food ideas

2017-01-15 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We've been searching for food ideas by dining at restaurants we usually don't go to because we can cook their food at home. But professional cooks do use more ingredients and present their dishes with flair. Much to learn, much to eat ...

A kushikatsu (deep-fried on-a-stick) restaurant gave me ideas that I must test and taste.

At a restaurant for okonomiyaki (pancakes made at your table with veggies, meat, fish, and eggs), we decided that mine is better!

nobuyasu is hired

2017-01-13 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Our co-teacher Nobuyasu Obata accepted a job as a law professor. Congratulations!

We met when Nobuyasu was a grad student in the school of law. He was studying to become an academic in law, not a lawyer in legal practice. He was our TA while he was a grad student, and has been our co-teacher since he earned his PhD and was hired by Hokudai as a researcher in law. Just last night he received and accepted an offer to be a law professor at a private legal college. He came to my office to deliver the fantastic news. Way to go!
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2017-01-12 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Many years ago I won a prize from the Snapple soft drink company. The reverse side (the inside side) of a bottle cap told me to mail it to the company to claim a keychain. It was my trusty keychain for many years until the carabiner and cloth strap disintegrated.

After so many washings the strap shrunk and the Snapple logo faded. Worse, the strap came apart. Need to fix it before I lose my keys!

I bought a new carabiner and fabricated a new strap from a piece of leather strap I bought at a crafts store. 30 centimeters for a bit over 300 yen!

I sewed through the stitch holes that came with the leather strap. I still managed to break a needle.

I am rather embarrassed that this simple sewing task took me more than half an hour. All my friends fabricate fancy stuff, but this is my limit! *sigh*

manga postcards

2017-01-09 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- A pleasant surprise was waiting for us when we returned to Sapporo after visiting our family in Tokyo and Kanagawa.

The Shonen Sunday manga magazine sent me 2 new year's postcards with manga art. The 1st is
"指定暴力少女しおみちゃん" (Shiomi, the organized crime girl) by Kazuro Inouye, my favorite manga artist.

The 2nd is
"Ryoko" by Kaito Mitsuhashi. This series began a few months ago. I am already taken by the artwork. Ryoko is the main character (pictured below) who hunts gigantic vegetables that have become sentient animals through botched genetic engineering. Ryoko's storyline is similar to "eat or be eaten" motif that is becoming popular, for instance by Ryoko Kui's "ダンジョン飯" (Delicious in dungeon).

Each month I send Shonen Sunday postcards hoping that I would win a prize. I did win several months ago. In December I sent 4 postcards and won 2 prizes. Thanks Shonen Sunday!

maid cafe

2017-01-04 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Our friends Mari and Steve took us to a maid cafe in Akihabara. This was our first time at a maid cafe.

Heart of Hearts maid cafe is decorated in a middle school theme. They use school furniture for tables.

The friendly and cheerful girls drew a picture of Kerochan using chocolate syrup.


A bit pricey (expect to pay 1500 hearts (1 heart = 1 yen) an hour), but all in all quite wholesome (not erotic or risqué at all), totally non-smoking, and safe for kids of all ages and genders. Seekers of
moe would enjoy it most. That would be me!

I would certainly encourage my women students to work at a maid cafe, assuming they want to. It would teach us something about customer service. In this day and age, most store people behave as vending machines. Maids at maid cafes are extroverted, energetic, charming, attentive, and take pride in making you happy. Thanks and congratulations to the hard-working young women.

automated dolls

2017-01-02 TOKYO, JAPAN -- The Yume Karakuri Ichiza (Fantasy Automated Troupe) performed at the Edo Tokyo Museum. We were mesmerized by the intricate and creative gizmos.

Automated dolls were popular attractions starting from the late Edo period. Crowds would pay to see the spring-driven robots.

The Edo Tokyo Museum recreates a period theater.

This doll brings cups of tea to you, and after you finish your drink, it takes empty cups back.

This doll nocks 4 arrows in succession, and shoots at 2 targets. It often hits them.

This doll writes 4 kanji and 2 pictures on a piece of paper placed in the frame. He is programmed using replaceable sets of 3 rotating wooden disks that control the hand movement in 3 dimensions.

The mechanical parts of automated dolls were made mostly of wood. Compared to metal gears, wooden gears tend to be bulky and imprecise. Springs were made of whale baleen. Whale baleen is now impossible to obtain, and the lack of material hinders the restoration of antique dolls. Modern automated dolls use brass springs. The non-mechanical parts -- faces, hands, hair, clothes, cabinets -- were made similarly to non-robotic dolls, just like hina dolls made today.

koto (a 13-string instrument) player that troupe leader Susumu Higashino has been building for several years. Her dress has been removed to reveal her mechanism.

Example of original baleen spring. Decay is evident.

The troupe leader Susumi Higashino was trained as a wood carver, and begun collecting antiques when he was a young man. He then spent decades discovering, restoring, and reconstructing automated dolls.

Some time ago, Susumi Higashino suffered an illness causing him to lose control of his right hand. He used his left hand to autograph his DVD for me.

The jacket from the DVD.

happy new year

2017-01-01 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Happy New Year everybody! May you all live long and prosper!

Daybreak at Mount Fuji.



Deserted streets of downtown Tokyo.

Manga and anime store at Nakano station, Tokyo.