Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Japan's election laws out of date?

Election laws in Japan differ from those in the U.S. in interesting ways. In Japan, individual candidates for public office are not allowed to run TV or radio ads. In fact, they only ways they are allowed to campaign is in person, by direct mail, and with posters. Direct mailings are limited in quantity, and the posters are limited in size and number and (usually) restricted to "official" campaign poster sites. This article, in the English-language edition of Japan's Mainichi newspaper, describes how more and more people are calling for a revision of the election laws that would permit campaigning on the Internet, among other new media.

—Mellow Monk

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

How to help Hurricane Katrina survivors has this page of charities accepting donations (and volunteers) for dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

—Mellow Monk

Those affected by Hurricane Katrina

Our hearts go out to everyone in Louisiana, Mississippi, and other areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina and the tornados. To those who made it through, we wish you a speedy recovery. To the families of those who didn't make it, please accept our deepest condolences.

If there's anything we can do to help, please let us know.

—Mellow Monk

Monday, August 29, 2005

Natural spring water, for free!

The only catch is, you have to go to Japan for it.

Here are some pictures of a spring in Aso, Japan, only a few miles from the tea estate of the Nagata Family, our growers. The sign in the picture reads "Teno no Meisui" (手野の名水), or "Famous Water of Teno." (Teno is the name of a district of Aso.)

It doesn't look like much, but the spring water that issues out of the crack in the mountain there is truly delicious. And it's free. Of course, commercial operations aren't allowed to hook up a siphon, but individuals can come with their own containers and take some of this delicious water home.

The water here tastes better than any water I've ever had. Some of the bottled water available nowadays isn't bad, either, and green tea brewed with this kind of water will taste so much better than if it's brewed with water right out of the tap.

If you've been brewing your Mellow Monk green tea with tap water, try this test: Brew your tea with bottled water (or even filtered tap water) for, say, one week. Then, try a cup or pot of tea brewed with tap water again. I think you'll taste and smell the difference.

After all, water is the life blood of green tea!

—Mellow Monk

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Friday, August 26, 2005

The official Mellow Monk tea cup!

These are picture of a prototype of the official Mellow Monk tea cup.

Actually, my daughter made this for me last Father's Day, so it's one of a kind. Isn't it great?

—Mellow Monk

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

No more anonymous postings

Well, I had to disallow anonymous comments for this blog today, because spammers were using the feature to post spam (suspicious ads and other things having nothing to do with anything on the blog). So from now on, if you'd like to post a comment, you either have to register with, or you can email the comment to me, and I'll post it myself. Sorry for the inconvenience, but removing the spam was taking too long, and I didn't want some unsuspecting blog reader to think any of that spam was something officially endorsed by Mellow Monk.

—Mellow Monk

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The importance of using good-tasting water

The water you use to brew your tea makes a big difference in the flavor and aroma of the final infusion. If your tap water has a strong chlorine smell, you might want to consider using bottled or distilled water. The test to use is this: If you don't like the taste right out of the tap, then don't use it in your tea.

—Mellow Monk

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Instructions for brewing green tea with our tea filters

(These are instructions for anyone who received a packet of our imported Japanese tea filters. These packets are free with the Mellow Monk Green Tea Starter Kit, which you can order here.)

Instructions for Brewing Green Tea with the Tea Filters

  1. Pull open the top of the filter pouch.

  2. Place your Mellow Monk green tea inside.

  3. Holding the filter with both hands, insert the tips of your thumbs into the outside flap just above the narrow horizontal strip.

  4. Push in the top corners and turn the flap portion inside-out, so that the flap covers the top opening and now lies on the other side of the filter.

  5. Tear either end of the narrow horizontal strip on the outside of the filter. (This strip is for pulling the filter out of the teacup or teapot once the tea is finished brewing. If you are brewing tea in a teapot, you can skip this step and drop the entire tea filter, strip and all, into the pot.)

  6. Place the tea filter into hot water, leaving the end of the narrow strip hanging over the side of your cup.

  7. When the tea is finished brewing, remove the filter by holding it by the narrow strip.

  8. Enjoy your tea!

—Mellow Monk

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A "broke" piggy bank

Someone sent me this under the title of "you know you're broke when..."

—Mellow Monk

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Recipe: tofu-and-egg quesadilla

Here's what I had for dinner last night: A tofu-and-egg quesadilla.

(A quesadilla is the same concept as a burrito but with the tortilla folded in half and fried in a pan until the exterior's crisp and the interior is warm.)

Here's the recipe:
You need: half a block of tofu, 3 eggs, two flour tortillas.

  1. Cut a half-block of tofu into small, roughly quarter- to half-inch cubes, and beat the three eggs in a bowl.

  2. Fry the tofu cubes for 2-3 minutes in a frying pan on medium heat.

  3. Add the egg batter to the pan.

  4. Stirring frequently, cook until you end up with ... what looks like scrambled eggs with a bunch of cubed tofu in it.

  5. Move the eggs and tofu temporarily to a plate or bowl.

  6. Fold the two tortillas in half and place edge-to-edge (so you can fry both at the same time).

  7. Fry until crispy, then flip over and repeat.

  8. If you like, add salt & pepper, hot sauce, or salsa, etc. (usually inside the quesadilla, but some prefer outside).

  9. Wash it down with a mug of freshly brewed Mellow Monk iced green tea. (See brewing instructions near the bottom of this page.)

Feeds: 2 normal human beings (or) 1 Mellow Monk

Who says Mellow Monk can't post recipes to his blog? (Replies a heckler: "Only people who've tried one of the recipes"! [rimshot])

—Mellow Monk

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Green tea vodka

Sooner or later, it had to happen: a convergence of trends. One trend is upscale vodka. The other, green tea. (Although to us, green tea isn't a "trend"; it's a permanent fixture.) The result? Green tea vodka.

As the saying goes, what will they think up next?

—Mellow Monk

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Nitrogen flushing

Someone emailed to ask whether Mellow Monk tea is packaged using nitrogen flushing. I replied "No." This person then asked if I thought that not using nitrogen flushing sacrificed the flavor of the tea. Again, I replied "No."

The reason why the Nagata family, our tea supplier, doesn't use nitrogen flushing is twofold: it's an expensive proposition for a small, family-run farm. And it's not necessary in the first place, because of the speed with which Mellow Monk tea is processed after harvest, packaged, and shipped to the consumer. Here is some of what I wrote in my response:

I honestly doubt that the absence of nitrogen flushing (which didn't exist in the first 2,000 years of tea history) is too much of a detriment to our tea. After all, our tea is vacuum sealed on site and doesn't sit in warehouses as it makes its way from one broker to another. We buy it right from the grower, and so our customers get our tea a lot more quickly after harvest than is the case with most other green tea retailers, I believe.

Nitrogen flushing might make more sense for a large-scale operation in which the tea sits in warehouses for months. But that isn't our operation at all. Great tea bought straight from the source -- that is our secret for freshness!

—Mellow Monk

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Don't forget our free shipping!

Don't forget our offer of FREE SHIPPING on all orders over $25. (I know the use of ALL CAPS is irritating, but I just wanted to remind you all.)

You don't need to click any special buttons while ordering to get free shipping. Shipping is automatically deducted when the order total exceeds $25.

—Mellow Monk

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Friday, August 12, 2005

Photos of Awa Odori in Tokushima, Japan

Here are a few pictures of the Awa Odori festival now going on in Tokushima, Japan. (The text is in Japanese, but the photos are self-explanatory.)

"Awa Odori" (阿波踊り) literally means "Awa Dance," "Awa" being the old name for the Tokushima region. This festival is held every year as part of the celebrations of Obon, one of the most important Japanese holidays of the year. The holiday began as a Buddhist ceremony to honor the spirits of deceased ancestors, but, being one of the few holidays in old Japan when most Japanese were excused from work and school, it gradually evolved into a long holiday weekend for family reunions.

Obon is celebrated at different times of the year in different parts of Japan. In Aso, where Mellow Monk gets its tea, the Obon celebration is going on this weekend.

—Mellow Monk

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

A fascinating Japanese word: "mayutsubamono"

Translated literally, the word mayutsubamono (眉唾物) means "eyebrow spit thing," or "something (mono) that calls for spit (tsuba) on the eyebrows (mayu)." The phrase traces its roots back to the belief in old Japan that rubbing spit on one's eyebrows would protect a person from being deceived by a fox or raccoon dog (tanuki). By extension, mayutsubamono came to mean a dubious claim to be regarded with suspicion.

Incidentally, in the Japan of yore, all sorts of magical powers were ascribed to foxes and other animals deemed crafty. Nowadays such beliefs have all but faded away and exist only in animated films or as the sort of statement that gets an old grandpa laughed at by his grandkids. ("Don't go out at night, or a fox will deceive you!" "Oh, grandpa, give me a break." Or maybe the kid should say, "Grandpa, that's a real mayutsubamono."

—Mellow Monk

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Charlie Nagatani: a Japanese country musician

Charlie Nagatani is a Japan-born country musician who is based in Kumamoto City, which is the largest city in the prefecture (equivalent to a state in the U.S.) of Kumamoto, where the Aso region is located. He’s been singing country music “since 1956,” according to the lyrics of his song “My Name is Goodtime Charlie,” which you can hear a long sample of here. He's also been the headliner at "Country Gold", a country music festival held every year in Aso. (Who would ever suspect that the Aso area would be home to some of Japan's best green tea and one of Japan's biggest country-music festivals?) American-style country music is a lot more popular in Japan than many people would think, as you can see from the artists listed on the home page of the above website.

—Mellow Monk

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

"Rickshaw Man," an obscure Toshiro Mifune movie

In 1958, renowned Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune appeared in the film Muhomatsu no Issho (see the Internet Movie Database page here). The title translates literally as “The Life of Matsu the Wild Man,” but it was released in the U.S. way back when under the title The Rickshaw Man.

(Below is a photo of a real rickshaw taken by famous Swiss photographer Werner Bischof.)

(Before you get too interested in the film, I should warn you that no English-subtitled or dubbed version is available in the U.S. But with more and more obscure films being released on DVD, hopefully the day is not far off when it will be.)

In the film, a poor rickshaw driver, Matsugoro (Mifune), called Matsu for short, befriends a rich customer who is taken by Matsugoro’s plain-speaking, affable personality and his optimistic outlook on his own standing in life and on things in general. Matsu is even invited to the rich man’s home, which in those days was unheard of. (When was the last time you invited your taxi driver to dinner?)

Soon, however, the man falls ill and dies. But Matsu remains friends with his widow, Yoshiko, and their son. To the son, Toshio, he’s like a father, attending school events and visiting often to encourage him and make sure he doesn’t grow up feeling abandoned. He gushes praise on Toshio for every accomplishment. (There’s a comical scene where Matsu stops his rickshaw, with a customer on board, to help Toshio fly a kite, while the enraged customer jumps up and down in the distant background.) Yoshiko deeply appreciates everything that Matsu does for her son.

Yoshiko, by the way, is classy, warm, and beautiful. But she can’t forget her late husband, whose picture she prays to daily. And she’s oblivious to the romantic feelings that Matsu eventually develops for her. Can you see where this is going?

Yes it’s corny, but it’s still a good movie. It’s got Toshiro Mifune, in his prime, in an over-the-top performance as fun-loving, hard-fighting, life-loving rickshaw driver who is also tragically resigned to his own fate. What more can you ask for in a film?

—Mellow Monk

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Green tea Arnold Palmer

An "Arnold Palmer" is a cold drink that is half iced tea and half lemonade. It's usually made with black tea, but I don't see why it couldn't be made with green tea. If any adventurous blog readers out there have tried making an Arnold Palmer with green tea, please post a comment letting everyone know what you thought of it.

—Mellow Monk

P.S. My previous posting was the 100th posting on the Mellow Monk Green Tea Blog.

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