Archive for the lifestyle Category

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
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    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?

    The 21st-century cycle shed

    Posted in lifestyle with tags , , on August 4, 2010 by mikele

    Screen shot 2010-08-04 at 14.20.49.png

    I’ve seen these in Japan a few times, now finally I also get to see a video (above) that explains quite well the way they work..

    From the Guardian, nov 2009:

    Illegal parking of bicycles in Japanese cities is a major problem. But one company has come up with an ingenious and elegant solution

    A related piece of (good) news is, London is getting a cycle hire scheme!