Friday, February 29, 2008

Check the attic for Ultraman


He is 130 feet tall and weighs 35,000 tons but can stay in the earth's atmosphere for only three minutes. He battles assorted monsters trying to destroy the earth.

And if he is currently residing in your attic—especially if he's in his original box—he may be worth a nice piece of change.



This Ultraman brought in almost six hundred bucks.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Japan's coolest swimming pool isn't really a swimming pool

One of the memorable exhibits at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa is the inverse pool, which creates the illusion of people being underwater.


There's something creepy, almost disturbing, about the effect. But then that's one of the things good art does—it makes you ask yourself why you react the way you do.


The brainchild of Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich, the pool also ranks Number 3 on Oobject's list of really cool pools.



What it looks like inside the pool ...



... and what it looks like from above.



—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Recipe: green tea smoked trout with spinach salad

If you like trout and green tea, then you're in luck, because here is a recipe for green tea-smoked trout with spinach salad. Sounds yummy!



Here's a variation made with black tea instead of green and with apple salad instead of spinach, but you can simply substitute the 1/2 cup of black tea with the same amount of much-healthier green tea leaves.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Review of "Green Tea: 50 Hot Drinks, Cool Quenchers, and Sweet and Savory Treats"

This review of the book "Green Tea: 50 Hot Drinks, Cool Quenchers, and Sweet and Savory Treats" shows a couple of recipes excerpted from the book, such as ...

Pineapple-Ginger Iced Green Tea

Serves 4

1 cup chilled green tea

2 cups chilled pineapple juice

1 cup very fizzy chilled ginger ale

Ice cubes

Mix the chilled green tea with the pineapple juice in a medium-size pitcher. Stir well. Add the ginger ale to the pitcher and blend thoroughly. Pour the tea mixture into tall glasses filled with ice and serve immediately.




—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lake Chuzenji, exclusive resort area

Lake Chuzenji sits amidst the majestic beauty of the mountains of inner Nikko (Okunikko).


From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, the area was a popular resort area for foreign dignitaries. With its many luxurious villas, the Chuzenji of that era was a bustling, exclusive town frequented by celebrities and other prominent figures.


One of the villas still standing today is the former Italian Embassy villa, built in 1928 and owned by the Italian government until 1997. Designed by American architect Anthony Raymond, the structure achieves an exquisite harmony between Japan’s natural beauty and Western architecture. Features such as the checkerboard walls of cedar bark and finished wood and interior paneling that highlights the wood’s natural grain are bold yet somehow soothing at the same time. Today, the villa is preserved as part of the Italian Embassy Villa Memorial Park, and its living room, study, and other rooms are open to the public.



This villa must have seen some interesting parties in its day.



Lake Chuzenji, with Mt. Nantai in the background.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The aluminum jacket

Japan's Kawanami Ironworks, headquartered in Kyoto, won one of the top prizes handed out in Mori Seiki’s Cutting Dream Contest Awards. Their winning entry—an aluminum jacket.



You can't wear it, but it does look cool.



—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Japanese jazzer Masayoshi Takanaka

Jazz guitarist Masayoshi Takanaka has been around Japan's music scene for a long time, and he's still going strong. His old-school "cool jazz"-style music brings to mind a lazy day on the beach or in the backyard, lounging with friends and family. Very mellow stuff.


Here are a couple of his videos I found on YouTube.


"Blue Lagoon" - In concert





"Ready to Fly" - Live, with violinist Ikuko Kawai)





"Nagisa Moderato" - In concert




—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Chic teapots on display

Gump's in San Francisco is having an exhibit titled "Treasured Vessels: The Art of the Teapot" through March 28.


The teapots may be unconventional to say the least (see photo below), but on the other hand, sometimes a new teapot or a new way of brewing is a good way to shake up your green tea time.



Where does the hot water go in . . . and where does the tea come out?


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

"Smoke on the Water," Japan-style

Just as the title implies, a Japanese version of the Deep Purple classic "Smoke on the Water," with shamisen instead of guitars.


This version, whose title translates into "Firefighting in Edo" (O-Edo no Hikeshi), describes efforts to fight fires in Edo (as Tokyo was known until the mid-1800s), which was frequently engulfed in infernos because of its densely packed wooden buildings.





—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dr. Oz's anti-aging checklist

Dr. Mehmet Oz—known as "Dr. Oz" and author of books such as You on A Diet—has put up his "Ultimate Anti-Aging Checklist" at Oprah.com.


Number 4 on the list is—drumroll, please—green tea.



Dr. Oz says you should drink about four cups of green or white tea a day.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

How to fix EBay

EBay's recent changes to its feedback system are being widely decried as a bad move, but I'm not so sure.


The change eliminates the ability of sellers to rate buyers. In other words, if you sell an item on EBay but the buyer flakes, you don't get a chance to leave nasty feedback. From now on, only buyers can leave feedback for sellers.


Which is usually as it should be, as that's the norm in the general marketplace, yes?


Let me explain.


If I go to a restaurant and get lousy food and lousy service—say I find a cockroach in the soup and get smacked with a dirty mop by the waiter—then as a consumer I have various means at my disposal to inform other diners of what awaits them at Che Dirty Mop: I can leave negative feedback on Yelp, complain to the local chamber of commerce, or use good, old-fashioned word of mouth and tell everyone I know to avoid the place like a tourist bar on New Year's Eve.


But if, on the other hand, the service and food at Che Dirty Mop—name nothwithstanding—turns out to be good, yet I get a little too loud after my 3rd glass of wine or falsely accuse the chef of using rat meat in the veal cutlets, then the restaurant's owner or manager can ask me to leave. If I order food but then, after it arrives, send it back, telling the waiter I changed my mind, the owner can, from that day forward, exercise his right to refuse service and tell me never to come again.


But does the owner have the right to fax my picture to every restaurant proprietor in the area, telling them to steer clear?


That, I think, is analogous to EBay's now-defunct buyer feedback.


But there is still a problem at EBay that needs fixing, and it has to do with the delay between the bidder's winning an auction and remitting payment to the seller.


Anywhere else online, if I want an item, I pay for it up front, after which the seller mails it out to me. I don't email the seller saying, "Yeah, I'll take the Star Wars teapot" and expect them to hold it for me while I get around to sending in payment.


Therein lies the problem that EBay sellers want most to avoid—buyers who flake.


Which is why I think EBay needs a different system for paying, such as an escrow-like system in which a buyer's credit card is charged automatically once the sale goes through—too draconian?—or, say, a 24-hour deadline for paying. Buyers who miss too many payment deadlines could be barred from the site.


I'm just rambling here. I think I here my kettle boiling.


Bye for now,


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The world's longest tree-lined road

Located on the eastern edge of the historical city of Nikko, Imaichi contains a cedar-lined road (namiki kaido) that has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s longest. Lined by some 13,000 cedar trees, the Nikko, Reiheishi, and Aizunishi roads wind a total distance of 37 kilometers on their way to Nikko Toshogu Shrine.


These trees date back to the days of the Shogunate, when Matsudaira Masatsuna, a retainer of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, had over 200,000 cedars plated over a 20-year period in the shrine's honor.


Many the trees standing today bear witness to their long and eventful history. One tree is still scarred by a cannonball fired during the Boshin War (1868–1869). Another, nicknamed "Nikko Namiki Taro," is considered the largest and most beautiful of all. "Sakura Sugi" (Cherry Pine) contains a wild cherry tree that grew out of a crack in its bark and which blooms magnificently in springtime.



The Nikko Cedar Avenue (Nikko Suginami Kaido) leading to Toshogu Shrine.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Amazing panoramas of Tokyo

Talk about a site that's perfect for a green tea break.


The Washington Post has a collection of self-rotating 360-degree panoramas of famous spots in Tokyo.


When you click on one of the thumbnails, the full-size panorama may take a moment to load, but it's well worth the wait. There's even a full-screen mode, which really makes you feel like you're there in person taking in the sights.


Once it loads, the image begins moving to the side automatically, so you can sit back with your cup of green tea, relax and enjoy the show.



A still shot of the 360 panoramic view of Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Green tea cookies

If you're in the dog house today for getting your soulmate a Chia Pet for Valentine's Day, you might want to bake some green tea heart-shaped cookies as a peace offering.



Yummy! If anyone out there bakes some, I'm willing to "review" them for you!


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Korean tea ceremony

Here's a video of a Korean-style green tea ceremony.






—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Rainbow roses for Valentine's Day

A while back I wrote a post about how popular rainbow roses are in Japan, and the post itself was pretty popular, so I thought I'd write a follow-up.


The shopping pages of Yahoo! Japan are positively stock full of various rainbow rose offerings for Valentine's Day. (You may say it's too late to order online now, but when it comes to roses, the aphorism "better late than never" definitely holds true.) Some of them look really nice, and they all seem to be from the Netherlands.


A search for "rainbow roses" at Yahoo! U.S.A., however (or on Google, for that matter), turns up something different — bouquets of variously colored roses, but each roses is a single solid color, unlike Dutch rainbow roses, in which each individual roses exhibits the full rainbow spectrum.



A colorful bouquet. The gent who could score some of these for his missus would be a hero for sure.



A close-up of a rainbow rose. Both pics are from the Yahoo! Japan shopping site.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Our review in "The Green Tea Review"

The blog "Green Tea Review" has reviewed our Monk's Choice Green Tea. It's quite a flattering review, if I do say so myself.

The aroma of the dry leaf is mild and mellow, but carries with it the tantalizing tang noted in the previous post. This tang smell is exclusive to the leaf of guricha. The leaf is in amazing shape compared to the usual broken up sencha leaf. This shows that care really did go into the processing of this tea.




—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Zero-calorie sweeteners make us fat

A while back one of my kids asked me what the word "paradox" means. I explained that it's something that seems like it couldn't be true but is, or a situation that is the opposite of what you'd ordinarily think it would be.


At the time I couldn't think of a good example to illustrate the concept, but now I have one:


Researchers have found that zero-calorie artificial sweeteners like saccharine can actually make you fatter than if you had stuck with good, old-fashioned sugar.


In the study, done at Purdue University, "rats given saccharin-sweetened yogurt actually ate more and gained more weight than rats given regularly-sugared yogurt." The reason could be that the rats who ate saccharin never felt satisfied, which made them eat more, thereby getting more calories from the other ingredients in the yogurt.


What's more, the story I heard on the radio this morning about this study said that the saccharin-fed rats were also meaner than their sugar-fed counterparts.


So put down that diet soda, but don't reach for the sugary soda. Instead, brew up something even better—green tea.



Drink only when you need to get mean.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Anti-itch jammies

Britain's Travelodge hotel chain is set to begin offering guests tight-fitting full-body pajamas. Made of Dermasilk, the pajamas are supposed to prevent sleep-impeding itchiness by better regulating the wearer's body temperature.



These anti-itch pajamas look like something right out of ...



... "2001: A Space Odyssey."


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Music videos from Hifana, Japan's way-out-there electronica duo

I'm the first to admit that Japan's hip-hop/electronica duo Hifana are not for every taste. But their music videos are so off-the-wall and so surreal as to be mesmerizing. The events unfold in a dreamlike way, keeping the viewer wondering what on earth could happen next. It's like "Sgt. Pepper" meets Ukiyoe.



"Wamono"






"Connect"




—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Japan's latest eco-trend: walking around with your own thermos

An up-and-coming "green" trend in Japan is the movement away from disposable beverage bottles and toward a refillable, washable bottles instead.


In other words, rather than walking around with those ubiquitous plastic water bottles, more and more people can be seen carrying their own personal mini-thermos—insulated bottles are especially popular as they can hold hot beverages (such as tea) in the winter or ice-cold beverages (such as iced tea) in the summer.


The photo below shows a cutified "insulated aluminum water bottle" made by Sweden's Laken.


[Source: Yahoo Japan News]



Laken must have made this cute model especially for the Japanese market.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

There she is, Miss Japan

Eri Suzuki, a 20-year-old student at Nihon University, beat out 2,940 other contestants to be crowned Miss Japan 2008.


Talking to reporters after her win, Ms Suzuki said that she didn't even expect to make it into the top 10 finalists, who were chosen that morning. In fact, she had told her parents and grandmother, who were in the audience, that they would all go out for yakiniku after her loss, and so when she not only made it into the top 10 but was then announced as the winner that evening, the look of utter surprise on her face was completely genuine.


[Source: Mainichi Shinbun]



Eri Suzuki, Miss Japan 2008.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Cocktail recipe: Green tea mojito

Here's a recipe for a green tea mojito. I've modified this recipe, replacing bottled green tea with a freshly brewed infusion of authentic loose-leaf green tea (such as yours truly's).


Ingredients
juice of half a lime
6 large mint leaves
brewed green tea – 75 ml (1/3 cup)
white rum – 30 ml (2 tbsp)

Instructions
Pour the lime juice into a highball glass. Add the mint and crush with a spoon. Fill a glass with ice and add the tea and rum. Stir well and garnish with a mint leaf, if desired.






The green tea mojito served up at Kyoya in San Francisco.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Allergies caused by lack of intestinal parasites?

Joel Weinstock, chief of gastroenterology and hepatology at Tufts-New England Medical Center, has earned a spot on Esquire magazine's "Best and Brightest" list for his groundbreaking theory on the cause of asthma, hay fever, and other immunological diseases.

"I get about 5,000 e-mails a year from patients all over the world asking what to do," he said. "People know that something isn't right. They keep their kids in the cleanest environments and they get asthma. We get all of these [diseases] that were rare becoming common.

One culprit, according to Dr. Weinstock, is—now get ready for this—the absence these days of intestinal worms. Not having worms or other "enemies" to battle, the body's immune system eventually focuses on attacking otherwise harmless irritants, leading to asthma and other immunological overreactions.


This theory is part of a larger school of thought known as the "hygiene hypothesis," which posits that allergies, asthma, and many other modern afflictions are caused by living in an environment that's too clean.



Dr. Joel Weinstock.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Sushi chocolate for Valentine's Day

Quirky Japanese retailer Tokyu Hands is offering some very quirky gift ideas for Valentine's Day, including sushi chocolate—sushi-shaped sweets in which the shari (sushi rice) portion is chocolate and the neta (sliced fish or octopus or whatever) is some sort of sweet. (The article doesn't specify.)


The wasabi packets (see photo below) that come with the sushi set contain wasabi-flavored chocolate balls.


Other special Valentine's treats include eclairs that look like deep-fried breaded shrimps (ebi furai).


So far as I can tell, these items aren't available in the U.S., but if someone knows otherwise, please let us know!


[Source: Mainichi Shinbun]



Q: What is it that looks like sushi but tastes like chocolate? A: Sushi chocolate!



A photo from the Tokyu Hands page at the Yahoo! Japan job-search site. Unfortunately, Tokyu Hands is not hiring now.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Epic "Zatoichi" fight scene

Here's an 8-minute clip from the English-subtitled version of "Zatoichi and the Doomed Man," featuring Shintaro Katsu as the blind traveling swordsman/gambler/masseur.


Although this classic scene has one of the highest body counts of the entire Zatoichi series, this film, released in 1965, isn't nearly as bloody or gory as later films (to say nothing of today's fare).







Here's a great scene from "Zatoichi the Fugitive." Note the unconventional way Zatoichi holds his swords. This technique—sakate-giri, or "upside-down cut"—was one of his trademarks. I also like the atmospheric '60s music in this film. It's cheesy, but then that's part of its charm.





—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The waterfall that turned into an icicle

I sure hope that no one in Aomori Prefecture ever made a promise that was contingent on Nio Waterall (Niogataki) freezing over—such as, "Sure I'll pay you back—when Nio Falls freezes over."


Because that's exactly what happened this week.


Actually the freezing of the falls is known to happen occasionally—the last time was 3 years ago—and is said to be a sign of a bountiful harvest in the fall.


[Source: Yahoo Japan]



Yeah, I'd say it's a little cold today.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Japan's Martha Stewart

... minus the prison stripes, that is. (Sorry, I just couldn't resist.)


Harumi Kurihara is more than a mere TV show host. She is "a brand that encompasses restaurants, housewares stores, a magazine and more than 20 cookbooks that have sold more than 7 million copies. (Not bad for someone who began working at age 36.)"


GlobalAtlanta interview with Harumi Kurihara (through an interpreter)





Harumi Kurihara at work in her home in Tokyo.



Harumi's 2nd cookbook published in America.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)