Saturday, June 16, 2007

Hidden Tokyo

Where do you hang out in Tokyo if you're young, hip, and have the money? You hang out in little-known, hard-to-find spots known collectively as hidden Tokyo.



A row of small bars and restaurants in Tokyo's Nonbeiyokocho, whose name literally means Drunkard’s Alley.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, June 15, 2007

The new and improved Tokyo Tower

When it's completed, the New Tokyo Tower will be the world's tallest structure, surpassing even Canada's CN Tower.


Whoever owns the souvenir concession at the old Tokyo Tower must be less than pleased with this news.



Artist's conception of what the new Tokyo Tower will look like upon completion in 2010 or 2011.


—Mellow Monk


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A Japanese becomes the oldest man to ever scale Everest

Katsusuke Yanagisawa, a 71-year-old retired schoolteacher from Japan, has set the new world's record for oldest man to climb Mt. Everest.



And he's got the pictures to prove it.


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Green tea donuts

Western donut chains setting up shop in Japan and other Asian countries have to make some changes to their bill of fare to accommodate local tastes, such as using less sugar in their mix and adding flavors such as honeydew melon and green tea donuts to their lineup.



Another future victim of KKDA (Krispy Kreme donut addiction).


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The immortal fitness sensei

The amazing Jack LaLanne is still going strong at 92. The linked-to page has a photo gallery of Mr. LaLanne through the years. You can also read an interview with the man himself.


Still, it's slightly embarrassing to think that a 92-year-old man is in better shape than I am.



You tell 'em, Jack.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Make your own green tea soda

In the video below, British chef Luci Lock demonstrates her simple and elegent recipe for green tea soda.


But I just have to make a couple of comments about Ms. Lock's recipe. First of all, when brewing green tea the water you use most definitely does not need to be just-boiled. That may be true for English tea, but water that's too hot will "cook" green tea and spoil the flavor. A water temperature of about 85 degrees celcius, or 185 degrees Fahrenheit, is about right.


But that doesn't mean you have to go out and buy a cooking thermometer. Brewing and drinking green tea is supposed to be a time to relax, not a time to fret. So just do as the English say—walk the kettle to the pot. In other words, after the water has boiled and you've turned off the heat, wait a few minutes before pouring. (I'm surprised Ms. Lock didn't remember that one.)


My second comment is ... tea bags? Tea bags? Let's just say this shows how much work there still is for me to do out there.


Still, this home-made green tea soda is a healthy, satisfying alternative to the high-fructose corn syrupy concoctions you'll find in your friendly neighborhood grocery store.


Enjoy!





—Mellow Monk


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Monday, June 11, 2007

Green tea prevents bladder inflammation

I previously wrote about a study showing that green tea may help fight bladder cancer.


While we're on the subject of bladders, another study shows that green tea catechins also protect the bladder from inflammation. This opens the door to using green tea as a treatment for inflammatory bladder diseases, which affect millions of Americans each year.


The two catechins in which this anti-inflammatory effect was observed were epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and epicatechin gallate (ECG). Of these, EGCG is found only in green tea.



It looks so welcoming... I think I'll brew up a cup right now!


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, June 09, 2007

From topknots to top hats: Photos of Japan in transition

Tokyo University has an online exhibit of photographs from Japan's late Edo and early Meiji periods.


In this time of transition, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Japan threw off the yoke of the shogunate and installed a modern-style government.


The text is all in Japanese, but the pictures are well worth the clicking around. When viewing photos of real-life sword-carrying samurai, remember that those swords weren't just for decoration—those guys really knew how to wield those things. (Hat tip to MetaFilter.)



"You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?"


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, June 08, 2007

Japanese whiskey blog

"Nonjatta" (literally "I drank it all") is a blog about the world of Japanese whiskey.


Japan, incidentally, is the world's second-largest producer of single-malt whiskey.





—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Exercise reverses muscle ageing

A Canadian study on muscles, exercise, and aging shows that

  • In people over 65, regular resistance training appears to reverse signs of aging in muscles.

  • "[Y]ou don't have to spend your life pumping iron in a gym to reap benefits."

  • It's never too late to start exercising.




Age is no longer an excuse not to start.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

In tea-brewing as in relationships, the key is not to expect perfection every time

Therapists at California State University and Virginia Tech University say that the key to a happy relationship could be accepting that some miserable times are unavoidable.


What they mean is that resigning yourself to some bad along with the good is better than striving for perfection, which does make sense—although the late-night comedians will still have a field day with this news story.


With Mellow Monk, you can come pretty close to perfection in green tea. But seriously, folks, the same philosophy that's behind what these therapists are talking about also applies when brewing tea: You don't need to get overly fussy about water temperature or the amount of tea leaves you use.


Allow me to explain.


Tea time is supposed to be a time for relaxation. Instead of striving for perfection, think of every cup of tea you brew as a learning experience. Brewing green tea is an art, not a science, and the goal is to strive for what you think is the perfect cup of tea, not what someone else says is perfect.



"If misery is the key to happiness, then I must be the happiest woman in the world. Right, Ralph?"


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A museum where old Tokyo is preserved

The Edo Tokyo Museum features exhibits from old Tokyo, or "Edo," as the city was known in the days of the samurai. There are also exhibits of what life was like in Tokyo in the early 1900s.


Sure, the kids will be bored to tears, so promise to reward their patience with something sugary afterwards, and enjoy taking in the (relatively) humble beginnings of what is now one of the world's largest and most dynamic cities.


A museum like this is also a nice, quiet interlude after all that modern dynamism has drained your batteries.



A scale model of Edo's Ryogoku bridge. The open areas at the ends of the bridge were originally intended as a firebreak but made the bridge "one of the most popular spots in the city, where numerous spectacle houses and street performances could be viewed."


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, June 04, 2007

One hundred views of old Tokyo

The Brooklyn Museum is exhibiting Utagawa Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, a collection of woodblock-print scenes of mid-nineteenth-century Toyko.


But even if you can't make it over to Brooklyn, you can still view the prints online.



"One Hundred Famous Views of Edo" is actually comprised of 118 views, but who's counting?


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Shamisen and taiko

Found on YouTube—an excellent shamisen-and-taiko piece called Denkou, which means "lightning." It starts slow but quickly builds up to a crescendo worthy of the title.


To avoid jerky, stop-and-go playback, click "Pause" right after you start playing. Wait for the video to load at least halfway or so, then click "Play" again.



—Mellow Monk


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Friday, June 01, 2007

Rub-a-dub-dub, thieves take a million-dollar bathtub

Even though it was chained to the wall in a shared bathing area, someone still managed to walk off with the Kominato Hotel's million-dollar bathtub.


Just think—all that money down the drain. The tub's owners really took a bath. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)



The concierge should have been suspicious when the guest in room 1002 asked where he could get a pair of bolt cutters.


—Mellow Monk


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