Posted in diary with tags on January 21, 2012 by mikele

Our friend Baruto has won the Honbasho in Tokyo!

That makes Baruto enter the club of very few the non-japanese Sumo champions.

He became the ninth foreign-born wrestler and second from Europe after Bulgarian Kotooshu to win a championship.

“I don’t have that much to say but I am excited,” said Baruto, who made his debut at sumo’s No. 2 rank at the 2010 summer meet. “The championship had been a dream of mine until now. I have made a strong effort at this meet and there was a lot of pressure in the title race. I tried not to focus on the title and just give my all.”

Read the whole news piece on The Japan Times.



The Italian Consul General in Osaka is a fascist beater

Posted in Weird and funny with tags , , on January 18, 2012 by mikele

This is almost unbelievable. Or maybe not, if you stop and think for minute about the never-ending sequel of embarrassing s**t the italian government has supported and/or promoted lately.

Mario Vattani is a well known extreme right-winger who has performed with his rock band at events supporting fascist causes. He’s now representing Italy in Osaka, under the role of Consul General. Without any doubt he got there thanks to his family connections (his father’s been the foreign office minister twice I think), but that isn’t really big news in Italy.

The total shame derives from his extreme right militance, and the fact that in the past he’s been involved also in ‘squadrist’ violence episodes such as beatings of political opponents and so on… totally disgusting. Recently there are calls for an investigation into how Vattani could have passed vetting procedures given that he appeared in public advertising his beliefs.

If you meet him in the streets of Osaka, well, remember who he is..

Free tickets to Japan from the Japanese government

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 12, 2011 by mikele

Announced today – the Japanese ministry of tourism is planning to invite 10,000 foreigners to Japan – and pay for your travel.

Applications will be done through the internets and folks will be invited during 2012. Applicants need to submit their travel plans for when they are in Japan and if the government thinks that you truly intend to visit (and not overstay as an illegal immigrant) then they will pay for your return ticket.

The Japanese governments strategy for this plan is that they expect travelers to blog and use social media to spread the word about their experience in Japan which should hopefully lead to more folks visiting Japan.

The amount of foreigners visiting Japan since the earthquake and nuclear accident has decreased a ton – some prefectures like Yamagata have experienced up to 80% drop in overseas visitors.

The Japanese government is spending 1.1 billion yen on this project.

I got the news from here.

I’m a ramen-boy

Posted in lifestyle with tags , , , on September 29, 2011 by mikele

I just love ramen, it reminds me of ‘la minestrina della nonna’ which is a key italian culinary concept: the exquisite soup only your grandma can make, after an entire life devoted to perfecting her skills.

And finally, now I can also make it. Well, let’s say I can prepare a bare bones version of ramen, since preparing real ramen usually take a few hours’ work (see here for example).

After a lot of searching I found a decent recipe on youtube that doesn’t involve any pre-packaged shiny looking instant ramen stuff. Here it is:

– 300 ml water
– 2 or 3 tbsp Mentsuyu (or soya sauce)
– 2 tsp Chicken Stock
– A little grated ginger and garlic
– A little sesame oil
– Noodles, onions and other ingredients you want to put on top at the end

Preparation is dead simple: just add the various ingredients to the water and bring it to boil; cook the noodles in a separate pan and then mix it with the soup. The video shows you all you need to know about it:

I can confirm: I tried it and it works!


  • The official ramen homepage
  • The ramen rater
  • The ramen blog
  • Japanese Love Hotels: a cultural history

    Posted in lifestyle, preconceptions with tags , , , , on August 27, 2011 by mikele

    Japanese Love Hotels [the book]

    I just started reading this book by Sarah Chaplin on the ‘love’ hotels in Japan, an aspect of contemporary Japanese culture often downplayed and underestimated by western tourists (“they’re just modern and fancy brothels” – a classic reaction I don’t deny having had myself). Love hotels are instead a fantastically rich anthropological phenomenon, where the fascinating mix of modern and antique which is nowadays Japan gets represented in all of its levels. Here is an excerpt from the first chapter:

    It’s Sunday morning, 10:43am, and you don’t have any particular plan for the day. So here is my tip: Get yourself a folding chair, place yourself comfortably across from the entrance of one of Japan’s 30,000 love hotels, and just watch. Apart from a few surprises, your private programme should include the following: an old man accompanied by a 15-year-old girl in school uniform rushing into the hotel to make use of the reasonable 2-hour ‘rest’ rate; a middle-aged couple from outside Tokyo parking their car in the parking lot, then running the five metres to the entrance, hiding their faces like criminals; a teenage couple entering the place as if it were a McDonald’s; and, as an encore, a newly-arrived foreign woman in her forties with her luggage walks happily in, only to come out confused and ashamed three minutes later. So just by sitting around you have a perfect overview of Japanese culture right at its most interesting point.


    The love hotel is characterised as a barometer of social and cultural change in Japan’s long post- war period, mirroring economic and psychological fluctuations, while challeng- ing behavioural norms and domestic identities.

    Sarah Chaplin is an architect and cultural theorist, so her study focuses on aspects such as the love hotels’ urban context, their architectural form, their richly wrought interiors, their names and thematic contents, and their emerging status as a cultural industry. However throughout the book there are lots of reflections which are of interest also to non academic and non expert readers, especially the ones who’re intrigued and eager to get under the skin of japanese culture.

    Japan pensioners volunteer to tackle nuclear crisis

    Posted in lifestyle with tags , , , , on June 1, 2011 by mikele

    A group of more than 200 Japanese pensioners are volunteering to tackle the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power station.The Skilled Veterans Corps, as they call themselves, is made up of retired engineers and other professionals, all over the age of 60.

    They say they should be facing the dangers of radiation, not the young.

    It was while watching the television news that Yasuteru Yamada decided it was time for his generation to stand up.No longer could he be just an observer of the struggle to stabilise the Fukushima nuclear plant.The retired engineer is reporting back for duty at the age of 72, and he is organising a team of pensioners to go with him.For weeks now Mr Yamada has been getting back in touch with old friends, sending out e-mails and even messages on Twitter.

    Volunteering to take the place of younger workers at the power station is not brave, Mr Yamada says, but logical.

    Read the whole article on BBC news online.

    I can’t stop being stunned by the mentality of Japanese people: this is ‘logical’ (as Mr Yamada says) because the community, the ‘whole’ must always come before the single individual, i.e. the ‘part’? or is it just a honest and brave manifestation of solidarity – although unrevealed due to modesty or shyness?

    We Japanese are not philosophers

    Posted in japanese concepts with tags , , on November 7, 2010 by mikele

    A quite poignant quote from May’s book “Atomic Sushi” (that I talked about in a previous post). The author is talking to his japanese host about the reasons for being a philosopher in modern Japan (p.148-149):

    “We Japanese are not philosophers,” he conceded proudly. “We have our philosophy, of course; but we prefer not to speak about it.”

    I agreed with this wholeheartedly: “You don’t need to spell out your philosophy unless your roots are endangered, unless the question of your identity becomes a conscious, live problem.”

    “Like the Jews,” he said, without a trace of anti-Semitism.

    “Yes. In the West we are all becoming Jews,” I replied, tongue-in-cheek.

    “You are right, May-san. We Japanese do not need philosophy. We are still racially-pure. Perhaps we are the last racially-pure people.”

    I found this a shocking gloss on my point, and yet the way he said it was too “innocent” to be sinister. Japan must be the only nation in the world where a blut-und-bloden – blood-and-soil – mythology is openly voiced in an inoffensive, even naive, way. People don’t seem to associate it with Nazi evil, or with names like Auschwitz.

    “But if we are forced to accept more foreign influence, then we will need more philosophy,” he persisted, warming to the theme. “Foreigners will endanger our identity. Then we will import their philosophy in order to regain the identity they destroyed.” He grinned with satisfaction as he drew his conclusions: “Foreigners will try to cure the disease they cause to us. But the cure will simply lead to further disease.”