Churchill in Love: I thought it had Churchill’s bedroom scenes!

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チャ     “A Yes vote for Scottish independence on Thursday would go down in history as a political and economic mistake as large as Winston Churchill’s decision in 1925 to return the pound to the gold standard or the failure of the Federal Reserve to provide sufficient liquidity to the US banking system which we now know brought on the Great Depression in the US…”20140914_143033-a

     The chief economist of German financial giant, Deutsche Bank, warned Scottish people about independence from the UK last Friday. I do not know whether Scottish people accepted warnings like his or not, but they finally chose to remain as part of the UK yesterday. I am wondering what the result will cause from now on, but at least it seems that we were able to avoid a world crisis.

     By the way, I went to see a play last Saturday about the politician who was referred to in the German economist’s warning to Scottish people. The title was Churchill in Love. Yes, the protagonist Winston Churchill was a high-flyer during the interwar period. But “in love”? So, I asked the actor who played Churchill when I received a flyer for the play, saying “Not ‘Churchill in Nagoya’?” But he replied, “Ha ha! No, no. It’s Churchill in Love!” with a laugh, and then added, “It’ll be the first time for me to have a bedroom scene.” Whaaaaaat? Churchill in a bedroom scene? I bought a ticket on the spot. 20140914_123326-a

     The flyer had the plot: In the summer of 1959 Sir Winston Churchill and his family boarded on the luxury yacht Christina at the invitation of Aristotle Onassis and his wife, Tina. Also invited on board the yacht was the mercurial opera diva, Maria Callas. What follows is a tempestuous cruise into the heart of deceit, desire, and disillusion as the aging Churchill and his family, seek to avoid any hint of impropriety. Love and lust wage war in this historical meditation of one man’s long love affair with his wife and another man’s descent into desperation. 20140914_125705

     Hmm…What will happen on stage? I was excited as I walked to the theater, which looks more like an old warehouse than a theater. It is a 42-year-old building named Nanatsudera Kyodo Studio which is located in Osu, Nagoya. An army major was standing in front of the building when I arrived. He was the actor who was playing Major Lang. Before the curtain-up, the play had already started. In fact, he and an actress who was playing Churchill’s wife came and went between the stage and the audience seats inside to enhance the mood.20140914_142300

    Actually, there was no bedroom scene played by Churchill and his wife. Instead of them, Ari Onassis and Maria Callas played love scenes. I was relieved. You know, Churchill was in his 80s. Love has different kinds like ancient Greek identified: familiarity (storge), friendship (philia), sexual and romantic desire (eros), and divine love (agape). The play depicted that Ari and Maria did not know true love or how to love someone from the heart. But they just pursue eros, one form of love. So, they also knew about love, which was just different from Churchill’s. Anyway, the play was interesting with thrilling episodes of those historical famous characters!

Gone with PB&J: It was a golden harmony!

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20140911_132901-a     You must be American or have American friends if you know about PB&J. For the readers who do not know about it, it means peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and is one of the American staples. I am not American and have never been to the U.S, but I love them!

     The first time when I had PB&J was when I was taking an English class at NHK Cultural Center several years ago. My teacher made some sandwiches of peanut butter and blueberry jam for us when I visited her house with some of my classmates. She was Japanese but had experience of staying with a family in the U.S. when she was a high school student. Peanut butter and blueberry jam together? To tell the truth, I hesitated to reach out for it. I was not able to imagine what taste it would be.

     Anyway, I got the courage to try this new food. Hey! I was surprised when I had a bite. The rich taste of peanut butter and the flavor of lush blueberry jam filled my mouth. It was a golden harmony. I was staring at my half-eaten bread with wide-open eyes while relishing its taste. It’s delicious! I went nuts over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches right away. Since then I have sometimes bought peanut butter and made some, but had not eaten them for a while until recently.

     Luckily I had an opportunity to have some last Thursday, when it was the final day of an English course at Aichi Shukutoku University. Like other universities in the Nagoya area, they offer many different varieties of classes to the public, and the English course was one of them for the intermediate level and had six lessons:
Lesson 1 – Asking about hypothetical situations
Lesson 2-Comparing society and yourself from today to the past
Lesson 3-Using Words differently (Vocabulary building)
Lesson 4-Thinking creatively and coming up with new ideas
Lesson 5-Discussing current issues
Lesson 6-Talking up relationships and snack time20140911_132936-a

     I enjoyed myself learning many things with my classmates at the course this summer. Now, look at “Lesson 6”! Yes, snack time during class?! I have had coffee with my teachers and classmates “after” class, but it was the first time for me to have coffee and snacks “during” class! Andy, the teacher from the U.S. brought many items: A bottle of coffee and of tea, a big can of cookies, and his handmade PB&J sandwiches! I also brought a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures and of Doritos Jalapeno & Cheddar Tortilla Chips (to make my teacher homesick), but Andy’s PB&Js were the best! I had a wonderful time as if it were a picnic! There was a terrible storm outside, though.

     Actually, I was feeling a little bit lonely at the same time while enjoying the food as if the summer was going with this class. You know, I took the class from the end of July to the beginning of this month. I do not know why, but I feel sad at the end of summer. The thundershower was signaling the end of the summer as if it knew my thought…

     When I posted these photos on my facebook wall after the class, an American friend, Betsy left a comment: I grew up on pb & j and occasionally tuna fish sandwiches, but that was fancy. Glad you liked them. I still eat them at least once a week! Wow! Once a week! I love PB&J, but do not eat them so often! For Americans, PB&J may be something like onigiri is for Japanese people!

Bitter 758 Coffee: Why don’t you try “Nagoya” coffee?

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An interesting article caught my eyes when I opened the newspaper (The Chunichi) on August 30th morning:

Bitter 758 (Nagoya) Coffee ~ A long-established company and Nagoya Institute of Technology “blend” coffee together~
Ito Coffee Shokai, a long-established coffee beans wholesale firm in Higashi-ku, Nagoya, and Associate Professor Takanori Ito (the environmental design) of Nagoya Institute of Technology’s Graduate School have co-developed coffee featuring its strong taste like other Nagoya’s local food, such as miso-katsu (fried pork with sweet soy bean paste) and tebasaki (spicy fried chicken wings). They have named the coffee “758 (Nagoya) Coffee” and are going to sell it on the top floor of the Nagoya TV Tower on 30th (Yasuyuki Ichikawa)20140830_142038

     It tasted strong and bitter when I sipped the coffee, just as it was intended. The coffee’s feature is its strong taste and bitterness. They insisted on making the coffee stronger and bitterer than usual ones. “We’re very proud of releasing this new coffee,” said Aiko Ito, one of the coffee company executives. Ito Coffee Shokai being established in 1951 is one of the oldest coffee beans wholesale companies in Nagoya. This project began with Associate Professor Ito’s approach to them to create new taste coffee to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Nagoya TV Tower. They researched Nagoya citizens’ taste with three types of coffee in July and August. As the result, about 80% of the subjects chose the bitterest one as “Nagoya taste.” Why do Nagoya’s people like bitter and strong coffee? According to Mr. Toshiyuki Otake, a freelance writer who knowing well about the culture of Japan’s coffee shops, said, “People tend to like the strong taste of miso, or soy bean paste and so on, in Nagoya. Bitter coffee matches strong flavor food.” Associate Professor Ito presumed that they might feel like they had gotten their money’s worth because of the extra content that gave the extreme taste as people in the Nagoya area tend to be prudent. 20140830_141012

     Hmm…They are going to sell the coffee on 30th…30th…Oh, it’s today! I realized it, and left for the Nagoya TV Tower right away. Why? You’ll get the answer when you read under this blog’s title. Yes! I love coffee! I wanted to try the new coffee as a coffee lover. The Nagoya TV Tower finished its role as an electric wave tower in 2011, since when it has been used as a sightseeing attraction. But it is still a symbol of Nagoya. Nevertheless, I had never ascended the tower until that day…So, I thought it would be a nice opportunity to go there, too. 20140830_134920-a

     Actually, there were two other big events in the area that day: Domatsuri and 24 Hour Television. Nippon Domannaka Festival a.k.a Domatsuri is the largest dance festival in central Japan. Many people get together for the event from all over Japan and dance and dance and dance! On the other hand, 24 Hour Television is a kind of charity program. Because of those events, it was very crowded around the tower. 20140830_140048

     There was sanctuary above the hustle and bustle. I saw many people on the top floor of the tower, but they were enjoying the scenery over coffee calmly. The view from the top was fantastic. And the Nagoya taste coffee was also nice. It was not as strong or bitter as I had imagined possibly because I am a Nagoyan, myself. By the way, the coffee’s name “758” is read “na-go-ya.” 7 can be read ‘na,’ 5, ‘go’ and 8, ‘ya’ in Japanese. It is a kind of play on words. Ito Coffee Shokai is going to sell the coffee beans for 758 yen per 200 grams at their shop soon!

The 66th Mainichi Shodo Exhibition Tokai: You have to calculate to make something look beautiful…

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IMG_0001     Are you interested in calligraphy? Actually, I am not so much either writing or appreciating letters. But I like the atmosphere of its exhibitions. This might sound contradictory but calligraphy exhibitions have both energetic and calm airs. It was the end of last month when a friend of mine and I went to see the Mainichi Shodo Exhibition at Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art. My friend’s sister showed one of her calligraphies at the exhibition, too. IMG_0002

     It was the 66th Mainichi Shodo Exhibition. They began in 1948 three years after the end of World War II. I think they decided, despite many difficulties to hold the exhibition in the chaos of the post-war period, when people were still struggling for their lives. They also struggled to hand over the torch of Japan’s calligraphy culture to the post-war generation. 毎日

     There are many kinds of calligraphy in Japan. In fact, the Mainichi Shodo Exhibition has nine categories: Chinese Character I (more than 21 letters), Chinese Character II (3 to 20 letters), Japanese kana Character I (more than 3 Japanese waka poems or more than 5 haiku poems), Japanese kana Character II (1 or 2 Japanese waka poems or 1 to 4 haiku poems), modern poetic calligraphy, large character calligraphy, seal engraving, wood carving, and avant-garde calligraphy (they are not “letters” anymore…) The exhibition had 8 rooms and more than 1200 works this year.

     To tell the truth, I cannot understand them when I look at calligraphies. I cannot tell a big difference between one which has received a prize and another one which has not. They look almost the same for me as letters written in black ink on the white paper…So, I usually walk around the big exhibition place, looking up at calligraphies with my mouth open, and then get tired and become a zombie two hours later. But the situation was different this year. I joined a guided tour. 2毎日

     Some judges picked up some exhibits and explained them. Especially, Mr. Tosen Sato’s lecture was interesting. According to him, the most important thing is to think about the composition carefully. In his case, it takes him nearly half a year to decide the structural outline for showing a work at an exhibition. Then he writes letters on the paper only two or three times. He said, “You don’t need to waste much paper,” and showed some classic works by an ancient calligrapher. There were many lines on the examples like engineering drawings. He studies many things, such as angles, from those classics. I was very surprised at his lecture because I had thought that they must have written letters from their hearts…It seems that you have to “calculate” to make something look beautiful…Some calligraphy works looked different after the guided tour!

The Tai Chi Workshop: These 88-year-old ladies would be able to deflate their age to 70!

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20140816_104129     Now Japan is the one of the top countries for long life expectancy. The average life span of Japanese people is about 84 and of Japanese women reaches over 87. But I’m wondering how many people over the age of 70 are healthy and live satisfying lives in this country…20140816_112514

     I attended a big meeting of Tai Chi during the Obon holidays. It was held at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium on August 16. About 600 people gathered at the event and most of them were over the age of 65. The participants were divided into 10 groups and studied some actions of Tai Chi. I was able to study many things through the workshop.米

     At the beginning of the event, there was a ceremony in which two 88-year-old ladies received the kotobuki prize. Kotobuki means offering congratulations or longevity in Japanese. The ceremony was to celebrate their 88th birthday. The age of 88 is special in Japan. The Chinese character representing rice looks like the number 88 written in Chinese. You know, rice is the diet and the symbol of life in Japan. 20140816_134624

      The recipients looked much younger than their real age of 88. Their posture and expressions were beautiful. They would be able to deflate their age to 70. As you know, Tai Chi is effective for improving the functions of your heart and lungs and muscular strength. If I keep on doing Tai Chi, I might turn 88 healthily like them.

     By the way, I used the word Obon above, but do you know it? Many people take a kind of summer vacation in mid-August in Japan. It is called Obon holidays. Obon is August 15 and most companies give their employees some holidays including the day. Obon is not a national holiday, but interestingly is dealt with as a holiday. That is why the public transportation schedule is Sunday’s one around the day and most public offices and hospitals are closed. 20140816_150452

     This Obon day is believed by Japanese Buddhists to be the day that the spirits of the dead return to their family. So, basically Japanese people go back to their hometown and spend the holidays with their family including the ones who have already passed away. But young people have tended to spend the holidays for themselves not to meet their family recently. That is why many elderly people were able to attend the meeting…But they did not look sad at all. They looked energetic and were enjoying doing Tai Chi!

The Night Zoo: Where is your father?

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20140815_190022     To be honest, I do not like to go to zoos or aquariums so much. I do not feel happy to see animals imprisoned. I feel rather depressed. But I do not deny their importance of existence. They deal with protecting endangered species, and provide opportunities to observe creatures directly, especially to children. They make children happy, and make their family also happy. I was frisky as well when I was a little child, shouting “That’s an elephant!”

     I who had been avoiding visiting zoos for a long time went to a zoo last month. What brought me there? It was the “Night Zoo.” There is a zoo named Higashiyama Zoo in Nagoya. They opened at night during the obon holidays. That was the first time in three years. They usually close at 5:00 p.m., but opened until 8:30 during the period. It was a rare opportunity to be in the zoo at night, and they had not held the event for three years. Besides, it was not raining. That was why I decided to go to the “Night Zoo.”20140815_190319

     We had thunderstorms in Nagoya area in mid-August this year. So, they had to close the zoo many times during the Night Zoo event period. But it stopped raining in the evening when I went to the zoo that day. It was terribly hot and humid in the zoo, which was filled with swarms of people. It was quite dark in the zoo for the same of the animals. So, there was no music, either. But the atmosphere looked like a summer festival. Children were cavorting. 20140815_190639

     I expected to hear lost children announcement many times, but I never heard even one. Instead, I heard mothers’ and children’s conversations several times:

     “Where is your father?”
“Donno.”
“You should’ve taken care of him!”
“Why me?!”20140815_185832

It seemed there were many lost fathers in the zoo that night…

     In the dark park pond, many couples were pedaling the swan-shaped boats. No lights, no music. They just needed an intimate space where they could be alone. I understand that, but the pond has a jinx: Couples who ride thsese boats in the park will break up soon…20140815_191109

     Animals looked tired. If I were an animal in the zoo, I would cry out, “I’m tired! Go home, humans!” In the darkness, I was not able to see many animals. Instead, I watched many people. It was so crowded and dark that I did not have anything else to see. Anyway, I enjoyed an extraordinary summer night.

A Chinese Medicine Class: You are a part of this universe.

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CAM00373-a     “You shouldn’t try to go on a diet in summer,” said Prof. Yang Wei-ping seriously. I was attending a lecture about Chinese medicine at Aichi Shukutoku University last month. The theme of the class was “healthy summer eating habits.”

     Prof. Yang is from Kunming in Yunnan Province, Southwest China. Kunming has one of the mildest climates in China. That’s why it is called “Spring Castle.” My town, Nagoya is incredibly humid and hot in summer and very cold in winter. So, I assumed he is having a tough time here, but he isn’t. He is a Chinese doctor. He has a broad knowledge for surviving harsh weather conditions.

     There is an idea of “Tao follows nature” in China. That is, it is essential for living healthily and longer to follow nature. From the point of view of Taoism, today’s Japanese diet seems to be crazy. There are a lot of out of season vegetables and fruits which were grown with a large amount of pesticide, meat of animals which were given antibiotics, and many products with added artificial preservative in grocery stores. Japanese people rely on this kind of food industry. CAM00376

     Prof. Yang mentioned five key words for healthy eating manner: warm, mild, soft, little, slowly. That is, you should eat a small amount of warm, soft and mild tasting food slowly at each meal. If you have something hard, you should chew it well until it becomes soft. This eating manner is good for your digestive system.

     On the one hand, in Western medicine, doctors start medical therapy on people after they catch diseases; on the other hand, in Eastern medicine, doctors start treatment before people catch diseases. If you are not in good condition, such as having a headache, stiff shoulders, back problem, or dizziness, and go to see the Western doctor, most of you will be told, “I don’t see any problems. Let’s see how it goes.” But Eastern doctors will regard those symptoms as signals that your internal organs are not working well and start to treat you earnestly. They believe that it is too late to treat patients after they are sick. 漢方 en

     China has the yin-yang principle. Heaven is yang, and the earth is yin. Human-beings take the air from heaven and food from the earth. The Chinese character, which means energy, is made up of the symbols for ‘air’ and ‘rice’, the latter representing food. That is, you get energy from the air and food, and you become healthy with your respiratory and digestive systems working well. You are a part of this universe. You cannot be healthy if you forget about it and ignore natural laws.

     As I told you above, it is very humid and hot in summer in Nagoya. The temperature is over 30 degrees every day. So, people tend to have something cold. But inside the buildings and trains are air-conditioned, and it is sometimes very cold. It means that you make yourself cold both inside and outside. It is bad for your digestive system. If your digestive and absorptive function does not work well, your immune system will weaken. This problem is not only in the summer. It will affect your condition until next spring. That is why you should eat wisely to become or stay healthy. You should eat something warm and avoid cold drinks in summer! Ah, beer and ice cream are calling me from the refrigerator…What shall I do?