Monday, December 20, 2010

Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein

I should probably save this comment for the end but can't help about this one. 

This book was one of those books which makes you go through sleepless nights because you just can't stop reading.

Each chapter in this book is account of thrilling experience by Jake in his reporting years. The most intriguing part is that at the end of the book, you get the feeling that there is more on which the author has not written anything yet. Although the chapters are in chronological order except for the first one, you feel the sudden huge time gap between some chapters and can't help but think "what happened there?", "where are those details?", "is it something he cannot write?"

Also the fact that all of the contents are author's real experiences makes you wonder about how Yakuza has become part of Japanese society. Yakuza is unwanted by most of the citizens yes, yet it has penetrated so deep into the society that it is has become extremely difficult to eliminate completely and the law itself is not on the side of cops.

For the foreigners who live in Japan, Yakuza mostly exists in rare news and sometimes in background politics. You think that they just can't touch your daily lives. But Jake's stories make you realize about lives of ordinary Japanese citizens; that the shadows of threats by loan sharks (aka Yakuza), land lords, night club owners are all around you.

Even if you don't know anything about Japan, Jake's capturing style and fascinating details will give you a new outlook towards Japanese society.

A very good..err..exceptionally good read on Japan's crime world.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Galaxy S with Android - Part 1

NTT Docomo started offering Samsung Galaxy S with Android 2.3 from this October in Japan. I recently got mine as a company phone. Here are some of the features to make a decision on this phone.

Design: 3.5 out of 5
First impression you get is that of bigger screen. You may feel little awkward if your previous phone is smaller, but soon will get used to it.

Galaxy S - Front
Galaxy S - Back

Galaxy S - Side

Speed: 4.5 out of 5
I was quite satisfied with the speed. Mails, application, response of the touch screen is quite smooth.

Battery: 1 out of 5
It was the real disappointment. Many times, the phone would run out of battery and shut off. Charging time is too high but discharge is quite fast too. There are few tips and tricks to extend your battery up time but why does a end user of a smartphone has to think about his own power usage plan? I hope Samsung comes up with something smart on this.

Common features: 3.5 out of 5

  • Outlook : For outlook mails, there is nothing much to offer than usual.
  • Keyboard : Compared to other smart phones, keyboard switching (especially between multilingual) is time consuming and you need to tap many keys before you can find the exact sign or special characters you want to type. It took me a while to figure out how can I enter an exclamation into password field.
  • Camera : It scores good in my opinion.5 megapixels and fast even for higher resolution with sufficient features.
  • Wireless : Scores good where the connection is strong. But when I compared this with my iPhone 3G S, I observed that it takes lot of time to connect where signal is weaker.
  • Default audio and video players: Are primitive at best. No further comments. You better get third party applications.
Touch Screen input: 4 out of 5
It's very fast that I must admit. Sometimes way to fast. Especially while writing mails, it will sense the touch even if your finger is still few mm away from the screen.
All in all, for all the default functions offered there is nothing eye-catching.

File Management : --
Its completely your responsibility how you manage your photos, songs, movies, documents etc. There is no baseline. That is why I won't rate this. Which in my opinion get's out of hand soon if you don't have some discipline to start with.

Call usability : 4 out of 5
It adds a new record to the call log unnecessary each time you call; even if call the same person again and again. If you own an iPhone, you will know what I mean. Frequent caller list feature is a good utility.

So overall, for basic functions I would rate this phone not more than 3.5 out of 5

Look forward to my next post on same subject (more on usability).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Try at least once: The grisly recipe

Again, I did not go asking for it. It was just there, on the menu and someone thought that we must try it. It was served right in front of me and suddenly I realized that there are heads and legs and its a LOCUST!! Gulp!!

I waited for my boss to have one and say “delicious”. My colleague in front of me won’t even look at the dish. I decided to go for it. Held one in my chopsticks. Looked for any insectile expressions and just put it inside my mouth. The outer part was kind of sweet and once I chewed on it felt like I am having a deep fried dried fish without much taste. This is not that bad, I thought. After few more bites I wasn’t feeling like I was actually eating an insect. Rest of the dinner went on discussing and persuading about eating イナゴの佃煮.

Name:   Inago no Tsukudani (イナゴの佃煮). “Locust boiled in soy sauce”
Place:    Izakaya under the Chuo-line tracks at Kanda-station, Tokyo

And here is the recipe:

I did not bother to look for the recipe at first until I spoke about this dish with one my colleague. She was like “Oh, I used to catch locusts for my parents when I was kid!”. And that's how I got the recipe which goes somewhat like this..
  • Catch the locust. Be careful not to break their legs, wings so that “final product” has fine looks. 
  • The main ingredient is the sauce which is sold in retro-packs these days. It is called Tsukudani-sauce. Pour the sauce in the pan on medium heat. Make sure the pan has tight lid.
  • Now comes the grisly party. Throw your “catch” under the pan, alive! and close the lid. Once the flutter has stopped, you know that it’s safe to check whether its cooked or not.
Serve as it is.

I had it once but don't have confidence to try it again.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Try at least once: Creative food

No!! This is not a blog on porXXgraphy. Don’t report this blog! Just read on.

This was one “creative serving” I had in a Izakaya at Osaka. Believe me, creativity involved in it made it much harder to eat. Otherwise ingredients are just fine when had (I mean eaten, eaten!) separately.

Name:               Itte Shimatta (いってしまった) “I came!”
Place:               One Izakaya at Jusou station, Osaka (
  • Hmm..let me start from the blls! They are made from normal cooked rice.
  • The "main thing": Good roasted and buttered sausage. Looks are quite self explanatory.
  • The juice: Salad dressing with "convenient look".
  • And the most important part at the bottom, nicely cooked beef.

I was  quite astonished at what was lying in front of me. This restaurant was about so called creative food. But I wasn't expecting it to be THAT creative. What else is cooking in there? 

I took a sneaky look around as if we have ordered something that must not be ordered. But everything and everyone was cool and the "creative food" in front of me was being taken care of just like any other dish.

Anyway, if you want to see it yourself, you know the place now!