Mr. Wake

Are you understand?

Location: Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Mom, sister, and dog are OK. They went to Lafayette, Lousiana and are staying with some family friends. They got out before the highways became gridlocked. Lafayette is only a few hours away, but they got so little rain that they had to water the lawn today.

We are not optimisitc about their house. It`s located about a mile from Lake Pontchartrain. It's not in the area where the levee broke, but that may not matter so much anymore. They've been told that they'll be able to go home on Monday, but will not be allowed to stay there. Without drinking water and electricity, there's no reason to. Since we don't know the shape of the house, we don't know if it's weeks, months, years, ever, that they will live there or what stuff will be salvageable. But they can stay where they are as long as they need, and have been invited to stay with friends and family from all over, including Japan.

Watching CNN is maddening. Some parts of the city always flood, and some parts never do. So seeing water up to the roof and boats in the streets is not that shocking in itself. Since the CNN correspondants don't know the area, they can't tell us where they are. Also, the water level is rarely commented upon. A two foot flood in my old neighborhood is nothing new; a five foot flood is a disaster. Blitzer tends to drone on and on repeating the obvious, showing the same video clips. But the CNN shows like Anderson Cooper ,etc. that have to gather together material for a coherant story are useful.

The internet is awesome. This guy has great stuff and everyone is linking to him, though he is not actually anywhere near the city. And this story choked me up. There was a story on CNN about a guy blogging from his office downtown, but I can't find the URL. But there is still no specific information on neighborhoods because anyone still there can't communicate. has a message board but all people do is ask questions. No one knows anything.

In other news, I hada birthday and got some weird stuff. That's what I was going to blog about, but Kat sort of overshadowed things.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Denny's Condiments

Originally uploaded by wakela.
These get more interesting from left to right.
1) Tobasco. Every single bottle in the world is bottled in Avery Island, Lousiana (which is not a real island).

2) And here we have some "Restaurant Table Tomato." The weird thing is that the Japanese know what ketchup is. They say "ketchup." Maybe DelMonte was going for a more high-end feel.

3) Denny's own catch all "Restaurant Sauce." If you're eatin' it here, you can sauce it with this. It says, "Denny's Restaurant Sauce is a high grade sauce for all foods. No preservative." Nice that they can both describe the sauce as if it were motor oil, and reassure us of the lack of preservative in the same breath.

4) Soy sauce. According to my studies, the large characters translate to "possession machine," but I'll give Denny's the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

How to Eat Pickles

OK, I’m trying to get back on the ball here. Now that the glorious 100 Days of Guests have ended I can focus on more domestic duties. I have tales to tell -- tales of injury, induced muscle spasms and lunch– but if I wait for a chance to get it all down, it will never happen. So I’ll try to throw stuff out there peace meal.

This week I’ve been working at the place in the country. The company has two factories, one in the city near wife’s parent’s place, and one in the country near our own place. Usually I work at the city one. But Papa-san wants pictures of all the parts smashed out by the 300 ton press, which is in the country, so to the country I came.

The workers here only know me because the company president (shacho) introduced me to them as his younger brother (he loves doing that), so they treat me with more deference than those at the city factory. For example:

Tuesday: Lunchtime is noon. At about ten till the office manager motions me towards shacho’s office. A single Styrofoam lunchbox sits on the long conference table like a temple offering. The office manager tells me that I may eat (the president is at the other factory today). Ooookay. As I sit one of the office girls brings in a tray with a humongous bowl of rice, a bowl of soup, and a glass of tea with ice it in. She excuses herself, lays the goods on the table, excuses herself again, leaves, and excuses herself on the way out. The office manager pops in with a smile and turns on the air conditioner. This is the only time this room is used all day. And I enjoy a quiet lunch with an old copy of The Economist. Fried chicken chunks, slice of fish, pickles.

Wednesday: At ten till lunch the office door is closed. Someone is in there on the TV phone talking with shacho. Enter the girl with the foam lunch box. But with the office door closed, she is at a loss. There is some discussion with another office girl. I catch “…wake-san…..lunch…..wake-san….” Well. This should be good. I pretend to work, and follow the drama on the sly. The lunch is set up in the conference room, which is all windows and directly across from my desk. Two girls arrange the foam box and the tray of soup, tea, and enough rice to feed Myanmar. They are a little skittish. They know this isn’t right, but in only a few minutes it will be noon, and then, right or not, this is how it will have to go down. Suddenly, shacho’s office doors open, and the office manager comes out. The call is over. He and the girls have a quick, whispery meeting, “ ….lunch…lunch…..Wake-san…..” It is determined the conference room is not suitable. The three gather the box, tea, soup, and rice (it takes two of them to carry the rice) and move it all to the conference table in shacho’s office. It takes three of them to serve me lunch. At the other factory it takes precisely zero. Once arranged, I am invited to partake. The office manager apologizes that he has some file boxes on the other end of the table. Ginger pork with noodles, tofu and noodle salad, pickles.

Thursday: Shacho’s office is free, but the office manager is gone. At about 5 till I start getting the nervous that maybe the girls won’t be able to handle it without him. Then I’ll have to ask someone where I should eat, which will sound presumptuous no matter how I do it. Whoever I ask will be thrown into a blind panic with having to quickly set up everything without taking up too much of the 45 lunch minutes allotted. She won’t even think of the break time she’s giving up. Then I get to stand there and watch them scurry around wishing I could just go to the dining hall like everyone else. Fortunately, this did not happen, though I have a feeling the girl was slacking a little, since the office manager wasn’t there. She got everything set up and invited me to dine right on time. Curry, macaroni salad, pickles.

You’re wondering about Monday’s lunch. Did not happen. I’ll tell you why later.

How to Eat Sushi

I know you think I'm going to have something sarcastic and intolerant and probably racist about Japanese food, but this is acutally about how to eat sushi, and it's very interesting.

This is the 5th in the series, so scroll down to the bottom of the artice to read the previous installment. Then go to a sushi restaurant and snoot off.



Just, wow.