First Snow of Winter

In Japan, most people change their car tires in winter. They call them “studless” tires or “snow” tires. A lot of husbands take on this challenge themselves, probably “encouraged” by their wives. Other saner people drive to the local “gasoline stand-o” and pay a professional to do it. I’m one of the “encouraged” people and take on the job of replacing 8 tires twice a year. It’s one of those jobs that you keep wanting to put off until the weather is just right, you know, forever next weekend.

This year, the first snow to fall in the city came before I’d changed my tires. So I had to drive to work this morning in the snow with my regular tires still on. My wife was panicking a bit, giving me a shovel as well as the number for a taxi in case I got stuck. I was all bravado, “it’ll be fine!” But secretly hoping everything would be okay. I set off 30 minutes earlier than usual and guess what? Everything was fine! I took it easy and drove safely and arrived at work unscathed. To be honest, I didn’t feel any difference between the fabled studless tires and the regular ones. Hang on a minute. Is it really a clever con by tire companies and gas stations?…. “NO!” everyone in Japan screams. You gotta trust the science, right?..

Anyway, I’ll stop boring you with my tire-d story and share these pictures with you. It wasn’t a BIG snowfall. That usually hits around New Year. But this was the scene this morning around one of the public schools I work at.

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Return of the Summer Hanabi (Fireworks)

After a three-year break due to the “virus of unknown origin,” the summer fireworks festival returned last Sunday. I was delighted to be given front-row tickets by a family friend. My daughter was back from Kyoto for the summer holidays so we all went down to the local harbor together to enjoy the show. It was a lovely night, a little cooler than it has been and fairly windy. Fortunately the wind was blowing away from us.

The hanabi show began at 8pm and went on for 45 minutes. That seems to be the norm in Japan. I’m so glad they decided to stop playing music during the show a few years back. It’s so unnecessary and spoils the natural atmosphere in my opinion. But maybe I’m old fashioned? I’d much rather hear the BOOM of the fireworks and the spectators’ “oohs” and “aahs”, especially the childrens’ voices. Do they play music at the firework displays where you live?

There were a mixture of single big fireworks and choreographed clusters, as well as attempted shapes such as hearts, rabbits, smiley faces and characters. The town where I live is only small so it isn’t one of the more famous Japanese Hanabi displays. You can find more information about those here.

Here is a short video I took with my smartphone. It’s from the last five minutes of the show. Please enjoy.

My short highlights video of the Japanese Hanabi Festival in Yonago, Japan 2022

Thanks so much for reading!

-Wakizashi, *back to work from today*

Midnight Diner is Food for the SOUL!

I’ve recently got hooked on a hidden gem of a TV series. It’s a Japanese slice of life drama called ‘Shinya Shokudo’ which translates as Midnight Diner. It started in 2009 and five seasons have been made so far, with Seasons 4 and 5 having a slightly different title: Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. These recent seasons were produced by Netflix and this is where you can find the show. But be careful because it’s easy to start watching from Season 4 and completely miss the first three seasons.

“Master” played by Kaoru Kobayashi

Midnight Diner is about a tiny Japanese restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo that is open from midnight to 7 a.m. It’s run by a man who everyone calls “Master”. He has a very limited menu with only one dish, a kind of pork stew, and three drinks: beer, sake and shochu. But he will prepare any dish the customer requests, so long as he has the ingredients. The customers order the kinds of dishes that you don’t usually get at a typical Japanese restaurant. They are often comfort foods more commonly prepared at home. Each dish has a special meaning to the customer and we usually learn the customer’s story during the episode.

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