Chikashi Miyamoto

philosopher by training, gentleman by accident, pervert by nature, glutton by choice

Category: Japan

Making a Statement

image via Demotix

image via Demotix

Teruki Goto, an independent, right-wing candidate (and singer) currently running for mayor in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Don’t ask what the statement might be. Not a clue.

Having shared his campaign poster currently plastered all over Chiyoda, I wish you all a lovely weekend.

Acknowledgement:  Thanks for the tip-off, David.

Postscript:  I do wonder what Cicciolina is doing these days… I have rather fond memories of the Made in Heaven exhibit at Sonnabend Gallery, being tickled to death at the sight of little old purple-haired ladies screeching and gasping every time they entered another room with a giant photo of Mr and Mrs Koons. I thought, ‘But you girls have probably done stuff that I haven’t even thought of.’ Priceless. Ilena Sonnabend, RIP.


Hokkaido, the Home of Japanese Andouillette?

So, I am humbled by the breadth and depth of Japanese cuisine. I had no idea. Really.

But then again, those northerners are different…


Lost in Translation, Bell Peppers

Like avocados, bell peppers are not native to Japan, and a Japanese name was never assigned to them. Words of foreign origin are usually written in a different set of characters called katakana. Usually, the etymological origin is easy enough to guess, but not in this instance. Sweet bell peppers are called peeman in Japanese (that is the romanised phonetic representation, so, ok, one could write peaman instead but it wouldn’t be as poetic). For years, I have wondered about the origin of the word partly because it is a somewhat awkward sounding word to an English speaker. However, whenever I brought up the question with my Japanese friends and acquaintances, no one knew the answer.

Pepper No 43 by Edward Weston, 1930

“Pepper No 43” by Edward Weston, 1930:  “Peeman No 43”?

On the way to my local Japanese restaurant Yamayu Santatsu today, I walked by a lorry emblazoned with the removal company’s name, Pieman, and was reminded of the mystery. I posed the question to Kurasawa-san, the chef-proprietor, but he didn’t know either. He did, however, guess correctly that they are of Latin American origin, so we hypothesised that it may have something to do with Spanish or Portuguese. We further hypothesised that it is more likely to be Portuguese because of the prolific trading relationship Portugal had with Japan centuries ago.

I found out that it is pimiento in Spanish and pimentão in Portuguese. Getting warm but not quite there…

Further research on the interwebz revealed that Christopher Colombus brought back chili peppers to Europe from Latin America. The Europeans (not sure which) eventually modified the plant to produce larger, sweet peppers. The original chili peppers were introduced to Japan by the Portuguese in the 16th century and became widely available in the Edo Period (1603-1867) during which they were given a Japanese name taugarashi (番椒).

The sweet peppers were introduced to Japan in the beginning of Meiji Period (mid 19th century) but became widely available only after World War II by accident. When they were first introduced, they had a much stronger fragrance that was not well received by the public. Soon, bell peppers were forgotten. Consequently, when the government ordered severe rationing of food during and after the war, the bureaucrats forgot to include bell peppers in the list of rationed vegetables. Someone spotted this error and started selling bell peppers to the public that was all too willing to buy them. This time, its name was derived from the French word piment despite the fact that it is sweet.

Predictably, we completely buggered the intonation, and the vegetable became known as peeman. Every once in a while, one can spot a Japanese, who is not particularly proficient in English, trying to say something to an English speaker about a peeman, assuming that it is an English word because it is written in katakana.

‘Do you have peeman?’

‘Where can I find peeman?’

‘I need peeman.’

‘Do you like grilled peeman?’

‘I like peeman very much.’

‘Red peeman is my favourite.’

I can only imagine what goes through the mind of the person being addressed, but the look on the person’s face is invariably priceless.

Shaking Up Japanese Politics? He Is Up For It


Rowland and I have known each other since we had green stuff hanging from our nostrils. Now, he is running for a seat in the upper house of the National Diet. To say that I am surprised about him entering politics would be the understatement of the year. Upon reflection, it is actually not surprising that he is a Tokyo district candidate for the four-year old, centre-right Your Party. I do not really like discussing politics, but the Japanese political / legislative scene has been stuck in second gear for about 15 years. It could use a bit of shaking up. Well, lots of shaking, actually. Rowly is not the sort that is shy about stirring things up.

Because Japan has very little natural resources, the country has been very reliant on imported fuel. In order to make up for this deficiency, Japan has had nuclear power plants operating for a very long time. Nuclear power has always been controversial in Japan, but things came to a head when an earthquake and a tsunami hit northeastern Japan in 2011. The debate about nuclear power has always been more emotive than practical in the sense that a robust, informed dialogue has been, well, as scarce as natural sources of fuel. Rowly is prepared to address the issue without mincing words. Every solution or alternative will have associated costs, but what is required is to assess each of the solutions and alternatives in a frank and informed manner.

Similarly, he is prepared to address tough issues that most politicians would consider too polarising.

This being politics, there is bound to be some dirt-digging. I hate to disappoint, but the worst thing I have on Rowly is he and I sitting at Caffe Dante in Greenwich Village, washing down a toasted prosciutto and cheese sandwich with espressos and cigarettes, or chewing on some greasy fabulousness and a thick Bloody Mary at Florent in the meatpacking district, nursing our hangover mid-day after yet another evening (morning) at Nell’s. (I heard Nell moved back to Oz?) And, we may not have been of legal drinking age according to local law. Absolutely scandalous…

In 2007, Rowly completed the Dakar Rally on a motorbike. Not just participated, COMPLETED. On the first attempt. If you know anything about Dakar, then you would know what that means. So, if you want determination and commitment, there you have them. I hope he gets elected and shakes things up a bit. It ought to be interesting.

From the Dakar 2007 web site:

Rowland Kirishima had intended to wait for his 40th birthday to take part in the Dakar. Caught by the passion and worried he might get injured, the Japanese from a Scottish father decided to come to the rally a bit earlier than that: “I just couldn’t wait any longer.” So it’s on a Yamaha 450cc that this racetrack biker embarked upon the journey to Lac Rose. A painful first time… At the Ayoun El Atrous bivouac, he admits: “I must be the biker who fell the most of the whole Dakar.”

Before the mythical rally, Rowland prepared himself participating e.g. in the Pharaohs Rally of Egypt where he finished at a very honorable 28th place: “But the Pharaohs is a walk in the park compared to the Dakar. I didn’t know it would be that hard; it’s constant agony. There is no time to catch your breath.”

In the stage between Atar and Tichit, Kirishima lived in hell and kept pushing his limits further. “I think I fell about 20 times in the first 50 km. I then drove at night with the broom truck right in my tail. The organizers wanted me to withdraw; they told me to stop for a few minutes to catch my breath… I kept going. And in the last 10 km I fell about 20 times again in the middle of the night. On top of that, I had no more headlight due to a battery problem. I was just driving with my front sidelamp.” The day after this apocalyptic stage, this professional photographer, suffering from a leg injury, did not dare go to the medical tent fearing they might force him to withdraw…

Lessons in courage are many on the Dakar particularly in the bikers’ family. Rowland Kirishima adds a bit of chance to his courage: the chance of the Atar stage being shortened due to low visibility or even the one of not having had to drive to Timbuktu. With a great smile, he adds: “at any rate, I’m getting my money’s worth!”

Needles and Ink, Shears and Needles

Tilda Swinton looks very cool wearing the bespoke suit that underpins the spring / summer 2014 Timothy Everest x Horiyoshi III ready-to-wear men’s collection that made its debut Monday night. For a report of the evening, go here and here. Regrettably, I was unable to attend the launch…

FINDHORN is a short film by Johnnie Shand Kydd that captures the essence of bespoke and its effects on the wearer. It is a conceptual exploration into two crafts at the opposite side of the spectrum brought together for the first time and realised in a two-piece garment.

Drawing parallels between the shapes and forms of Tilda Swinton’s local landscape, the viewer sees exaggerated movements echoing the shapes a bespoke client experiences during the fitting process.

In search of the perfect tattoo, white on white becomes a key theme.

Wearing a deconstructed jacket and trouser fashioned from the purest white wool, the subtle luminosity and fluidity of the cloth is juxtaposed against brightly billowing scarves and bleached out-sand dunes. Over obvious basting stitches draw attention to the processes used in bespoke.

I have not quite tried those moves in Spitalsfields, never mind in Scotland, but I take the film as an encouragement to do the same at the next opportunity?

Nitto’s Chosen Path

Back to basics, sticking to the things in which you excel.

Focussing on one’s core competence.

Rather than trying to be everything to everyone.

It’s not an easy decision, not an easy path.

Because you have to excel in something.

Vulnerable in a Skinsuit

You’re in your skinsuit and aero helmet, and then two thugs come to grab your lunchbox.  Talk about being vulnerable…

I am reasonably certain that I watched every episode of Ultraman on the gogglebox when I was a little monkey but don’t remember this scene.  Perhaps I had the flu that day…

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