to provide natural cooling.  When my visit was over (no cavities!), he pointed to the top of his green wall and said, “See that up there?”

I didn’t.

“It’s goya,” he said.  “There are two up there I think.  If you can reach them, you can have them.” Continue reading

The Japan Earthquake Aftermath – Me And Donald Keene Are With Japan

When the news started reporting that there was a nuclear accident at the Fukushima plant, I started getting calls from teachers I knew.  I used to be a recruiter and manager at an English school and these were teachers who worked there.  They all had basically two questions – “What is going on?” and “Should we get out of here!?”japan

Both of those were tough to answer.  The best I could do was to say that things looked really bad and if you’re worried, you should go home.  Then, they usually asked me the third question – “What are you going to do?”
Continue reading

Check Out Japanese Animation

When I was in the US, I was always fascinated with Japanese animation. There was something really different and strange about it, and the stories were wild and fantastic. Actually, some of the shows I grew up with as a kid were from Japan, like Speed Racer. I remember that I noticed their mouths didn’t seem to say what the voice said. But, anyway, they were cool cartoons of chances to enjoy I’m all grown up, I have lots of chances to enjoy a variety of Japanese animation.
Continue reading