Monday, January 31, 2005


So often these days I hear, even from men a decade or more younger than myself, who are looking forward to retirement, "Oh no, I don't want to have (for example) a woodburning stove; I'll be getting old and it will be too much for me."

What an conditioned attitude, to give up on the strength of a half-thought, to avoid what may be too much for old age decades before they even reach old age-- they destine themselves never to learn that such things as woodstoves, and the necessary related activities, interest and physical exercise they require, will strengthen their bones, keep them young and strong beyond their years!

Whatever happened to that inborn attitude that says "I'll just go ahead and find out how and what, and alter my path as necessary!" The very attitude by which we learn to walk, play a piano, dance, sing, string out formulas, make cabinets, whatever we take pride in. And here that spirit is dying by the day, right before the eyes it was meant to nourish!!

No discoverer ever had such an attitude. No one who ever advanced on behalf of humanity ever had such a negative conviction. Pioneering is inborn in us all, then carefully taught away...

The genuine reward of practical physical labor such people seek to avoid in their old age (thereby ensuring the old age they anticipate), such as extensive gardening, firewooding or general maintenance, comprises not just the harvest or the firewood or the improved living conditions, so much as the genuine sense of fully and worthily occupying your time, as compared to, say, treading a treadmill in a city gym for an hour or two three times a week.

The former exercise is free, it is done outdoors, it is natural (as opposed to artificial 'scheduled' exercise), it is balanced and universal (all muscles in the body, not just pecs or delts or abs, all fastwork fastterms), it is dictated by the requirements of the world out there, with which one must therefore synchronize, and it is utilitarian.

Collectively, these qualities combine to lift the spirit to its natural elevation and broad perspective, where problems take on their true tiny proportions in the big picture. Not synthetic uplift, as from a drug, some habitual pleasure or one more checkmark on the workout schedule, but the natural stimulus of your heart pumping your blood through your body as you perform your own tasks, whose progress is a measure of your own achievement, your own involvement with the genuine details of your life and therefore of life itself.

Nothing will lift your spirits from artificial doldrums like a long walk through forest along a mountainside, followed by a couple hours of chopping firewood and tilling the garden, fostering appetites that yearn to be.

Sunday, January 30, 2005


Out on an afternoon walk up the far forest road I saw that a large cherry branch had fallen partly into the way. Looking for the source, I found deep in the wood a very old wild cherry tree I hadn't noticed before, well over two feet through at the base, rising tens of meters, its bare branches broad and thick in light of the gray sky that loomed through the wide opening in the surrounding evergreen forest canopy, a spreading space that the old cherry tree had claimed by its presence, had filled with its blossoms and roofed with its green leaves for maybe a century, but now its limbs were bare - even of buds - its once strong branches now breaking and falling in the winter winds, the cathedral of its remnant trunks reaching still, snowflakes falling through them now like its own blossoms on the forest air, its fallen branches nourishing the cherry saplings rising at its feet...

DAJ Kansai Movie Night - "The Fog of War"

When: Thursday, February 17, film starts at 7 p.m.
Film info: English with Japanese subtitles, 107 min.
Where: Tocca a Te, in Umeda (doors open at 6 p.m.)
Address & map:
(or follow the links at

Admission: 1000 yen, includes a free drink & free homemade
popcorn (voted Best in Kansai!)

About this month's film...

Documentarian Errol Morris gives Robert McNamara a forum
to talk about the decisions he made and the influence
he had during his career. At over age 85, McNamara has gained
the necessary perspective to do just that.

Hope you can make it, and be sure to tell everyone you know
about it too!

For more info or a PDF flyer in either A4 or A5 size to
print or forward, contact:

Friday, January 28, 2005


As a nourishing antithesis to corporate ravishment, the always excellent Path to Freedom has an excellent post on multiply useful EM (Effective Microorganisms) and the making of bokashi fertilizer for the garden, with recipes (I use rice hulls + bran, soybean residue, organic chicken + cow manure, lakeweed, dolomite, leaves, shiitake log remnants, organic garbage and whatever else comes my way that fits). Traditional Japanese methods that every healthy garden needs. Your flowers, fruits, herbs and veggies will smile at you!

Additional EM info:


"It is never easy choosing the 10 Worst Corporations of the Year – there are always more deserving nominees than we can possibly recognize. One of the greatest challenges facing the judges is the directive not to select repeat recipients from last year's 10 Worst designation.

The no-repeat rule forbids otherwise-deserving companies – like Bayer, Boeing, Clear Channel and Halliburton – from returning to the 10 Worst list in 2004.

Of the remaining pool of price gougers, polluters, union-busters, dictator-coddlers, fraudsters, poisoners, deceivers and general miscreants, we chose the following – presented in alphabetical order – as the 10 Worst Corporations of 2004:

Abbott Laboratories: Drug-Pricing Chutzpah

AIG: Deferred Prosecutions On the Rise

Coca-Cola: vs.

Dow Chemical: Forgive Us Our Trespasses

GlaxoSmithKline: Deadly Depressing

Hardee's: Heart Attack on a Bun

Merck: 55,000 Dead

McWane: Death on the Job

Riggs Bank: The Pinochet Connection

Wal-Mart: The Workfare Company"

For an amazing sideline on this issue, read this candid interview with John Perkins, author of The Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

Thursday, January 27, 2005


(I know: “Entropy and I.” That don’t (I know: “doesn’t”) work.)

Speaking of entropy, when I first learned of the “law” of entropy back in the dark ages of college, I mistakenly thought it pertained only to energy-dispersal-related action that was happening “out there” in the cosmos where the really major but very distant stuff went on. Back then, before I herded firewood, I thought entropy had nothing to do with me, as long as my 1957 white Ford Fairlane convertible started in the morning.

In the decades since, as per the stone-cold curriculum in the school of life, I’ve learned that the reality is quite a bit different, as it usually is. In fact, the law of entropy as I now know it has a nano-codicil that goes something like “everything in the universe is tending toward uniform and complete dispersal, including Bob’s income.”

It doesn’t matter what my income is; a higher amount simply begets a greater number of literal and figurative hands held out palm up, in the timeless ritual of financial entropy. The value of money actually wants to be like salt in the ocean.

Further proof of this is offered every day when, for example, I visit my mailbox and find not letters of inheritance, or tax refunds, lottery winner notifications or packages of diamonds, no governmental deeds to gold mines or grants to rich territories - as would be the case in a nurturing, gathering universe - but bills for unseen utilities now used up, orders to remit certain amounts of various taxes, insurance bills, roofing bills, car registration fees, credit card bills, the list is far longer than my working life will ever be.

You can see where this is heading. In keeping with the general entropic tendency of the universe, all my futile efforts at gathering and retaining, my na├»ve tendency toward nest-egging, fly directly in the face of the entire universe itself! I’m swimming up a million Mississippis, dragging a boatload of bureaucrats! Who can win such a struggle and reach the mythical fountainhead, except perhaps for a brief moment after the third can of beer?

And the next entropic question: how many third cans of beer are there in the universe?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Long-time visitors to this inferior endeavor will recall the frequent references to my struggle with the elements, specifically in this case the wind vis-a-vis my firewood tarps.

Well this afternoon in a briefly sunny moment (snowthunder in the mountain distance, blizzards fast approaching on big white legs) I went out to extricate my large tarps which, when last seen, had been neatly covering my stacks of firewood and weighted in place with heavy roof tiles, rocks, oak logs, you name it, maybe even a couple old automobiles for all it mattered, because it doesn't matter.

Because the two or three snowstormy nights we’ve had in the last couple weeks were each preluded by hyperSiberian winds that, howling with laughter, took my tarps, flung them free of their pinions, twisted them into complex topological forms, buried them under matterhorns of snow and stomped on the whole thing with big icy feet for good measure, the while snowing lavishly on my firewood.

So there I was this afternoon, pulling and digging and twisting and flailing and getting avalanched while digging out the tarps, undoing topological masterpieces and retarping the woodpiles. I want them neatly stacked and clean and dry and all in their places, the universe wants them down and dirty and wet and all over the place.

It's only a lifetime thing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


At the nursery school Kaya has been attending for some months now (she just turned 4), they had a birthday party for all the kids in the class who had been born in the month of January, Kaya among them.

All the kids in the nursery and all their mothers attended the festivities, part of which comprised the kids getting up on stage in front of the audience of young mothers and singing kiddy songs and dancing kiddy dances, then individually answering such questions as “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

To this question, all the kids gave answers like “I want to be Doraemon” (favorite kiddy cartoon character), or “I want to be the girlfriend of AnpanMan” (ditto), everyone having ambitions to be with and in the world of their favorite imaginary characters.

That is, until they came to Kaya, who when asked that question said in a loud and clear voice: “When I grow up I want to be a beautiful mother, just like my mother is.” Kasumi and all the other attending mothers dissolved collectively into one weepy mass; order was not restored for some time.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Beautiful mushroom photos and detailed information (w/photographs) on cultivating all types of cuisinal and medicinal mushrooms:

Oyster Mushroom Strains
Shiitake Strains
Button Mushroom Strains
Enokitake Strains
Eryngii Strains
Ganoderma lucidum Strains
Agaricus blazei Strains
Phellinus linteus Strains
Cordyceps spp Strains
Other Cultivated Mushrooms
Wild Mushrooms
Growing Facilities
Growing Houses
Pests & Diseases

Sunday, January 23, 2005


Gathering spinach after a snowfall of the size we have up here, about like 10000 white American-sized refrigerators lying on the ground immediately around the house, you have to take your gloves off, gloved hands can't feel spinach leaves in the snow, tend to tear them off while pushing the snow aside, I know I could spend a series of autumn afternoons constructing architecturally impressive tunnels of bamboo and plastic sheeting, but the wind would have a ball piercing that with cedar branches and gradually spinning the whole into arrestingly abstract tree sculptures, or the deer would just get tangled up in it in the dark... And since the snow not only keeps the spinach from freezing, it keeps it mostly invisible to the deer, we actually get some... plus it's nice to slide aside the sunlit snow in the morning and behold the tasty green hello deep down there...

Friday, January 21, 2005


What lessons babies are, so many lessons in all the things we've forgotten we knew, lessons we perhaps need badly by the time the babies come around, and perhaps even moreso when their babies come around, and we have at last the time and inclination to be instructed in these eternal arts, perhaps the biggest lesson being that babies smile and cry so easily, so freely, so fully; and as for happiness, give them a bright ball and a crust of bread and they are in heaven.

How have we undone this skill in ourselves? How is it that as we grow, we push heaven and its happiness further and further away from our every moment?

I look at the twins with all their easy smiles, their frequent giggles, their utter fun, their heartfelt, shortlived tears, their soul’s fascination with even a speck of paper on the floor, and I wonder how it came to be that former children cannot be so easily and genuinely joyfilled…

And now that Kaya and the twins have departed for their home up north, they leave a vast (and perversely welcome) silence in which to ponder these things, perhaps discover a tiny door I never saw before, beside it a golden key…

Thursday, January 20, 2005


On Sunday, while Kaya and the twins were visiting our house, I was having tea and the kids were making their usual attempt to replicate the chaos that prevailed at the very beginning of the universe - before matter as we now know it began to coalesce into discrete substances that would one day comprise twins and toys, among other things - when I looked out the window (little kids don't readily look out windows, they tend to be their own world) and saw an alpha male monkey, kind of a big guy, amble into this cleared and cultivated patch of mountainside that was a mere smattering of his overall property holdings.

Being above his level of intelligence in some ways that we like to call sapience (there is some doubt as to our sapience in treetops, in addition to fundamental legal fuzziness as to who really "owns" what we call "property"), I knew that his wives and extended nuclear family, including grandkids, would soon be following, so I called Kaya and picked up the twins to look.

Kaya, already knowing about monkeys, stood staring out the big window as the marauding troupe ambled casually into the garden by twos and threes, till there were twenty or more monkeys wandering around out there looking distraught that I had gotten all the shiitake this year, that the deer had walked all over the spinach and what was worse, there were do you believe it zero onions; still, there were some old chestnuts and a couple weevily acorns for some forlorn nibbling.

It was the first time the twins had seen any non-human living thing out there in the actual world that wasn't a dog or a cat, they didn't know what to make of a red-faced, hairy horde picking up stuff from the ground and eating it just like they do; they stared out the window open-mouthed at these strange creatures walking on all fours, sitting up, chattering noisily and what not, very much like the twins themselves, the little monkeys even littler than the twins, and all covered in fur, it was clearly a watershed moment in the M and M consciousness.

There was an even bigger watershed a few moments later, when I stepped out onto the deck and in no uncertain monkey language told the big guy and his gang to get the hell out of my garden and they did so in great haste, with no backtalk.

Kaya and the twins were very impressed by this. Especially the twins. "Bob talks to monkeys," their look said, "and they do what he tells them!" Also it was the first time they ever saw me beat my chest. This will come in handy for future babysitting situations.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


It is not commonly known that a 4-year-old child is a superior maker of bread, indeed is perhaps the finest natural kneading device that ever graced the earth.

Simply place a large bulb of ready-to knead bread dough in front of such a child, as we did before a very eager Kaya, and prepare to be amazed.

It is like throwing a newgrown barnswallow up into the air, when you perceive the energy with which the child has at the passive lump, with its babycheek softness... turning it, folding it, dusting, knuckling and pounding it like a pro, and soon is fashioning rabbits and bears and snakes and pandas, using black beans for eyes, nori for noses and eyebrows and mustaches, carrot slices for mouths...

And the baked result is every bit as tasty as any pain d'cordon bleu, plus it's way more fun, from start to the very last crumb.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Vincent van Gogh "Self-Portrait as a Buddhist Monk"

"I envy the Japanese for the enormous clarity that pervades their work. It is never dull and never seems to have been made in haste. Their work is as simple as breathing and they draw a figure with a few well chosen lines with the same ease, as effortless as buttoning up one's waistcoat....."
--Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, 24 September, 1888

W/thanks to matteo at MetaFilter


Couldn’t help but notice that Elvis is hitting it big again in the UK, nearly a half-century after the fact, this time with a No.1 hit for the new single reissue of One Night with You, first released in 1959.

Reading that article brought back memories of how the nuns in our high school utterly loathed Chuck, Little Richard, Fats, Jerry Lee, Elvis and Rock’n’Roll in all its rhythmic entirety for what it was doing to the straitlaced fabric of society, but perhaps even worse (through Elvis the legitimizer), to grammar; how assiduously for all those years we had been instructed never never never to use “ain’t,” and here was Elvis (who’d previously hit it big with You Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog) not only using “ain’t” as a lyric in a sexy hit song that must have caused great gnashing of grammatical teeth that can only be imagined, at hearing the triply antigrammatic line from the mother-superior-mortifying One Night with You:

"Always lived / very quiet life, / I ain’t neva / did no wrong..."

Suddenly, horrible grammar was cool. I use "ain’t" comfortably now (it still gets greenlined in WORD), especially when I sing along with Elvis, who sounds as good as ever when cranked on Pure Land Mountain.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Well the Ms visited us again today; actually I was babysitting for them for a couple of hours and editing upstairs at the same time, which, let me advise any incipient SOHO grandfathers, is a big mistake. (How many of those are yet in store, I wonder.) I must admit that the wee beasties were really trying to be helpful, as their housecleaning instincts struggled to emerge sensibly into a world whose method of organization fell far short of their stringent standards.

They set out to rectify this, quietly cleaning the entire downstairs by carefully covering it all with small toy parts and other play detritus, achieving amazing coverage from so few original items, taking turns now and then to unravel the mysteries of Echo’s collection of jazz tapes, for which she will kill me, then going over the whole with a dry mop just to make sure everything was evenly distributed before taking turns sneezing right in my face.

I tell you, you need to get something lost real quick or a brand-new cold or have some tapes you don't like, these are the ladies for you. They've gone home now and the quietude of heaven reigns here again, except it still hurts a lot to walk anywhere.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


"A great way to meet Japanese girls!"

"Japanese T-shirt 'Looking for a Japanese Girlfriend' in stock in San Diego!

When we made our first 'Looking for a Japanese Girlfriend' funny Japanese T-shirt back in 1997, we had no idea what a cult we were creating. Apparently there's a whole bunch of guys in the world who wouldn't mind getting attention from Japanese females in the world. Our best-selling T-shirt ever, this shirt features clear, clean text and a message that is perhaps best translated as 'Now accepting applications for Japanese girlfriends.' Features a nice red 'rising sun of Japan' in the design. You never know what conversation this T-shirt could start, or where it might lead!"

Friday, January 14, 2005


It is a courageous, perhaps insane grandfather who escorts his newly walking twin granddaughters, who have in their short lives seen little of the world beyond carpets and adult knees - amateur toddlers, in other words - it is a grandfather heedless of hazards, as I say, who dares take such a fearless duo to a large toy store.

I now count myself among that questionable number of men, and am changed by the experience. As a result of my time in a toyland where everything happens at least twice, my hair is whiter, and there is less of it. Say the word 'toy' and a tremor passes through me, though the shaking diminishes within hours.

As we entered the bigger store than they had ever seen, the cute-as-identical-buttons twins, who operate as "M and M" (they're about that easy to tell apart) or - more notoriously - "The Ms," at first toddled slowly and cautiously with what I initially took for naive awe, but soon realized was reflexive planning.

Their big brown eyes were taking in everything and its exact location, how it had been placed there for their very own delight and so belonged to them and was theirs to do with as they pleased, as for example those delicately high-stacked tubes of superglue beside them or the crunchy-looking balsa wood airplanes just a toddle away. Or straight ahead: so many smiley dolls in cellophane-paned boxes! Fun to poke with two Hello Kitty ballpoints!

Though they didn't yet really know what all these toys were, they were good at throwing them. Not much accuracy, but impressive speed and savage abruptness. For example, the metal toy car being closely studied by M - as I could see from afar with her boot in my hand - was instantly ballistic, passing within inches of the brow of M, who had relentlessly toddled out of a side aisle with a glass jar of model paint in each hand, and lacking both boots.

As you may have gathered, one cunning tactic in The Ms' arsenal, in addition to their devilish strategy of being so small while looking and dressing alike, was to let their boots fall off. Not both boots at the same time: one by one. It's an evolutionary trick to distract the pursuer, much the way lizards lose their tails.

I would notice a socked foot, run back and get the boot, return and both twins would be gone (toddlers move at feral speed when unobserved). In different directions, of course; The Ms are not so foolish as to operate together. They know they can cover a lot more territory and get a lot more done if they work separately, in telepathic coordination. This is especially true in a big toy store with only one pursuing grandfather of questionable mental status, who within 5 minutes wants to take a nap.

After must've been a week of chasing up and down the aisles (amazing, the places two small creatures can hide) the twins had had enough of their first big toy store experience to last me forever. At our departure, i.e., me with one squirming, toy-reaching M in each arm and two boots in each hand, the store - like myself - was in need of thorough rearrangement much the worse for wear. The Ms, though, giggled all the way home at the fun it had been, looking forward to our next big toy store adventure, ha ha. We didn't buy any toys of course; they had all been played with anyhow, and no way I'll have those hazards around the next time M and M come to visit.

La Conchita Mudslide Site

La Conchita Forum

Photos and Comments by Resident

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Now that the heavy snow has begun to fall, we often park our van down the mountain in the tunnel because Echo isn't happy driving up here in all the white stuff (maybe ice underneath), even with 4-wheel drive. And sometimes the snow gets so deep you couldn't drive up here with anything but a tank, anyway. You have to wade your way up.

I, on the other hand, having grown up in upstate NY, the east coast version of Siberia (the Hudson River Valley is a big north-wind tunnel), am quite at home driving on snow or ice, day or night, shovel in the back, comfortable with spinning and sliding, steering automatically into the slide etc. I used to love that stuff. Still do, at least in memory. Used to drive all the way to work on sheer ice sometimes.

Before dawn this morning, as I was walking down to the van through the snow that was whispering onto the already deep white, my mind drifted back to the old days, when all we college guys of the notorious (mythic, even) Myrtle Avenue basement apartment had for wheels was a 2-wheel driven, engine-oil-devouring (we always carried a 5 gallon can of oil) 1954 red ford panel truck with 4 bald (original?) tires, but we used to unhesitatingly drive it 200 miles through streetlightless night blizzards to go to a party or be with a girlfriend.

Never had a problem; never got stuck, never slid off the road, never hit a fire hydrant or tree or slid into a river, just get out the guys in the back and carry the thing across the frozen water. Those were the days.

Nowadays, though, even though I enjoy driving in the snow just as much as I used to, and feel I am just as good at it, never spinning out or getting permanently stuck or sliding into the paddy culverts that border the roads up here, nevertheless I note that when I drive in the snow, I drive like back in NY I used to see elderly men driving in the snow. Why were they so cautious? Now my heedless youthful driving is equally hard to believe, from here on the other side of time.

That's the way the snow falls.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


Still here, vortexed with multibusyness (in comparison to standard idlewhiling) up on the mountain in splendid swirl of heavy snowstorm, snatching this minimoment to note the pleasant irony of emailing one of my editing clients, officed in a carefully controlled atmosphere in a distant city skyscraper, to request a slight delay in the document due hour because I have to go outside into the snow and cut more firewood before darkness falls...

Monday, January 10, 2005


Kaya came back from the store with Echo and ran into the house where I was working, shouting "Look! Look! I got a pink bucket at the store!" And held up, indeed, a big bright pink bucket. This being winter, and Kaya in any case not hauling much water in her line of work, I asked why (in the world) she had bought a pink bucket?? "Because I don't have one!" She answered brightly, a bit puzzled at why I would ask such a pointless question.

One snowy morning as Kaya and I were out walking the upmountain road in the deeper snow after a couple hours of shoveling and playing, making snowmen and eating snow cookies etc., I made to take the easier left fork in the road that led back down and around to the house and warmth and general winter sandbagging, when Kaya said: "Why do you want to go that way? Let's go THIS way!" And pointed toward the other road that led upward and away, into the forest. I asked, "Where do you want to walk TO?" She answered: "I just want to walk!"

And then another winter morning Kaya remarked how much snow there was and I said "Yeah, I wonder where all that snow goes in the summertime?" "Into the leaves," Kaya explained knowingly, as if to someone with a hard head. Which I don't have, except sometimes when I talk to Kaya.

Friday, January 07, 2005



Estimated deaths in Indonesia alone now reach over 400,000.

My Randomly Generated Postmodernism Essay:


David P. J. von Junz (that's me)
Department of Future Studies, University of California, Berkeley

1. Tarantino and surrealism

"Class is fundamentally unattainable," says Sontag. However, if postcapitalist conceptualism holds, we have to choose between cultural feminism and the pretextual paradigm of consensus. The creation/destruction distinction prevalent in Tarantino's Jackie Brown is also evident in Four Rooms, although in a more self-falsifying sense.

Therefore, the subject is contextualised into a surrealism that includes sexuality as a totality. The premise of cultural feminism suggests that art is meaningless.

In a sense, Scuglia[1] holds that we have to choose between subcultural textual theory and the prematerialist paradigm of discourse. Any number of theories concerning surrealism exist.

In conclusion

However, Marx uses the term 'postsemioticist depatriarchialism' to denote the dialectic, and some would say the stasis, of pretextual reality. The premise of surrealism implies that narrative must come from the collective unconscious, but only if consciousness is interchangeable with reality; if that is not the case, the State is responsible for archaic, elitist perceptions of sexual identity.

The essay you have just read is completely meaningless and was randomly generated by the Postmodernism Generator.

This would really have come in handy back in college. It reads like Baudrillard and Foucault.

Found this site mentioned in the book of essays by Richard Dawkins, A Devil's Chaplain, all of which excellent essays are delightfully comprehensible.

Thursday, January 06, 2005


Dye my hair if I'm wrong, but isn't there a touch of ageism in the 'science' headlines below? After reading these, you'd think that gray hair causes cancer. Another blow against genuine life. (Personally, I prefer folks who have the conviction to be completely who they actually are.)

Mutation of gene could lead to skin cancer and graying of hair
Graying Hair May Reveal Cancer Clues
Cancer research finds key to grey hair, but not cure
Cancer study sheds light on gray hair
Gray hair yielding cancer clues, researchers find
Could gray hair help cure cancer?
Gray hair and melanoma share roots
Gray hair shares genetic roots with melanoma
Gray hair, melanoma genetically linked
Cancer study yields clues on gray hair
Gray hairs may unlock mysteries of skin cancer
Gray hair holds clues to fighting cancer
Stem Cell Malfunction Causes Gray Hair

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


As always, on the first day of the new year we visited the ancient local shrine at the foot of the mountain for the conventional hatsumode, which visit usually seems to yield sufficient deific largesse for the following year; but in view of the tragedies that have strung themselves throughout the last 365, ranging from the disastrous war in Iraq through an ominous re-election (of one whose name shall no longer cross my keyboard other than in lower-case reference to certain intermediate forms of vegetation) to scouring hurricanes, shattering earthquakes and devastating tsunami, we felt it would be worthwhile to at least double up on our stores of heavenly grace.

So it was that on the 3rd we visited the old shrine up along the lake road (Shirahige), recorded in these humble chronicles as the present spiritual location of the allegedly reincarnated Nixon, Guevara et al., though of course it wasn’t them we went to see; we went to honor the truly ancient local earth-weather-water-mountain-forest deities, who do not gladly suffer any guru-come-latelies, but must be given their due and honored to the extent of their ancientness and can get pretty testy otherwise, as perhaps witness said earthen, atmospheric, oceanic and electoral catastrophes.

These deities, you understand, are not pagan figureheads representing mere mortals alleged to have lived only millennia ago, but symbols of what were primally acknowledged as the operative powers of life and nature - both terrestrial and cosmic (no difference there, really, but in local perception) - that enable our passage through their time: aspects too many in the modern world have been taught to ignore (at the peril of all, as we are seeing...)

Apparently we were not alone in these convictions; the place was mobbed, with cars lined up out on the highway waiting to get in to the shrine parking lot, kami-hungry mobs gathering around the grace-summoning bells hung above the main entrances to the various shrines. Purely incidentally, I noted that Dick and Che were no longer in evidence; in their place was a new and younger crew of brightly colored apolitical carp.

That’s always a good sign.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


"If any single area of Tokyo was able to hold on to the mystique and feudal charm of old Edo into the 20th century the longest it was Yoshiwara, the city's most famous 'licensed quarter.' Yoshiwara, originally a city district, was relocated by puriant [sic] authorities in 1657 to paddy fields north of Asakusa and outside the city-proper. A serious fire in 1913, and its near-total destruction by earthquake in 1923, took the blossom off Yoshiwara's bloom. However, the licensed quarter remained popular until prostitution was officially abolished nationwide in 1958, thirteen years after the end of World War II."

As one who resided in Tokyo for several years back in the 70s, these old photos are evocative beyond words; but even if you've never been or spent much time there, this is the Tokyo that disappeared in the earthquake and the war... Beautiful old postcards and photos depicting Tokyo around the turn of the century.

With thanks to the monumental plep.

Monday, January 03, 2005


Having posted on 'supersizing' a while ago, I noticed all the more the apple pie Etsuko bought via the local co-op as dessert for our New Year’s dinner. This is a photo of the pie.

You can see by its size relative to the cigarette pack (so those of you don’t have to ask, it’s a 1916 Luckies replica from my modest expat collection) that the pie is only slightly larger than the little mass-produced “Hostess” pies sold in NY mom & pop grocery stores back in the now-museum 1950s (the 50s were so real at the time!). About a large handful in size, those pies were dessert for a workman’s (or schoolboy’s) lunch.

The apple pie shown here is meant to serve 4 people. This portional smallness is ingrained in Japan where, traditionally, food portion size is diminished and the aesthetic expanded. Also, this pie is much less sweet than the pies of old that live on in the dessert pantheon of my memory.

Though desserts of this type are not traditional in Japan, they are making inroads, but generally still in traditionally sized portions. Folks don’t groan with satiation after Japanese meals. I’d still be willing to groan after a traditional US holiday dinner, but only once (maybe twice, or more) a year.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

First snow - one by one
nanten berries turn
into hungry birds