Fans of the Fox series “Glee” are known for their passion and enthusiasm. Some “gleeks” are so dedicated to the show and its elaborately staged musical numbers that they perform their own versions of songs from the show and post them on YouTube. Now perhaps the unlikeliest of performers has joined their ranks.
Retired sumo wrestler Akebono has lent his talents to two recent Japanese commercials promoting “Glee” on Fox Japan, where it premiers this Sunday, February 7. The sumo champion (born in America as Chad Rowan) became a celebrity in the 1990s when he rose to the ultimate rank of yokozuna. And judging by the lithe movements he displays as he belts out Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” he’s still plenty light on his feet…
Well just a couple of months ago a Japanese man married his virtual girlfriend, a character from the Nintendo DS game “Love Plus.” The man Sal9000, and the bride Nene Anegasaki, wed at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. The ceremony was broadcast live online, and among the human attendees were Sal’s best friend, an emcee, and, of course, a priest. The virtual world was represented by the bride’s girlfriend, who toasted the new couple’s happiness.
Instead of drinking my daily 8 cups of water, I’ve kept myself hydrated (and warm) this winter with tea. I once thought making tea was as simple as boiling water. Oh, how wrong was I. Everything I now know about tea I learned on Malian Dao, a mile-long street in Beijing exclusively devoted to the wholesale of tea. When my legs were tired, I picked a random store and asked the sales clerk to pin cha or tea taste. What I thought would be a 20-minute errand turned into a three-hour lesson in how to enjoy a cup of tea.
I asked to try green, jasmine, and pu’er teas. A woman in ornate silk qipao dress served me a few of each kind of tea. In wine, not all Pinot Grigios are equal. Similarly, a single type of tea can range widely in quality and price tag. The best tea is a personal choice discovered only by tasting lots. And so we did, beginning with green tea.
Tea leaves (www.tea-of-chinese.com)
Step 1. She started by heating the water kettle. To accentuate the tea’s qualities, the water should be at about 70 degrees C for green tea and hotter for the more fermented teas.
Step 2. She then sprinkled a small palmful of tea leaves in the teapot. She filled it with water, waited 30 seconds, and poured the liquid out. It seemed like a waste, but she explained the first pot doesn’t express the tea’s full flavor.
Step 3. She rinsed the teacups with hot water, a necessary but oft-overlooked step that brings out the tea flavor.
Step 4. She soaked the tea for no longer than 2 minutes, or just long enough so that the green tea gave off a subtle green hue.
She also explained tea trends in China: molihua cha (or jasmine tea) is for fashionable young women, green tea is for older people and traditionalists, and pu’er cha is for people on diets. Who knew the kind of tea you drank broadcasted so much. I ultimately settled on the longjing green tea, with individually pressed green tea leaves grown in the southern province of Zhejiang and a gentle clarifying taste that lasted long after the teacup was empty. Does my tea choice make me classic or grandmotherly? You choose.
In this month’s Vanity Fair, contributing editor Jim Windolf tries to analyze the wave of cute overtaking our culture. From Hello Kitty to the laughing baby (you know which baby) (yes you do) (you don’t? Really?), Windolf leaves no fuzzy, big-eyed stone unturned. And he thinks it’s getting worse. Why now?
A few years ago – before the baby neared 100 million views on YouTube – we took our own look at cute. Japanese art mogul Takashi Murakami explained how cute is a reaction to the atom bomb; and we heard what it’s like to hate cute in a too-cute world. Not pretty.
10 years is how long Hachiko waited for his master at Shibuya station. Every day from 1925 to 1935, the dog would go to the station and wait for the afternoon train, the train that his master used to take home from work. Only he wasn’t coming because he was dead and so Hachiko waited in vain. Did people talk to him, I wonder? Did they gently pat him on his back and say, “go home,” “he’s not coming.” Or did they just watch quietly, feeling a little pinch in their own hearts where a lost love ached?
Whatever the case may be, Hachiko’s faithfulness and persistence made him quite famous and he is now a sort of mascot for the neighborhood. You see him on buses, on elevator buttons and in front of Shibuya station there is a little statue of him, which has become a popular meeting place for locals. Every time I passed by, it was surrounded by throngs of people waiting. And there is more fame in store for the little dog, according to Lisa; Richard Gere is at work turning the story into a film. The Hachiko legend lives on.
Hachiko statue a popular Shibuya meeting spot
In other news: We are at Narita airport waiting to board American airlines flight back to New York. Thanks for following our adventures here on the blog, hope you had as much fun reading it as we had writing it.
Last night Roland brought me along to his friend’s kimono Party. Yes, you guessed it, a kimono party is a party with people dressed in kimonos. Of course it was somewhat tongue in cheek, but as most Japanese these people were dead serious about their hobby. There was a one hour presentation on ways to modernize your kimono, like a 100-yen attachment to carry your cell phone in your obi (kimono belt) or a turtleneck undershirt to keep warm in winter. These things aren’t cheap either; $2000 is about average for a good kimono. And how else to finish the evening but with a kimono striptease?
Last night I visited the new highrise called Tokyo Midtown, which is the tallest building in the city and on its lower floors contains — thanks to vast swaths of wood, elaborate lighting, and other beyond-the-call-of-duty architectural and furnishing details — the most convincingly, tastefully luxurious shopping mall I’ve ever experienced.
And the luxury extended from the sublime to the ridiculous — that is, from a terrific little Picasso retrospective at the mall’s Suntory Museum (including Death of Casagemas, an electrically van Gogh-ish painting from 1901 I’d never seen reproduced) to a store selling nothing but very, very high-priced fruit — such as $10 strawberries and $100 melons.
I’m posting this from Narita airport, drinking good free espresso and feeling happy to have had such an amazing opportunity to marinate in Japanese culture these last two weeks, and happy also to be returning to New York in time for Thanksgiving.