Monday, December 06, 2010


There is no better way to warm up in winter than with a 'kotatsu.' The kotatsu is a brilliantly simple invention. A table with a blanket under the table's surface, and a small space heater affixed to the underside of the table. Breakfast or dinner, the kotatsu is the way to keep warm this winter. Especially since central heating doesn't seem to exist over here!

Sunday morning. Blueberry pancakes. Coffee. Kotatsu.

And in the evening, you ask? Homemade gyoza (fried pork dumplings), a couple cans of Super Prime beer flavoured alcohol, some rice, and of course slip under the kotatsu blanket. You'll be feeling warm and sleepy in no time!

Mmmm…. Ian's homemade gyoza! I have to say they were pretty tasty little things.

And besides making food, and staying cozy under the table, I have also been trying to regain my Japanese ability. Studying Japanese writing is a long, hard journey. On top of the two separate phonetic alphabets, one is expected to learn 2000 of the more difficult 'kanji' (Chinese characters) to be considered acceptably literate. I think I can read about 80 so far… I'll let you know how that goes.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Eat Your Vegetables!

There you have it. The Vegetable Sisters teach us about vegetables and recommended daily servings in Japanese.
Pretty self-explanatory, really… but I'd be happy to answer any further questions.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ian Flies a Spaceship

Right. So, before we left these folks (see below), we made one last great, North American road trip to the surprisingly futuristic town of Seattle.

Luke, Tara, Ian, and Ali take a ride on the wild side with Vancouver's public transportation.
Not seen here, Meaghan (photographer) and Kevin (who met up with us later). This was the night before we left for SEATTLE.

Seattle, unbeknownst to most, is a city obsessed with space exploration. They even have their own super-powered, space invader repulser laser cannon known as the "Space Needle."

However, of much greater interest to me, was this super futuristic space ship docking bay (which incidentally doubles as a music museum and experiment lab, as well as a science fiction museum). Within these walls was some of the most incredible space technology, as well as a really cool music recording section where you could take mini lessons on guitar, piano, drums, and vocals, or record yourself in the free-style jam studio. We do have video of our 'family band jam session,' which I might share with you after I review the recording quality.

Yes, here it is. Captain Ian standing proudly with a frakin' viper from the Battlestar Galactica.
I was allowed to take it out for a test flight, however this video footage was lost in the ensuing crash landing. Still, one of the highlights of any trip I've taken thus far!

And that's a rap!

With that, it was time to fly (sadly not via viper) across the Pacific, and to continue our adventures in Japan.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Japanese Sandwiches

Japanese sandwiches are, for the most part, hugely disappointing. For the usual reasons (hunger, and it was lunch time) I bought a sandwich this afternoon. It was a typical "mix-sando" featuring 3 half sandwich triangles: egg, ham, and tuna. the bread was approximately 7mm in width, plain white, with the crust sliced off. Leaving 3 perfectly triangular little pieces in the triangular package. Between each 2 pieces was roughly 1 teaspoon of sandwich filling. The tuna sandwich actually had a single green leaf on it… this went beyond the standard. Greens, as we know them in the west, are hard to come by in Japan.

Bread and cheese. Those are two things you'll miss if you live in Japan. You will, however, enjoy a great variety of noodle and rice dishes. Salad, however, is almost exclusively a pitiful looking mixture of sliced cabbage, corn, and mayonnaise. Oh, also mayonnaise is on everything. At least, far more things than you ever imagined putting mayonnaise on. On the upside, Japanese mayonnaise is much better than the western variety. Who woulda thought that mayonnaise was a Japanese specialty? Now if only they could learn how to make a sandwich...

Friday, October 29, 2010

West Coast Stopover

After saying our "See you next year"s in Ontario, Tara and I headed to Vancouver to catch up with our siblings and friends. Vancouver is a beautiful city, and always has an interesting range of things to do. The air is clean and crisp, and it just feels like a healthy place to be.

Ali, Luke, and Meaghan at sunset. This park by the bay is DIRECTLY across the street from Meaghan and Luke's apartment. Talk about a nice location!

On my first night in town we caught up with Kevin. He was having a wild house party/music festival in his basement apartment! We listened to some great music, met a lot of cool people, and had some laughs. I hope they got the mustard out of the floor though!

Kevin performs in his living room/concert hall. Rock on!

Alice? Don't be late!

Ok…which one of us is Tweedle Dum?

GO GO public transportation!

What's this, you ask? It's a Japadog. Yes, Vancouver is home to a bizarre fusion restaurant that combines traditional American food (the hotdog) with Japanese toppings, such as seaweed, or soba noodles. In this picture you can see the tasty nori-dog (sprinkled with strips of seaweed paper).

Japadog gets the peace-sign of approval. The peace sign is ubiquitous in Japanese photographs. Why? I haven't quite figured that out yet. It may have something to do with the fact that the Japanese word for "2" is pronounced "nee." Saying "nee" while your picture is being taken, is similar to the English "CHEESE" - stretching one's face into a broad smile. The Japanese photographer will count 1 - 2, and snap the photograph on '2'. Anyway, that's just a theory… I have also heard many Japanese photographers say 'cheese' while taking a picture, but unfortunately 'cheese' in Japanese is pronounced 'cheeZU,' thus forming an awkwardly unattractive face with the lips pushed outward.

While in the Japadog shop, I had the chance to practice a bit of Japanese, much to the shock of the staff there. Ohhh, my Japanese feels rusty! I better get some more practice in before we have to rely on it for survival again.

P-p-p-p-pixelated whale. Thank you, Mr. Douglas Coupland for this modern take on a traditional symbol of West Coast Canada.
The two baby whales also shown in this picture, are actually Meaghan and Tara. I know! You never would have guessed, because they play the part so well.

Well, that's a quick summary of some of the good times in Vancouver. On the day before flying to Japan, we made one more road trip to SEATTLE. Pictures and video of that excursion coming soon.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fall Farewells

Autumn has come again, the leaves are not the only things changing. After a long year of study and work in London (that's London, ONTARIO), Tara and I find ourselves saying goodbyes again; we are on our way to Japan again.

There never seems to be enough time to spend with all of our friends and loved ones, but the times we do have, we make the most of. Here is a small collage of our fall farewells.
We miss you all, already!

My mom and dad on the tree-lined streets of London in fall. Beautiful day for a walk!

Meanwhile, Tara went to Florida to visit her parents. Here they are in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Palm trees do not change colour in the Florida fall.

Tara with my grandmother. She made us some tasty cookies before we left.

My grandfather and I. Can you see the resemblance?

My dad and I in Gibbons Park in London. No resemblance there, either.

Thanksgiving dinner!!! One of the best meals of the year. Here's my mom working away in the kitchen to prepare a delicious dinner for us.

Tara and I with many of her cousins. This is the promo shot for a new teen drama we're starring in called Aaron's Creek.

Tara with her 'Ga' in front of Aaron's Creek.

Thanks to everyone for the great times, and for wishing us well in our travels. Up next: an exciting stopover in VANCOUVER, BC!