Diary: Off to Library + cuppa Joe / good luck, stamps, ovens & social niceties

Note: Some of this riff originally appeared in “real time” via FB social channel to the amusement of many (everyone loves a comically large bootle of hooch!) – shared here for posterity in edited form with several other topics included.

++ Confession ++

pardon me, but does this come in a large?

Well, i am at risk of irreparably damaging my reputation as a good resident of Okayama as it seems some library books are overdue.

I know! Terrible. Shameful breach of trust.

As such, i will finish this coffee (delicious by the way) and hop on the luxurious Uno Bus (seriously wi-fi, power outlets, clean, comfy, pay-per-stop) to restore my status as a decent human.

I’ve really let myself go off the rails – i’ll try to improve.

fondly, dave

PS i will not blame this on this comically huge bottle of saké – seriously, 18 litres and came in a wooden crate. Just when you think Japanese people are all diligent and serious, they pull out this! i mean the logistics of shipping, lifting, holding, pouring alone are baffling

Checkpoint busstop (yes my life does look like a Studio Ghibli movie)

Did i mention the bus has great wi-fi, power outlets, seatback headrest covers, and pay-per-stop system? Uno Bus is truly great.

Also before leaving washed dishes, folded laundry, started rice, composted food scraps, fed rabbit, aerated kobo starter, refilled kerosene heater… and didn’t forget library books(!)

Ryoko’s out of town for 2 nights teaching a tree trimming workshop & stayed in a trad guest house with wooden bath. So cool. And she’s truly incredible (and doing great with pregnancy!)

Dinner at Ryoko’s guest house / indoor charcoal fire…

and her tree trimming workshop…

Anyhow, i returned the books, apologized for my transgressions “please excuse my indignant behaviour” but was not obliged to do full genuflection. Also, I “almost” accidentally returned a book that wasn’t actually a library book! A baking book of Ryoko’s – the nice library lady chased me down to return.

Disaster averted. I am sure they will soon ban all foreigners from the premises ? #NotReally 


I will say,… The one unforgivable thing is wearing the wrong slippers into the wrong room: I mean you put your shoes in the genkon, then wear slippers but not into the tatami room, and there’s other slippers for the toilet and if you walk outside of the toilet with those slippers on, then you’re officially banned. Keep in mind, the slippers do not come in hobbit foot size. And note, always bring slip-on shoes to Japan or else you’re constantly tying and untying and it’s a serious drag. #van

Here’s the library to the left and the ken-cho (prefectural office) to the right… not the classic countryside cute as this part of the city was bombed during war and as such, most everything is recent rebuilds (relatively speaking). Sturdy and efficient.

While the library has a very fine coffee shop in the lobby, I came down to Joe’s Coffee a few blocks away which I’ve been meaning to visit.

They have some vintage travel posters and US mail ephemera as decorations, their motto is “taste like a journey” and now enjoying a fine beverage as a reward for my “hard work”

While here having a tasty beverage, did my social *duty* and added a little review for a fine establishment. Nothing fancy, ergo:

Been meaning to stop by here for a while… Finally had a chance today.

Top shelf coffee, tidy & well-designed premises, handy location close to the library… Top marks all around.

Did I mention comfortable chairs?

Update: back on the bus, heading home to make miso soup etc

Home now and setting up a cheap and cheerful movie screen to go with a cheap and cheerful projector for movie time with minimal eyestrain. Yes it’s not all fancy high-performance super bright all the pixels or whatever, but it’s very pleasant. Now, if only I had some popcorn to pop…

Thinking about building an Earthen / Cob Bread Oven – concerned if i do, Trevor and Mark on Pender will make waaay better ones and i’ll feel even more shame than i did today! Ryoko loves the idea – she wants to garden and make everything we can ourselves. Hooray.

While we were watching the cob oven video, the power went out – i am used to this from other countries of course but first time in Japan. Of course we had handy lights and candles so no problem and a kerosene stove running to we cooked miso soup and ebi fry on the heater and had a laugh. 

A bit more about the giant saké and setsubun:

A few nights back, we popped over the parents’ house (scant metres away) for a special night of good luck called setsubun involving maki (rolled) sushi and soybeans (a certain number based on your age, to throw or eat (I don’t totally understand but i am super good at eating sushi and sitting under the kotatsu (heated table).

The parents had received an epic bottle of shochu from Kagoshima as part of some promotion as they are ardent supported of the brand and saved up various labels and entered some drawing or another. anyhow, the 18 litre bottle arrived in a study wooden crate which required some tools to open. the bottle is (obviously) heavy and will require a specific purpose to be opened as that bottle is a commitment. 

So, we had some laughs, made a video, ate maki sushi, sashimi and soy beans. Good fortune abounds!

Note from: Satsuma Shuzo

What is Shochu?
Shochu is a Japanese traditional hard liquor, distilled spirits made from grains and vegetables. The most common base ingredients are sweet potato, barley, rice, buckwheat and sugar cane.

How is Shochu different from Nihonshu (Sake) ?
“Sake” is a general term for alcohol beverages in Japan. However Nihonshu (Seishu) is commonly referred as “Sake” in America.

Nihonshu and Shochu are both traditional Japanese alcoholic beverages, but there are some important differences between them as follows

Yes, we eat very well (i even had dinner with the parents while Ryoko was away – curry rice + brocoli etc one night and a nabe pot soup with daikon, chicken, onion, cabbage the next. We talked so much as they are still learning about this son-in-law. So grateful to have solid relationship with them.

So one more out n about… i had a long catch-up talk with STeve of the mountains of Nagano (he’s lived in Japan in remote places mostly since early 1970s) about so many topics (including cameras and Maemaes videos which i’ll discuss with you later) and rushed out to catch the bus (how i roll) to the chiropractor (as i sit here typing thinking of the exercises i gotta do!)

Of course, following posthumous birthday boy Gord Downie’s advice, i saved time for a coffee and stopped for a great coffee – a kiosk called Little Okayama (I had a 30¥ coupon) inside the station on the walk across to the west entrance near the office from the east entrance where the bus drops me off.

Thank goodness for noise-cancelling headphones (from brother Anders!) for making my way through the station as so many lights, noises commotion… sat on a park bench and drank the brew and sent a love note to Ryoko. 

Also hit up the post office to mail some letters (yes, this is me after-all) but also to redeem some “winning” nenga-jo New Years cards. Do you remember the diary about mailing new years cards? And how the post office has special pre-made cards with magic numbers?

Anyhow, after you receive a big stack of festive greetings, you somehow get a special sheet with the winning numbers and review all your cards to win things from Olympic tickets to cash, to stamps. We won 4 sheets of stamps (2 per sheet). The postal staff seemed pleased i knew about this nation-wide tradition and i was happy with stamp. Here’s the new years cards (note numbers along bottom) and the stamps we received. Yup, big timing here.

Oh since i am here (and here is a new/used iMac i’ve named Topper after the drummer from The Clash), one more tasty meal and one more delicious coffee stop.

I make things with lentils – along with sandwiches and pickles, this is my kitchen skill. i  present evidence in form a nice soup with tomatoes, spices (too much for preggo wife, be careful davey!) and whatnot. Little yogurt on top and brown rice.

After our classes and appointments at Sun Clinic – our fantastic birthing centre – we usually stop at a shrine and/or coffee/snack to discuss, review, decompress. In this case, Life and Coffee / Kurashi to Kohi who also have an art gallery event space (there was another visit to Amandya coffee after recent Poppa’s class too but no evidence to share).

This last visit was same day at the aforementioned good luck soybean day and the shrine was packed so we just hid out at the charming coffee shop looking at a book about making cabins and smelling the fresh roast (Ryoko rocking various non-coffee bevvies).

Reminds me to answer the folks at some Japan Travel group/page/thing hyping up Starbucks “traditional style” location in Tokyo. I offered surly thoughts in support of independent shops doing coffee right and sincerely and skillfully. This one is (ANOTher great) example – i mean, there is NO SHORTAGE of great coffee here in our under-known provincial capital so no reason to give money to corporate overlords for under-whelming product, predatory business practices and obnoxious branding. /rant They asked me if any coffee shop i’d recommend in Tokyo – sheesh, many folks forget the joy of knowing there’s a whole wonderful Japan outside of Tokyo. I suspect there are hundreds of fine establishments in the big city, however i can recommend (via this library no less) coffee shops from Shimane to Kanazawa and many points in between.

Carry on, i’ll keep riffing until i close all the tabs (hah will never happen!) PS sorry if behind in replies to you for something, seems to be the case these days with me…