Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Garlic and Chili Peppers

Chicken Calbi
You cannot live in Japan for as long as I have and not love Japanese food. However, you cannot live in Japan for as long as I have and not be just a little sick of Japanese food. As delicious as it is, sometimes Japanese cuisine is just a little too refined, and a little too under-spiced. (Wasabi aside)

Traveling to Korea was more than just a chance to see some new sights. It was a chance to eat my way through some of the best food on the planet. I must admit, this took me by surprise. I have always enjoyed such stalwarts as bibinba and Korean BBQ, but the huge variety and tons of amazing flavors rather blindsided me.

Like most in most Asian countries, eating in Korea is about more than just sustenance. Eating out is a chance to excite your taste buds while you enjoy the company of your friends and family. The first part is covered with liberal application of chili paste and garlic in most meals. Some of the worst (best?) garlic breath of my life was on Jeju island, and not Italy as one might expect. After the more subtle flavors that predominate in Japan, I was pretty excited at the thrice daily chance to sear a few layers off of my tongue.

As mentioned, eating is very communal in Korea. Rather than pick a dish and order it for yourself, most restaurants will serve up a huge main dish, with five endlessly refillable side dishes to share. These side dishes were quite interesting. Usually composed of a variety of kimchee or two, with other various veggies, pickles and what have you. They were often mysterious, but always delicious. Top the meal off with few bottles of cheap beer and/ or soju and by the end everybody feels great.

I was happy enough to come back to okonomiyaki, sushi, shabu shabu and tonkatsu, but Korean cuisine will always hold a special spot in my pantheon of food.

Korean BBQ, one of the best things. Ever.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lunar Eclipse

Last night saw the last total lunar eclipse for a couple of years. It seems every time one of these rolls around I am either far from the optimal viewing area, or the sky is totally covered with clouds. Luckily this past weekend saw Japan in an excellent place to view the eclipse and the night was as clear a winter night as you could ever ask for.

Tess and I were walking back to my house and noticed a bite slowly being taken out of the gorgeous full moon. It was almost unnerving, watching the darkness spread across the face of the moon. It was hard to not stare at it as we walked.

Once we got home, I quickly swapped out lenses on my camera and grabbed my tripod for a little astronomical photography. I must admit, I am pretty happy with the results. My setup for this sort of thing is far from professional, but I got some good shots. It was exciting to watch the moon turn a blood red, and to record it. Though the clear December air was very chilly, it was a good thing I had the fixings for a good nabe dinner once the eclipse had finished.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Adventures Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

The Adventures of Tintin, based on the classic comics by Herge, released last week here in Japan. I grew up surrounded by the colorful characters and interesting situations Tintin finds himself embroiled in, and was eagerly looking forward to the film version. As is often the case, I was worried about how it would translate from page to screen. Though certainly the talent behind the all digital camera has a certain pedigree. Steven Speilberg knows adventure and action set pieces, and producer Peter Jackson well knows how to lovingly adapt a well known work for a new medium. Steven Moffat, one of the screenwriters, is currently running the show for both Doctor Who and Sherlock for the BBC, and has shown a great grasp of both fun and adventure on those programs.

The film is an amalgam of two of the comic adventures, The Secret of the Unicorn and The Crab with the Golden Claws. This necessitated quite a bit of structural change to fit the two together, but the result was quite enjoyable. The basics that make Tintin great survived intact. The interplay between Tintin and the crusty Captain Haddock, the slapstick of the Thompson twins, and the heroism and frequent barking of Snowy the dog are all present and accounted for. As well there are plenty of winks and nods from the Tintin Canon that have made their way into the film.

In short, I had a blast. Tintin is a true comic book film. Filled with adventure, humor, and that sense of hightened reality that comes from the best adventure fiction, be it Indiana Jones or The Three Musketeers. I find myself hoping that Tintin does quite well this holiday season, so that we may see another installment a few years down the line!