Saturday, September 29, 2007

Charles Bronson's Japanese TV commercial

The late, great Charles Bronson is featured in this old Japanese TV commercial for "Mandom," a brand of cologne and other toiletries.




—Mellow Monk


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Friday, September 28, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Kiri-origami photos

Kiri-origami is like traditional origami (paper-folding)—each piece is made from a single sheet of paper, although the sheets are larger than ordinary origami paper, and scissors are allowed.


Nikon has a kiri-origami album on one of its websites.




Created from a single sheet of paper.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

World's most expensive tea?

The Glendale Tea Estate in Tamil Nadu, India, sells one of its black teas for $600 a kilogram. The owners applied to the Guinness Book of World Records for status as the world's most expensive tea but were rebuffed.


Guinness officials told them that "a rare Chinese green tea called Tieguanyin, which costs 1,700 Yuan ($3,000) per kilo (per 2 lb 3 oz)," is currently recognized as the world's most expensive tea.


"Aha!" said the owners of Glendale Tea Estate. Theirs is a black tea, whereas Tieguanyin is a green tea. How can Guinness not have a separate category?

[The Glendale Tea manager] pointed out that there is a huge difference between black tea and green tea and cannot be compared under the same category.

I'm with him 100 percent on that point!


By the way, who on earth is buying all that tea at those prices? If anyone knows, would you kindly point them to MellowMonk.com?



Our prices aren't so bad in comparison.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

Whacky Japanese game show: obstacle course with treadmill!

There is no English voiceover, and no subtitles, but the video is fairly self-explanatory: a Japanese game show in which contestants run side-by-side on giant treadmills, trying to negotiate hurdles as they run.





—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Find tea houses in your area

At TeaMap.com you can enter your Zip code and find tea houses in your area.


And if you're planning a trip, you can even look up tea houses located along the way and at your destination. Very handy indeed!


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Iced green tea gets cool (as in trendy)

From Reuters:

Rather than pairing a filet mignon with a bottle of Cabernet, rising numbers of American diners are opting for a peach, mint or green iced tea with sales of iced tea, plain and exotic, surging nationwide.

By coincidence, Mellow Monk offers its own iced green tea. It's cold-brewed, meaning that you don't have to boil the water. Very convenient! And the tea inside is the same high-quality, direct-from-the-grower tea as our other green tea offerings.



Iced green tea goes well with everything.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Photos of "Last Samurai"-era Japan

The Nagasaki University library has an online database of Japan's late Meiji period (Bakumatsu, from the mid-1800s to 1868).




Photo of women picking tea (top) and a fire company (bottom) (dates unknown).


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, September 17, 2007

Japan's defibrillator-equipped vending machines

Japan not only leads the world in the number of vending machines; they also lead in vending machines containing defibrillators, which are intended for public use in an emergency.



"What if I don't have correct change?"


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Health benefits of green tea: an overview

The University of Maryland website has this page summarizing the varied and sundry health benefits of green tea.



A photo of an actual Mellow Monk green tea field in Aso, Japan.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, September 14, 2007

Green tea drinkology: the green-tea-ni

Here is a cocktail recipe for the "green-tea-ni"—as in martini, but with green tea instead of vermouth.



That's the green-tea-ni on the far left.


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mellow Monk joins Eco Green Office

Mellow Monk has recently been approved as a partner at Eco Green Office, a supplier of eco-friendly office supplies and other products. You can check out our partner profile here.


—Mellow Monk


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Ad campaign for Japanese toilets backfires

Only a Japanese company would feature an array of naked rear ends on a website for bidet-equipped toilets, which the manufacturer, Toto, calls "washlets."


On July 1, Toto unveiled a billboard with the same motif in Times Square. New Yorkers, predictably, were unphased.


Not amused, however, were the parishioners of the church that occupies the building, who sued to have it removed and won.



Reminds me of a line spoken by Jeff Bridges's character in the movie The Fisher King: "It's a good thing no one in this town looks up."


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Yakuza daughter tells all

Everyone else is writing tell-all books, so why shouldn't the daughter of a yakuza (Japanese mobster)?


For an excellent first-hand account of what life was like for the yakuza in the days when they made their living solely on illegal gambling, I highly recommend Confessions of a Yakuza.



Daddy's little girl shows off some of her full-body tattoos. Tattooing in the yakuza goes back to the tradition—inherited from China—of tattooing criminals as a way of literally marking them for life. Tattoos also served the purpose of ensuring loyalty: Once you were marked like that, no legit employer would ever hire you. Even today, most onsen (hot springs) and public baths have "NO TATTOOS" signs at the entrance.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mellow Monk's Three Simple Rules for Brewing Great Green Tea

In a nutshell, the Three Rules are:

  1. Use the best water possible
  2. Walk the kettle to the pot
  3. Choose a high-quality, authentic green tea. (Hint, hint.)

About the rules:


1. Use the best water possible.

Natural spring water is ideal—and I'm talking fresh-out-of-the-ground, you-bottled-it-yourself spring water, not something that's been sitting in a plastic bottle for who knows how long. Natural spring water, with its mineral content and absence of all things unnatural, makes even a mediocre tea pretty good—and a great tea even more sublime. Buy hey, let's face it—natural spring water is hard to come by, so we have to make do. But on the other hand, don't throw all to the wind: If your can't stand to drink your tap water unfiltered, then it won't exactly bring out the best in your tea.


2. Walk the kettle to the pot.


This is a Britishism that means, Let boiled water cool a bit before pouring it over your tea. (Even though the British drink—what else—English tea, the rule applies to green tea, too.) Water that's hotter than roughly 85 degrees Celsius, or 185 degrees Fahrenheit, will scald the leaves and essentially cook the tea, ruining the fresh, earthy aroma. In Japan, judges in tea-tasting competitions use water heated to a low 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but it's not necessary to go that low.


However, the Mellow Monk Philosophy of Tea is to Keep It Simple. That means no thermometers or otherwise obsessing over water temperature. After all, the monks who perfected the Japanese art of preparing green tea over a thousand years ago didn't have thermometers or stop watches.


A good rule of thumb is to pour about five minutes after boiling is stopped. (Don't let the water boil too long, as doing so will allow too much oxygen in the water to escape, which will also lessen the flavor.) But again, don't reach for the stopwatch. Simple take off the kettle's lid and let the water sit for however long feels like about five minutes.


In other words, walk the kettle to the pot.


3. Choose a high-quality green tea


This website—and the company behind it—would not exist if we at Mellow Monk were not completely confident in our tea. We offer a truly high-quality, authentic green tea, grown with the T.L.C. that only a small, family-owned and family-operated tea farm can provide. These farms are also certified ecologically friendly by the Japanese government.


The big industrial farms, even with all their magic potions, can't make up for these and other of Mellow Monk's formidable advantages, such as the volcanic soil, clean air, and mountain climate of Japan's Aso region, where Mellow Monk green tea is grown. Up against Mother Nature and the generations of tea-growing tradition that's in Mellow Monk Green Tea, the big boys don't stand a chance.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, September 10, 2007

Green tea beer, redux

Last year I reported on American microbrewery BluCreek's "Zen IPA," an ale brewed with natural green tea.


Now, the chamber of commerce of the Japanese city of Kakegawa and Chiba-based microbrewery Megumi Brewery (which advertises itself as "Japan's smallest brewery") have announced that they've joined forces to produce "Kakegawa Genki" (lit. "Kakegawa Vitality"), beer containing green tea grown in Kakegawa.


In the brewing process, green tea leaves are added at a ratio of 500 grams (about 1 pound 2 ounces) of tea leaves for each 190-liter (50-gallon) fermentation tank.


That may not seem like much tea considering how big the tank is. But then again, since 3.5 ounces of Mellow Monk Green Tea is enough to brew up to 50 cups of tea, 1 pound 2 ounces should be enough to impart a definite green tea flavor and aroma to the beer.



Need help finishing all that beer, Miss?


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Cranes come to Japantown—all 17,000 of them

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of sister-city relations between Osaka, Japan, and San Francisco, a festival was held yesterday in the City by the Bay's Japantown, including the hanging of banners made of 17,000 origami cranes. Each crane was folded from paper on which Japantown visitors had inscribed their wishes:

One young wisher ... asked for "my brother (to) stop pulling my hair."


Crane banners are hung on the Peace Pagoda in San Francsico Japantown.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Shaolin monks threaten Japanese ninja ... with lawsuit

Modern-day Shaolin monks don't resort to violence when they've been slandered or insulted. Instead, they call a lawyer.



"Now that Johnnie Cochran is dead, you are powerless against me."


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, September 07, 2007

Japan's most off-the-wall TV show ever—MXC

In the early 1980s, before he made a name for himself in Japan's film industry as a full-fledged director, comedian Takeshi Kitano (a.k.a. Beat Takeshi) hosted a very "physical" comedy show called "Takeshi no Shiro" ("Takeshi's Castle"), in which contestants attempted to navigate outrageous obstacle courses.


Fast forward a couple of decades. America's Spike TV takes "Takeshi no Shiro," adds a yuk-it-up English voiceover—which bears no resemblance to the original soundtrack, a la What's Up, Tiger Lily?—and christens the result "Most Extreme Elimination Challenge," or MXC for short.


If you've never seen MXC, then here are a few clips to initiate you.


Tiny Trike Competition



Frozen Wallbangers



Brass Balls



—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, September 06, 2007

R.I.P. Miyoshi Umeki

Remember the Bill Bixby TV show "The Courtship of Eddie's Father"? Remember the show's Japanese-American housemaid? Well, she was played by Japan-born actress Miyoshi Umeki, who sadly died on August 28.


In addition to co-staring with Bill Bixby in "Courtship," she also shared the screen with the likes of Marlon Brando and Red Buttons in the 1957 film "Sayonara" and Nancy Kwan in 1961's "Flower Drum Song."


Ms. Umeki was born in 1929 in Otaru, Hokkaido.



The late Ms. Umeki with her "Sayonara" co-stars.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Over-the-cup tea strainer

Shown in the photo above is a tea strainer I bought at an Asian grocery store. It's actually a strainer for the inside of teapots, but this particular size is perfect for your average-sized mug.

Over-the-cup strainers are, I believe, the most convenient way to brew loose-leaf tea, and this type is an inexpensive alternative to permanent tea infusers. Not that permanent tea infusers are that expensive (especially considering that they're permanent and last for years). But an inexpensive item like this is great as a backup or for camping trips or travel—when space is at a premium or you just don't want to bring your "good" infuser with you.

—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, September 02, 2007

LED traffic signals as ... a hobby?

Among the things you'll find at trafficsignal.jp are pictures of LED traffic signals in the city of Hiroshima.



The numbers superimposed over the photos refer to the number of concentric circles of LEDs, followed by the total number of LEDs in the light. Aren't you glad someone out there is staying on top is this stuff?


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, September 01, 2007

A trip through the world's largest fish market

Take a long, leisurely tour through Tsukiji, the world's largest fish market.


If you plan on visiting there some day, you'd better be quick about it, because I have a feeling things won't be the same after the fish market is relocated.



Located within the Tsukiji fish market, Daiwa serves sushi that's about as fresh as it gets (other than a fishing boat, anyway).


—Mellow Monk


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