26 August, 2006


a couple of days ago, in a post about our Japanese home, i made a reference to the cool toilet seats they have here, lamenting the fact that we don't have one. i realized that not everyone would have seen these things before, so now i'm back with photographs, the first of which, as an action shot, i'm especially proud of:

the bidet function in action, taken at great personal hazard and sacrifice; below, the rather involved control panel for this amazing device.

many of the toilets, or o-toire, here are fitted with these seats that are plumbed in and electrically powered, and that provide not only bidet but heater/drying functions and apparently others as well. as you see, there are quite a lot of buttons, along with a dial for bidet intensity. not to put to fine a point on it, but a high powered go on one of these things a day would be sure to keep the proctologist away. i don't think they're cheap to buy, but i do believe that importing Japanese techno toilet seats would be worth a possible addition to the trade deficit.

finally, another good toilet idea that me be worthy of imitation, if not importation, is the variable strength flush. in the picture below, you will see two characters on the flush lever, which mean small and big. push the lever the small way, and you only use a small amount of water. after a big movement, which is actually what it's called, you get more water. pretty clever idea anyway, which may be more than can be said for this post...

the clever lever: small on top, big at the bottom.

21 August, 2006


though there are foods in Japan very reminiscent of some of the foul monstrosities in Taiwan, we have had some quite good meals here. i will admit that we have had to resort to some evil American-type joints, like the dreaded McDonald's and even KFC, but we have enjoyed local fare too. one of our favorites was a shabu-shabu place we went to shortly after arriving here. there is basically a pot of boiling water and then for 90 minutes they bring you as much meat, thinly sliced, and vegetables as you can throw in the water to cook and then eat. actually, you are supposed to hold the meat in your chopsticks and swish it through the water twice, while saying shabu, shabu (some magical incantation, perhaps?), and then eat it. most people found this length of cooking wasn't enough, but i think the beef is delightfully tender at this stage.

at the shabu-shabu, and below devouring a mammoth (and mammoth-priced) sundae at the Hard Rock Cafe.

anyway, like everything else in Japan, most food is quite expensive, but at least in some places you can get a lot. like the brownie sundae above, which we got at the Nagoya Hard Rock Cafe. it cost the better part of nine bucks, but it was pretty good, as were the burgers there. some friends have also shown us where there is a Wendy's in town, and the other day we found a Subway quite close to us.

and the edible food discoveries are continuing apace: this morning i saw a Red Lobster down by the Nagoya Port, and last night Jill and i enjoyed (smallish) brownie sundaes at a Baskin Robbins we found. so as with cold waters to a thirsty soul, so with good news from a far country: Mother, we are not starving, but rather eating quite well--BR here even has Jamoca Almond Fudge...

31 edible flavors.


though we have ever so many, i thought i'd just put up a very few of the pictures of our little house here in Nagoya, which is actually 名古屋 if you speak Japanese. it's got two bedrooms and comprises the bottom floor of a two or three storey building, and, like all else in Japan, is very narrow and quite deep--a "shotgun" apartment as Jill likes to call it. this means that there is one sort of hallway that goes front to back and all the rooms are arranged on one side or the other of that. what you see in the picture below is actually about the whole width of the place:

the front door of our little homestead, which is actually quite Western in many ways, like the mailbox, for example. please don't fail to note the rather attractive motorbike in the foreground...

inside, our house is cozy, but quite spacious by Japanese standards. i'm told that many young salarymen live in apartments with nothing more than a bed and a toilet, owing to the handy profusion of restaurants and public baths, or onsen. like most Asian kitchens, ours is far too small to be very useful, so we've put a little barbecue grill on the porch, but our bathing facilities are second to none. first of all, the toilet itself is kept in its own room, which is a wonderful idea and only lamentable for the fact that that room is right next to the kitchen. and the toilet is sadly lacking one of those amazing Japanese bidet toilet seats, which are as cool as they seem and maybe even more, by the way.

but the bathroom--which really is that, a room for a bath--is where it's at. you probably won't be able to get the full sense from the picture, but the tub itself is huge, and very deep. the little box on the wall behind it lets you set the temperature and then with one touch fill the tub to a preselected volume. another button will heat the water back up if it starts to cool, though there are covers for the tub to keep the heat in if you want to pre-fill the tub. the rest of the room is watertight when the door is closed, so the shower, which has excellent pressure and is detachable from the wall, can be used to devastating effect--for the dirt. you may be thinking to yourself that the mirror on the back wall is too low to be of any use to man or even very short man; this is a clever observation but know that it is positioned in this way so that the Japanese bather may, while his bath is running itself, seat himself on a stool and actually do the washing of himself in front of the mirror before showering off and soaking, clean, in the tub. this is the preferred method of bathing here, and is either a symptom or a cause of the endless fascination with cleanliness. in either case, behold my amazing bathroom:

thebathroom, quite literally. the little control box even talks to you to let you know its plan, though it's all in Japanese. below, the noren that neatly conceal our little laundry and sink area.

just outside the bathroom is a small area with our washer and quaintly named "dryer", which is actually more of a spinning heater. we also have a little sink there, neatly recessed into the wall, but altogether this room comprises the ugly bits of our house. for this reason, it is sectioned off using noren, short, sectioned curtains that historically have been used to indicate shopfronts, and in many cases bear the marks or symbols of the particular establishment. even today, they are put up over the door of many small shops at the start of business and then removed at the end of the day. the ones that hung when we moved in were a bit dull, so we updated with the noren pictured above, which we bought in Kyoto and depict Mt Fuji under a tsunami--a famous work by the very famous Japanese artist Hokusai.

so that's about it. we use one of our bedrooms as an office of sorts, and the other we use as a bedroom. because even though they don't do it on mattresses per se, the Japanese do sleep.


there has been some discontent of late with the way thejayfather is blogging. it is understandable, for in the quite correct words to me of one faithful reader, "Your blog isn't keeping pace with the expectations raised during your Taiwan period." this may have sparked the question in some other eager minds that another thoughtful reader recently posed: "Do you intend to maintain the blog, or can I stop checking it every day?"

this last question troubled me somewhat, for why, i asked my second faithful reader, would you ever check a blog--even this magnificent one--every day? should you, or anyone you know, be stuck with this burdensome predicament, thejayfather shall now enlighten you somewhat on the tools available to us in the age of blogs: get an aggregator, and all that mindless checking is done for you. in the words of the Wikipedist:

An aggregator or news aggregator is client software that uses a web feed to retrieve syndicated web content such as weblogs, podcasts, vlogs, and mainstream mass media websites...

Aggregators reduce the time and effort needed to regularly check websites for updates, creating a unique information space or "personal newspaper." Once subscribed to a feed, an aggregator is able to check for new content at user-determined intervals and retrieve the update.

The aggregator provides a consolidated view of the content in a single browser display or desktop application. Such applications are also referred to as RSS readers, feed readers, feed aggregators, news readers or search aggregators.

so to you who are not aggregated yet and are suffering for it, i say aggregate yourself. personally, i use Google Reader (which works nicely inside of Google's handy personalized homepage), but there are dozens of others out there that generally appear quite easy to use. just enter my feed address into your aggregator and sit back and leave the rest to technology.

finally, Dear Reader, do not fear: thejayfather is not going anywhere, so do continue to stop by once in a while, but only when your aggregator tells you to.


shortly before Jill and i left for Japan we got to spend a (very hot, and mostly windless) afternoon sailing with my grandfather, Bill. he has a 22-foot Catalina yacht docked in the Great Salt Lake and it is very appropriately named Cariad--Welsh for "my love". as long as i can remember Bill has owned a sailboat; the Kalyanda moored in Abersoch in North Wales, and this one purchased very soon after Bill made the move to the States. many afternoons find him down at the boat, just making this improvement or that--not even sailing.

on this day, we did sail quite a long way out from the marina before the wind actually died, and the return trip was slow and uneventful, but it gave my grandpa and i a good chance to talk and reminisce, mostly over old sailing trips and the way things had been in the old country. due to the heat Jill wasn't feeling too well by the time we got back to port, but she very graciously indulged our chat for some hours. i have many fond memories of spending time as a child with Bill--playing "lions" at home or having wars in any one of the numerous forests he knew; along with countless screwpunches and biffaroos. now, far away, these pictures of a day of almost- sailing provide me with some more great memories. Thanks, Grandpa.

thejayfather and thegrandfather out on the open lake, and back in the marina later.