Saturday, December 31, 2005

Dusting the shrine

This week, volunteers showed up at Aso Shrine (only a two-minute drive from where the Nagatas' tea farm is located) for the traditional end-of-the-year cleaning.


In this photo, they're using strands of wild bamboo to do the cleaning.



—Mellow Monk


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Grab that lucky bag!

A New Year's tradition at Japanese department stores is the fukubukuro, literally "lucky bag." Throngs of shoppers scramble madly for these bags, sold to commemorate the first day of business of the new year. The reason for the excitement is that although the bag's contents are not marked, fukubukuro are priced at a deep discount compared to what the items inside would normally sell for.


In other words, you may not need a purple cashmere scarf, but if find one in your lucky bag, you can rest assured that you got it at an incredible bargain.


In the photo below, an employee of Tsuruya Department Store in Kumamoto City is showing some of the 29,000 fukubukuro--that's right, 29,000 of 'em--being readied for the New Year's Day sale. The dog photos indicate that the store will also be selling live puppies by raffle. Holders of the winning tickets get to buy the normally expensive breeds at a special low price.




—Mellow Monk


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See how your gov stacks up

SurveyUSA.com has a listing of the nation's governors ranked by net approval rating in their respective states.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, December 30, 2005

Green tea stats from the Japanese gov't

According to a Dec. 19 press release from the Statistics Bureau of Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications:


Per-capita green tea purchases in Japan from January through October of this year totaled 927 grams (equivalent to a little over nine packets of Mellow Monk green tea). This was the second-highest figure in the past 5 years.


However, the total price of that tea was ¥4,551, the second-lowest figure in the past 5 years, suggesting a downward trend in prices.


As to the reason for this trend, the Bureau quoted a tea wholesaler who said people are buying more hojicha (roasted green tea) and—shudder!—bagged tea, which are less expensive than other types of tea.


Strangely, these Bureau statistics do not include genmaicha (green tea with roasted brown rice), probably because, for bureaucratic (no pun intended) reasons, it's not considered "pure" tea (i.e., it also has rice in it).


—Mellow Monk


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New Year's food-buying intensifies

In this photo, dated Dec. 29, shoppers throng the Ameyoko shopping arcade in Tokyo.



The lead-up to New Year's eve is a major shopping time in Japan, when folks buy up a lot of food in preparation for what is one of the two biggest holidays in Japan (the other being summer's Obon festival).


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Yo, sushi!

Yo! Sushi is a British chain of sushi restaurants with its sights set on expanding into the U.S..


There's one in New York City, but I'm not sure where else within our shores.


Yo! Sushi's main gimmick is a long, winding mechanical conveyor that carries the pre-prepared sushi along a winding counter, where seated customers grab what they like as it passes by.




Yo! Sushi is simply a British take on Japan's kaitenzushi (literally "revolving sushi"), which have exploded in popularity in the past 10 years as a much-cheaper alternative to traditional sushiya (sushi restaurants).




(Consequently, the sushiya are hurting big time. Many times, a sushi chef put out of business by the kaitenzushi ends up working at one. After all, the typical professional sushi chef inherited his restaurant from his father, and, having trained since early boyhood in nothing but making and serving sushi, usually has few other marketable skills.)


The kaitenzushi, by the way, are a modern twist on the traditional "sushi boat" restaurants, where diners snag sushi from tiny wooden boats that circle the sushi bar in a water-filled carousel.



In Japan, such restaurants are essentially a thing of the past, and even when they existed were probably the exclusive territory of the very well heeled, but in the U.S. they survive in touristy places like San Francisco's Japan Town (that's J-Town's Isobune Sushi shown above).


—Mellow Monk


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Japan's capsule hotels

At some point, any blog having to do with Japan is required to mention that country's capsule hotels. I have now fulfilled that requirement.


Yet despite being the butt of many jokes and the subject of much derision, capsules, by all accounts, are a convenient and inexpensive alternative to much pricier (and still by no means cavernous) hotels. A capsule can be the perfect thing when, say, you've missed the last train home after an evening of after-work revelry—which seems to be a common scenario among guests at capsule hotels.


Japan also has incredibly strict drunk-driving laws, so capsules are also convenient for drivers who've exceeded their limit.



—Mellow Monk


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Figure skater Fumie Suguri

Speaking of Japanese figure skaters, here's a recent Washington Post article on Fumie Suguri and her win at the Japan Figure Skating Championships.




—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

No such thing as a hangover cure

As New Year's eve approaches, remember: Those so-called hangover cures don't work.


—Mellow Monk


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Snails disappearing from rice paddies

Snails that used to be common in Japan's rice fields are becoming more and more scarce because of agrichemical use.


—Mellow Monk


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The world of saké

Speaking of Japanese saké, John Gauntner, who has written much about Japanese saké over the years, makes his writings available on his website, appropriately named SakeWorld.com.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, December 26, 2005

Koi website

USA Koi.com is an online koi (Japanese karp) dealership. I've never ordered from them, but I like the look of their site.


I've never kept koi myself, but until a few years ago, my in-laws had some in a pond in front of their house. Then one day, an uncle caught a fish in a nearby river and decided to put it in my in-laws' pond. It must have had some sort of disease, because within a week all the carp--some of which had lived in the pond for years-- were dead.


—Mellow Monk


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Broccoli and cancer

Here's an article on broccoli's role in preventing cancer.


—Mellow Monk


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Christmas tea field

Here's an image of a Korean tea field done up for the holidays. Click on the image to read the associated article.



—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas in Japan

Merry Christmas from everyone at Mellow Monk! And Happy Chanukah, too! (Which starts tonight this year.)


Christmas is celebrated in Japan, but obviously a little differently than in the U.S. First of all, Christmas day isn't a national holiday, so everyone does their celebrating on Christmas eve. In fact, most Japanese believe that Christmas eve is Christmas: on the 25th, people talk about Christmas as if it's already over.


Another big difference is that Christmas is less of a family holiday and more of an event for friends and young couples. Offices have office parties, and young couples go out for a night on the town.


For the typical Japanese family, a Christmas eve without a Christmas cake would be like an American Christmas without a Christmas tree. Kids in Japan usually don't get presents for Christmas, but they do expect mom or dad to bring home a cake.


Perhaps the strangest (to me) aspect of Christmas in Japan is the popularity of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yes, you read that correctly. That was not a typo. Kentucky Fried Chicken is so popular on Christmas eve in Japan that most of the KFC's shut down the eat-in area of restaurant and sell take-out orders only. Some KFC's do so much business on Christmas eve that they only sell phoned-in orders. Nine times out of ten, a surprised look is what I see on the face of a Japanese whom I tell that KFC is not standard fare on the typical American Christmas menu.


Whoever it was at KFC that pulled that one off was a marketing genius. I'd love to know the details. Another famous example of a foreign corporation artificially "creating" a custom in Japan is the De Beers diamond company and the "sweet 10 diamond ring." But that, as they say, is another story.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Figure skater Mao Asada

Last Saturday, Japanse figure skater Mao Asada outskated two-time world champion Irina Slutskaya of Russia to clinch the women's title in the Grand Prix Final, but the 15-year-old is too young—by only 87 days—to compete in the Winter Olympics.




—Mellow Monk


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Japan's merging municipalities

The Japanese government is seeking to save money by encouraging small municipalies to merge.


For instance, Mellow Monk tea comes from Aso City, itself the product of a merger last year between two neighboring towns and a village.


Also last year, voters in Yotsukaidosister city of Livermore, California (home of Mellow Monk)—rejected a proposed merger with much larger Chiba City.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, December 23, 2005

Stress-busting tips for the holidays

This article offers more than a few quick and easy tips for reducing stress at home and at the office.


I can personally vouch for the golf-balls-under-the-feet tip:


Playing footsie under your desk can feel fabulous. Just slip off your shoes and roll your bare or stocking feet over a couple of golf balls. By applying pressure to various reflex points along the sole and sides of the feet, you can relax your entire body.

—Mellow Monk


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Japan's shrinking population

Some folks are worried about Earth's ever-growing population, but Japan's population is actually starting to shrink.


—Mellow Monk


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Monk's Choice is in stock again!

I previously announced that Monk's Choice was sold out, but a new shipment just came in today.


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hagoita: decorative paddles for New Year's

Hagoita are decorative paddles, descended from working models used to knock a shuttlecock back and forth but today used as a decoration around the New Year's holiday.


A recent trend in hagoita are ones bearing the image of celebrities and other notable people. In the picture below, a company is unveiling two of its "celebrity" hagoita for this New Year's: Prime Minister Koizumi (left) and Bobby Valentine (right), the former L.A. Dodger who is now coach of Japan's Lotte Marines.



In 2003, the same company (Kyugetsu) released an Arnold Schwarzenegger hagoita, as you can see in this photo.



You can read the related article here.


—Mellow Monk


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Naomi Watts' stint in Japan

Naomi Watts, star of director Peter Jackson's King Kong, once worked in Japan briefly as a model. (This particular article focuses on what a rough childhood she had.)


Ms Watts was also in the American remake of the Japanese film The Ring.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Avoiding holiday stress, part 2

Here's more practical advice for avoiding holiday stress.


—Mellow Monk


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A volcano in the courtroom

In Japan's comedy community is a very minor comedian whose stage name is Asosan Daifunka, which literally means "eruption of Mt. Aso". It was this name that first brought him to my attention—the real Mt. Aso is the active volcano in whose shadow sits our grower's tea farm, in Aso City, Japan.


Anyhow, this article [in English] discusses Mr. Daifunka's recent "career" as a courtroom observer, sitting in on obscure trials in the hope of getting "truth is stranger than fiction"-type nuggets from the proceedings. (Such as a man who stole a car and was caught attempting to drive it to a city hundreds of miles away. To sell it? No. When the judge asked him why, he said he badly wanted to visit a memorial [Japanese only] erected to his favorite singer, the late, great Yujiro Ishihara.)


In other words, he uses the Japanese justice systems as a source of comedic material. He's even written a book [in Japanese] about some of the real-life wackiness he's observed in the courtroom.


Mr. Daifunka got his start as a courtroom observer when his boss at the talent agency where he works sent him to observe the trial of Shoko Asahara, head of the cult that launched the sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway back in 1995.


Here's his page [in Japanese] at the website of the talent agency that employs him.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Humor: Lazy Sunday

I haven't watched "Saturday Night Live" in years, but I came across this recent segment, called "Lazy Sunday," and it's hilarious: two wannabe tough guys (Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg) rap about something very un-tough: a Sunday afternoon odyssey to pick up some snack foods and see The Chronicles of Narnia at the theater.


Listen for the line "It's all about the Hamiltons."


—Mellow Monk


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Shirt-folding trick from Japan

Here's a video showing a nifty trick for quickly and perfectly folding a shirt.


—Mellow Monk


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"Trojan cells" treat brain diseases from the inside

Scientists have engineered cells that, after being injected into the bloodstream, are able to sneak through the blood-brain barrier and into the brain, where they then produce drugs that can "protect and regenerate the part of the brain that is damaged in Parkinson’s disease."


—Mellow Monk


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Green tea Q&A

Diet guru Charles Stuart Platkin answers some basic questions about green tea and health.


—Mellow Monk


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Arthritis cure in 10 years?

The article's lead-in:

Scientists are predicting a “cure” for arthritis within the next decade after they successfully grew human cartilage from a patient’s own stem cells for the first time.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, December 19, 2005

Einstein in Japan

A museum in Tokyo today opened an exhibit on Albert Einstein's 1922 trip to Japan.


This year is also the World Year of Physics, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Einstein's publication of three of his most groundbreaking papers.


—Mellow Monk


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Monk's Choice is sold out!

Today we ran out of Monk's Choice green tea, which means that our Green Tea Starter Kit, which contains one packet of Monk's Choice, is also temporarily unavailable.

I apologize to any and all who were about to replenish their private supply or try Monk's Choice for the first time. We simply underestimated the demand for our tea, which has spiked noticably in the past couple of months.

But rest assured—the tea is crossing the Pacific Ocean as you read this and will hopefully arrive any day now.


—Mellow Monk


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Panoramic view of Paris at night

Here's a super-high-resolution panoramic view of Paris at night. (This 1.8-megabyte image may take a while to load, depending on your connection.)


—Mellow Monk


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Scuba pics

Here are more mellowness-inducing photographs: the winners of Scuba Diving magazine's 2005 photo contest. Here's one example:




—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, December 18, 2005

New and improved Asimo robot

Honda has released the second generation of its robot Asimo, who can now "push a cart weighing up to 22 pounds ... [and] grip and carry a tray of drinks, placing it safely on a table."


—Mellow Monk


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Single-serving sake

A traditionally popular drink among Japan's oyaji (older guys) is sake in single-serving cups with a peel-off lid. Pass by a popular riverside fishing spot, for instance, and you're bound to see a couple of empties.


Now, Japan's sake brewers are trying to spark a trend among the young and influential by releasing some of their upmarket brands in single-serving cups, which customers say they find less intimidating than the big 1.8-liter bottles in which sake is normally sold.


—Mellow Monk


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Mellowness-inducing nature photographs

Nature photographer Dan Baumbach has posted some of his photographs at timelesslight.com. Your green tea break is sure to be enhanced by beautiful, inspiring photos like this one:




—Mellow Monk


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Friday, December 16, 2005

"Geisha" controversy, redux

I already discussed the controversy about Memoirs of a Geisha in a previous posting


This commentary in the International Herald Tribune provides more background on the issue.


—Mellow Monk


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Recipe: Honey-garlic green-tea shrimp

Here's a recipe for honey-garlic green-tea shrimp.


—Mellow Monk


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Japan's new national museum

Japan's first new national museum in 108 years, the Kyushu National Museum, opened recently in Fukuoka, only a couple hours' drive from Aso (home of Mellow Monk green tea) on the island of Kyushu.

(The museum's website is in Japanese, although there is an English PDF page.)


The museum's current major exhibit is titled "China, Crossroads of Culture." The island of Kyushu is a fitting location for such an exhibit, having served in Japan's ancient past as Japan's gateway to China and as a conduit for the latter's too-numerous-to-count influences on Japan.


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Lee Miller: a book and photographs

The Economist has a review of Carolyn Burke's biography of photographer Lee Miller, titled Lee Miller: A Life.


You can view some of Ms. Miller's work online here, at the Lee Miller Archive.


Click on the cover image below to view Amazon.com's listing of Lee Miller: A Life.




—Mellow Monk


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Award-winning wildlife photos

These are the winners of National Wildlife magazine's annual photography competition.


—Mellow Monk


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The joys of electric kettles

I recently switched from a plastic to a stainless-steel electric kettle, like this one: (Click the image to visit the Amazon.com listing.)

Most (if not all) electric kettles shut off automatically once the water begins to boil, so you don't have to worry about the water boilding down. Note that this isn't a thermos, but a self-contained kettle, with a base that plugs into an electric outlet and heats the water to boiling when you press the switch.


The kettle itself separates cordlessly from the base, so that once the water has boiled, you can take the kettle to wherever you need it.


A stainless-steel kettle keeps boiled water hot a lot longer than a plastic one does. On the one hand, you have to wait longer for the water to cool to the right temperature for tea, but on the other hand, if you drink your first cup of tea quickly enough, the water will still be hot enough for a second cup.


When getting a new kettle, you can use a cooking thermometer to see how long you need to wait after boiling for the water to cool to the right temperature, between 165 and 185 degrees F (which can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes). After boiling, you can remove the kettle's lid to speed up cooling.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Stress: the briefer the better

This article makes a simple distinction between good stress and bad stress:

To understand the difference between good stress and bad stress, said neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky, consider the fact that a roller coaster ride lasts for three minutes, not three days.

—Mellow Monk


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Wagashi: traditional Japanese sweets

Wagashi are traditional Japanese ("Wa") sweets ("gashi") still available today from finer confectioners.


Like traditional Japanese food, wagashi goes great with green tea!


—Mellow Monk


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Green tea and ovarian cancer

A study conducted in Sweden finds that drinking two or more cups of green or black tea every day may reduce the risk of invasive epithelial ovarian cancer by half.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Detailed account of a murderous Japanese cult

Remember Aum Shinri Kyo, the cult that launched the sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway back in 1995 (among other crimes)?


Here's a detailed account of the crime. This includes a background on the cult's founder, who, it turns out, was a childhood bully who grew up dreaming of get-rich-quick schemes.


—Mellow Monk


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A treadmill bike?

If you can have a stationary bicycle, then why not a moving treadmill?


If Dr. Seuss were still alive, maybe he would have thought of it first.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, December 12, 2005

Bonkei: landscapes in a tray

Most folks have heard about bonsai, but what about bonkei?


Both terms share the component "bon," meaning tray. The difference is that in a bonsai, a single miniature tree cultivated ("sai") in the tray is the star attraction, whereas bonkei combine rocks and even smaller plants to create a miniature landscape ("kei").


Click on the bonkei picture below to view a photo gallery of bonsai and bonkei.




—Mellow Monk


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Self-healing paint

The automaker Nissan recently announced it has developed a self-healing coating for automobile paint jobs. It's actually a transparent resin applied over ordinary auto body paint. When scratched, the resin gradually flows back into the tiny grooves, filling in the scratch.


This achievement is a good idea of thinking outside the box: Unlike other companies, which thought the solution to scratches was to develop the hardest, most scratch-resistant paint or coating possible, these researchers turned the problem on its head and developed a coating that is just fluid enough to gradually flow back into any scratches in the surface.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Japan's skinny little "competitive eater"

Japan's Takeru Kobayashi (all 172 pounds of him) out-ate heftier competitors to win the Krystal Square Off World Hamburger Championship for the second year in a row.


Mr. Kobayashi also holds the title of hot-dog eating champ after winning Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest at Coney Island, New York.


—Mellow Monk


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"Memoirs of a Geisha" controversy

Relations between Japan and China haven't been exactly cosy lately, and the film Memoirs of a Geisha isn't helping.


Some in Japan are upset that the three female leads, whose characters are Japanese, are all played by non-Japanese. (Ironically, though, the film was produced by Sony Pictures.) And the Chinese are upset that one of these leads, Zhang Ziyi, China's best-known actress, is depicted as having an affair with a Japanese man.


As for the former beef, my guess is that those bankrolling the film wanted actresses with international box office clout, and that's what they found in Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers), Michelle Yeoh (from all those Jackie Chan flicks), and Gong Li (Farewell My Concubine). Let's face it—Japanese cinema hasn't produced any international stars of the fairer sex lately.


Perhaps if Memoirs of a Geisha were filmed in the early '80s, the role of Sayuri would have gone to Yoko Shimada from Shogun.


China's beef can be understood in the context of the Japanese government's failure to come clean about its imperialistic past. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine are only fanning the flames.


But controversy like this always seems to translate into big bucks at the box office, doesn't it.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, December 09, 2005

Does this throne make me look fat?

The debate in Japan is intensifying over whether to allow a woman to ascend Japan's imperial throne.


Japanese law has long stipulated succession along the male line, but the current crown prince and his younger brother have only daughters.


In a previous posting I wrote that a government advisory committee recommended resolving the uh-oh-no-male-heirs crisis by allowing an emperor's daughter to sit on the Chrysanthumum Throne. That, however, was only a recommendation; it hasn't become official yet. A change to Japan's constitution will have to be made. (A very big deal.)


Incidentally, the only other alternative to passing the baton--or royal scepter, as it were--to a princess would be to re-royalize a branch of the Emperor's family that was de-royalized at the end of World War II. (The whole royalty thing had just gotten out of hand, you know.) A male descendent of people obviously not well-connected enough at war's end could be declared His Royal Highness the Crown Prince.


However, the advisory committee members must have known that such an act might make the common folk do some pondering. "If a royal could become a commoner," the thinking might go, "and then go back to royalty again, why couldn't an ordinary guy or gal who was always a commoner become royalty?"


Who knows what thought processes would be unleashed by such an epiphany. Fortunately for all concerned, however, public-opinion surveys are showing that the people would much rather see the royal throne occupied by a woman who was born a princess than by a man who was born a commoner.


The whole succession question wouldn't come to a head until after the current Crown Prince takes the place of his father, the Emperor, who himself isn't even that old. (Well, to a fourteen-year-old like my daughter he's old, but then again so is everyone over the age of twenty-two.) In other words, a succession crisis isn't around the corner, but then again--and say this with a proper British accent--one must plan ahead for such things, wouldn't you agree?


—Mellow Monk


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Cancer: how it spreads

The ability of cancerous tumors to spread through the body (metastasize) is what makes the disease so hard to treat. Scientists used to assume that tumors metastasize when individual cells break off from the main tumor and are carried by the bloodstream to other sites in the body.


However, a landmark study published in Nature has observed, for the first time ever, an important part of the actual metastasis mechanism, and it's not that simple.


In a nutshell: Before "emissary" cancer cells break off, the main tumor releases chemicals called growth factors into the blood. The growth factors induce certain cells in the body to produce a protein called fibronectin, which binds those cells together into a nest-like structure. This structure then attracts a certain type of bone marrow cell, completing the "nest." It's at this point that the tumor releases individual cells, which settle into the nest and begin forming a new tumor.


The potential for a huge breakthrough in cancer treatment lies in finding ways to block the growth factors involved or other steps in the metastisization process.


The full text of the article is available on the Nature website here.


—Mellow Monk


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You know healthcare in America is getting expensive when...

...more and more Americans are going overseas for surgery.


This story reminds me of a guy I know who, during his wandering-the-earth days, worked as a dental assistant at a private practice in Hungary. The good doctor there treated a lot of patients from Germany, Italy, and other Western European countries. They made the trip to Hungary for the über-cheap (relative to Western Europe) dental care there.


This particular dentist also liked watching war movies while working. I'm not making this up.


—Mellow Monk


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Snowskiing in the desert

It's possible, if you've got the green (and I'm not talking about tea). Click on the photo to see more pics and an article about the facility, in Dubai.



—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Monster jellyfish attack Japan!

Well, these Echizen jellyfish aren't really attacking, but they are monstrously big. (Click on the picture to read more.)



—Mellow Monk


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Sushi: the art of ordering, eating, and paying for it

Here's a hilarious, documentary-style comic short about eating sushi at a Japanese sushiya (sushi restaurant). The short, in Japanese with English subtitles, uses subtle humor to poke fun at the mannerisms of the Japanese.


And no, you're really not supposed to eat that salt!


—Mellow Monk


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Calvin and Hobbes for the holidays

What would the holiday season be without the Calvin and Hobbes snowman series?


—Mellow Monk


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360-degree panoramic pics

Now this is cool: BigEyeInTheSky.com, where you can view panoramic shots of places like Niagara Falls, Mt. Rushmore, and modern-day Deadwood, South Dakota.


Scroll horizontally and vertically through each 360-degree image using the left and right or up and down arrow keys on your keyboard.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Space-age one-seater

Toyota's i-unit, a space-age one-seater still in the prototype stage, was chosen as one of Time magazine's best inventions of 2005.


—Mellow Monk


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Thai cooking and the Mellow Monk philosophy

This chef's description of the philosophy of Thai cooking is similar to the Mellow Monk philosophy of green tea:


Don't sweat the details. Don't worry too much about measuring with a cup or scale or about timing with a stopwatch. Learn, in the case of green tea, to make the tea-brewing process intuitive, so that it all becomes second nature—how much tea to use, how long to let the water cool after boiling, and how long to let the tea brew, for instance. Brewing and drinking green tea is not supposed to be an exercise in replicating someone else's instructions. Green tea time is supposed to be a time to let go and relax.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"The Day After Tomorrow"?

The Economist has a slightly technical (which is better than overly simple) article on climate changes in England that could be caused by changes to the Gulf Stream—specifically, a portion of the Gulf Stream known as the Atlantic Conveyor Belt, in which warm surface water flows from the Gulf of Mexico northward towards Norther Europe. After releasing its heat there, it sinks, being denser. Deep below the ocean's surface, this cold, dense water then flows back to the warmer south, where it is re-heated to being the cyle again.


Interesting stuff.


—Mellow Monk


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Ai Miyazato, Japan's female golf sensation

If you know your golf, you'll know that it's an impressive accomplishment to win the LPGA qualifier (a.k.a. "Q-school") by 12 strokes, which is what Japan's 20-year-old female golf sensation Ai Miyazato did.


Here's an NY Times article about her.


—Mellow Monk


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Stress blocks healing

Stress is no joke:

The stress caused by a 30-minute row with a spouse is enough to slow wound healing by a day, U.S. researchers say.

But here comes green tea to the rescue: The amino acid theanine, found in green tea, has been found to boost alpha brain waves.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, December 05, 2005

Study on green tea and breast cancer

The November 2005 issue of the journal Carcinogenesis reports on a University of Minnesota meta-analysis of 13 separate studies showing that consumption of green tea lowers the risk of breast cancer.


—Mellow Monk


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Photos for mellowing out

Travel is a great way to mellow out, and so is looking at nicely taken photographs, so Iwan Baan's travel photographs are doubly mellowing.


—Mellow Monk


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Tofu candles

Just when you thought the New Agers had run out of things to make out of soy, they come up with one more: candles.


All joking aside, though, soy candles are supposed to be superior to traditional paraffin candles in many ways.


—Mellow Monk


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Add phonetic marks to kanji automatically

An amazing site for those learning Japanese: "Hiragana Megane." Enter the URL of a Japanese-language page, and it adds hiragana (phonetic symbols) above all of the kanji.


—Mellow Monk


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Rattenberg says, Let there be light

Rattenberg, Austria, is a town that's stuck in the shadow of a mountain all winter long. After hundreds of years of complaining, the townsfolk have decided to take the drastic step of constructing giant mirrors on a nearby hillside to reflect precious sunlight into town.


So while the denizens of Rattenberg are going to such extraordinary lengths to get their winter sunlight, let us all pause a moment to remember how important that daily dose of sunlight is for our all-around well-being. At work, for instance, the cold may make us less likely to go for that lunchtime walk, but we need to balance comfort with our body's need for good old natural sunlight.


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Coping tools website

The website coping.org lists various online resources for "coping with a variety of life's stressors." This site is a tie-in with the Tools for Coping series of manuals by James J. Messina.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, December 02, 2005

Flippered friends reduce stress

Speaking of dolphins, here's more proof that pets are a great stress-reducer: A study showed that swimming with dolphins helped patients with clinical depression.


These results remind me of another study, which showed that heart-attack survivors experienced reduced stress levels when they participated in an animal-assisted therapy program that invovled visits from dogs.


—Mellow Monk


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Social enterprises

Here is the Economist's take on social enterprises.


As for what exactly "social enterprises" are...


No specific legal form fully captures the concept. Social enterprises sit on a sliding scale between those that are “social” because of the products they sell, to those that are social because of the people they employ or the way they are organised.


Cafédirect, a business created by Oxfam, a charity, sells only coffee for which growers have received a fair wage. It is now one of the biggest coffee brands in Britain. Farther along the scale is Fifteen, a restaurant started by Jamie Oliver, a television chef. It serves food prepared by young people who have known homelessness, unemployment, drugs and alcohol to Londoners pleased to pay £24 ($41) for a main course. Employees are encouraged eventually to down their pecorino graters and start up their own restaurants. Farther still is Daily Bread, a bakery business in Cambridgeshire with strong Christian values which employs staff who have a history of mental illness and other problems. It pays workers and bosses the same wage.


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, December 01, 2005

See the world without leaving your chair

Here's a great mellow-out site: Google Sightseeing, which posts images of well-known structures, landmarks, and other tourist spots as seen in satellite photos.


Stressed out? Take a five-minute break and go sightseeing in Japan.


—Mellow Monk


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Sumo, short and sweet

Here's a good beginner's guide to sumo (the actual title is "Beginner's Guide of Sumo").


—Mellow Monk


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