Archive by Author

Panda-full summer

29 Jun

Pandas have been popping up with great frequency this summer. First, the boast that the greatest number of pandas outside China lives in the southwest of Japan, in Wakayama prefecture. Then, Lady Gaga’s very poised appearance showcased a Japanese designer’s dress, and panda-modoki makeup.

(note to self: I wonder if she knows pandas are Chinese?)

Then in a talk in a local restaurant my friend Yoshiko runs, the Yushima shokudō, the speaker, FUNAKOSHI Atsuhiro, mentioned the panda’s diet. The context was a laid-back sort of charismatic but jokey lecture about foods to keep you healthy, especially as illustrated by people who didn’t get sick after their genbaku (atomic radiation/bomb) experience in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He mentioned the panda’s herbivore diet, and how the chubby panda contradicted the image of the gaunt and slightly edgy stereotype of the health nut.  Funakoshi himself first settled on his own angle of cuisine–wara cooking–after talking to the ‘father of macrobiotic cooking,’ SAKURAZAWA Yukikazu, aka George Osawa. Wara uses fresh vegetables, and is a kind of slow cooking that uses a technique called kasane-ni (重ね煮), or layering of things to cook them slowly. Anyway, the panda seemed to illustrate how one could thrive and even seem a bit decadent even on an herbivore diet.

This is a meat-based dish, Pork Loin and Cabbage Layered Stew, but is one example of how kasani-ne has been adopted for everyday cooking. The result is a bit like the tenderness and mingling of flavors you get with a slow cooker. I also post it because it is pretty salty, and in Tokyo these days, salt is making a comeback with anti-radiation echoes. But that is another story…

Final paper reiteration

28 Jun

Hi all,

this reprises what I said in class, but adds a few angles or points you might think about, if you want a structure to work with:
Final paper topic:
in five pages (roughly 250-300w/page), use ideas and texts that you have encountered in your readings on Japan, gardens and food history/politics/cultivation to suggest contributions to the USC Master Plan’s approach to feeding students. You may focus on a specific topic–even one that does not appear, per se, in the Master Plan–or you may suggest an overall approach or methodology (shizen nōhō, for instance, or localism, or if you like, pro-industrial food supply…).
The form and format are open-ended, but you may want to consider:

  • –genre. Do you want to write a manifesto (with manifestary narrative with problem to solve and open-ended future), a thought experiment (like Tanizaki or Miyazawa), a parody (like Ozeki), etc.?
  • –voice and audience. Are you addressing policy-makers, or fellow students? How does this affect your choice of language and tone? Would you like students to be involved in a particular way?
  • –examples. You might suggest that the Plan learn concretely from your own research.
  • –etc. The goal is to develop broad recommendations, connecting book/film learning to the world through your translation of language and concepts–i.e. the basic goal of a liberal arts education! If there are areas that need further research, either in your document, or in the Plan (many blind spots or blank spots may be found), feel free to say so.
  • –do you want to include images, to illustrate the current state of things, or an ideal? Be sure to document your sources, establish that they are credible (i.e. the result of someone’s concrete research, and not just “floating” scholarship plucked from cyberspace), and give captions to your photos or images.



23 Jun


I got to Tokyo yesterday, and wanted to post a couple of links to things I ran across, that touch on issues from class. Also, a food photo. I am staying in Kameari, way across the river, in true shitamachi-land. It’s the setting for the longest-running manga in Japanese print culture, Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari kōen-mae hashutsujo (こちら葛飾区亀有公園前派出所, literally, “This is the police station in front of Kameari Park in Katsushika-ku”). Here’s the Wiki entry. And here is a new rāmen place, that specializes in tantan-men, and like many delicious Tokyo restaurants, seats about 15 people, tops.

Tantan-men and beer at Kamezou ramen

Here’s a really good, local food blog. The writer translates and adapts recipes for katei ryōri from all over the place, including NHK’s morning show, Asaichi (=朝市 or morning market, used for Sunday markets and farmer’s markets, too). Her latest entry features the many faces of kyūri…

And a short piece on more asaichi that take place on regular Sundays in the city.

On a more sober note, a couple of things…

First, a Japan Times article about the spiking suicide rate in Tōhoku. Japan already has the highest suicide rate of any “developed” country. The tsunami/quake/radiation and resulting dispossessions have upped this even further. Clearly, the oft-trotted out line about Japan’s historical stoicism is really off the mark–or does not account for why resources are not reaching people to such an extent that they feel there is no way out or up. Then, in a related turn, celebrities such as Lady Gaga are visiting Japan under the umbrella of the US government. According to CNN,

Japan’s tourism has been hammered by the March 11th earthquake, tsunami and ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, tourism began to plunge on March 12th. Tourism fell 73% as compared to March 2010.

In April, tourism dropped 62.5% as compared to April the year before. In May, the tourism organization reported tourism was still down 50.4% as compared to May 2010.

U.S. ambassador to Japan, John Roos, appeared gaga over Lady Gaga, beaming as he stood by her side. The ambassador, who has personally championed the return of tourists to Japan, said the singer will help spread this message around the world.

“This morning I had breakfast with some think tank experts, U.S.-Japan experts, who said to me, Mr. Ambassador, ‘What can we do in order to strengthen the strategic, economic and people to people relations between Japan and the United States?’ And I had one answer, Lady Gaga,” said Roos.

It’s great that she wants to lend her glamour to the cause, but what troubles me is that there is a disconnect between the promotion and the money trail.

The Japanese Red Cross (JRC) is the designated recipient of the money she is drumming up, and was the go-to site for many from the US, especially in the early days. Donations, though, seem to happen on auto-pilot via branding, rather than any assessment of how effective the organization is, and whether it is the most efficient at direct services to people in stricken areas. Locally, in Japan, many suggest that the JRC has been slow in channeling funds. The Mainichi, for instance, writes that, “Of the 281.7 billion yen, 45.4 billion yen or 16 percent has so far actually been allotted to victims, arousing criticism as being too late.” Of course, this wording does not clarify who is doing the criticizing, or what “actually allotted to victims” concretely means. But it does underscore how many choices about gaiatsu-related donation–admin cost, local embeddedness, transparency, priorities, etc.–can be glossed over when celebrities just snap to a certain brand, without doing on-the-ground comparisons. To be continued, I am sure…


Next, more on the Slow Life movement in Tokyo…

Fish feeds: the ocean in the news

21 Jun

Because last week was world fisheries day–which may be news to you–there was a splash of fish and ocean-related stories in the news. These stories ride in the wake of the books we looked at in class (The Sushi Economy, Four Fish) as well as the issues The Cove touches on. Many of them adopt a similar shock strategy as The Cove, positing or predicting a tipping point in an eco-related issue. Often the stories, even in the international press, feature LA and its aqua-spheres. Here is one example, from the Independent, the British paper. (Also, notice how the vague use of phrases such as “a major report,” and “a global panel of scientists” leaves mysterious the exact nature and credibility of the sources. As we saw in The Cove, and as you find if you follow the paper/money trail of many organizations that advocate on policy issues, science can easily be spun to be partisan, through selective presentation or cryptic methodology…)

The world’s oceans are faced with an unprecedented loss of species comparable to the great mass extinctions of prehistory, a major report suggests today. The seas are degenerating far faster than anyone has predicted, the report says, because of the cumulative impact of a number of severe individual stresses, ranging from climate warming and sea-water acidification, to widespread chemical pollution and gross overfishing.

The beach, featured in the image below, is Redondo.

Credit: APP/Getty Millions of dead anchovies floating at a marina in Redondo Beach, California, in March

As you write up your plan for the USC area, you might consider: what is the balance of evidence, of shock, of emotional tone, of narrative, that you want as the skeleton of your paper? Ruth Ozeki’s novel, My Year of Meats, tackles similar issues–via industrial agriculture–but uses humor to do so. Does each strategy have different motivations, effects, results in the kind of community it builds?

Song list for Momotarō jazz opera

15 Jun

opening credit

:00      ojīsan goes out walking: Charlie Parker, “Now’s the Time”

:24      obasan washes clothes in river: Kenny Dorham, “Lotus Blossom”


:48      look, a peach approaches: Miles Davis, “Milestones”

1:40    ojī and obā break open peach: Thelonius Monk, “Misterioso”

1:48    Momotarō bursts out: Monk, “Blue Monk”


2:02    ojī marvels: Horace Silver, “Sister Sadie”


…some years later

2:20    Momotarō makes his plea to voyage: Bill Evans, “Waltz for Debby”       (

3:38    Art Blakey, from the soundtack to Dangerous Liaisons (1958)

4:27    Momotarō sets out: Art Blakey, “Blues March”

4:57    sendoff for Momotarō: Sonny Rollins, “Doxy”

5:11    on the road, 3 animals: “Five Spots After Dark,” feat. Benny Golson (

5:50    animal alliance: Bud Powell Trio, “Cleopatra’s Dream” (

6:27    Momotarō subdues the animals: Herbie Mann, “Comin’ Home Baby” (

7:00    ahoy, M hits the high seas: Herbie Hancock, “Maiden Voyage” (

7:32    devils on Onigashima: Charlie Parker, “Donna Lee”–Saitō Haruhiko sings here

8:15 more devils assemble: Clifford Brown, “Cherokee” (

8:43    pacification: Charles Mingus, “Fables of Faubus”


9:02    victory!: Miles Davis,  “Round Midnight”


9:13    celebration!: John Coltrane, “Moment’s Notice”


9:47    ensemble: Sonny Rollins, “St Thomas” (

Huntington Ranch blog and the “food forest”

14 Jun

This is not strictly speaking Fukuoka, but many of his ideas of cultivating wildness have drifted into the gardens and repertoires of permaculture and urban farming folks.

The Huntington, in Pasadena, has a new experimental farm they call the “ranch,” which uses the food forest idea, which is not unlike that found in Fukuoka’s work…Here is a link to its blog.

Gardener Scott Kleinrock compares this food forest to a conventional food garden...

Fukuoka makes seed balls

14 Jun

Here’s a YouTube video from 1997, in which he shows the method. He’s already about 90 years old…

Fukuoka meets fusion–“lasagna gardening”

13 Jun

In the US, a woman named Patricia Lanza has made popular Fukuoka Masanobu’s techniques of “do-nothing” farming–she followed, in turn, the earlier work of a woman named Ruth Stout.

Her concept selects and adapts particular features of FM’s work, and is known as “lasagna gardening.” It’s called this because it starts off with sheet mulching and wild mulching–laying sheets of cardboard over grass to tame it and get rid of weeds, and using plant matter on the spot for compost, letting it have its unruly way, rather than putting it in a tidy (“”) pile in a corner to gestate. It’s a kind of translated version of do-nothing farming that still involves some of the processes (sheet mulching, notably, and lack of interest in tilling). But it also drops some key features, such as the compelling autobio, the relation to a general critique of modernity, and questions about the role of the local vis-à-vis spiritual/mystical/Romantic/poetic histories.

Cover of Lanza's Fukuoka adaptation/localization

See what you think, by paging through it at Amazon

Is anything added? Anything lost? How does she imagine the task of adapting, localizing, translating? And what does “culture” (i.e. from cultivare, the word meaning ‘to grow’) mean to her, do you think?

In the news: tomatoes demystified

10 Jun

This story has obvious links to the Fukuoka reading for Tuesday. A critique of food–>a general critique of modernity, and re-connection with the sources of food is urged…

How we ruined the tomato

The plump red fruit has become a symbol of everything that’s wrong with modern agriculture. An expert explains why

How we ruined the tomato


Americans love tomatoes. As our second-most-popular produce item, we’re accustomed to the sight of them: plump and bright red, marble to soft-ball sized, and piled in abundance year-round in the refrigerated fruit and vegetable aisle of the grocery store. Many of us eat tomatoes every day: if not au natural, in ketchup, salsa, or marinara sauce.

Yet our favorite fruit may not be quite as innocuous and delicious as it appears.

continued, on

Link to USC Master Plan

9 Jun

Here is a link to the “background” page of the USC Master Plan, that in turn has links to previous plans. And a link to an LAT article from last summer.