Thursday, January 31, 2008

The damage wrought by high heels

Here's a powerful visual to drive home the message that high heels are bad news for your feet.



One alternative is going barefoot. (Click to view the full-sized image.


—Mellow Monk


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Green tea oatmeal pancakes

In this recipe for green tea oatmeal pancakes, you can substitute loose-leaf tea for teabags.


Essentially, what you do is steep the tea in milk, so you could use a tea strainer or permanent filter to get the job done.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Kumamoto's Bruce Lee

Kumamoto native Takanori Okazaki was in the 5th grade when he saw his first Bruce Lee movie, Fists of Fury. He became an instant fan, making nunchucks out of empty Saran wrap rolls and eventually taking up the study of Bruce Lee's martial arts form, Jeet Kune Do.


Ten years ago Mr. Okazaki joined the Kumamoto branch of the Inosanto Methods Unified Martial Arts Association, founded by Bruce Lee disciple Dan Inosanto.


Today, almost 35 years after Master Lee's death, Ozaki still promotes the preservation of Lee's cinematic, martials arts, and philosophical legacy, all while working at his day job as a clinical technician at the Japan Red Cross Kumamoto Health Maintenance Center in Kumamoto City.


(Kumamoto City is the capital of Kumamoto Prefecture, which also contains the Aso region where Mellow Monk Green Tea is grown.)



Mr. Okazaki says he is the descendant of a renowned Edo period swordsman from the Otokoyama Clan (who may or may not be the same Otokoyamas who started the sake brewery of the same name).


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Green tea may prevent fatty liver disease

Green tea may not only help prevent obesity but is also likely effective against fatty liver disease, according to a recent study conducted at the University of Connecticut.


The researchers reported their findings in the Journal of Nutrition, which has the full article about the study online.



Aren't you glad I didn't post a picture of a fatty liver?


—Mellow Monk


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50 lessons learned in 50 years

Before reading this article, fix yourself up a nice hot cup of green tea, sit back, relax, and prepare to ruminate on each of the 50 things that Eric Zorn has learned in his 50 years on earth. Some highlights:

9. Cough syrup doesn’t work. [Well, we already knew that.]


15. It may not feel like it, but it’s good luck when you have people at home and at work who aren’t afraid to tell you when you’re wrong.


18. Keeping an open mind is as big a challenge as you get older as keeping a consistent waistline.


23. Grudges are poison. The only antidote is to let them go.


31. Physical attraction is nice, but shared values and a shared sense of humor are the real keys to lasting love.


35. Candor is overrated. It’s hard to unsay what you’ve said in anger and almost impossible to take back what you’ve written.




No, not that grudge. (See lesson #23.)


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, January 28, 2008

Green tea, a cold-fighting strategy

Green tea is one of ten strategies for staving off the common cold:

Green tea's claim to fame is its antioxidants, which may help boost the immune system. People drink green tea to fight aging, arthritis, Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disease and many other conditions. But can it prevent the common cold? A 2007 study found the ingredients in green tea can enhance the body's immune system by 28 percent. The antioxidants in green tea are said to be 100 times more effective than vitamin C.

—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, January 26, 2008

18 stunning bridges

One of Japan's entries on Frikoo's list of 18 stunning bridges from around the world is the Kintaikyo Bridge, in Iwakuni Prefecture.



First built in 1673, the five original wooden arches of the Kintaikyo stood for nearly 300 years, until they were destroyed by a typhoon in 1950. The current arches were built 3 years later.


—Mellow Monk


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Tamaryokucha = guricha

Mellow Monk's green tea is a type of sencha known as tamaryokucha (玉緑茶), which literally means "curly green tea." Tamaryokucha is grown and harvested the same way as straight-leaf sencha, and it's processed the same way, except for the very end of the teamaking process, where the leaves are rolled to make them curly.


Tamaryokucha, which is appreciated for its less-astringent flavor compared to Tokyo-style straight-leaf sencha, is made primarily on the island of Kyushu, where Mellow Monk tea also comes from.


I've seen some discussions on the 'Net asking whether tamaryokucha is the same thing as "guricha." The answer—doubled-checked and verified by our growers—is a most definite "yes": the two terms refer to the same tea.


The name "guricha" also means "curly tea," with "guri" being the name of a curly design pattern seen in traditional Japanese architecture and crafts (see the bottom photo below).



A close-up of the curly leaves of Monk's Choice Green Tea, a typical tamaryokucha (or "guricha").



A guri design carved into a wooden box.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, January 25, 2008

Chinese ice bar and Japanese mint insoles

At an ice bar in Harbin, China, everything is made out of ice—right down to the chairs, glasses, and tables.







An entrepreneur in Japan hopes that a new type of odor-eating insole laced with natural mint will boost patronage at traditional Japanese restaurants, where diners often take off their shoes before stepping into a tatami room. Research showed that more and more people were avoiding such restaurants because of a reluctance to unshoe their less-than-pleasant-smelling feet.





—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, January 24, 2008

In praise of idleness

Here's a great excerpt from Bertrand Russell's classic 1932 essay, "In Praise of Idleness":

First of all: what is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid. The second kind is capable of indefinite extension: there are not only those who give orders, but those who give advice as to what orders should be given. Usually two opposite kinds of advice are given simultaneously by two organized bodies of men; this is called politics.




Bertrand Russell (1872–1970).


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Babyrice

Only in Japan: baby-sized bags of rice imprinted with your newborn's picture.


The rice bags, called by the brand name Dakigokochi ("huggability" or "huggables"), are the brainchild (pun intended) of a rice shop in Kitakyushu and are a combination birth announcement and birth gift, both customs in Japan.


The bag is printed not only with your baby's portrait but also name, date of birth, and weight. And as an added gimmick the shop adds just enough rice so that the bag weighs exactly the same as your little bundle of joy.



Rice bag announcements for little Sakumi (left) and Juki (right), who weigh in at 2,790 and 3,380 grams (6.1 and 7.4 pounds), respectively.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Warm teapot for a cold budgie

Our budgie, Sunny—who's gotten her own press coverage—is pretty smart. She's figured out that a teapot full of hot green tea is a nice, toasty spot to get warm. On cold nights, whenever she sees a teapot on the table, she flies over and perches on the handle.


(Her cage is open most of the time, although her flight feathers are kept short enough to keep her from flying very far in the event she gets outside—we have a lot of cats in the neighborhood!)


Sunny the budgie perched on a teapot handle

"Mmm ... nice and warm."


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, January 21, 2008

Japan's "igloo festivals"

A kamakura (no, not that Kamakura or that one, but this one) is a snow hut, a traditional type of shelter made by building and then hollowing out a mound of snow.


Since olden times, families in heavy-snowfall areas of Japan have built such snow domes, where they grill mochi, drink sake, and enjoy other treats.


In wintertime, many cities in "snow country" hold a kamakura festival, where groups of people gather to build veritable kamakura villages and enjoy various festivities.


There's a kamakura festival in Yokote City, Akita Prefecture. A little closer to Tokyo, there's the Kamakura Festival of Yunishigawa, a town said to have been founded by members of the Taira clan who fled there after their defeat at the hands of the Minamoto clan in the late 1100s.



The snow domes of Yunishikawa.


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, January 20, 2008

The world's 10 most amazing temples

Japan's Chion-in Temple, located in beautiful Kyoto (where else?), is the country's lone entry on Neatorama's list of the world's 10 most amazing temples.



More amazing than any movie set: Bhutan's Tiger's Nest Monastery.



A great winter shot of the Chion-in Temple.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, January 19, 2008

The ultimate (green) tea diet

Mark "Dr. Tea" Ukra's book The Ultimate Tea Diet is getting consistently excellent reviews on Amazon.com. Here are quotes from a couple of reviews:

On January 1, I cozied up with my copy of The Ultimate Tea Diet, steaming mug of coffee in hand, and by page eleven I was firing up the teakettle.

—The Culinary Tourist


I have read this book and found it to be totally fascinating and informative. I have already started the diet and have started shedding pounds but more importantly inches! It's great... they are just melting away. Plus I have more energy and feel great. I bought some of the craving teas on line and love the way they taste. I have a real sweet tooth and they have really helped me stay away from my daily dose of candy and ice cream.

—Sue from Chicago



And remember—of all the varieties of tea, green tea is thought to be the best at helping you lose weight, as it contains the highest levels of green tea polyphenols, including one found only in green tea—EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate).


Mr. Ukra has promoted his book, diet, and recipes on Good Morning America.


Here's a recipe from The Ultimate Tea Diet:

Rosemary Orange Tea Chicken
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 2 oranges
• 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon of dried, plus fresh sprigs for garnish
• 1/4 teaspoon finely ground green tea
• 1-1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Mix together the olive oil, juice of 1-1/2 oranges (set aside the other half0, pepper, salt, chopped rosemary, and dry tea. Pour this marinade into a large resealable plastic bag. Add the chicken, seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat a grill pan or barbecue until hot. Remove chicken from the bag, discarding the remaining marinade, and grill until browned on both sides. Thinly slice the remaining orange half and serve with the chicken. Decorate with a sprig of rosemary.

Serves 4.
Nutrition Per Serving: calories 170, fat 2.5g, protein 28g, carb 8g




—Mellow Monk


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Friday, January 18, 2008

The king of Japan's "Star Wars" artists

Japanese science fiction illustrator Noriyoshi Ohrai is a bit of an enigma—not a lot of information is available about the guy—but he's said to be Japan's "most prolific and accomplished artists" when it comes to artwork for the "Star Wars" movies.



A poster Ohrai did for the Japanese-dubbed version of the first "Star Wars" movie in 1982. (Until then, only the subtitled version was available in Japan.)



Master Ohrai (as he's reverently called by fans in Japan) also did a series of posters for the 2006 disaster flick "Nihon Chinbotsu" (Japan Sinks).


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, January 17, 2008

The great taste of that über-expensive tea may just be in your head—literally

A wine-tasting experiment by CalTech and Standford University's business school found that the pleasure centers in the brains of their subjects, which were electronically monitored, actually registered greater pleasure when drinking what they were told was a 90-dollar-a-bottle wine than when they drank the exact same wine that was presented to them as a different wine costing only 10 dollars per bottle.


Whereas we all know that exceedingly reasonably priced Mellow Monk teas taste good because they really do taste good, as customer feedback shows.


Some day I'll have to do a blind taste test against a much more expensive competitor. Any takers out there?



Purification water at the entrance of Kokuzo Shrine in Aso, Japan. The shrine is located at the inner edge of the volcanic caldera (valley) where Mellow Monk tea is grown. Yes, you are allowed to drink this water—that's what the ladles are for. In fact, the water at this particular shrine is astoundingly delicious. It's natural spring water right out of the surrounding mountains, and it is fantastic for brewing tea, too.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

EcoGreenOffice launches its blog

The folks at EcoGreenOffice have launched their very own
blog. Please give it a look when you get a chance.





—Mellow Monk


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Thumbs down for this electric kettle

Electric kettles are great for brewing tea at home or the office—they are a self-contained water-boiling system, great for places where there isn't a stovetop nearby. (And I just don't like "nuking" my water in a microwave.)


I've been using this Hamilton Beach stainless-steel electric cordless kettle. It worked fine for about a year, but lately the auto-off feature has stopped working: Even after the water reaches a rolling boil, with hot water splashing out of the spout and all over the wall next to where I have the kettle plugged in, it keeps on boiling and boiling, which is actually a little scary if you think of it.


I also see from the reviews on Amazon that I'm not alone in my negative assessment. Buyer beware!


Time for a new kettle. I searched on Amazon, and I'm thinking of picking up the Braun shown below.



This Braun electric kettle is popular and very highly rated on Amazon.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Kumamoto's water-spouting stone bridge

In Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, in a spot not too far from Aso, where our tea is grown, you can find the famous Tsujunkyo Bridge, one of Japan's largest aqueduct bridges.


The bridge is located in the Kamimashiki region of Kumamoto and was completed in 1854.



The Tsujunkyo Bridge is famous for its picturesque beauty, and for the beauty of its waterspouts (used to clean the aquaduct) and of its rural surroundings.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, January 14, 2008

Japanese companies offer pet allowance

With pet ownership on the rise in Japan, companies are beginning to offer employees a pet allowance as an incentive to recruit and retain talent.



She can now get help from her employer to care for Pochi.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Green tea may protect against Parkinson's disease

Green tea may protect the brain from Parkinson's disease, according to a study published recently in the journal Biological Psychiatry.


Parkinson's disease is caused by the death of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. Researchers in this study found that these cells are protected by the polyphenols in green tea.



Parkinson's disease at the cellular level.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, January 11, 2008

Otemoyan—Kumamoto's most famous song

Of the many things for which Kumamoto Prefecture (home of Mellow Monk tea) is famous, one of the "big three" is said to be the traditional song and dance "Otemoyan" ("Little Miss Otemo").


(The other two of the big three are Mt. Aso and Suizenji Park.)


Below are a couple of clips of the song performed in Japanese films.


Here's actress Chiemi Eri singing a version of the song in the film "Orishidori Senryogasa."







Here's a more modern version of the song, from "Seishun Kouro." I believe this is Chiemi Eri again.





—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Online origami

If you find ordinary origami instructions (like these) too hard to follow, you might want to check out these online origami instructional videos, provided by the Peabody Essex Museum.



Instruction for what is probably the most popular origami figure, the crane (tsuru).


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hello Kitty says hello to guys

Guys who always liked Hello Kitty but were hesitant to deck themselves out in HK fashion that seemed too girlish are in luck: Sanrio, the company that makes Hello Kitty goods, is starting to release HK goods targeted specifically towards men.


Could Hello Kitty aftershave be too far behind?



What I've always wanted—a Hello Kitty safe!


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Centuries-old global school of Japanese tea tradition

The Urasenke is one of the three major schools of Japanese tea ceremony, all of which trace their lineage back hundreds of years to the legendary tea master Sen no Rikyu (1522-91).


At its Konnichian teahouse in Kyoto, Urasenke recently began its traditional New Year's hatsukamashiki, or "first kettle-boiling ceremony."


Urasenke's website has photos of last year's hatsukamashiki. The text is Japanese only, but the beautiful photos are fairly self-explanatory and can be clicked to bring up high-resolution versions. There is also an English-language version of part of the site.


Urasenke has offices all over the world. U.S. locations include San Francisco and Seattle.




An entrance to Urasenke's Konnichian teahouse in Kyoto.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, January 07, 2008

Your feedback is humbly requested

If you have tried our tea, we'd like to hear your feedback for listing on our new feedback page.


And if you're reading this but haven't tried our tea yet, please consider giving us a try. We are supremely confident in the quality of our tea, and at Mellow Monk, your satisfaction is always 100 percent guaranteed.


—Mellow Monk


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Videos of Mt. Aso

Below are a few videos of Mt. Aso, the active volcano on which is centered the region of unspoiled natural beauty where Mellow Monk green tea is grown.


The moonscape-like nature of the terrain around the volcano's crater is because the sulfuric gases emitted kill off most of the nearby vegetation.


Also, gas emissions from the crater, as well as seismic conditions throughout the vicinity, are closely monitored 24/7.


A ride up to the summit of Mt. Aso






Super cool—a helicopter ride over Mt. Aso's steam-belching crater







Touristas at the summit, right next to the crater, on a foggy day







Japanese news coverage of a minor eruption in 1979





—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Zatoichi sings "Sunny"

Here he is, the late, great Katsu Shintaro, singing the jazz standard "Sunny." This is from his album "Yoru Wo Utau" (Singing the Night).





Katsu gained superstardom in Japan in the 1960s playing the blind traveling gambler and masseur "Zatochi" in the long-running movie series of the same name.


For an actor, Katsu was a pretty decent singer, and it stands to reason: As the son of a famous Kabuki actor, he was trained in classical Japanese acting and singing in his early youth.


Also on this track, check out the funky jazz guitar, the jamming piano, and the melodious background singing.



The cover of Katsu's album "Yoru wo Utau."



Katsu Shintaro as Zatoichi in "Zatoichi 3: New Tale of Zatoichi."


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Green tea halves prostate cancer risk

A study conducted in Japan from 1990 to 2004 showed that men who drank 5 cups of green tea or more a day reduced their risk of developing progressive prostate cancer by half.



Japan's National Cancer Center, where the groundbreaking prostate-cancer study was conducted.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, January 04, 2008

Naked men on the world's tallest elevator?

In Inazawa City—home of the Naked Man Festival—Mitsubishi Electric has built the world's tallest elevtor testing tower. The tower is for testing state-of-the-art high-speed elevators for tomorrow's skyscrapers.


Just think—when they're done with the testing, the company could turn the tower into an amusement park ride—as long as they please, please keep those naked old guys off the elevators.



The elevator testing tower.



Uh, sorry guys, you're not getting on the elevator like that.


—Mellow Monk


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EcoGreenOffice makes the news!

Byran Beckett, co-owner of EcoGreenOffice, was recently featured on TV on Colorado's KUSA Channel 9 News.


(After the linked-to video appears, you have to click the play button to begin the clip.)


Congratulations, Bryan!



An aerial view of Boulder, Colorado, home of EcoGreenOffice.


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, January 03, 2008

A sake bath to ring in the new year

In addition to hatsumode—the first shrine visit of the year—another Japanese New Year's tradition is the first hot-spring bath of the year.


In Kumamoto City, the capital of the prefecture in which the Aso region is located, 16 public baths gave their first customers of the year a special treat: a bath with genuine sake added to the water.


A "sake bath" is said to speed up your metabolism and make you skin soft, hence its popularity with women, according to the article from which the photo below was taken.


There are also hot springs where you can heat up flasks of sake to drink later.



The bath owner shows bathers which brand of sake they're soaking in.


[Source: Kumamoto Nichinichi Shinbun.]


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year's resolutions for your skin

Eight simple and inexpensive New Year's resolutions for preserving your skin's youthful luster.


But this list omitted another simple and inexpensive (and 100% natural) way to revitalize your skin: green tea.



Skin care tip #7: wash your face.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Snow in Aso

Speaking of hatsumode, it's snowing in Aso right now, making for a white hatsumode at Aso Shrine.



Shrinegoers in the snow in Aso.



A snow-covered Aso City. This shot is of the Sakanashi neighborhood of Aso City, only a couple of miles from where our growers live.


[Photos from Kumamoto Nichinichi Shinbun.]


—Mellow Monk


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Hatsumode—first shrine visit of the year

Here's a great atmospheric video of a hatsumode (New Year's shrine visit) at a small shrine somewhere in snowy Japan.





—Mellow Monk


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