Featured celebrities include Nicolas Cage, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Michael J. Fox. (They did these commercials either before the Internet existed, or when it existed but few people yet realized that the technology would, for instance, make it impossible for American celebrities to make silly TV commercials in Japan without the American public ever seeing them.)
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Friday, March 30, 2007
The kiosk menu. The "green tea plum wine slush" sounds good! But what's this? Bottled green tea? Oh well. At least it's unsweetened.
"I had y'all fooled though, didn't I."
Thursday, March 29, 2007
"Our research shows that drinking green tea could reduce the risk of becoming infected by HIV, and could also slow down the spread of HIV...."
In a word: Wow.
The way green tea blocks HIV, they say, has to do with the green tea catechin epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant that is found only in green tea. Molecules of EGCG bind to the same site on immune system cells through which HIV usually enters the cells, thus effectively shutting out the virus.
However, the scientists add an important caveat:
"[Green tea] is not a cure, and nor is it a safe way to avoid infection, however, we suggest that it should be used in combination with conventional medicines to improve quality of life for those infected...."
Still, it's amazing how many benefits of green tea have been discovered in the relatively short time that modern science has been investigating this wonderful beverage.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Of course, you can also make green tea rice by itself, which boiled down to its essence (pun intended) involves simply adding loose-leaf green tea to rice before steaming.
Monday, March 26, 2007
What they found is that lung cancer cells left in a test tube containing green tea became "stickier" and therefore less like to metastasize. (Its proclivity to metastasize—or to spread throughout the body from the original cluster of cells—is what makes lung cancer so deadly.)
The mechanism by which green tea makes the cancer cells stick together most likely has to do with proteins: Some compound—or combination of compounds—in the green tea changed a critical protein on the cancer cells' surface, making them stick together.
Although this study does not prove that green tea prevents lung cancer, it does indicate that further research is warranted.
This report also brings up an important point about green tea extracts. Extracts are usually made to isolate specific compounds, such as the well-known antioxidant EGCG. However, the extract-making process may leave out compounds that are unknown today but which may someday be shown to have amazing health benefits.
The moral of this story, grasshopper, is Never second-guess Mother Nature.
Besides, by drinking brewed green tea, you're also hydrating your body. And brewed green tea tastes better than any pill!
So drink freshly brewed green tea—because you never know what you might be missing.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Kyoto's Kiyomizu Shrine.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
[T]he Shiraore is tasting great, I'm consciously/unconsciously brewing it right. I always wanted one of those small infrared thermometers for cooking and brewing tea.
And here's my reply:
I'm glad you like the Shiraore. It's very different from ordinary green teas. For instance, today I accidentally let a batch of Shiraore brew too long -- perhaps 15 or 20 minutes. However, where other green teas might taste very bitter or otherwise unpleasant, the Shiraore tasted great -- not too bitter, thick and rich, but not overly grassy. It's an amazing tea.
An infrared thermometer sounds interesting, but my personal philosophy is that brewing tea is an art, not a science. My overarching rule is Keep It Simple. In other words, we should train ourselves not to rely on thermometers or timers and instead cultivate the ability to intuitively know, for instance, how long to let boiled water stand before pouring into your mug or teapot, and how long to let the tea brew.
For instance, my goof-up in letting the Shiraore overbrew today is all part of my training not to forget a cup of brewing tea!
Thanks again for your feedback, and please don't hesitate to drop me a line again if you have any other comments or suggestions.
As for that brain training, although I eschew watches and timers as a way to remember my brewing tea, I have learned one trick to reduce my chances of forgetting: placing the brewing tea within my field of vision, as opposed to behind me, as I did today.
Live and learn!
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Hello Mellow Monk,
Its been awhile since I last placed and order with your company, and I must admit that's because I've been shopping around. You see, I am not a rich man. I, like many, have limited resources, and unfortunately this sad reality applies my tea budget as well. Consequently, I have been sampling a variety of less expensive green teas from 100s of other, less reputable sources only to ultimately find disappointment and low quality from these unnamed tea producers. I have yet to find a tea that can, in my opinion, equal the exquisite color, flavor, or aroma of your superlative green tea, and I have determined life is too short to continue looking. Sufficed to say, I'm back and I will never stray again. You have found a follower in me Mellow Monk, and after sampling the competition I will gladly pay the higher price to enjoy your most excellent product.
Thank you so much, Ryan. If there's one thing I have absolute confidence in, it's in the quality of our green tea. This tea is the real deal—authentic Japanese green tea grown by traditional methods on honest-to-goodness family-owned and -operated tea farms in the mountains of Aso, Japan. Of course, all the credit goes to our growers, but I do feel honored to be able to offer this tea outside of Japan for the first time ever. This is a great time for green-tea aficionados like you, Ryan, and I'm excited to be a part of the changes going on—because these changes are enabling aficionados like you to find green tea like ours.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Neither the Pino nor the Suzuki Alto are available in the U.S.—which is probably a good thing, because the behemoths on the road here could run over one of those things and not even notice the bump.
If you thought the new Volkswagen Beetle was cute...
Monday, March 19, 2007
These green-tea potstickers aren't on grocers' shelves yet, but the professor plans to commercialize the technique.
And of course, the calming effect of this routine can be enhanced with a nice, hot cup of aromatic green tea.
Just because you can't get away from your desk doesn't mean you can't relax there.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
The photo below is from the Hadaka Matsuri (literally "Naked Festival") in Inazawa, Aichi Prefecture. The guys are all jostling to touch a holy man said to bestow good luck and drive away evil spirits.
The "Naked Festival" in full sway in Aichi Prefecture, Japan.
Friday, March 16, 2007
But the linked-to article above quotes an authority on alternative cancer therapy as stating that while possibly effective, goji berries just aren't worth the cost: "Something as simple as green tea looks to have an equal or even better effect at about one-hundredth of the cost," he says. [emphasis added]
Thursday, March 15, 2007
"Think this is easy? Well then you try smiling and being pleasant all day."
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Adds the good doctor: "[Green tea] stops DNA from being damaged. It stops the sun from burning the skin; so in a perfect world it's the perfect thing to use on your skin."
105 years old and still going strong.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
One of her "seven tips for eating green for your health" includes this one:
» Drink tea -- green tea. If you like to drink tea, consider choosing green tea instead of black, oolong or other darker teas. Green tea - next to white tea - packs the biggest punch when it comes to antioxidants. It also contains flavonoids, a class of naturally occurring plant compounds that function as antioxidants that are good for the heart, Wald says.
Incidentally, if you like to relax with green tea in the evening but are worried about cafeeine keeping you awake at night, you easily decaffeinate the tea yourself. Simply pour hot water over your tea as you normally would, wait between 30 and 60 seconds, then throw out the infusion and brew the tea again.
When tea is brewed, the caffeine leaches out more quickly than other compounds, so the second infusion will still give you the flavor, aroma, and health benefits that you want from green tea.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Why Fukuoka? Probably because it's the most industrialized, urbanized prefecture on the island and is therefore presumed to have a lot of monied young people eager to escape the big city for a little peace and quiet in the countryside. I say "probably" because I learned about the program from an acquaintance who participated. She went to Gokase with a girlfriend and described it as the best time she's had in a long time.
Participants in the program—which is completely free—spend the daylight hours shopping, strolling, or taking in the town's hot springs. At night, they return to their host family for dinner and perhaps even a trip to a karaoke bar if they're lucky (or unlucky, depending on your opinion of karaoke).
The program is open to any resident of Fukuoka, provided he or she is under 30 years of age. That's because the goal is to attract young people in the hope that they'll not only spend their money liberally (as young folks are known to do) and maybe even decide to live there—like most small rural towns in Japan, Gokase's population is gradually declining, as locals strike out to seek their fortune in the big city.
Another reason the town's population is shrinking is that wives are hard to come by for eldest sons who take over the family farm or shop (and responsibility for caring for aging Mom and Dad). This may explain why Gokase officials place special emphasis on advertising their stay-for-free program to young women. My acquaintance said that one night at her host family's home, a neighbor stopped by to introduce his eligible-bachelor son. Unfortunately for him, no nuptials ensued.
By the way, my acquaintance is 32 years old, but as far as the people of Gokase know, she's 28.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Pasmo card holders can top up their balance at ticket vending machines or, more conveniently, use an automatic recharging service, which adds 3,000 yen from a designated credit account to the card when the balance drops below 2,000 yen.
Just pass it over, then pass on through.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Should I put a lid on top of the mug when brewing green tea? I do it for other herbal teas to capture organic compounds with a boiling point lower than water, and to stop heat loss, but with green tea I don’t boil the water.
I also use a strainer, which is great for multiple infusions.
Here is my response:
A lid would help keep the tea warm while it brews and, after you've removed the strainer, while you are drinking it. But it depends on personal preference: I use a mug and strainer, too, but I don't use a lid because I don't mind tea that's a little on the cool side. I especially like the last half of a mug of tea to be cool enough to gulp down. (And a big, cool mug of green tea gulped down is incredibly thirst-quenching, especially after exercising or on a hot summer's day.)
If you consider the traditional way of brewing—a large teapot and small tea cups—what that setup does is keep the tea warm in the pot while it's brewing or just sitting. The closed teapot also keeps all the flavorful, aromatic, and healthy compounds inside. Drinking the tea by the small cupful ensures that every sip is nice and hot. And if you're drinking quality, authentic green tea like ours (excuse my modesty), its flavor and aroma are best enjoyed at higher temperatures.
Incidentally, at tea-judging competitions in Japan, judges brew the tea with a very low (for tea) water temperature—only 70 degrees Celcius (158 degrees Fahrenheit). They say that avoids "cooking" the tea so that they can tell its true taste and aroma. (Most tea-drinkers in Japan, however, use hotter water and would probably even be surprised to learn what low water temperatures are used by tea judges, so it's by no means common.)
I hope this helps. Please let me know if I can answer any other questions, or if you have any comments or suggestions.
By the way, if you want to try using a lid, you don't have to buy one of those teacups that comes with its own lid (although some of them are very cool looking). Instead, you can use an ordinary saucer. Remember one of Mellow Monk's Teachings: "Focus on the tea, not the accoutrements."
Thursday, March 08, 2007
A pair of foreign guests enjoy a geisha performance in Kyoto's hanamachi, or geisha quarters.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Yubari, which had 120,000 people in the 1960s, is now forecast to have only 7,000 in 16 years.
But at least a lot of small towns don't have the massive debut Yubari has, which the town incurred in an ultimately failed attempt to draw tourists and rivitalize the local economy.
An abandoned amusement park in Yubari, Hokkaido.
Now aquasize is going to the dogs.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Nurikabe (the name means "drawing wall") is like a cross between Sudoku and Minesweeper, in that numbers in squares indicate the number of squares around it that should be filled in. Detailed instructions are available here.
Monday, March 05, 2007
It wouldn't be a tea ceremony without real silk kimonos.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
The royal family in happier times.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Friday, March 02, 2007
The article to which I linked referenced a study about the performance-enhancing effects—make that the legal performance-enhance effects—of green tea. A detailed summary of the findings is available in the online version of the journal, the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.
Important take-aways from the summary include:
- The study found that over 10 weeks, endurance exercise performance was boosted up to 24% with 0.5% green tea extract (GTE) supplementation, and 8% with 0.2% by-weight addition to food.
- These results came from the equivalent of about 4 cups of tea a day. In other words, if you drank 4 cups of brewed green tea each day—which is not excessive by any means—you would be getting the same amount of green tea compounds that the subjects in the study ingested.
- Taking epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) along did not have the same endurance-boosting effects as green tea extract. In other words, EGCG alone does not explain the benefits detected.
And here's more food for thought: Although the study found that green tea extract had an endurance-boosting effect, extracts do not contain all of the natural compounds found in green tea. So, by taking an extract instead of brewed green tea, you're probably missing out on other benefits.
And pills cannot give you an important part of the green tea experience—the calming, relaxing effect that comes from the act of brewing, and from kicking up your feet and enjoying the earthy flavor and soothing aroma of great green tea.
Accept no substitute!
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Back then, the country was flush with cash thanks to massive trade surpluses. Too much of that money, however, was invested in real estate, driving prices far beyond what was sustainable.
At first, no one minded: property owners saw their net worth double, triple, quadruple—and still keep on rising. Individual and corporate land owners borrowed heavily against this upwardly reassessed real estate, and the banks were only too happy to loan them the money.
At the height of this bubble, it was said that in places like Tokyo's Shinjuku district, a ten-thousand-yen note (worth more than $100 back then) could not be folded small enough to buy the tiny square of land it could cover.
By the late 1980s, the party was in full swing but came to a crashing end around 1990; Japan is still recovering today. Bubble Fiction is about a woman who, deep in debt in 2007, agrees to travel back in time to try and stop the "bad political decisions" that caused the bubble to burst with such ferocity. For many Japanese, the film will undoubtedly be a nostalgic look back at a not-too-distant past when everyone thought the good times would never end.
The memorial service for Mr. Ando was held at the Kyocera Dome baseball stadium in Osaka.