Month: June 2008

The culture that is Japanese

A homeless woman who sneaked into a man’s house and lived undetected in
his closet for a year was arrested in Japan after he became suspicious
when food mysteriously began disappearing.

Police found the
58-year-old woman Thursday hiding in the top compartment of the man’s
closet and arrested her for trespassing, police spokesman Hiroki
Itakura from southern Kasuya town said Friday.

Even better is how he caught her:

The resident of the home installed security cameras that transmitted
images to his mobile phone after becoming puzzled by food disappearing
from his kitchen over the past several months.

Hat tip goes to Instapundit.

My favorite things Japan, classical music edition

1. Piano: Mitsuko Uchida is a clear first choice.  Her box of the Mozart sonatas remains the best.  Oddly I don’t like her much in the rest of the classical repertoire, though her Debussy and Webern and Schoenberg are interesting (though not my preferred versions for the latter two, which are the steelier Pollini and Gould).  I also like Aki Takahashi, most of all for Cage and Feldman.

2. Conductor: Seiji Ozawa has remarkable talent and he can conduct almost anything without a score (not easy).  Still, he never really developed his own sound and he has to count as a missed opportunity.  First prize goes to Maasaki Suzuki, who has recorded a remarkable all-Japanese St. Matthew’s Passion and is doing a cycle of the Bach cantatas.

3. String Quartet: Tokyo is first-rate, get their complete box of Beethoven’s String Quartets.

4. Composer: Toru Takemitsu is the obvious choice, though I don’t much come back to his work.

5. Classical guitarist: Kazuhito YamashitaHis transcriptions are mind-blowing, most of all the Stravinsky.  The fascination of the Japanese with transcriptions could command an entire book.

Outside of classical music I’ll recommend Kodo (and indeed all Taiko music, but only live, not on disc), The Brilliant Green’s "The Angel Song," and yes Yoko Ono.  Most of Japanese popular music is a blur to me, though not an unpleasant one.

The best beef in the world?

There is a new winner and yes it is Kobe Beef in Kobe, Japan.  It lives up to the hype, if you are in Kobe just try any of the better beef establishments in town.  My personal list now reads as follows (in order, of course):

1. Kobe Beef, Kobe, Japan.

2. Dry-aged beef in Hermosillo, Mexico.

3. Southern Brazil, near Curitiba.

4. Lockhart, Texas, most of all the brisket at Schmitty’s.

Maybe Argentina is next in line and it might place higher if I had consumed countryside barbecue there.

And yes, Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman are right: you should eat less beef.  But Kobe is not the place to abstain.  The reality is that eating beef in Kobe will make it very hard for you to eat beef almost anywhere else again.