Sounding Board?

I’ve written before about the serendiptous effects of background chatter in public places, but this article at Grubstreet.com made me wonder if the wooden slats you often see in area restaurants are part of this New York-born noisier-is-neater trend the article chronicles.

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These boxes on the wall at Secret Time Cafe are the closest thing to slats I have handy on my camera roll (more typically slatlike boards along and behind the counter at this post).

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Another place that comes to mind is Shinsui Cafe (the rounded corner between one whole wall and the ceiling is made up entirely of slats with gaps).

I don’t know. I think there’s a tradition of using wood slats in Japan, whatever the reason. I’ll ask some architect friends. In the meantime, though I often make use of the ambient indiscernable “rhubarb,” I think I’m glad I don’t live in New York.

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Home Fire Burning

All around town this evening, local families could be found standing and squatting around tiny ceremonial fires built to send the spirits of deceased relatives back to their afterlife abodes. These were “okuribi,” the complement to Saturday’s “mukaebi,” fires lit to usher ancestors back to Earth for their three-day Obon stay. Tajimi marks the event from July 13th to 15th, a month or so earlier than many other places. People prepare food placed at Buddhist altars in the home to feed their lost loved ones during the three day observance.

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On the north end of Tajimibashi Bridge, brightly lit paper lanterns were hung to flutter in the breeze and show departed souls the way home. Ceremonial boats made of eggplant to look like horses used to be sent down rivers like the Toki to send the souls off, but they’re now banned as an environmental hazard.

At the south end of the bridge, where Oribe Street heads into the Tajimi Ginza, stalls were set up for a mini-festival atmosphere. I was working and was only able to catch a few glimpses of all the activities as I drove home. Maybe I can bring you some photos next year. The shots below are of homemade outdoor mini-shrines near work.

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Tomorrow, more local ceremonies will be held to pray for good health through the summer. Several people I ran into were kind enough to explain all these traditions to me, but unfortunately I couldn’t understand everything they said.

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A Novel Lunch at Cannery Row

Reader’s Digest

I went to a pasta/pizza restaurant in Meito-ku, Nagoya, called Cannery Row recently. Here’s a condensed recollection as I try to get a few words in while tonight’s lightning seems kept at bay.

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To start, all lunches include the loaded salad bar, which is really an antipasto bar. Very nice variety, all good. I realized I must not have had vichyssoise very much before because it was an enjoyable taste I wasn’t really familiar with. You may need two trips to the buffet. A drink bar is also included.

The regular pasta lunch menu offers several pasta dishes, many quite original, in each of several categories, ranging from around ¥1300 to ¥1800. Pizza lunch menu choices, all about ¥1600 to ¥1700, number eight.

There are also fondue, chicken and fish course lunches available at a premium of around ¥4000. “Dessert sets” are a simple matter of tacking on either ¥150 (one item) or ¥390 (three items) to any lunch set.

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Mm, Mm, Good

From the special Summer Fair Menu, I chose the avocado and shrimp chilled spaghettini. Cold soba noodles are a common cool option in the summer heat, but this was a rare pasta version. I guess I was expecting something like gazpacho, but what I got was a truly new taste sensation I’ve never had before. The mango-pineapple fruit vinegar-infused tomato sauce worked very well with the cold thin pasta, accented with a zingy kick of fresh basil. I might not have thought a cold tomato sauce spaghetti would work, but this definitely did.

Despite its name, Cannery Row doesn’t particularly specialize in seafood (the locale in the Steinbeck novel was a major canning center before the surrounding waters became overfished). Lunch is served from 11 to 3, open year-round. Map link here.

Summer Hotter Than Others

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Rainy season clouds have parted, giving way to a more typical summer variety, pointed out here by a pair of anemometers atop Tajimi Station. Below, the sun loses the battle of the blue and the grey for the last time. Now it’s here to stay.

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Large (behe?)moths have descended en masse, my neighborhood supermarket has started eel cookouts, folks are breaking out the fireworks along the river near work, and Toki has already begun water shortage warning announcements. Summer is here. Yesterday and today reached 99° F. I’ve heard this year may be a hot one for the ages.

Update: It was almost 102° today. Good enough for number two in the nation.

Curious City

Wednesday was Morizo, today is Mozo, and tomorrow’s anybody’s guess, but probably a day off from the blog, given the publishing pattern I’ve come to adopt lately.

A Bustle in Your Hedgerow

Mozo. After years of only hearing about it, I finally got to Mozo Wonder City shopping mall in Nishi-Ku, Nagoya. I can see now why people sometimes seem to prefer it to other area retail options. As the website explains, with typical Japanese non-committal, open-to-interpretation ambiguity and flowery language, the concept is one of a murmuring, a tiny rumbling/trembling/rustling/fluttering/nudging; sensing the beginning of a movement (literal or figurative – again, it’s up to you), perhaps being on the cutting edge or being present at the birth or sprouting of a trend, indulging your curiosity and growing like Tajimi roadside vegetation in June. My description is beginning to get as overgrown as their concept page, or the ivy nurtured outside their buildings, but you get the picture. It’s got lots of cool stuff.

As it happens, I mainly went to see a movie at the theater there. Besides feature films, this playhouse shows things you might not see anywhere else. Case in point: Three Idiots, the highest grossing Bollywood film ever, showing three years after its release. It was quite the romp. Be warned, unless you speak Hindi, you’ll have to be quick on your toes. There is a 5% mix of English in the dialogue, but the subtitles are all in Japanese. Don’t worry if you don’t catch every detail; Just repeat to yourself: All Is Well, All Is Well. You’ll get it if you see it. No, none of the idiots are called Moe, zo.

I only had time to linger in a few stores. There’s a Village Vanguard with a better selection of architecture and interior design books than other “VillaVans” I’ve been to, and Kitano Ace natural peanut butter mother lode imported food store. The anchor store is Aeon. The whole place is having big sales through Sunday, and even the regular prices I saw were pretty good. There was a very healthy, but not smothering, throng of customers well into the evening. Roads there don’t tend to get jammed, but if you don’t go by car, you can get there on the Meitetsu Line, getting off at Kamiotai Station and walking five minutes.

The End of the Vine?

The ivy-covered “Morizo” Building, so named on the “Tajimi Art Road” walking map after the eco-hairy co-mascot of the 2005 Aichi World Expo, may be going the way of most of the Expo facilities* – the scrap heap.

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A League of Its Own

I noticed crews appearing to tear the structure down yesterday, to the cold, shrill sound of crashing heaps of plate glass and metal. Next to the new ShinToutetsu building in front of Tajimi Station, this home to (at least) a restaurant, vending machines and sundry often pesky nesting birds, particularly eye-catching from the trains, was considered landmark enough to not only get the Morizo moniker, but be pictured on (or perhaps inspiration for) one of the posters heralding the city in Tajimi Station. I’m not sure why, but there do seem to be more leaf-shrouded buildings in Tajimi than other nearby cities.

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Art Road was apparently an informal designation dreamed up by Culture Center staff last year as part of a “Station North” Arts Zone project. The idea was to suggest worthwhile, offbeat, whimsical, or even facetious points of interest for Culture Center visitors with a few extra minutes to explore on foot.

*Far from haphazard or derelict, the Expo structures’ obsolescence was intentional and carefully planned in keeping with the fair’s theme of low environmental impact. Following more than 22 million visits over the course of half a year, most of the efficiently dismantled materials were recycled or auctioned off, ostensibly leaving the woodlands around Seto pretty much as they were. A website exists to recall 2005 and all the expos over the years.

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