Posts filed under ‘Japan’

Our Last Night in Tokyo: A Traditional Japanese Meal

After a long, successful day of filming at the Wellness Community, Kenichi and Nanako kindly  took us out to a traditional Japanese meal. It was very fancy and quite a treat – eight courses. The place they took us seemed to be reserved for special occasions. Here’s an overview of our experience.

Course #1: Raw fish and marinated plum. I liked it. Wilson just said: “define like.” No photo for this one.
Course #2: Whole fried baby fish (eye intact) with baby bamboo and seaweed wrapped in tofu skin. All eyes were on Wilson. Nanoko was encouraging him to take a little bite. He managed a bite of the tail. When he did this, Nanako screamed, “Ouch!” I didn’t try it. 
Course #3: Raw beef sushi for everyone else, tuna for me. 
Course #4: Raw squid and fish on ice. We all ate the fish, which was good. We also tried one piece of squid each. Wow! The experience of trying to eat the squid was a rough one. It was super chewy yet pasty and sticky. Wilson thought there might be tape in it. I thought it tasted like paste. We chewed that one piece for over five minutes but it just wouldn’t get smaller. Finally, we all just swallowed it with a big gulp of water. 
Course #5: Tempura fried veggies and fish
Course #6: Soup with full-bodied sea life. This one had a wee octopus in it floating around. At one point, Wilson said,  “Guys, I got to be honest. I don’t think I can do this.” I couldn’t do it either. We both drank some broth though.
Course #7: Beef for everyone, shrimp for me. We all agreed this was very good but Claire and Wilson said the beef was very rich.
Course #8: Dessert.  Yahoo! Wilson had fruit and some jellied thing. The rest of us had the jelly too but also soy bean ice cream.  

On the cab ride home, we talked about what was going through our heads throughout the dinner.
– Claire: “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.”
– Wilson: “Am I on Survivor? Where are the hidden cameras?”
– Anne: “Be brave, be gracious, be brave, be gracious, be really brave.” 

It was a truly amazing, one-of-a-kind experience – fun and memorable with wonderful new friends. We got to try so many different and new kinds of food. A real treat! Claire was the trooper and ate everything. Way to represent, Claire!!


April 30, 2008 at 2:29 am 5 comments

Monday in Tokyo

I’m writing from Trivandrum, India. We arrived late last night after more than 20 hours of traveling. Sheesh! We flew from Tokyo to Singapore, had a several hour layover, and then took a second flight into Trivandrum. We’re staying at an amazing bed and breakfast –  Graceful Homestay. I’ll post photos of our current home later. We’ll be doing some interviews here during our stay. Our last day in Tokyo was a good one. We interviewed two cancer survivors in the morning – Mr. and Mrs. Endo (prostate cancer) and Mrs. Saito (kidney cancer). They both had amazing stories.

When Mr. Endo found out that he had cancer, he didn’t tell anyone (not even his wife). He just did a lot of research so he could learn more about the disease. He didn’t want to have surgery so he found several institutes in the US that offered proton therapy. He booked two tickets to the states and told his wife when they arrived why they were actually there. He told us that more people in Japan are just starting to share their cancer story with others. Wilson filmed Mr. Endo and several other cancer survivors in a Prostate Cancer Support Group earlier in the morning. Mr. Endo said they had a newcomer who was very anxious to learn what everyone else had done regarding treatment. At the end of the interview he said, “Unity is strength, knowledge is power, and attitude is everything.”

When Mrs. Saito was diagnosed, she told her family and thought that her husband would be able to support her emotionally but it was too much for him (though he supported her financially). While she did get support from her friends and children, she decided that she had the strength to get through this by herself. (We’ve heard a lot about inner strength in Japan). Since her diagnosis, she started to appreciate every moment in life – whether it was good or bad. She had an amazing attitude.

After those interviews, we went to a yoga session for cancer survivors (one of the Wellness Community’s programs). Wilson shot the session. In the middle of the session, the instructor turned up the heat in the room. Needless to say, it was toasty in there and Wilson came out glistening. It’s possible he lost a pound or two. When the class was over, we asked each of the women a couple of questions about their cancer experience as well as perception of cancer in Japan. In total, we spoke to 35 people in Japan about cancer. 

We went back to the Wellness community to interview Kenichi (their program director) and got some footage of him running a support group through an Internet chat program they sponsor. It’s similar to Second Life. Each person can design their own character. The online support group took place in an outside setting with each person sitting on a bench in a circle. Kenichi said that the program had been very successful for them and that people are much more open about their experience since it’s all anonymous. Here are some photos from the day. 


April 30, 2008 at 1:14 am 3 comments

Sunday in Tokyo

Yesterday, we did our Japan man-on-the-street interviews. We talked to 25 people and visited four different parts of the city. We started in Sugamo, known as Grandma’s Harajuku. It’s a shopping center where most of the people are elderly and middle-aged women. Sugamo is also known for the Togenuki Jizo temple which is believed to remove the cause of many illnesses. Kenichi and Nanako thought this would be a good place to start as many people come here to seek help with their health issues. They were right. We talked to five people in this part of town, and ALL of them had a connection to cancer. Everyone was really lovely. We had a traditional Japanese lunch in Sugamo before moving on to our next location. It was delicious.

After lunch, we moved to Akihabara, also known as “Electric City.” There were so many people here, mostly in their early 20s, shopping and visiting electronic shops. Our next stop was Ginza, a very upscale shopping center. Everyone was dressed to the nines – in western garb and gorgeous traditional kimonos. Our last location was Shibuya. We went there at night to get the full experience. In two words – mind blowing! There were people everywhere, bathed in light and noise from huge multimedia screens and advertisements. It was like Times Square on crack. Nuts, sensory overload…but so cool! This is also the site of a famous scene from Lost in Translation. There is a six-way intersection in the center of Shibuya that alternates between cars and a sea of people crossing. Wilson got some awesome timelapse of people crossing the street and got up in the middle of the chaos.  We also did a few more man-on-the street interviews here.

It was a great day – the city has so many different looks and feels and we got a really good sampling. Here are some photos from our second day in Tokyo.

Today, we spend the day at the Wellness Community. We’ll be filming some of their programs and interviewing several cancer survivors.

April 27, 2008 at 5:04 pm 3 comments

Saturday in Tokyo

On Saturday, we met with our Tokyo contacts: Ozawa (our fixer) as well as Kenichi (Program Director at the Wellness Community) and Nanako (Kenichi’s wife). We started our day with a meeting at the hotel to talk through our time in Japan. Then, they took us out for a sushi lunch followed by a tour of Tokyo. The sushi was amazing! Apparently, I use too much soy sauce. Kenichi, Nanako and our sushi chef found it quite amusing. “You just need a little,” they said.

From there, we took the subway to Asakusa. It’s an area of Tokyo most famous for the Sensō-ji, a Buddhist temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon. It was very cool. The site of the temple has been there for over 1000 years (though there has been some rebuilding since WWII). It was founded in 628, one of Tokyo’s oldest and most significant temples. Asakusa is also a huge open air market. There were tons of people walking around. We did the same – got some great b-roll and sampled some Japanese sweets. They were pretty good – two little pancakes with sweet red bean paste in the middle. Sadly, I dropped mine after the first bite. 

After Asakusa, we took a boat tour of Tokyo in this crazy space-age looking vessel. We later learned that it was designed by an artist/animator who created a cartoon about three space travelers. The boat looked like it would submerge any minute. It also had a pretty goo replica of the Saturday Night Fever dance floor – complete with changing lights. Here are some photos from our first official day in the city. 

April 27, 2008 at 4:26 pm 3 comments


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