Audio Japan Music

From the Vaults: The Stone Buddhas


When I lived in Japan, I played keyboards in a girl-rock cover band called “Nobuko and the Stone Buddhas” (or “The Stone Buddhas” for short).  We were active in Oita Prefecture around 2004-2005.  The band was named after the famous Stone Buddhas of Usuki (Photo above by Tanaka Juuyoh) Here are some MP3s of recordings we made in a rehearsal studio in Nakatsu City, where I lived as a JET Programme participant. Download all tracks (ZIP).

Chinese tschotchkes
Not the Stone Buddhas of Usuki but the Kitsch Buddhas of Chinatown

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Monkey in Costa Rica

Monkeys in the Mission, San Francisco

Monkeys near San Francisco Chinatown

Popular Monkey helmet, Taiwan

Monkeys in Shikoku, Japan

Kris and Monkeys, New York

Arizona Cooking Cuisine Food HEPNOVA Japan Music Recipe Taiwan

A Rice Anecdote

Yo yo yo from my parents’ place in Cake City.  Just made another batch of banana coconut sticky rice dessert, for my family to try.  Just so we are clear on terms: sticky rice = glutinous rice = sweet rice.  This time I substituted Sugar in the Raw for my usual blend of brown sugar and palm sugar, and Korean short grain brown sticky rice for Thai long grain sticky rice, because that’s what my mom had around the house.

So I didn’t realize until a couple days ago that there was a difference between long and short grain sticky rice (I knew there was a difference between long and short grain regular rice though).  My mom was talking to me yesterday about how she associates long grain rice with “famine” (her word, not mine). WHAT!?

Ok, so my mom grew up in Taiwan. Long before it was the land of fist-fighting politicians and the Taipei 101 skyscraper, it was a poor developing country.  There was a rice shortage when she was growing up and they had to import long grain rice from South East Asia.  Short grain rice (similar to the kind the Japanese and Koreans eat) is more commonly eaten in Taiwan, so my mom said she couldn’t get used to the taste and texture of long grain rice.  She said it was so disappointing it made her cry, and she still won’t eat long grain rice today, because it reminds her of poverty and famine.  I, for the record, have no problems with long grain rice.

This reminds of me of the fact that my paternal grandfather, who is from China, won’t eat brown rice, despite the health benefits, because it reminds him of wartime poverty when white rice wasn’t available.

Or one of my fellow former JET assistant language teacher’s students in Japan, who cried when the JET made some American-style rice pudding in class.  Apparently the kid was upset that the teacher “ruined” some “perfectly good rice.”

Moral of the story: don’t mess with an Asian person’s rice, just like you wouldn’t mess with a French person’s baguettes.

In totally unrelated music news, the HEPNOVA recording sessions are going well.  More music coming soon.  Check out what we’ve got so far on  And follow us on Twitter.

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Izakaya Oni

Izakaya Oni

Izakaya Oni
141 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003, US

A mediocre Japanese gastropub (izakaya) in the East Village. Located behind Ramen Setagaya in the space formerly occupied by Pasta/Sushi Wafu and Oriental Spoon before that.

Kris and I went last night (4 June 2008) after the Forum on Participation and Politics Online at NYU Law School. We walked by the crowded izakayas on St. Mark’s Place, including the ever-popular Yakitori Taisho and Kenka. We were starving and didn’t want to wait, so we kept walking eastwards. We stumbled upon Oni and decided to give it a try despite the fact that it was nearly empty.

Izakaya Oni

We had the daikon & kani (fake crab) salad, which was passable, but a little bit of a tacky guilty pleasure. We also had an order of hokke (grilled salted atka mackerel) and fried oysters. The oysters were gigantic, but not in a good way – a little too much breading and a bit burnt. The hokke was ok too, but really, it’s pretty hard to mess up, since the fish usually comes already salt cured and frozen in a vacuum pack. All you need to do is defrost and “grill” in the toaster oven. Luckily, we had $2.50 Kirin draft beers to wash everything down. We would have had 2 beers each, but settled with one, because the waitresses were so remarkably inattentive, walking right by us several times without checking on us, despite the fact that there were only 2 other people in the restaurant at the time.

Given the ghosts of 2 failed restaurants that haunt this hidden-away-behind Ramen Setagaya space, I am giving Izakaya Oni 3 or 4 months before it goes bust.

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Another only in Japan story…

Another “only in Japan” and “oh, the Japanese are so quirky” story. Actually, I’m not all that surprised. When I was living there, I saw some TV variety show introduce a line of children’s clothing made out of knife stabbing resistant fabrics. This was a few weeks after a horrific school killing when an elementary school kid stabbed a fellow student to death. Well, we all know well that scared people make good consumers. Like in the US, when we have leaders basically stating that it is their patriotic duty to shop. Alright, go to the mall, fight terrorism. That being said, I really want one of those vending machine outfits now.

Fearing Crime, Japanese Wear the Hiding Place

Torin Boyd/Polaris, for The New York Times

Though street crime is relatively low in Japan, quirky camouflage designs like this vending-machine dress are being offered to an increasingly anxious public to hide from would-be assailants.


Published: October 20, 2007

TOKYO, Oct. 19 — On a narrow Tokyo street, near a beef bowl restaurant and a pachinko parlor, Aya Tsukioka demonstrated new clothing designs that she hopes will ease Japan’s growing fears of crime.

Urban Camouflage

Read the full New York Times article here.