Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Safety Improvement

I noticed a new sign in the city of Handa, near where I work, indicating sea level.  In a addition to Japanese, I was surprised the sign  provided information in English and Spanish.
This sign is a few blocks west of an inlet to Miwaka bay and a little north of the Philippine sea and the Tokai fault.  The sign is meant to serve as a warning.  In the event of an earthquake, a tsunami might happen and I need to find higher ground quick, if I happen to be in the area.  Higher ground is about a 3 minute bike ride or 10 minute walk.  The way the sign is position, you can only see during your move to higher ground.
Where I live in downtown Nagoya, it's about 14 meters above sea level and far from any body of water.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cooking Mochi

The previous post described the best way to get mochi (gather in a crowd people, catch the mochi when other people throw it at you).  I was able to collect about a kilo of mochi, now it's time to eat.
Above is two pieces of the mochi, it is very hard before cooking.  There are many ways to prepare mochi, I'm going to try heating it in the oven below.  I first set it at 230C for 2 minutes, this turned out not to be long enough, I ended up heating it for about 7 minutes.
Below is kinako, or soybean flour, it is mixed with sugar and used as a topping on mochi.
As the mochi cooks it starts to blow up.  The bubbles are mostly air though, this is a good sign that cooking is done.
Below is the finished mochi with kinako on top.  YUM!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Raining Mochi!

For the second time, I revisited the Doburoku festival located on the south side of Aichi, like the first visit they were serving free sake and monsters were smacking the evil out of kids.
I was able to purchase a second little cup for sake, turns out this thing is great for serving sauce during dinner.  The main-monk got in on the free sake service as they were closing up shop for this part of the festival.
Below, these two were dancing to live music inside one of the shrines.
Last time, I left Doburoku around 1pm because there were other events going on and I was unaware of the 3pm throwing of mochi (Japanese rice ball).
Below, each Japanese bucket on the platform is filled with mochi, I showed up about about 15 minutes before it started raining mochi, when I got there I was kind of surprised how few people there was.
But it did not take long for everyone else to show up, blow is about 10 minutes before the event started.  Throwing mochi and doburoku has happen here for over 500 years.
The MC explaining what's about to happen, I had no clue what he was saying.  People around me warned me to safely place my glasses in my jacket, but I did not understand why.
Right at 3pm, they stated to throw mochi and everyone got crazy.  People become really aggressive in their efforts to get mochi, people were unable to getup once they fell on the ground.
The aggressive behavior of getting mochi was not really a big deal to me, I was larger than most people around me, I was able to maintain myself.  I did have one issue though, the mochi is really hard, kind of like little rocks.  When they first started to throw the mochi, I was not quite ready and one brick hit me in the left-eye.  I was lucky, I did not get a black-eye. 
Here is a panorama photo to get an idea how many people were fighting for mochi. I think most people in the crowd got mochi too.
Below is me, a little shaken up after battle.
 My mochi haul, hidden away in my jacket.
 Not bad!
Quick video:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


For the first time in a long time I participated in a 'chip time' 5K, my first timed run in Japan.  This race was actually a 25K relay, over 750 teams of five people each, each person responsible for 5K.  
The relay was held in a large park east of Nagoya called Mori-koro, the site of the 2005 World Expo.  Many Japanese companies sponsor internal sports competition where coworkers train throughout the year to compete against each other, running and baseball are popular.  In this case, most of the 750+ teams were from a single large corporation in Japan and the large company invited us to join.  This was the first time I took part in an event like this, and I guess they did  not fear the extra competition.  And they were right, we were slow, my official chip was  26:23 and our team time was 2:04:01.... but good enough to finish in the top 89%.  I was last to run for our team, when I was passed that baton, other team's 5th runners were all ready passing the finish line.
Above is the route through Mori-koro park, great route through a paved forest path.  I also started to run with the Nike+ chip in my shoe, fun, but almost too much data.  I hope use of the chip will provide some motivation to improve my 5K time.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

First Snow of 2012

This past Thursday was the city of Nagoya first snow of 2012.
About 15cm accumulated in the city center and almost none outside the city.  My normal 40 minutes train commute to work took about 2 hours because of delays.
By Saturday morning, most of the snow was melted.