New Year's Letters


日本語のこの記入項目を読むためには、ここにかちりと鳴らしなさい。 悪い翻訳のための私を許しなさい。 読書を本当にありがとう。よろしくお願いします。

To ring in the new year, I thought it’d be good to check in with all those people who make this blog worthwhile for me.  In Japan they send letters to friends and family on New Year’s Day.  I bought some, but didn’t send them out … so I have this for now.  What follows is a random smattering of responses of mine to various comments, emails, facebook messages and other electronic communications.  Interspersed are some random 2008 photos that haven’t made the site before.  Questions are written in italics, and are organized by the questioner.   明けましておめでとうございます。


Why did you cut your hair, beard and mustache, like you did in your picture?

Picture in question.

Grandma, it was something I did last month.  It didn’t actually wear my hair that way to work or out socially, but I felt it was picture worthy.  I had originally planned to use it as a transition picture from dirty to clean for a video I planned to make about how dirty my place was.  Thought it’d be fun to post the dirty video on New Year’s Eve, then the clean one on New Year’s Day.  Ultimately, though didn’t have the time to get the video right, plus my place never got quite as clean as I hoped.

Decided to just post the picture on its own, partially for shock value and partially because I did feel it was somehow appropriate for the different transition going on from New Year’s Eve to Day.

Please let me know what it tastes like.


Wish I could, but sadly did not get to taste them.  Will say, virtually all the Japanese sweets I eat I enjoy, for what that’s worth.  Then again cheese sweets may be too much for even moi.

What do the pictures mean?

I put the shots up cryptically on purpose, hoping someone would ask.  As ever, you showed why you are this site’s #1 fan.  The pictures mean, as follows:


Steaming hot pink rice prior to being slammed by a mochi mallet.


The rice being slammed by a mallet.  In between smacks, the woman below turns the rice over and around to make sure all of it slammed into a connected gooey, delicious blob.


Shot of a half-eaten mochi mixed with anko.  This is the sweetest way mochi is served.  That said, mochi is a very flexible substance that can be served a variety of ways.  My favorite was the mochi, kimchi and cream cheese mix.

Dianne, Chris‘s mother

you have an Ella in your life? My Grandmother’s name was Ella. Small world. Just sayin.


Do not have an Ella in my life.  Writing Ela was simply a misguided attempt of me to get back at Ayla for spelling my name incorrectly.  Was not funny to start, then I later found out at dinner her name is actually phonetically pronounced Ala.  So as usual, failure on all fronts for me.

Charles, I would recognize that hot sauce collection anywhere! Have a wonderful New Years Eve!

Dianne, you have raised a very special young man.

Georgia Peach Claire

just a thought. and isnt “miso soup“ spelled with an I not “meso“, or maybe “miso“ is the americanized spelling. you know how i love to point out your flaws.

Yes, Claire as per usual you are correct.  Miso soup is in fact spelled “miso,” not “meso” thanks for pointing.

are you staying in japan for christmas?

Yes, I stayed in Japan for Christmas.  While it was sad to miss the event back home, I was treated to a delightful dinner complete with karaoke bar caroling after party. With December over I will be saddest to no longer be able to sing “Jingle Bells” at karaoke.  Really got the Japanese going.

is this the longest you have ever been away from home?

Yes, yes it is.  It’s been tough, but is something I want and feel as though I need to do.

Finally, she suggested:

you should put the recipes up so that all your readers can create your dishes.

Here you go Claire,

Please click the photo or here for a link to the complete recipe.

Food has been becoming a more frequent player in my posts lately.  In the future I will try to include more detailed recipes in English this time.

Also, readers if you’re interested in food, Claire has been doing an excellent job contributing to the 5 Star Meals in a 5 Foot Kitchen blog, which is maintained by another friend of mine, Nastassia.  Head over to their kitchen to take your taste-buds on a spiritual journey.


Perhaps I can get a job as a Pitt look alike?

No, no, no I cannot.


Personally, I thought Shane was pretty weak. Seemed unprepared and a bit inconsiderate/oblivious not to annunciate more in a room full of ESL-speakers (I could barely understand his million-words-a-minutes slurring).

And damn, two for two and the presentation disagreements. I appreciate the woman for being so prepped and energetic, but it all felt pretty inane. The only enjoyable part was hearing “mindshare penetration” getting thrown around so much.

This is not the first time Alex and I have disagreed.  To sum up, I enjoyed a lecture that focused on ideas like high vs. low context cultures in the midst of Japan’s high context culture.  Alex, on the other hand, liked a lecture at Tokyo I despised, where the speaker included a slide of a dolphin picture,

“Because I like dolphins.”

Regarding his ignorant criticism of Yong‘s speech as “inane,” I feel bad for him.  His inability to consider the fact he is not living in a small vacuum where the only thing that exists in this world are him and his English class is sad.  What Yoon was trying to get across was that the most important part of our Education was that the kids actually care enough about English to study it OUTSIDE of school.  Otherwise, they won’t make any real progress.  Thus, the mindshare comes in.  As, when classes end, every TV ad, video game, magazine, manga book, and pretty member of the opposite sex is competing for their mindshare.  Our goal is to have a miniscule share be devoted to studying English.
For context, mindshare here means the amount of time in an individual’s mind they spend thinking about/interacting with various topics, i.e., TV, video games, kissing, etc.

Haha, whose blog is this?

The blog he was asking about belonged to Chris, the most charismatic Japanese English teacher in Hokkaido.  He was the only Japanese person brave enough at the conference to stand up and speak when the speaker asked for Japanese volunteers.

Good entry, though I’m really getting played for a chump in this one (on the verge of tears at an insult and copping out on the meronpan-as-burger-bun challenge). Ha, did you end up getting charged for your Internet usage at the hotel?

Saying you were getting played for a chump implies you are not one, which is obviously incorrect.

And yes, I was charged quite a bit.  Tried to voice my complaints with the manager to no avail.  May of been related to him not speaking English and me not speaking Japanese.

I hope that crepe is dedicated to me.

Yes, of course.  Enjoy Southeast Asia.


is it that cold in japan?maybe you shouldn’t have shaved your hair…haha

It is quite cold here, as you can see from our weather.  That said, while it snows a lot more here, the cold does not actually quite as painfully cold as Chicago.

Whether this is actually true or not I don’t know, as I have not yet figured out how to convert from Fahrenheit into Celsius.  That said, I do have the following quote from Hunter S. Thompson’s 1988 “Generation of Swine,”

“There is nothing quite like the cold that you feel on a bad winter day in Chicago.  It is a genuinely frightening pain that is like being plunged into ice water, or feeling your skin on fire.”


Yo, by the way, did I tell you I moved to chicago?!

Congratulations on moving into America’s finest and most humble city.

English Rose Claire

i love your turnip

Thank you.  I cannot take credit for it, the prose was written by an unknown Japanese genius.


Finally, my Hamatonbetsu-internet friend wondered if I could ask my students about why Japanese people make the peace sign in photos?

I won’t see my students for a few weeks, but until then I was able to find an article about it, which quoted from a student,

“I make the peace sign but I don’t know why I do it, who invented it and when we started doing this. I think I’ve been doing it since I was born. The peace sign gesture must have been programmed in my DNA, or foreigners mind-controlled Japanese to make the peace sign subconsciously when we pose for a photo to keep the peace after the war.“

I will try to ask my students when they get back.

To close, I give you an interview with a former rural JET using the experience positively in his career, and my last 2008 Swan photo.

The Last Swan Shot of 2008