Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tough times for Japan's stewardesses

Lower pay, longer hours, less job security—being a flight attendant in Japan isn't what it used to be.



Ah, the good old days.


—Mellow Monk


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Green tea, the "official" beverage of the New York Yankees clubhouse

Who would have ever thought: Green tea is now the beverage of choice for more than a few players in the New York Yankees clubhouse. Even manager Joe Torre drinks pints of green tea each day. Says Torre, "It's become more a part of our lifestyles."


Torre made the switch to green tea after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and his doctor gave him a list of antioxidant-rich foods—including green tea.


But green tea isn't just healthy; it may also improve athletic performance:


[O]ne study that appeared in the online edition of the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology found regular use of green tea extract might improve endurance.

Play ball!


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tea is healthier than water

Researchers publishing their results in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition not only dispel the common misconception that tea dehydrates; they also state that tea is even healthier than water.



And it's even healthier if it's green. And don't forget to hold the milk.


—Mellow Monk


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The Kurosawa/Mifune classic "Yojimbo"

Princeton professor Michael Wood writes an excellent review of the film Yojimbo, directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune, two powerhouses in the pantheon of Japanese cinema.



The great Toshiro Mifune as the lone swordsman Sanjuro in the Kurosawa classic Yojimbo.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, February 26, 2007

Crusading against the jerk at work

Speaking of the workplace, who knows how much work-related stress out there is caused by the "jerks at work." Stanford University professor Robert Sutton is on a crusade against workplace bullies, whom he refers to with an unprintable term that is also in the title of his book on the subject.



Professor Sutton helps companies filter out toxic employees.


—Mellow Monk


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Six steps to a stress-free career

These six steps to a stress-free career are written for scientists but apply to everyone in the working world.


Like too many people out there, however, the article's author overlooks an important stress-busting tip: the green tea break.


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Green tea fights bladder cancer

A study published in a recent issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research shows that green tea can help prevent bladder cancer, which, surprisingly, is "the fifth most common cancer in the United States, with about 56,000 new cases diagnosed each year."


Actually, researchers in this study used green tea extract, but let's remember that the extract is a subset of all the wonderful natural compounds contained in brewed green tea. Scientists are only now beginning to identify and understand those compounds. Who knows what they are overlooking now? Pop a green-tea pill and you may be missing some as-yet-undiscovered compound. Drink an infusion of natural green tea, and you're getting all of nature's bounty.


Besides, a cup of hot green tea tastes much better than a pill. It's more relaxing, too.


—Mellow Monk


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Preserving Japan's traditional homes

In rural Japan, more and more old-fashioned minka (country homes) are falling into disrepair as young people leave for the big city in droves. Many homes are also being torn down to make way for modern-style houses or even golf courses or strip malls.


Architect Yoshihiro Takishita is part of a growing movement to preserve this important part of Japan's architectural tradition.



Architect Yoshihiro Takishita's centuries-old "minka" farmhouse.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, February 24, 2007

American sushi chefs

Sushi is getting so popular in the United States that Japan can no longer meet the demand for qualified itamae (sushi chefs). Consequently, restaurants are turning to sushi chefs who, although trained here, come originally from anywhere from Vietman to El Salvador.


The article also features a colorful, mouth-watering sushi slideshow.



Sushi chefs aren't just from Japan anymore.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, February 23, 2007

Princess book stirs controversy

The Japanese government is hopping mad over an Australian journalist's highly unauthorized book about Japan's reclusive Princess Masako.



The Aussie author's book is about as flattering as this photo.


—Mellow Monk


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Matsuzaka's gyroball: myth or reality?

The Red Sox have paid a lot of money for pitching sensation Daisuke Matsuzaka. What they're hoping to get is his "ghost pitch," also known as the gyroball, supposedly the first new pitch in the major leagues since the split-fingered fastball, adopted about 30 years ago.


But a lot of pundits are wondering if the gyroball is even real.



The alleged "gyroball" explained.


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Japan's "spy phone" reads invisible messages

It sounds like something straight out of a James Bond movie: a camera that can decode messages that are invisible to the human eye.



Why is this guy scanning ads for women's clothing?


—Mellow Monk


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Napping is good for the heart

From the BBC:

A six-year Greek study found that those who took a 30-minute siesta at least three times a week had a 37% lower risk of heart-related death.


I'm not "sleeping." I'm promoting good heart health.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Green tea fights prostate cancer

A study done at the University of Wisconsin is one of many showing that green tea can prevent prostate cancer.


Researchers found that epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a polyphenol found only in green tea, inhibits tumor growth and metastasis (spread) and also induces apoptosis—cancerous cells "commit suicide" while healthy cells are left alone.



A cup a day keeps the doctor away.


—Mellow Monk


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Japan's seniors go Robocop

Researchers at Tsukuba University have developed a robotic suit that gives the wearer extra strength by assisting limb movement. As early as next year, the suit may be available for lease (primarily to seniors) for as little as $500 a month.



Now grandma will be able to load those 50-pound bags of dog food into the trunk by herself.


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Drink green tea to be sexy

It's a bit of a stretch, but here goes:


Nutritionist Joy Bauer lists foods that made you sexy, including green tea, which "helps combat bad breath and also contains fluoride."



Sing it now: "I'm too sexy for my ... bell pepper?"


—Mellow Monk


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Pictures of the QE2 visiting the City by the Bay

Photos of the Queen Mary 2 making its first-ever port of call at San Francisco.



That's one big boat.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Yakuza war rocks Japan

It's right out of one of Japan's bloody yakuza (mobster) movies:


On February 5, Ryoichi Sugiura, a captain of the Sumiyoshi-kai—Japan's second-largest crime syndicate—was found shot to death in his car.


Within hours, someone fired shots into the offices of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest crime family. (You read that correctly: Japan's crime families maintain undisguised offices.) Two members of the Sumiyoshi-kai were arrested soon afterwards.


On February 8, representatives of the two families met and apparently reached a peace agreement, with the Yamaguchi-gumi admitting fault.


Then, on the 15th, the oyabun (godfather) of a Yamaguchi-affiliated organization, 70-year-old Kazuyoshi Kudo, was found dead of apparent suicide.


Mr. Kudo's group, the Tokyo-based Kokusui-kai, had been aligned against the Yamaguchi-gumi from its founding in 1958 until 2005, when Boss Kudo switched sides and swore allegiance to the Kobe-based Yamaguchi-gumi.


Yakuza experts cite this switch as proof of the Yamaguchi-gumi's intentions to expand into Tokyo, traditionally the Sumiyoshi-kai's turf. Authorities blame these expansion attempts as the cause of an upswing in yakuza-on-yakuza violence of late.


What these guys need to do is have some green tea and mellow out.


Not that I would say that to their faces, of course...



The fateful car.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, February 16, 2007

Brew "green" green tea with Eco Kettle

As a regular user of electric kettles to boil water for green tea, I can attest to their convenience. Not only that, but there is a wide range of electrical kettles available.


Focusing on the fact that most people usually boil more water than they need, a British firm has designed Eco Kettle, which has a boiling chamber that is separate from the main water reservoir. That way, you can boil only the exact amount of water you need.


True, you can always conserve energy with your standard kettle by filling it up with only as much water as you need. But if, say, you are in an office environment and your water source is far from where your kettle is located, Eco Kettle would save you from making unnecessary trips to your water source.


This can either be a good or bad thing. Sometimes, having to fetch water is a good excuse to get up and stretch your legs. On the other hand, Eco Kettle's combination of convenience and saving energy is undoubtedly hard to resist for many of us.


There's only one catch: The price tag.



The Eco Kettle


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Toyota's hybrid sports car

At the Detroit Auto Show, Toyota unveiled the Toyota FT-HS Hybrid Sports Concept, which is described by some as a "Prius on steroids."





—Mellow Monk


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Stress busters that work

This article contrasts old stress busters with new ones. For instance:

Old stress buster: After a harried day at work, you come home and start in on the French bread until you are in a carb-induced coma. ...


New solutions: Instead of stuffing yourself with that loaf of bread, take a hot bath or shower to relax your muscles and mind.





—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Green tea controls prostate cancer

A study done at the University of Wisconsin and Case Western Reserve University found that the polyphenols in green tea fight the proliferation and spread of prostate tumor cells.


—Mellow Monk


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Chinese descendents of long-lost Romans?

In Liqian, a settlement in north-western China on the fringes of the Gobi desert, many locals have unmistakable "western characteristics — green eyes, big noses, and even blonde hair — mixed with traditional Chinese features."


Right now, DNA tests are being conducted to test a theory first proposed in the 1950s: that these residents of Liqian are descended from Roman soldiers.



I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, February 12, 2007

She lost 20 pounds by switching to green tea

A reader of Sally Squires's "Lean Plate Club" tells Sally how she lost 20 pounds by switching to green tea:

Fairfax, Va: Sally,

I've lost 20 pounds in the past month. How did I do it ? You'll be amazed.

I substituted green tea for coffee, soda and whatever. I drink between 2-3 liters of green tea during the day and nothing else. Let me tell you, my pants fit a whole lot better now.

I wouldn't have believed it unless I did it myself.

Sally Squires: Another great example of finding what works for you. Thanks for weighing Fairfax and congratulations on those 20 pounds!

Switching to green tea is also the advice that Dr. Nicholas Perricone gave Oprah.


—Mellow Monk


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Japanese brewery unveils "bilk," a beer-milk mixture

A brewery in Hokkaido—Japan's dairy powerhouse—has come up with a beer-and-milk mixture which they've dubbed bilk.



Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and try our new "bilk."


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Eating tea in outer space

On the International Space Station, an American astronaut demonstrates how to squeeze blobs of tea out of a "tea bag" (literally a plastic bag of liquid tea) and eat them with chopsticks.





—Mellow Monk


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Japanese husbands celebrate "Beloved Wives Day"

January 31st was the second annual "Beloved Wives Day" in Japan. On this day, husbands are supposed to pay extra attention to the missus and do things they don't usually do, such as say "I love you."



A traditional Shinto wedding procession.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, February 10, 2007

More about Okinawan green tea

Another reader has written asking about Okinawan green tea. Here's the original query, along with my reply.

Dear Mellow Monk,

What does "Okinawan tea" mean? Which tea is more effective to lose weight?

Sourayya

Hi, Sourayya.

Thanks for your question.

Okinawan tea is simply green tea that's been slightly fermented, like Oolong tea and English tea are. However, since it's fermented, Okinawan green tea actually has less of the green tea polyphenols that are so healthy for you. And as for its weight-loss effects, no one has even produced any evidence that slightly fermented green tea is better than traditional, non-fermented green tea like Mellow Monk's.

I hope this answers your question. Here is a blog posting I wrote on the topic, with links to other postings about green tea and weight loss.

Please let me know if I can answer any other questions.

Sincerely,
Mellow Monk


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, February 09, 2007

Photos of the Japanese countryside

This collection of photos of rural Japan contains some very nice shots. (Unfortunately, the site didn't allow me to display any below; you have to go there and see for yourself.)


—Mellow Monk


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A relaxing dip in an old-fashioned bath house

A staff writer for the English version of Asahi Newspaper describes a nice, relaxing dip in a small local sento (public bath house).



The tile mural on the wall of a public bath house. Note, at the bottom of the picture, the low-to-the-ground faucets. This is where bathers, sitting on small stools, wash up before getting into the water.


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sumo wrestler raises accusations of match-fixing

Match-fixing in sumo? Say it ain't so!



A legitimate win, or...


—Mellow Monk


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Artist creates kanji from English letters

Artist Kunishige Tomomi fuses Japanese kanji (Chinese idiograms) with the English alphabet to create what she calls Eekanji— kanji created with the English word that corresponds to that kanji in meaning.


The photo below shows the artist with a piece in which the kanji for "revolution" is allegedly created with the letters of the same English word.



Can you see the word "revolution" in there?


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

In Japan, the world's oldest person celebrates

It's official: The Guinness Book of World Records has certified 114-year-old Yone Minagawa as the world's oldest person.



With help from the staff at her rest home, the world's oldest woman celebrates the honor. The placard she's holding reads "Congratulations on your world record."


—Mellow Monk


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Intensity of waking hours affects sleep

A paper published in the journal Sleep states that "wakefulness associated with exposure to an enriched environment and with high levels of exploratory activity" is more likely to lead to a good night's sleep.


What this implies is that passive activities, such as watching TV, are more likely to lead to a restless night's sleep.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Japanese school kids get free green tea

Students at an elementary school in Japan now can drink all the natural, unsweetened, freshly brewed green tea they want, thanks to a new cold-tea dispenser officially unveiled on January 23.


Installed at Tsuruta Elementary School No. 1 in Tsuruta City, Shizuoka Prefecture, the dispenser brews a fresh, hot infusion each morning from locally grown tea. The tea is then chilled and stored in a 50-gallon tank. The tea is dispensed through an ordinary faucet, so all the kids have to do is turn the handle to get a cup of fresh, healthy green tea.


Safety concerns are, I assume, what compelled school administrators to opt for chilled tea instead of the piping-hot variety. However, since the tea is brewed fresh on site every morning, it's rich in EGCG and other catechins, which begin to break down within hours of brewing.


This model of tea brewer/chiller/dispenser was first installed in Uji City, in Kyoto, but this marks the first purchase by a local government.


(The original article, published in Japanese at Shizuokaonline.com, is no longer available online, although the photo below still is. [Whoops, make that was. It's gone as of 2/12.])



Elementary students line up for fresh, cold, free green tea.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, February 05, 2007

Is it green tea's time?

A food critic for the Seattle Weekly explores a few of the city's newest, trendiest tea houses and wonders if it's even possible to "update tea's fusty image."


Personally, I don't mind the "fusty" image—I drink tea because it's healthy and relaxing and because I like the taste, not because it's trendy.


And a passage in the article highlights an unfortunate trend in tea-drinking today:


At four of the five teahouses I visited, my cup came with a timer. The style of the timer bespoke the attitude and mood of the place, from wooden hourglasses at Tea Cup and Floating Leaves to Remedy's high-tech plastic timer, which flashed red at three minutes.

Preparing and drinking tea is an art, not a science. It's supposed to be relaxing, and keeping one eye on an egg timer while your tea steeps is not exacly conducive to relaxation. Instead of using timers or thermometers, we should strive to brew by intuition, as in "Okay, that's about long enough to wait after the water has boiled before pouring" or "Yes, that's about long enough for the tea to steep." After all, the art of preparing and drinking tea was developed in an age before egg timers and thermometers.


The linked-to article reaches a sensible conclusion for anyone who feels intimidated by tea. Says the proprietor of one tea house:


"Some people are intimidated by tea. They think you have to know a lot to drink it, but that's not true. We want to make tea fans of people," says Arnold at Remedy, placing a steaming cup in front of me. "Hey, try it; it's good."

In other words, just brew it!



Green tea: Just brew it!


—Mellow Monk


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TV station makes false claims about natto

A Japanese TV station got in hot water a while back for making unsupported claims about the weight-reduction effects of natto (fermented soy beans). The broadcast triggered a buying frenzy (which was perhaps the intent?).



A natto shopper weighing her buying options.


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, February 04, 2007

A hike up Mt. Fuji

Writer Craig Simons describes his trek up Japan's most famous—and tallest—mountain, including a stay at a traditional inn, complete with its own hot spring.





—Mellow Monk


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Too much sleep is unhealthy, too

One of the nice things about green tea is that although drinking too little deprives you of its full health benefits, no one has ever reported that there's such a thing as drinking too much—that drinking more than a given amount is bad for you.


In contrast, there's recent research on sleep. First, researchers tell us that too little sleep is unhealthy. Now they're also saying that too much sleep is also unhealthy.


As in all things, grasshopper, the key is finding the right balance.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, February 03, 2007

An apology to readers: Sorry for botching the comments feature

To any reader who's tried to leave a comment on this blog in the past few months:


I'm so sorry!


I did a real forehead-slapper: I had the comments feature set to notify me before publishing a reader's comment to avoid subjecting you all to a lot of spam. However, I wasn't getting those email notices because of a goof on my part, so no one's comments were getting published.


I simply assumed no one was leaving comments. In hindsight, I wonder how I could have assumed you didn't care! (sniffle)


I have just rectified the situation, however, and published a large cartload of accumulated comments that you had left in the past months. Unfortunately, there's no way to show all those comments on one page—they're each attached to their respective postings. But rest assured that your comments will appear promptly from now on. My apologies to those who took the time to leave those comments.


—Mellow Monk


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Green tea at Super Bowl XLI

How do you know when green tea has gone mainstream? Answer: When a beverage company—in this case Snapple—runs a commercial for a green-tea drink during the Super Bowl.



A scene from the upcoming commercial, which you can view at the linked-to website.


—Mellow Monk


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Global conference seeks ways to save tuna

Scientists, government regulators, and fishermen from the world over met in Kobe, Japan to discuss ways to put the brakes on the downward slide in the population of tuna (known to sushi aficionados as maguro).



The prized bluefin tuna


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, February 02, 2007

Watchdog group sues over green tea drink's "negative calorie" claims

Coca-Cola and Nestlé should have seen this coming.


In a previous posting I expressed scepticism over the companies' claim that their new green-tea-infused drink Enviga contains "negative calories"—that because of its metabolism-boosting effects, Enviga burns more calories than it contains.


Now, a watchdog group has filed a lawsuit, asserting that the claims are fraudulent.


As far as I know, the only beverage with negative calories is a cold glass of water, which will cause your body to burn about 40 calories to re-generate the heat dissipated by the cold water.





—Mellow Monk


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Japanese Jeeves waits on lady diners at Tokyo's butler cafe

First, someone in Japan came up with the idea of the "maid café," where an all-female wait staff is decked out in old-fashioned maid outfits. (There's even one in Toronto).


Now, it's the ladies' turn.


Young entrepreneur Yoko Otsuka has launched Tokyo's first bulter café, whose female clientele is waited on hand and foot by tuxedo-clad English-style butlers (think Anthony Hopkins's character in Remains of the Day except played by Ken Watanabe).


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Iced green tea with orange essence

You may be thinking, "Iced green tea? In wintertime?"


But even when it's cold outside, a nice pitcher of iced green tea is still good at dinnertime or after exercising.


What's nice about this recipe is its use of orange essence—orange is a wonderful complement to green tea. Instead of orange essence, you can also try experimenting with orange peels.


And, most importanty, instead of 2 green tea bags, use two heaping teaspoons of loose-leaf green tea. Then when you're pouring the tea mixture from the saucepan to the pitcher, pour through an over-the-cup tea strainer (such as this one) to catch the tea leaves.


By the way, a tea strainer like the one above is also great for making green tea by the cup.





—Mellow Monk


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Sleep deprivation: don't take it lightly

Minnesota's WCCO talks to sleep expert Dr. Mark Mahowald about why sleep is so important and how we can all get a better night's rest.


You can also watch a video of the TV news segment on which the article is based.


—Mellow Monk


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