Month: July 2012


This is:

  • A taste from heaven, handmade in Kyoto
  • A gift brought by a dear, dear friend
  • Gretchen’s favorite Japanese sweet
  • A nice little after-school snack brought up by my host mom
  • 生ハッ橋 (namayatsuhashi)

This man:

  • Founded a university in Tokyo
  • Is grumpy because he does not have enough 生ハッ橋 in his life

And now for something completely different.  My home stay city may lack some of the excitement of other parts of Tokyo, but we do have this.

(I know, I can tell you’re jealous.)

Thoughts from my commute

And some photos, too.

Crocs are not yet dead in Japan, at least not according to my informal survey of footwear on crowded trains.  Why the sudden interest in what the Japanese are wearing on their feet, you ask?  It’s born out of necessity.

If I’m lucky enough to get a standing spot in front of the seats on the Chou line, I can hoist my backpack up on the rack, then zone out and watch the Tokyo megalopolis whizzing by.  At least until it makes me dizzy.  Then I engage in some 漢字練習 (kanji practice) by attempting to read the ads posted in the trains.  (I’m not a very good Japanese consumer yet.)  Thankfully they are changed pretty regularly, so they always keep my mind working.

Anyway, back to the shoes, or more to the point, why I know that crocs are not dead.  If I’m lucky enough to snag a seat on the commute, my eyes are immediately met with a wall of Japanese midriffs lined in front of me.  And while said midriffs are some of the most nicely dressed midriffs I’ve encountered, it does make staring ahead slightly awkward, “Why hello there, handsome pair of freshly pressed pinstriped trousers!  How are we on this hot Tokyo morning?”  And since I seem incapable of napping on my commutes (which is probably best for everyone), I resort to doing what everyone else who is not playing with a smart phone or PSP does and look down.  At shoes.  Thousands and thousands of shoes I have seen.  It would make an interesting book if I could get a camera into my glasses somehow.  The shoes vary by train line and even by car.  And I can always tell when we’ve reached Ochanomizu and Akihabara, by the number of men’s business shoes that enter and exit.

In my next life, I want to be a podiatrist in Tokyo.  Judging by the shoes that the 20-something PYTs wear, they must make a fortune!

P.S.  This week (week 4, if you’re not counting) I finally figured out the optimal cars to ride on the Chuo for both morning and afternoon commutes.  This  practically insures I won’t be stuck in the dreaded door zone, from which there is no escape unless you exit the train: unable to stow my backpack and afraid to set it down, because the doors on the other side will be opening momentarily and on-rushing and off-rushing will ensue; and unable to move into a better position because of the on-rushing and off-rushing.  So, the optimal cars are?  Shall I let you in on the secret??  The key is to get as far away from any platform egress points as possible while not selecting the ladies-only car (where it’s a sure bet that you’ll never get a seat).  Most everyone in Tokyo is tired and/or in a hurry and so tends toward the quickest/easiest route, which translates to middle of the train.  Of course, my brilliant solution does NOT apply on the Chuo  line anytime after 19:00, when it’s just a crush of not-quite-sober businessmen on their way home.

P.P.S.   I was thinking it would make an interesting photo essay on the view from each car on a certain train route, as I know from experience it differs quite dramatically from car 1 to car 10.  Time to work on my photography  skills.


Only in Japan do you put your bag/backpack on a table in the cafeteria (which is, yes, open to the public) to save seats, knowing full well that it will still be there 20 minutes later once you’ve made it through the line.  And everyone else will respect that sign of seat ownership and not move said bag in order to accommodate themselves.  Politeness for the win.

This week’s cafeteria discovery: eating ご飯 (Japanese cooked white rice) is so much harder with a fork than with chopsticks.


Tonight we had 赤飯, which is rice cooked with red (adzuki) beans and served on special occasions like birthdays or weddings.  I asked my host mom if today was a special day.  No, she just wanted to make sure I had the experience of eating it, and she also wanted to give me a change from the usual white rice.

Yes, I am a lucky home stay girl.  Thank you home stay gods!


One of the small mysteries of Japan was solved for me today in my kanji class.  Since my first trip here in 2001, I’ve always wondered why KitKat candy bars are so popular here.  I see them everywhere, in seasonal flavors like blueberry and white chocolate, and have to wonder why this particular American candy bar.  But today I learned one of the reasons for their popularity.

We were discussing 丼 (donburi, or bowls of rice topped with various things) and how カツ丼 (katsudon, breaded pork cutlet on rice) was the item to eat before an exam.  カツ is a homonym for 勝つ, meaning to win.

The name KitKat, when translated into Japanese sounds a lot like きっと勝っと, which means to surely win.

I will be sure to stock up before my final exams next month.