An Enviable Finger Fetish; Nails Japanese Style

Japanophiles think they know all there is to know about what makes Japan so uniquely unlike every place else on earth. We`ve all seen the “Top 10” lists that include the vending machines, the manga, the robot bar, and the parasite museum. But let`s not be afraid to point the finger at what so many women clad in blue suits have been sporting with such panache.

Nails as an art form.

Essie`s recent campaign does a poor job of framing this issue.


Cute names and lovely colors, but nothing near what a self respecting salary woman would sport. A great example of what we have here. A nice shade of one color.

For examples, I had to call in my favorite nail art afficionado who can`t be named. But whose name looks a lot like “name” but sounds more like “Swami.” She took a few pics of her latest creations.

Starting with the simple- in a hurry- only have to time to bejewel one nail today.

Next on to a more individualized look but still rather subdued.



And to the final piece certainly worthy of a spot in the Mori Tower:


I`d had way too much sake when I took this picture, but these even have small sculptures.


If that doesn`t impress you, how about this?


This from my friend who`s not only creative with her nails but can also help your kid write an essay that will get them in to any college, anywhere, no matter what their SAT score. (here at EXPAT Essay)

On balance, my nail salon, as in the one I frequent not own, does offer a French Manicure done with glitter. Yawn.

Next time I`m in Japan, I`m bringing back some “expertise” in my suitcase.

If you have any pics of nails to be proud, please do share so we can all ooh and aah!


Apparently CNN Travel agrees that Japanese nail art is top notch!


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Going Down In Flames-Hirezake

There are a few things which should only be done in a lab setting. With safety glasses, a lab coat, and a glass hood under which flammables and other explosives are tested; maybe a hazmat suit for added precaution. Certain things come to mind as appropriate for managing within a controlled environment such as a lab. The Zika and Ebola viruses. Not something you want all over your person when arriving home after work as an example. Being overrun with dogs and kids upon your arrival, transferring any virus particles is a great way to ensure it has taken up residence in your own home as well as the rest of the neighborhood.  Rocket fuel. The stuff is so volatile a sneeze can set it off.

I`m going to add another thing to my list of items to be managed within a lab.Preferably an underground lab buried several stories underneath a desert.

A combination of blowfish and sake. Each is deadly in its own right. Add them together and bad things are going to happen.

Which is exactly what happened when some friends of mine and I got together for Sunday lunch at a blowfish restaurant in Tokyo.


This puffer either overdid the teeth whitener or had some false teeth added posthumously.

Previously thought to be a deadly meal due to a liver full of poison, many now speculate the Blow fish eats poisonous diet which it then passes along to any thing stupid enough to eat it. As if the spines weren`t enough of a reason not to put it in your mouth.

In Japan, chefs must have a special license in order to prepare and serve Blowfish- or “Fugu” in Japanese. In general, and for obvious reasons, most places that serve Blowfish only serve Blowfish. Usually in several different ways. Rumors abound that certain insiders to a chef in the know can be served fugu with just a touch of poison remaining. This kiss of poison leaves the mouth and lips tingly which apparently is worth dyeing for. Not me, I`ll take my kicks in other forms.

Which led me to the sake part of the equation. Once all other parts of the blowfish have been eaten- eyes, skin, meat, and other, its time to serve up the fins. Roasted, put in a hot glass of sake, and set afire, this will give your mouth a tingly sensation. This little ensemble is called “hirezake.”

"Danger Will Robinson"

“Danger Will Robinson”

Note: I`m not one of the speakers in the background. By this time my power of speech had reverted to that of a primate.

Hot, with a smoky fish flavor, it`s addictive.

This lethal combo resulted in one of our group sleeping in the booth next to us while the rest of us converted the restaurant from a “Fugu” restaurant to a “Fugu and karaoke” club by singing 70`s dance tunes pulled up on YouTube.

Seriously good and absolutely necessary to be experimented with in a controlled setting. Or else.



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Kawaii Construction- I Need This in My Neighborhood

There`s construction going on in my neighborhood. It`s noisy, dusty, and worst all it makes my dogs bark. This is a problem for all the neighbors because they also hear the construction, the dogs barking, and me yelling “Shut up” through out the day. It makes me long for “Kawaii construction.” The “cute” construction that has been adopted by the Japanese. Although Tokyo is a city under constant renovation, I was distracted by the kawaii factor and didn`t seem to notice.

So, here are a few thoughts for the city of San Diego:

  1. All construction cones should be separated by boxed  tulips. The “no photography” sign I took to be directed at others, not people like me ready to share this as a best practice.


2. Hide the construction with some artwork that reminds me of walking along a tree-lined avenue.


3. Plants soften both a room and a construction wall.



4) By now, this wall is probably completely overgrown with greenery. Another good idea.


5) Sometimes so realistic, a “watch out for deer”sign is necessary. We don`t have to start out with such lofty goals. Something to strive for.



6) The Japanese aren`t afraid to make a construction wall a piece of art


7) Walking along side of this is almost relaxing-


8) These dolphins could stop traffic with their kawaii factor. We could develop kawaii seals and sea lions – they fit in better around here and are always kawaii.

DSCN2741Bunnies are also very Kawaii….but I haven`t seen any around here.


9) Sometime they hide construction and the morning exercises to get everyone ready for a tough day at work. I`m ok watching the exercisers but I don`t want to see the actual work getting done.


Yep. More Kawaii please San Diego.


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Elbowing Our Way Through Easter

It`s Easter. The time when we Catholics roll our eyes, put on a colorful outfit, and drag our families out of bed to show up at mass. It also happens at Christmas. The folks who attend more regularly get annoyed when their usual spot is occupied by a family of 15. Easter mass at a Catholic church is filled with elbowing and tongues clucking.


I`m trying to be a little more Zen in my approach as we get ready to leave for mass two hours early in order to get a seat with a view of the alter. It`s easier to get close to the front at a Stones concert. As I center myself to attend the chaos that is Easter in the local parish, I think about one of my favorite spots in Tokyo.  Aoyama Cemetery close to Omotesando. All are welcome here. Even in Cherry Blossom Season:




Would love to see your weekend pics- regardless of what`s getting celebrated! Peace folks.

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Just How Rude are You? The Chopstick Test

So folks. I`m headed back to Japan in May and as I get back in to the Genki spirit, I`m going through all the cultural do`s and don`ts that will cause my friends to hit the eject button at the table if stick my chopsticks in my bun after lunch.
In case you failed it the last time, here`s the opportunity to take it again. The Chopstick test. Gambatte!

Hey from Japan- or wherever the moving van arrives- Emily Cannell

As if the Offspring didn`t cause enough raised eyebrows at home with their barn like behavior at the trough supper table, now the Japanese we encounter while dining have concluded somewhere hidden underneath those clothes is a curly tail. Amidst the smacking, elbows resting on any available surface and incorrect handling of all foreign dining objects, including a fork, my sole remaining hope for improved table manners rests on an over dramatic and disgusted look from an attractive member of the opposite sex.

But I keep trying.

Mushing on in spite of this relentless uphill assault.

Do you belong with my bovine? Test your chopstick chops….

The Chopstick Test

First Scenario

Junko- san and the man of her dreams, Andretti-san, take their place at the counter  for ramen and romance. Andretti-san unwraps the paper from his chopsticks and rubs them together, smoothing off any splinters that appeared when he broke…

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Repatriation During the Holidays is Harder Than Being Overseas….

The pitfall of living overseas is the inevitability of coming home. Dull. And with that the recalibration of expectations that the Offspring have regarding holidays and how they are spent. Some expats have a problem living overseas during traditional American holidays because they`re just a little bit off.  And of course family is far away- which in some cases is a welcomed Christmas blessing. The Offspring were confused by a Japanese Christmas which included the time honored tradition of feasting on chicken at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Holiday decorations had Christmas lights and glass balls but the rest had us scratching our heads looking for a connection.


A Cinderella desk is inside, but no Santa.

With no family within 7,000 miles of home, ExPats are free to flock to exotic locations now only three hours away.  For ExPats in Japan, places like China, Thailand, Malaysia, Bora Bora- the list goes on. A 24 hour flight combined with jet lag that lasts for the entire vacation and another two weeks after getting home is enough for most people at home to opt for a drive to the Jersey shore. ( I don`t include myself in that category- any travel that includes Jet Lag gets me upstairs packing my carry-on)

During the holidays, we lived it up.

Snow Monsters in Japan….


To Snow Monkeys in Nagano…


To places we never thought we would see like the Great Wall of China


Unfortunately, this is pollution, not fog

To Hiroshima


The added bonus of these fabulous vacations was the cost- virtually nothing. In China we spent about $10/day feeding three adults. I`m one of those mean moms who forces everyone to find something to eat out of the local cuisine. Instead of baggage containing breakfast bars we are more apt to load Pepto Bismol.

Fast forward to our repatriation.

OS#2 “Where are we going for Christmas?”

Ouisar-san “Grandmama`s – maybe.”

OS#2 “WHAT? We`re not going to THAILAND? What are we going to do at her house for a week?”

It`s a tough life folks. Just to get them back in the swing, I may go get some KFC. That`s KPF to you Montrealers……(Poulet Frit du Kentucky)


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Some Beauty In These Sad Times

Over the summer, Offspring #2 and I visited Paris- her reward for the eight hours of French tutoring she endured weekly upon our move to Montreàl. As it always is when tragedy hits a place you know, there`s a certain connection to the people and the places one feels. I felt sick when I saw the picture of Le Carillon- the place we enjoyed so much on our visit. Our waiter who tried so hard to speak English when he heard our attempts at French, the two men behind us, teaching each other French and Japanese using English as a common denominator, the little girl who escaped her mother`s hand to ask for a taste of my smoothie. I hope they are all safe.

So, instead of my usual- a peaceful, beautiful setting to look at.

Ginkgo trees.














Peace people.

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The Children at Taya Cavern

Unfortunately for any of you still reading this blog, I have figured out the ICloud. Which means I`ve been looking through thousands of pictures, which I will now force upon you. Hopefully it won`t be as bad as looking at baby pictures or reading Christmas cards that come with a summary of the year`s (uninteresting to me) events. However, if after this post I lose a few subscribers I`ll understand that several of you would have preferred I keep my pictures to myself. Touché.

SO- my last blog post was about Taya Cavern. I didn`t include this part in that post because there`s nothing funny about it. Upon entrance to the caves, there are thousands of these Jizo Statues- each representing a dead child. Personalized in different ways, it`s a heart-wrenching display.

Here are a few:














Rest in Peace sweet ones.





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Fireworks in the Taya Cavern

There are usually 2-3 people in a location that seem to be plopped there to help usher you through the journey. So I feel really guilty that I`m about to laugh at this sweet woman`s expense, but I will. (Excuse me while I take a break to laugh- again.) Because I`m already feeling terrible about laughing- and writing -about this religious, church going, homeless feeding woman, I`ll go ahead and throw my friend the Social Chairman under this moving bus. It may have been her fault. It usually is.

The last time the Social Chairman and I were at a shrine we ended up in wedding pictures. This was right before the groom starting beating us with his fan. That wasn`t nearly as funny.


Happy Groom

On this particular day we were touring the Taya Cavern at Jousenji Temple in Yokohama. Famous for having carved images of Buddhas and mantras in both Japanese and Sanskrit dating from 1192-1720. Not the easiest place to find. Follow the giant head you can see from the train station, from there start asking people.


Not a part of the Taya Cavern- it would`ve been nice if her eyes had pointed the way.

The victim headed in to the caves. DSCN1190There are no lights in the caves so we were given long candles. No pictures were allowed either. Apparently flash is dangerous to sculptures. If Church lady wasn`t watching our every move we might have snapped a few pics, but doing so would have precipitated our ex communication. We would have to use great stealth in order to do it behind her back.

We followed Church Lady closely. I would then distract Church lady from the front – ask a well-timed question, invite her over to interpret some Sanskrit while the Social Chairman attempted to snap a few pics without using her flash from behind. This meant being absolutely still for the camera to soak up the little light present. My distractions had to be time-consuming and loud to flush out the sound of the camera. We shouldn`t have done it with so many deities present. The mojo was too bad and lots of sacred carvings, serious faces illuminated by candle light, were watching us. Disapproving.

SC moved the candle to her left hand as she tried to stealth snap with the right, Church Lady still positioned in front.

Then her hair went up in flames.

Our sweet church going, homeless feeding Social Chairman was on fire, framing the back of Church lady`s head with flames. I began to beat the top of SC`s head with my handouts. Which then caught on fire. The inside of the cave was now spectacularly lit by the human hair torch. All the other women on the tour seized this great opportunity to snap pics of the temple cave now warmly lit with the glow from a fire. Church lady continued down the hallway, talking and pointing while behind her a rebellious group of Catholic women were snapping pictures haphazardly hoping at least one would turn out.  One of the more quick-witted ladies, and might I add the only one to follow the example of the great saints, doused the Social Chairman with her precious bottled water, which I couldn`t do for choking on laughter and smoke fumes.

Her head smoked while the other ladies ran away from the scene as the Church Lady turned to make sure her charges were in tow.  The BBQ`d Social Chairman pulled chunks of long blonde hair off her shoulders. It was hard to breathe for laughing. Don`t get mad at me for laughing- she still had at least half of her hair. For weeks after, short random pieces of hair that had been burnt spiked off the tops and sides of her head.

Good time good times.

I guess one should expect karma when in a temple. Other rule breakers and rebellious types have posted pics of the inside of the caverns- but I`ve messed with the karma there enough without linking to them from here.

Here`s a  link for with lots of good info on the cavern…


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Fishing with the Clampitts – Canadian Edition

Children of avid fishermen- and women- are all aware of the big fish and where to hook them. All the liars in my family have stories, very rarely backed up with photographic documentation, of swordfish caught in Mexico or Tarpon pulled in only to be snatched in half by an opportunistic hammerhead shark that was longer than the boat. I have a hypothesis which states that fish size has a direct correlation to the amount of beer left in the cooler when the boat docks. I get increasingly skeptical the more time I waste casting in to a seething pool of disinterested tarpon or riding up and down the coast at infinitum, 4 swordfish lines in the water, only to return with a nasty case of seasickness from inhaling diesel fumes for 8 hours.

But the lure of Canada (Yes I said it) and her trophy trout, caught only by bear and a few lucky anglers able to helicopter in to an unspoiled picturesque mountain location, had me hooked on trying. Spouse, however, did not take the bait and instead suggested we fish alongside the road while driving through Western Canada. Which to me sounded a lot like a canoe trip- it sounds fun until you`re in the water paddling to nowhere- which always takes 6 hours longer than planned.

Some of the Clampitts are more successful than others in landing the big ones.

Grace mahimahiAnd some have branched out with skills so superior that they can catch other species on a fishing trip

IMG_0542So even though we were  going to be the family you see fishing off the side of the bridge when driving by, I thought it was worth a try.

We didn`t spend much time- none in fact- planning where to fish, hiring a guide, or consulting helpful books. Our preferred method for wrestling in the big ones was to eye the rivers, lakes, and mud puddles along the way and decide if nestled in the rocks was the big one.  Eyeing might insinuate we spent a substantial amount of time evaluating a location, but it really just involved  pulling over, turning on the hazards, baiting the hook and seeing what happened.

We found out why landing the big ones only comes with a helicopter ride. There are two rules for fishing in national parks in Canada which ensures the fish survive and the fishermen never return. The first is worms can`t be used as bait. Fishing without a worm? That`s like drinking a beer without the accompanying cigarette. And second, the hooks can`t be barbed. The hooked fish just shakes it`s head and swims off. Where`s the fun in that?

We were going to have to get crafty to land the 10 pounders.

A little known fishing secret- follow the railroad tracks. Apparently fish migrate alongside them.

IMG_7067After a few climbs pulling ourselves up by weeds I was not as enthusiastic.

IMG_7068Ah but then, Ouisar-san landed the big one.

IMG_7011That`s what I`m talkin` bout.



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