The すいじ of sushi

A man`s love for his

work in preparing sushi

should inspire many

Well into his eighties and he still never tires of making sushi.    Jiro dreams of Sushi (2011) is a lovely documentary where they spoke with most of the people involved in the business, directly or indirectly – a food critic, the tuna dealer at the hectic Tsukiji market, the rice dealer, his staff including his elder son who will take over one day (his younger son has his own sushi shop but also trained as an apprentice under his father) and of course the man himself, Jiro Ono, who has been making sushi since the age of 10.   It would be amazing to eat in his shop, despite the intimidating atmosphere that some of the people mentioned, stating that his son`s shop was more relaxed.   I would have liked to hear if he ever had any problems with customers or if he ever refused anyone.    People who have the money to eat there may not necessarily be the most well-mannered.  I was pleased to hear his views on tuna fishing stating, if I remember correctly, that there is a serious case of overfishing and there is less good fish available as a result. No whales were mentioned so I wonder how he felt about that.  Really good documentary overall and I don`t think I have ever seen anyone so happy with their line of work.

Hearing about Tsukuji market again made me want to look up more about it, as I never really thought of going there when I visited Tokyo (I was only there a couple of days and was with a friend who took me to other places).    I read that the bulk of the market was to be moved between 2013 and 2014 out of this area of Tokyo and into the Koto area (which already houses a related section of the market along with another one in Kanda).   Most of the retail stalls are going to stay in the Tsukiji area and I think the dealership area will move.  Has that happened yet anyone?    It would be a shame to miss the opportunity to get to the original Tsukuji market in its entirety while it`s still there (well as much of its entirety as people are allowed to explore) but 2014 is almost over and I don`t see myself getting there this year.

Understandably, the large number of  tourists visiting has caused a bit of a fuss in recent years and I can kind of understand that.  It may be an amazing treasure trove to foodie tourists but it is a regular place for all the people who work there (or who go to buy their fish for their restaurants) and have to get on with their work.   I hope this comment does not go against me some day!!    Tourists are now only allowed to go in certain numbers (120 people max per day, or  should I say morning as it is mostly closed by 11am) and on a first come first served basis.   And they`re still not allowed into the fish dealership area (if they ever were, I can`t remember).   Fair enough as it is just more fish really and the documentary gives you a good idea of what happens there anyway.  That said, how do you tell the difference between a tourist and a gaijin who happens to live in Tokyo and has only just got around to coming to visit it?

Speaking of fish markets, there`s a pretty impressive one in Hakodate as well (nowhere near the scale of Tsukuji which is the largest in the world).  I remember going there.  They`re big into squid (いか) in Hakodate which I have to admit I didn`t really take to.  Below is a picture of the entrance to the market.


Add comment September 2, 2014 KorubettosHaiku



whatever they are called they

have taken over


Apparently business emails are full of emojis these days.  And amazingly, Moby Dick has been translated into emoji!!  10,000 words.  Wow.   How do you translate the name Ishmael in to emoji though?    I read this in the guardian online.  Sometimes their journalists  jump the gun and get excited.

What I find annoying is when people type out a string of punctuation marks meant to resemble some kind of facial expression only they do not.  So not quite emoji.  I`ll have to find an example somewhere to demonstrate.   I am left thinking  一体!!   Most emoji are cute but if I got a text message or a message on fb such as the type I just mentioned, I`d have to ask the other person if they spoke (wrote) English!!   Or I might beseech them to at least use  emoji!!

No surprise that emoji kicked off in Japan (though in the English speaking world they are mostly called emoticons), a country that already uses kanji (along with kana of course), among schoolgirls.  Hence some of the cuteness attached to the faces.

Add comment September 1, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

Family Ties untied

Two young boys in each

film wanting to belong to

a set family


Well, actually that`s not entirely right but I`d spoil the films I think by saying anything else.   Well, two more gems under my belt from Hirokazu Kore-Eda.  What a fabulous director.  What great acting too from all the kids involved.

Sad story about children being swapped at birth in Like Father like Son (and wait till you hear why it happened?!!) and one of the father`s (traditionally Japanese, I think) obsession with blood-lines. Adoption of children is rare in Japan for that reason (except in the old days where a child might be adopted just to carry on teh family business and by then they`re in their teens or older and promised to a daughter in the family or just adopted without a daughter on-hand to marry).   It raises the interesting question of whether you can love a child you have just found out is your own and how you are supposed to now feel about a child you realise is NOT your own after all but you see as your own.

In I wish, the children of a separated couple (one living with each parent) go about arranging to see each other with all their pals in tow while their parents are just getting on with things (well, the mother notices but is assured her charge is ok, while the father I don`t think even notices not that I am passing any judgement it`s just a bit odd!!)

I admire how independent Japanese kids seem, at least in films (but of course this is a kore-eda film, so it would be true to life) and as extra testament to what I am saying a guy I know who has kids with his Japanese wife explained that when they are very young, maybe round 3 or 4, a child`s parents might send them off to do a little errand, something simple enough but usually involving a shop purchase (not just like `bring this to your granny` kind of thing), but they will have someone they know trailing them to make sure they reach the place ok, have no trouble doing the errand, and get back ok too.    After a while, they get into the habit of it I guess.   Great life skills at an early age  …. but slightly unnerving.  This guy and his family don`t live in Japan but I think he`ll probably try that at some stage if they move to Japan.  I don`t think he`d try it anywhere else but who knows.   That said, about independence, most kids have no other choice as they might be keyhole kids (if that`s the right word, I`ve a feeling I`m wrong, maybe it`s latch-key) or like the – loosely based on a true-life – story in Nobody Knows, another Kore-Eda film, they might not have parents as constants in their life.  Either way, I gather the majority of kids in Japan learn this skill at a young age.  I wonder how it is in other countries/cultures around the world.

The two mothers in Like Father Like Son were both in that drama I liked so much called Saikou no Rikon and I`ve seen one of them in more films besides.  The more uptight father I`d never seen before (very nice-looking guy) but I`m sure I`ve seen the other father in something.

Though I`m not a parent, I know that all parents worry about their kids` safety and you can`t watch their every single move and you don`t want to make your child overly paranoid about people either.   The headline in the news lately about a guy in Japan threatening to kidnap a large number of schoolgirls was pretty mad.   I wonder how the parents are dealing with that.  It sounds like something from a really bad movie but nope (and we know that this has happened in another part of the world over the last year, and now they are planning to take boys as well, but those people are known militia (?) whereas whoever this guy – or these guys as he can`t be acting on his own – is/are who knows).





Add comment August 31, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

Railway talk and then some more Kore-Eda

The Railway Man I

found disappointing to watch

but not to read … phew!!


It would be a shame if both forms had disappointed.  So I finally decided to try and see The Railway Man through itunes after reading the book, instead of trying to rent or buy it elsewhere.  I rented it from itunes and I`m glad I did that rather than buy it as, apart from it being much cheaper, it really is nowhere near as good as the book and goes way too fast (though the bit at the start really drags on a bit – I suppose they have to pad out him meeting his wife  played by NK who can`t possibly have too small a role in it, being who she is and the fact I suppose his wife added the only real light to his life apart from trains on which his fixation had been spoiled you could say) but no I wouldn`t recommend that film unless you`re like me and enjoyed the book so much you were curious as to how it panned out with major film actors (ones you like at least).  If you, like me, missed the chance to see it in cinema, it`s probably available in dvd stores by now or in your local library but as for buying it hmmmm no.  There is an earlier film, maybe from the 1980s, which might be more of a documentary type film and if I ever come across that I`ll watch it.  I`ve heard it is a lot better.

Anyway, on to better things and back to contemporary Japan with Hirokazu Kore-Eda.   I`ve two films lined up to watch from him, I Wish and Like Father Like Son.    I`ve read a bit about those films and have been keen to see them so looking forward to coming back into this century again film-wise.


Add comment August 29, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

Apple Trees and Persecution

Manzanar is an

apple tree though none grew

in this arid place 


As mentioned in my post about Snow Falling on Cedars, many Japanese-Americans were sent to what were called war relocation centers from 1942-1945.  I must add as an edit, that many should be most in that some were arrested out of fear they might be spies or worse (as Hatsue`s father in Snow Falling on Cedars was because he happened to have dynamite for loosening tree stumps) and kept in a separate place.   The rest were sent to these war relocation centres.

Many people tend to call these war relocation centers `concentration camps`. This term has long been under debate, even up to only two years ago.

We know concentration camps from history as places where the Nazis sent Jews and other groups, but mainly Jews, to be eventually exterminated.  Japanese-Americans were sensitive to the fact that using this term might be an affront to Jewish people who had suffered in concentration camps so, due to the fact an exhibit about the American camps at Ellis Island was about to open in 1998, and people from the AJC and the Parks Service who run Ellis Island objected to the use of `concentration camp` leaders from the Japanese-American and Jewish-American communities met to discuss what term would be best to use. According to an article on the internet, this then led to the AJC (American Jewish Committee) and the Japanese American National Museum issuing a joint statement as follows:

“A concentration camp is a place where people are imprisoned not because of any crimes they have committed, but simply because of who they are.[….] Despite differences, all had one thing in common; the people in power removed a minority group from the general population and the rest of society let it happen”.

However, this came under fire for implying that Jewish people had the monopoly on being persecuted, despite pointing out that not only Jews but other groups (Gypsies, Poles, homosexuals and political dissidents) were sent to concentration camps and that concentration camps have also been set up in other parts of the world, and other peoples have been persecuted throughout history. Therefore, in July 2012, the National Council of the Japanese American Citizens League, ratified the Power of Words handbook, calling for correct terminology that reflected the truth of the situation.

I`ve taken all this from wikipedia by the way but if you google you can find it. It goes on to say:

“According to the Power of Words handbook: “From government documents and propaganda, to public discourse and newspapers, many euphemisms have been used to describe the experiences of Japanese Americans who were forced from their homes and communities during World War II. Words like evacuation, relocation, and assembly centers imply that the United States government was trying to rescue Japanese Americans from a disastrous environment on the West Coast and simply help them move to a new gathering place. These terms strategically mask the fact that thousands of Japanese Americans were denied their right as US citizens and forcibly ordered to live in poorly constructed barracks on sites that were surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers. Although the use of euphemisms was commonplace during World War II, and in many subsequent years, we realize that the continued use of these inaccurate terms is highly problematic”.

So, to think that up to only two years ago, when this handbook was put together and ratified, people were still discussing what these centers should be called is pretty surprising. Interesting that the name of the handbook Power of Words has POW as an acronym as that is effectively what Japanese Americans were during World War II, as the living conditions were very poor and if you tried to escape you were shot on the spot by guards in watch towers.  Not quite the near-death (or actual death) situations most POWs ended up in but the threat of death was obviously the main thing in common.

A Japanese-American family saga I watched last year also devoted a large part as you would expect to the relocation centre and to the fact that many Japanese-American young men volunteered while in the relocation centers (there were ten centers altogether) to fight for America (Kazuo also does this in Snow Falling on Cedars) to prove their loyalty and the Japanese-American battalion ended up being the most decorated of all American battalions during World War II. Interesting that they wanted to and were allowed fight for the US, a country they saw as their own, despite the treatment dealt out to them for being of Japanese ancestry.  This saga dealt with other big issues that occurred within these relocation centers such as arguments among internees over black marketing of sugar and rice, people collaborating with the authorities and other issues.   There were a few things about that drama that grated on my nerves but tv dramas are a bit hard to swallow sometimes.

Earlier this year, I read a book about immigration to America through the gateway known as Ellis Island. The book was called Island of Hope, Island of Tears:The Story of Those who Entered the New World through Ellis Island - in their own words (there is also a documentary called Island of Hope, Island of Tears, I assume based on the book but not necessarily as Ellis Island was generally nicknamed the Island of Tears). Really interesting book. Immigrants from mainly Eastern Europe (escaping mostly from persecution pogroms) were interviewed for their memories of coming through Ellis Island.  Ellis Island`s main function was to process immigrants but also it seems to hold people who were suspected of being spies or other unwanted folks during World War II (or earlier), including Germans, Italians and Japanese. Ellis Island was not a war relocation centre (as these ten centers were located in California, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Arkansas) exactly but it must have been used as a camp to detain people of these three ancestral groups during the same period, hence the need by the parties I mention above to be clear on the definition of concentration camp.

The American government have long since apologised to the Japanese-American community as is right.  Things like that should never happen but sad things are still happening in the world because of one group of people or another persecuting another and making them live in miserable conditions in restricted spaces, and in some places even under daily threat that their lives will come to an end there and then.

Add comment August 29, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

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