Graham Crackers, homemade

These crackers are perfect for cheesecake crusts, graham cracker crusts, s’mores, or just to have as a snack (excellent with cream cheese).

Homemade graham crackers have a delightful flavor from the molasses or honey — and a unique texture when made with graham flour, but you can make them from whole wheat flour, too.


  • 240 grams/2 cups graham or whole wheat flour
  • 53 grams/½ cup AP (white) flour
  • 53 grams/½ cup brown or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon
  • 85 grams of butter
  • 60 grams molasses or honey up to
  • 40 grams of milk (you can substitute 1 tbs of milk for 1 tbs of vanilla)


  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
  2. Cut in the butter until it is the texture of sand.
  1. Add in the molasses or honey plus the liquid.
  2. Stir until well combined.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to hydrate the flours.
  1. Roll out into the shapes you would like.
  2. Bake in a 350F/180C oven for 20 – 25 minutes.
  3. Cool and serve.

How to change a cheesecake from 124 calories to 32, the ‘Japanese Rare Cheesecake’

Japanese Rare Cheesecake sets the cake with gelatin and adds yogurt for a refreshing tartness.


  • 250 grams Cream Cheese or Greek Yogurt
  • 250 grams regular yogurt
  • 5 grams of gelatin
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • 60 – 80 grams of sugar (or sugar replacement)
  • Flavorings (chose one)
    • Matcha powder 1- 3 teaspoons
    • Lemon Juice – 2-3 tablespoons
    • Freeze dried strawberry powder 2 – 3 teaspoons
  • 150 grams whipped cream or whipped milk (optional) (recipe follows)


  1. Drain regular yogurt overnight in a strainer to make the Greek Yogurt or use regular cream cheese.

  1. Bloom the gelatin in the water (at least five minutes).

  1. Combine the Greek Yogurt/Cream cheese with the yogurt, sugar, and flavoring and mix to combine.
    1. If the mixture is lumpy, strain it thought a mesh sieve into a new bowl.
  1. Melt the gelatin in the water by placing it in the microwave or in a double boiler.
  2. Add the melted gelatin to the Cream Cheese/Greek Yogurt mixture.
  3. Add the optional whipped cream or whipped milk, if using.
  4. Pour into pie shell, graham cracker crust, or other serving vessel.
  1. Chill at least six hours to over night.

Whipped Milk is an under appreciated way to add lift to desserts without all the calories. It’s a blank canvas onto which you can add different flavors that are incorporated into your desserts.


  • 300ml (1 ¼ cups whole milk)
  • 5 grams gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
  • Any flavoring you like (optional)


  1. Bloom the gelatin in the ¼ cup milk.
  2. Melt the gelatin and let cool.
  3. Put the one cup of cold milk in a bowl and place that bowl over ice.
  4. Add the sugar and any flavorings, if you are using.
  5. Add the gelatin and stir to cool the mixture.
  6. Start to beat the mixture with an electric beater until soft peaks form. This will take about 10 minutes at medium speed.
  7. Keep cold until ready to use.

Sweet and Sour Tofu Meatless Balls

Think of the tofu as a mince that you add diced vegetables to, coat with a batter and fry or bake. Dip those into any sauce you like (here, Sweet & Sour) and you have a low fat, high-protein meal that freezes well.

There are three steps:

Prepare the tofu

Prepare a sauce



For the Meat-less Balls

  • 2 packages of extra firm or firm tofu
  • ½ – 1 cup of minced vegetables
    • (a mix of seasonal vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, turnip, onion, bell pepper, sweet potato, pumpkin)
  • ¼-½ cup of starch (corn or potato
  • Seasonings
    • ½ each teaspoon onion, garlic, chili powder, salt

For the crust

  • ½ cup of starch
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbs onion powder (to taste)
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbs garlic powder (to taste)
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbs chili powder (to taste) (optional)
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs/panko
  • 1 cup milk or plant based milk

For the sweet and sour sauce


  • ¼-⅓ cup sugar (brown or white)
  • ¼-⅓ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tbs catsup
  • ¼ cup soy sauce (light is preferred, but dark will do)



  • 1 cup liquid (water or pineapple juice or a blend)
  • 2 tablespoons of starch (corn or potato)


  1. Drain the water from the package of tofu.
  2. Place between a dish towel and place something heavy upon it.
  3. Let the tofu press for 30 – 60 minutes while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.

Prepare the crust

  1. Combine ½ cup of starch with the spices and sift. Set aside.
  2. Pour 1 cup of milk or plant based milk in a bowl and set next to the starch.
  3. Pour 1 cup of bread crumbs into a bowl and set that next to the milk.
Seasoned flour, a liquid, and the bread crumbs all neatly lined up.

Prepare the sweet and sour sauce

  1. Combine the sugar, vinegar, catsup and soy sauce in a bowl and stir to dissolve the catsup and sugar. If the sugar does not dissolve, you can heat it in a small sauce pan.
  2. Combine 1 cup liquid with the starch and stir to dissolve. (The starch will settle at the bottom. This is normal.)

For the meatless balls, fried

  1. Peel and mince your vegetables. The smaller the cut, the easier they are to incorporate into the mixture.
  2. When the tofu has pressed, crumble it in a bowl and mix in the vegetables. 
  3. Add ¼ cup of starch and mix. Squeeze a handful of the mixture in your hand. If it holds together, shape into balls. If not, add more starch until you can form balls. You can also press the mixture into shapes.
  4. Roll the balls in the spiced starch.
  5. Dip the balls into the milk.
  6. Coat the balls in the bread crumbs and set aside.
  7. Heat oil in a pan to fry.
  8. Fry the tofu balls in the hot oil until well browned. 
  9. Drain on paper towels.
  10. In a saucepan combine the sweet and sour sauce and the slurry. 
  11. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. It will thicken after the boil. 
  12. Dip the fried tofu balls into the sauce and serve over rice. 

For the tofu balls, baked

  1. You can either mist the tofu with oil or bake directly in a very hot 250C/400F oven for 30-40 minutes. The oil will give the tofu a very firm crunch.


  1. After the tofu balls are fried, stir fry 2 – 3 cups of sliced vegetables in hot oil. 
  2. When done to your liking add ¼ of the sweet and sour base and bring to a boil. 
  3. Add the slurry. 
  4. Bring to a boil. The sauce will thicken. 
  5. Add the tofu. 
  6. Serve over rice. 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. As I’m learning how to blog, if you have any suggestions on how I can improve, please write them in the comments below. Also, let me know what you think of my recipe.

Japanese (Garlic) Fried Rice, Vegetarian Version

If there’s a secret to quality fried rice, it’s high, high heat but also a pinch of sugar and a dash of MSG. I’m making Japanese Fried Rice with a few surprises.

In the video, I prepared three different fried rice versions: a vegetarian, a chicken, and a (traditional) pork. Today I’ll post the vegetarian version with brown rice and later in the week the remaining two.


  • 10 grams minced ginger
  • 15 grams minced garlic
  • 50 grams of the green part of a scallion, sliced
  • Up to 2 cups of minced vegetables (carrots, broccoli, red/yellow peppers, corn are good starts, but use what’s in season)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups cooked brown (or white) rice
  • 1 teaspoon konbu salt (optional — recipe below)
  • ½ teaspoon MSG (optional, but restaurants use it)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional, restaurants use it)
  • Up to ¼ vegetable oil
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs sake or Shaoxing Wine (optional, but used in restaurants)


  1. Prepare the garlic and ginger, set aside in its own dish.
  2. Prepare the scallions, set it aside in its own dish.
  3. Prepare all your vegetables, set them aside in their own dish and toss them with the konbu salt, if using.
  4. Beat two eggs with salt in its own dish and set aside.
  5. Heat a wok or deep fry pan, add your oil and gently sauté the garlic and ginger until it’s nicely browned.
    1. Strain. Keep the browned bits of garlic and ginger for later
    2. Add the oil back to the pan.
  6. Cook your vegetables in the flavored oil about five minutes until almost done.
    1. Remove them from the pan.
    2. Add the flavored oil back to the pan.
  7. Turn the heat up to the maximum setting and all at once add the eggs to the hot oil. Quickly stir. When the whites are set but the yolks still wet, add all the rice at once.
  8. Mix the rice into the egg — do not lift the pan from the fire.
    1. Restaurants cook at a much higher temperature and can toss the rice at this point, but the home cook should not. You want to cook the egg and dry the rice, so keep the pan on the burner until that happens.
  9. When the egg and rice are thoroughly mixed add the scallions and cook one minute.
  10. Add the vegetables and the browned garlic/ginger and mix well.
  11. Pour the soy sauce around the edge of the pan and mix well.
  12. Add the MSG and sugar, if using and mix well.
  13. Add the sake or Shaoxing Wine around the edge of the pan and mix well.
  14. Taste and correct for salt — you’re done.

Konbu Salt

Konbu (aka dried kelp) is rich in the flavor called umami, which is what MSG has. If you prefer not to use MSG in your cooking, you can get an umami boost with konbu salt — readily available in many asian markets, but you can easily make it at home.

To ½ cup table salt add 5 grams of dried konbu. Put it in a heavy duty blender and blend at full power until the konbu is pulverized with the salt. Strain through a wire mesh filter and use as needed. Discard any larger pieces that you filter out.


Mushroom Tarts

Below is the pastry I used in making my Mushroom Tarts. The recipe I’ve used for years is from Julia Child’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ with two minor changes:

  1. I add more sugar to help in browning (see how golden that crust is?).
  2. I used only butter, replacing the lard in her original recipe for butter. (I prefer lard in my crusts but I wanted to keep the recipe vegetarian as the tart can be thought of as vegetarian.)

For The Tart Shell

  • 240 grams AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt (for flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (for color)
  • 224 grams of butter (see note)
  • 1/2 cup ice water

(note: Child’s original recipe calls for 184 grams butter and 56 grams lard and ¼ tsp sugar.)


  1. Mix the flour, salt, and sugar — let it whirl in the food processor.
  2. Cut the butter into cubes.
  3. To break up the butter cubes, toss them with the flour mixture (in the food processor).
  1. Either pulse your food processor 5 or 6 times to blend the butter with the flour mixture or cut the butter into the flour mixture with a fork or pastry cutter until it’s the size of small peas.
  2. If you’re using the food processor, turn on the machine and pour the water in all at once. Stop when the dough gathers round the blade. (It will take less than 30 seconds.)
  3. If you’re mixing by hand, pour in all the water and gently toss it all tother with a fork or spatula until the water is absorbed.
  1. Whichever method you used, put a large tablespoon of the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and smear it with your palm. Scrape the remaining dough off the surface and repeat until all the dough has been smeared together.

(You’re trying to cream the largest bits into the flour, not every piece, so just one press is enough.)

  1. Gather with a pastry scraper and quickly and lightly knead into a ball — this should take no longer than 30 seconds.
  1. Wrap and put it the refrigerator to rest at least 30 minutes — or overnight.
  2. When you’re ready, roll out the dough adding flour if and when the dough starts to stick.
  1. Make sure the dough is large enough to fit whatever pan you’re going to be using, roll it onto the rolling pin and lay it over the pan.
  2. Press it gently into the tart shell, poke it full of holes with the tines of a fork and put it into the refrigerator for the butter to harden.
  3. When you’re ready to use it, add a piece of wax parchment and some kind of weight to keep the pastry from rising and bake.
  1. Bake it in a 200C/400F oven for 30-40 minutes for a fully baked tart shell or as per instructed by your recipe.

Mushroom Tarts:

Flakey tart shells filled with sweet potato or pumpkin puree and topped with grilled or fried mushrooms.
Any mushroom will do but here I’m using Japanese mushrooms.

I came across a picture for a beautifully plated, grilled ‘Hen of the Woods‘ (aka Maitake) mushroom months ago. These are inexpensive where I live and so I started grilling them. Maitake have a wonderful mouthfeel and are full of umami; I wanted to turn them into a healthy, inexpensive meal, and so started making them into tarts. Here the tarts are put on a puree of sweet potato or winter melon (I use Japanese kabocha) to fix the mushrooms into place in the tart while adding a new texture and layer of flavors.

For the Mushrooms

Size varies by location. Any mushroom will work but we enjoy maitake and shimeji mushrooms because they grow as a unit and are much easier to shape because of it.


  1. In a well oiled iron fry pan, layer your mushrooms.
  2. Salt to taste.
  3. Cover them with something heavy (such as a smaller fry pan) and put them on high heat for five minutes and check. They will be fully cooked. Cook them to your desired color and texture.
  4. Flip the mushrooms and cook till they reach the color and texture you want

You want them to be a beautiful color.

Sweet Potato Filling

Sweet potatoes are delicious in savory dishes. A steamed sweet potato has more moisture and, in my experience, is easier to work with. But you can make a delicious filling with a baked sweet potato.


  • 1 large sweet potato (about 400 -600 grams), steamed or roasted.
  • Salt to taste

(optional ingredients)

  • Up to ¼ butter or up to ¼ cream
  • ½ tsp cumin or ½ tsp each thyme and tarragon
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Up to ¼ cup chopped walnuts


  1. Puree the sweet potato in a food processor with the salt and any combination of options ingredients (except the walnuts) and process until smooth.
  2. Mix in the optional walnuts, if using, after the sweet potatoes are pureed.
  3. Layer the bottom of a tart shell
  4. Layer on top of the shell grilled mushrooms and any other roasted vegetables you like.

Winter Squash/Kabocha Puree

If you can not find Japanese squash in your markets, a pumpkin, butternut or other winter squash will do nicely.

  • 400 – 600 grams of Winter Squash/Kabocha, steamed or roasted
  • Salt to taste

(Optional Ingredients)

  • Up to ¼ cup butter
  • ¼-½ tsp chilie powder
  • roasted garlic (to taste) and ½ tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
  • Up to ¼ cup walnuts


  1. Puree your steamed or roasted squash with salt and whatever combination of the optional ingredients you like (except the walnuts).
  2. Mix in the optional walnuts, if using, after the squash is pureed.
  3. Layer in the bottom of a tart shell and layer with mushrooms and your favorite roasted vegetables.

After you’ve made your fillings, simply spread one of your fillings into a tart shell and layer the mushrooms on top. I add lots of other roasted vegetables to make pleasing presentations.

Bloganuary: The Final!

How do you feel when you look at the stars?

I live in Tokyo. I don’t see many celebrities. When I lived in Hollywood, however…

This challenge has finally ended. I really enjoyed the beginning but some prompts? Still, I’m glad I did it because I met some really nice people, finding blogs, and the people attached to those blogs, that wouldn’t have come onto my radar otherwise.

Bloganuary was a chance for me to learn how to use WordPress to build up my YouTube Channel, which is food based. The next posts you see from me will be about food and cooking — and I do hope to meet you all again. ☺️

Miso Butter Pasta — with hand made pasta.

Here is a still with a link to my latest video: Miso Butter Pasta, which is an American dish, not Japanese — and it’s really good. My next post will be on this. In the meantime, please click on the photo or link to take a look at the video.

Have a great February, everyone!

Tell me in the comments one thing you liked about taking part in Bloganuary. 🙂

Bloganuary: Solitude Standing

Where do you go when you need solitude?

I don’t need solitude. I need stimulation!

You might think in one of the world’s most crowded and busiest cities I’d be screaming for solitude and quiet but, no. My mind is naturally quiet and people rarely impose on me.

Stimulation, that I could use.

Solitude Standing by Suzan Vega — great lyrics!

Where do I go when I need stimulation? Well, going out with a camera in hand gives me an excuse to talk to (literally) anyone. From “could you take my picture” or “I love what you’re wearing, can I?” to “I’m looking fox X…”. It’s easy to meet people. Sometimes it can be tough to engage people in conversation but people are generally amicable wherever I go.

For mental stimulation I like learning. I have tons of recordings from The Great Course Plus (formerly The Teaching Company), my Kindle and Kobo, and access to museums and exhibits all across the city.

How about you, Solitude or Stimulation, which would do you better?

Bloganuary: Photos

What is your favorite photo you’ve ever taken?

I take too many photos for there to be just one. Unfortunately, the computer with the hard drive with my main library is busted, so I don’t have access to my good stuff. Plus, I still have boxes of photo negatives and slides that I haven’t had digitized.

Living in Japan there is no shortage of opportunity — so much neat stuff — but the photos I like best are just the simple details. There’s a lot there if you just look and think.

The important things are our relationships, the promises we make, and the self-control we cultivate to keep both.
Asakusa Park in Spring.

Bloganuary: Mystery

Write about something mysterious.

Water undulates, flows beneath my back lifting me up — Beep! Beep! Beep!, the alarm clock rang, plunging him from his dream into cold reality under warm covers. He quickly turned off his his alarm to keep from waking his newly wed wife and thought about his next move, wide awake now from curiosity. Did it happen again?

Mysterious image: Tokyo Imperial Park, spring.

He’d been married just under two weeks and they moved into their new duplex, a rental in the Fairfax District (in LA) last week and almost immediately strange things started, mostly with things disappearing. He didn’t want to alarm his wife so he kept these things hidden from her. And so it was with both dread and curiosity that he crept out from the bedroom.

Mysterious image: Park in Tokyo.

Though he’d braced himself, he was still startled when he walked into the living room. The dishes — gone. Where there should have been a carefully laid out spread of snacks, beer, and remotes was empty space. That accent of red and orange he put in the arm chair — his shirt — was gone. The trash, gone. The laundry, gone. The collage of magazines he left out, gone. The living room, in fact the whole apartment, was eerily stark. He shuddered.

Mysterious image: Castle ruins near my home.

Could the apartment be haunted, he half-heartedly wondered? Whatever this paranormal activity was, he didn’t want to upset his new wife so he went about the apartment hurriedly putting back those masculine touches the daemon was erasing.

Bloganuary: Reading

What book is next on your reading list?

I plan to read the sequel to this riveting page turner, The Color Correction Handbook. This first volume has been a bit short on character development, but overflowing with tension.

When I do read, I tend to use either my Kindle or Kobo but I do have something in — shudders — paper on my desk: The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese (translations, right?). I don’t like manga. Let me say that again, I love comic books but, I. Do. Not. Like. Manga. But this is a manga. It’s been on my reading list for over a year.

Last year the film version of this manga was released in Japan, and it’s a BL movie (it means ‘boys love‘, think gay love story written by women for women — a topic for another day) with a super famous singer. The movie and the singer didn’t seem like a fit, so I went to watch the film and the ending was devastating. According to reviews, the movie stops short of the manga — which has a happy ending — and so I bought the manga to fix the movie in my mind. Did I mention I dislike reading manga?

The pic is a link the commercial, if you’re interested.

Click on the picture to see the trailer on YouTube.

Since I’m talking BL, I should introduce a good one. This is ‘Cherry Maho’ from the (strange) translation of “Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?!” in which the guy who’s sitting turns 30 and is still a virgin. This ends up giving him the magic power to read the inner thoughts of anyone who touches him and so he finds out his co-worker, the guy standing, is in love with him.

Click on the picture to see the trailer for the TV show.

Cherry Maho is so wholesome in the best possible way. The TV series is like someone synthesized the good feelings you get from the whole of Frank Kappa’s filmography and put them into 20 minutes (commercial free) programing. It’s what BL usually is, lighthearted and happy. Anyway, the manga (which I didn’t read) became a hit TV show (which I loved) and now it will become a movie. I’m really looking forward to it. Click on the picture to see the trailer for the TV series.

Since I’m feeling chatty, I might as well introduce you to another love comedy that was a huge hit last year, “Marry Me“. In this world, the declining birth/marriage rate is such a problem that the government sets up a program where (single) government employees marry single people who sign up for the service (your tax dollars at work!). It’s the story of one such couple who starts off married and ends up falling in love with each other. And speaking of wholesome, the female lead makes Gidget look like a gang banger.

I love happily ever after!

Any TV shows that you recommend? Let me know in the comments.

Bloganuary: Superpowers

What is a superpower you’d love to have?

THIS is the first question in Bloganuary that I’m excited about: I love superhero movies, TV shows, (and though I rarely read them anymore — too busy) comic books. I will tell you at the outset that I have thought about this countless times — and what is it they say, “know thyself”? — if I had a super power I would be a top tier Super Villain.

My power would be Speed, a la Barry or Bart Allen (the Flash) but with Eobard’s sensibilies and cunning.

Eobard Thawn and Barry Allen.

North Korea bothering you? Enter Flashtime (speed so fast time stops) and take out the whole of their army with a sword. Evil CEO got you down? A vibrating hand through the chest will stop that. Say goodbye to Twitter, Facebook, and Google, because I’d run straight through their entire network (and then their creators as well). My version of Flash would only run at top speed so as to be invisible and I would cast myself as the Hand of God come to Earth to pass judgment.

Splat! Splat! Splat! Go most leaders of the governments of the world.

Innocent until proven guilty? Not if I had Speed.

The Flash can also run so fast that he can run through time, so I’d run back in time to the same time and take out multiple targets at the exact same time across the planet.

Barry Allen might be the avatar of Love but I’d be the avatar of Wrath.

Death for a Speedster– I would totally take out Barry Allen if I had speed.

Those of you who have been following my posts in Bloganuary might be surprised. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense — give me Speed, please!

Comic books (and the whole genre of film and TV) are modern myths, our time’s Zeus and Hera, if you will. What are your favorite myths or super hero’s/villains? Tell me in the comments.

Bloganuary: Cause?

What is a cause you’re passionate about and why?

When Dante passed under the famous inscription, before the first circle and before the ferry, he passed through an outer lying circle of those unwanted by either Heaven or Hell: The Uncommitted, the souls and angels who chose no side.

Living in Japan, you rarely see homelessness. The few I’ve seen were either alcoholic or mentally ill. Poverty exists but almost always in the context of having a smart phone in pocket. And I can and should not apply anuy -isms to a culture that is not mine. This all said, there is no cause to fight for and so no passionate cause for me to write about.

I do listen to podcasts — I love politics! — and when I’m mid run or mid set what I hear discussed (created to cause outrage) can stir up in me muh passions, but not really. It’s just a moment. A moment untethered to a cause…

Speaking of Dante, this is Virgil and he in the 9th Circle of Hell — not my photo of the engraving by Gustave Dore

Might I become one of Dante’s souls forever chasing after a banner in the afterlife? As Heaven and Hell are within — and I feel no guilt — I suspect not.

(The Featured Image is of the moat at the Imperial Palace. Millions of Japanese followed the Imperial cause into war. A cautionary tale for what to be passionate about.)

Have you read Dante’s great work? Thoughts on it — or this prompt? Leave them in the comments.

Bloganuary: Life Lessons

What is a life lesson you feel everyone can benefit from learning?

Saturday just ended. Yesterday, I got up at 5am to work on a video for YouTube; had to go to work; talked my friend out of a bad mood; and just finished shooting and laying in the video track for that YouTube video. It’s just past midnight and I’m here at WordPress because I said I would participate in ‘Bloganuary’ for a month. Life Lesson:

Keep your word.

When you say you’re going to do something, you do it. When you make a promise, you honor it. When you have an obligation, you fulfil it. And neither whine nor grimace about it.

Curry Pan. I’m still learning how to take decent food pics, but this is really delicious.

Doing what you believe is right can be hard when you feel like you’re going it alone. Regarding your life lesson, what is it and are you able to abide by it?

Bloganuary: We Shall Overcome!

Write about a challenge you faced and overcame.


In the mid 1990’s I backpacked around South East Asia (Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos) for three months. This was back when French archeologists were still excavating and preserving Angkor Wat, before Siem Riep became a tourist boom town and so Phnom Penn hadn’t started to clean itself up for the tourist trade. In the middle of the city was a kind of shelter where I saw real hunger — emaciated mothers holding up children with bloated bellies — and true poverty for the first and only time.

Not my photo, but I have rolls of film from here in my archives. After the war, the people assembled the skulls of 5000 people and made them into several artworks, like this one, a map of Cambodia. The government has since removed the artwork (for the tourist trade) and interred the bones more respectfully in a pagoda. 


In Vietnam I went on one of the many available tours to experience what it would have been like to have lived through the Vietnam war (essentially museums of gruesome ways to die). I visited several places that had on display the corpses of severely deformed people or jars of foetus’s deformed from the chemicals used during the Vietnam war. I accidentally happened upon a corpse in an abandoned cave.

Not my image, but I have them on film. Hundreds of jars of the babies that were NOT born.I met countess people deformed by war or born with deformities


In Laos I traded being guided through Vientiane by Buddhist monks for teaching orphans English at a local temple in the evenings. The children were super enthusiastic little boys from 3 – 16 being cared for by the monks in the temple, the boys learning how to become monks themselves because, without a family, they had no other options. Their life’s path was firmly set for them. 

Again, not my photo. Mine are still all on film.

On Obstacles

I have overcome no real obstacles. I have had a few inconveniences along the established path from school to work — and now on the way to retirement (though I never want to retire). I have been blessed. I grew up neglected and bullied and I tell you I am blessed. I am fortunate to have been able to see hardship as a tourist — I could leave — and I am grateful that whatever has been in my way on the path to becoming the man I am today, it has been, by comparison, minor.

May we all be able to put what we see as our problems and obstacles into a larger perspective. 

Have you traveled? Did traveling change your relationship to the world? Tell me in the comments.

Bloganuary: Ideal Days

What does your ideal day look like?

(This is an improvement to yesterdays discussion on emojis, don’t ya think?)

One of my earliest memories as a (very) small child is of color: the vivid green of grass that stretches uninterruptedly over low hills and that particular blue of a summer sky on a not too hot summer’s day. I have in mind an image but of no particular place — real, imagined, or on TV I do not know, maybe it’s the stillness and ease in that image that I’m responding to. As an adult, I’ve seen these colors oh so very rarely. My ideal day would be to stay in that place. I’ve done so only twice in recent memory:

The corner of where I live on day one of the first lockdown. Mind you, I live two minutes from a major train station. This is peak time.

The first was during siesta in Seville, Spain. It was midsummer and the thermometers read 48℃ /118℉. The shops were all closed. There were no cars on the road. And I was on a rental bike riding ’round the city. I brought a packed a lunch, stopped at a pocket park and sat under the shade of an olive tree on a long wooden bench and I saw those colors. Thinking on that day now, it’s really an inner feeling that the outside world seems to share, something like a synchronicity more than the colors.

The opposite side of where I live.

The other time was shortly after the first lockdown was announced in Japan. It was March, I believe. I had decided to to take up jogging and on the first day of the lockdown started my run early, maybe about seven and everything was still. Not a single person. Not a single car on the road. Perfect stillness with a crisp blue sky and new green from leaves just starting to bud. The was bliss (all the photos on this page are from my iPhone on that morning).

This is the jogging path near my home. It should be filled with people, this is Tokyo after all!

Reflecting on what I’ve written, my ideal day is a day without people and all the noise of modern life while in the city with all it’s architecture and convenience. I do not get the same feeling hiking, even on the best day.

The other side of the station, again, peak time.

What was the world around you like after the first lockdown? Did you enjoy anything about it? Let me know in the comments.

Bloganuary: Emoji’s

What emoji(s) do you like to use?

I committed to writing a blog post in ‘Bloganuary’ everyday for a month. But some of these prompts…

I only recently started using emoji’s, like maybe two weeks ago (true story). They are not readily available on my computer keyboard without hand acrobatics and changing menus on my smart phone is too troublesome. And finding the right one — it was only yesterday that I figured out there’s a search bar!

Favorite emoji’s?

Well, because I write so many comments on YouTube this little guy is, maybe, my favorite. 🤤You get it by typing 美味しそう (and as I just found out “delicious” brings it up, too).

I’m really unclear what these various smiling emojis represent, only that I do feel a tonal difference I can’t justify. ☺️😄😁😊😀😃

I really have no idea what what this guy means. 😅 I kinda think he’s breaking a sweat and the description reads “grinning face with sweat” as if smiling makes you sweat? Like the peach 🍑I don’t really get it — and on this topic, it took me way too long to figure out 🍆. And how do you use 🍆 in a sentence? Is it the adjective, subject or predicate? I really don’t know.

On YouTube people leave sentences composed only of emojis and I’ve no idea if it’s a complement or an insult. Google Translate is no help and if Google can’t translate it, does it really have a meaning (philosophical question for you). BTW, if I don’t have my glasses on, any effort one takes in adding emojis is just wasted: I just see blobs of color.

So emojis 🤷‍♂️.

None of the images on this page are mine.

What’s a better prompt than this or one that you would have rather seen? Tell me in the comments.

Bloganuary: Boldly Go!

What does it mean to live boldly?

This question is meaningless. There is no such thing as ‘living boldly’. The idea that one can is coded into the algorithms that drive Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook: It presupposes that a series of composed and curated snapshots is real life. It is not. And so this question is meaningless.

If you want to live a good-life, then find the qualities that you want to be defined by and strive towards being that person.

Change your perspective — look UP.

Do you agree or disagree with me — you’re safe, I only bite on weekends — let me know in the comments.

Bloganuary: Gratitude

What are you grateful for today?

I use the OmniFocus planner on my computer and iPhone and everyday, without fail, I am reminded to do the following three things:

Gratitude is important to me. I grew up with nothing and now I might shoot around Tokyo with 20,000USD’s worth of equipment in my backpack and an iPhone in my pocket. Plus I live in the safest, cleanest place in the (so called) developed world — as a guest, a fact I’m very aware of, and grateful for.

Not too far from where I live, the Dior building on Aoyama Street.

Today is Adults Day in Japan, a national holiday, so I had the day off. The weather was a veritable balmy 8 degrees (C) today, but I chose to stay in to work on my YouTube channel and reddit’s Photoclass 2020.

Because of the Christmas/New Year holidays, I needed to stay away from my channel to stay centered in the real world with my family and friends, yet when I went back this morning, I had hundreds of messages from my subscribes asking where I was and wishing me a good year.

Thumbnail from my latest video, Tofu Teriyaki.

My apartment is clean, my mind is quiet, and though I’m avoiding doing yoga (which I really need to do because I’m tight) I have had a wonderfully peaceful day. I was even able to listen to my new favorite artist, Fuji Kaze, while I worked.

I am very lucky and I know it. I make it point to wake up and think of all the reasons I have to be thankful, then I run over all the problems that might arise so I am prepared, then I think on people to inspire me — and then I get up. So I am very grateful that today’s topic was very easy for me. 😄

Going through the gates is good for luck.

Post a link to you blog page so I can visit to see what you’re grateful for. You can also just tell me here. Also, do you have any ‘morning rituals’? What are they? Tell me in the comments.

Photoclass 2022: 10 of 10’s

Assignment one: Go to a random place with no photographic potential and come away with ten decent shots.

If you’re interested in following along, the assignment is here.

The spot is about 10 minutes from my home. I walked along the river. My favorite is the first photo. I like the way the two trees seem to be reaching out to one another.

Looking at it now, I think I should have balanced to two sides more.
Photo 2
Photo 3
Photo 4
Photo 5
Photo 6
Photo 7
Photo 8
Photo 9
Photo 10

Leave your comments and criticisms here. And if you belong to the photo challenge/class, let me know. 😄

Bloganuary: Assumptions

What do people mistakingly assume about you?

I’m a 6’4″ (192cm) American man living in Japan, my whole blog could be about this! 😆

I love the record breaking rollercoasters at FujiQ, like DoDonPa, Takabisha, and Fuji Yama, but take me to Tokyo Disneyland and I’m headed straight for Pooh’s Hunny Hunt (Space Mountain can wait).

It’s not that I’m a kid at heart (I’m really not). I have my likes and they don’t often fit the tone and tenor of my voice (you can check out my Gravitar photo in the upper right hand corner to see get an idea of what I mean).

Go your own way.

Yesterday I saw Spiderman and loved it — my face still hurts from smiling so much during the movie — but not a one of my friends is interested in a “child’s” movie, so who do I chat up on Instagram? My best friends 17 year old daughter. 😆That might be sad but it is definitely true.

While I very much enjoy talking politics, visiting museums, and playing sports I live in a place where having a cooking YouTube Channel raises a few eyebrows. Men can and do cook here (in Japan) but…

Teriyaki Tofu over rice: Teriyaki Tofu Donburi, click the picture to see the video.

So people mistakingly assume my likes and interests based on my physical appearance. It is what it is and I’m neither mad nor annoyed by it.

Have you seen the new Spiderman? Tell me in the comments!

My other favorite movie this past year was Malignant — it was just a joy to watch! I saw it three times in the theater, and had a blast each time. Make me happy and tell me you loved it. 😁

Bloganuary: On Writing

What do you like about your writing?

Of all the topics, I like this least, which is strange as I can tell you clearly what I like about my photography and videography. I have to accept that I do not like my writing because I recognize that its quality has sharply declined.

I’ve lived in Japan for more than 20. I’ve also lived in France and India, which is to say that I’ve been outside the English speaking world longer that I’ve been a part of it. That fact, combined with the simple mindedness in social media communications means what was once my strongest attribute is now my weakest. I had honestly not thought about that reality until thinking on this topic.

My reading of good books and poetry — in English — is also in an inverse relationship with all the social media I consume, so my exposure to clear and concise expression is limited.

What do I like about my writing at present? Not much. About my Japanese writing, I love that I can write kanji (the complex Chinese characters). It makes traveling in China and communicating with Chinese people (outside of Western counties) possible — and fun. It also has deepened my understanding of Japanese.

Can you speak — and write — in a foreign language? Which ones? If not, what would you most like to learn? Let me know in the comments.


Bloganuary: Laughter

What makes you laugh?

This is a tough question because I always laugh. Not one hour ago I slipped and fell on the ice at the station — Thud! 6’4″ me on my back in the snow — and I laughed. Loudly. The passing Japanese people just glanced and walked on. But what’s a man to do? Falling is a silly thing to be embarrassed about. I could imagine what I looked like, so laughing was natural. Funny how everyone walking by looked so serious.

I can choose to enjoy most anything. This is to say that laughter is a choice, at least for me:

As I’m moving through life with my mind super focused on the task at hand and I make a mistake, I can feel the choice: get angry, don’t react, laugh. I laugh (most times).

So I have to approach this question in a different way, as what makes me laugh is my disposition: My reactions are a choice and I (mostly) choose to be stress free and at ease.

An actor in Kyushu.We all play a part. Know the character you’re playing. 😉

Tell me in the comments, do you think you have control over your emotions or do you think your emotions have their own mind? I’m genuinely curious how other people deal with bad situations.


Bloganuary: Learning

What is something you wish you knew how to do?

Piano. Play the piano.

I am not musical. I did not grow up longing to play an instrument. And to be honest, I don’t have a particular fondness for piano music — I do sometimes covet the ability though.

On new year’s eve in Japan the national past time is to watch a musical show called Kohaku. Japan’s top musical artists are separated by sex — the women are team Red and the men team White (a call back to The Tale of Genji) — and they alternate extravagant performances in a variety of musical styles to win (now chosen by the audience at home through votes made on our remotes).

This year they introduced the pianist/singer/songwriter Fuji Kaze. He’s from a remote village in the north and as a child he wanted to learn piano. He took lessons once a week and filled in the gaps with YouTube videos. When he was in 6th grade, his parents let him start his own channel and by 22 he had a nation wide hit, Nan Nan (see below). Now, an established pianist, he’s started working with major artists in Japan.

You can still watch his older videos on his channel — and I have been, he is extremely charming and earnest. What I want to stress is he is self-made. He didn’t just wish, he did.

Fuji Kaze does sing in English — he taught himself English — and has a very nice cover of Close To You (which you can find on Apple Music). Here is a Japanese song with some English mixed it, I especially like the way he sings this lyric.

“My heart is saying I’m not caring no more
Somebody slap my ass and let me go
I used to dance but I ‘m losing my beat
And now I lost my feet
Somebody bring back to me
That love and just let me be”

Tokuninai, Fuji Kaze

Watching Fuji perform on New Year’s eve made me wish I could express myself through music — It made me, once again, wish I could play the piano! — but more importantly, he reminds me that we have the ability to learn anything we want, whenever we want.

Do you agree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

During the new year, people go to temples and shrines to pray for a good year. They write their wishes and goals on these wooden plaques and hang them in the shrine/temple.

(The topmost photo in in downtown Yokohama)


Bloganuary: Toys

What was your favorite toy as a child?

I don’t remember.

I grew up dirt poor, so (library) books and later TV were how I entertained myself.

I do recall my father coming home one Christmas. He, that is we, had no money but there was pressure to produce “toys” for “the boy”. He came home and tossed a hastily wrapped box on the floor opposite the tree.

I knew he was ashamed.

On cue, I tore into the wrapping with as much excitement and gratitude as I could to make him feel good. I only recall a jump rope in that box, the kind from a dollar store, and I doubt I ever used it. What I do remember is even at a young age I understood consideration.

Perhaps a better question would be: What’s my favorite quality that I gained from toys? To that, gratitude and consideration.

Not too long ago, a piece of fruit was a treat and a toy, a rare gift to treasure.

(The photo above is of an maneki neko, a cat that welcomes people or fortune. It is the size of my pinky nail. Toy or decoration, look closely and appreciate it.)

#bloganuary #daily-prompt

Bloganuary: Comfort Zones

Write about the last time you left your comfort zone.

Maybe I’m overthinking, but to me “comfort zone” and risks are linked and so I’m coming to a realization that I’m in a bubble of my own making.

Due to the pandemic, I lost my main job in April and chose to learn some new skills to go into something different. I don’t think of it as discomfort, rather a different way of living for now — I’m aware it’s just a step towards something different — so I’m not out of my comfort zone.

I started a YouTube channel — and spent a lot of money on equipment. While I was uncomfortable spending, is it really out of my comfort zone? I’m not in debt. I have the money. I see the long-term benefits. And I’m enjoying my purchases. I don’t see myself as having stepped out of my comfort zone.

Mentally stepping backwards in time, I can’t recall doing anything that makes me uncomfortable. If someone asks me to do something I disagree with or don’t want to do, I don’t — I have no problem saying no — so where is this comfort zone?

I think my life is incredibly blessed and maybe I need to take a risk that makes me feel fear. Then again, maybe my mindset is just flexible and there is no ‘comfort zone’ for me to step out of. Thoughts?

Woman exiting in Ginza, Tokyo.

What does ‘stepping out of your comfort zone’ mean to you? Let me know in the comments below, I’m genuinely interested.

(I took the photo at the Narita Shrine. For many, being different is stepping out of their comfort zone and this little Kanon is totally loving nonconformity.)


Bloganuary: Road Trips

What is a Road Trip You Would Like to Take?

‘Road Trip’ has a distinctly American vibe to it, or is that just me?

I picture open stretches of unpopulated country, a large car, and a family passing through it. I don’t see a Portuguese family in an SUV driving from Lisboa to Milan, or a Chinese family driving from Xian to Beijing. I can picture Chevy Chase in a station wagon going across Europe though (a reference to an old movie).

Living in Japan for as long as I have — I can no longer drive, and trust me, you don’t want me to — traveling by train feels right and, outside Japan, feels like nostalgia which might be why I’ve long wanted to take the Trans-Siberian Railway from Dalian (China), through Mongolia to Moscow (Russia) with a stop over in Kazakistan. Depending on how you pace yourself, the trip usually takes between seven and fourteen days, or up to a fortnight for you Commonwealth folk.

The various routes you can take on the Trans-Siberian Network.
Siberian Railroad -- not my image
Wide open spaces for most of the journey.
Inside a train car on the trans-siberian railroad -- not my image
Classic furnishings, not a modern interpretation of the past.

I’d like to know what that phrase “Road Trip” means to you, dear reader. Does if feel archaic? What kind of spaces do you imagine passing through and with mode of transportation?


(Note: I did not take either of these two photos.)

‘Photoclass 2022’, a reddit class

Assignment one: A picture you like and a picture of a car

To better get a handle on how to use the blog, I’ve added a new category for a photoclass I’m taking over on Reddit — if you’re interested in photography, you might enjoy it, look for photoclass_2022. The pics are supposed to be criticized, so feel free to write what could be improved and what you like.

At the Nissan headquarters showroom.
Shinjuku: Infrared camera

Bloganuary: Teen Self

What would you tell your teenage self?

First off, I was very angsty as a teen, so even if I could go back in time to have a heart to heart, that me wouldn’t be having any advice from a middle-aged man. 😄

Picture it: pale young me sits next to pale but colorfully dressed older me and tells him straight up, “buy Apple stock. When you get money — and you will — buy Apple stock. Buy, buy, buy”. That kind advice is just strange enough to make younger me pay attention. Assuming he’s going to remember and trust the great boon I gave him I’m hoping the real advice comes rushing back:

“One day you’re going to meet a man named ###. You’ll meet him at work. Punch him in the face straight away. Trust me, you will not his drama.”

#bloganuary, #daily-prompt

Remember, no matter how well you’ve planned, you’re headed toward a surprise.

2022, a New Year, a new blog

I had a blog way, way back in 2014 that I kept going for a couple of years when a squirrel caught my attention and it was game over. I used the pandemic to reinvent myself. I’ve changed jobs, tried some new hats on, and started a YouTube channel. This blog will eventually be a companion to my YouTube channel.

I’m going to use the month of “Bloguary” to re-learn how to use WordPress and hopefully by February I’ll be ready to combine my blog and channel. Be patient with me. I have a feeling this is going to be a bumpy ride.

Bloganuary: Change the World?

How are you changing the world?

(Old person lecture coming up.)

One of the annoying tropes in comic books is the solitary person who can, with whatever power s/he has, can destroy/change the world. No. The concept is dumb: one itty bitty little human can not change the world.

Bloganuary has shown me how much we speak in cliches. The Internet is filled with ’em and I think we take them to heart and believe life is simple, our problems complex, and our impact oversized and so let me tell you quite clearly: You and I can not change change the world — and that is a good thing.

Do you remember that feeling in high school when you left the house with a new hairstyle, a new kind of fashion, or new make-up and you felt that everyone’s eyes were on you? No one paid any mind. If people noticed, they quickly forgot. The same is true when we clean up trash on the beach, post a hashtag, or engage in the UN. It is human nature to overestimate our effect on the world and from what I’ve seen, overestimating is biggest reason people don’t take chances with the little to large things in their lives.

This Miso Butter Pasta (and the other three courses) sure rocked my world.

I have not changed the world and neither have you. At best, I’ve been a good person and have impacted the lives of the people I work for and with in positive ways. I’ve added value to conversations. I’ve participated in community events. And I’ve touched individual lives, such as the injured pigeon I cared for, the kittens I adopted, the friends I stayed up late with and the homeless people I make eye contact with.

Before you pat yourself on the back — or chide yourself — for whatever you have or haven’t done to change the world, take a close look around you and work on that.

Tell me in the comments what you had for dinner today? 😁

Bloganuary: Dissecting Me

What is your favorite part about yourself?

This question is kinda easy but I’m not sure how to phrase it succinctly. What I like about best about me is that I have a firm sense of self: I know what is right and wrong for me and I will not bend. This can and does cause friction with other people, but I will not say the Emperor is nicely dressed when he’s naked — you can read into that what you like. I also don’t shy away from questions. My feeling is that if someone is bold enough to ask the question, I can answer it.

There’s a lot about me that I like. 😎😁 I could go on…

To balance this out, my least favorite thing about myself is my ability to procrastinate. Man, if I don’t want to do something, unless I’m really firm with myself, I will find a way to put it off. Case in point, I have to go to the tax office tomorrow and I have to return something to Amazon. One will make me poorer the other is just troublesome. I’ve managed to put both off til the last minute.

What’s your favorite part of your favorite movie/tv show?

Bloganuary: Strength!

Write about something that makes you feel strong.

Squats and deadlift and pretty easy for me. Chest presses a little less so because my arms are weak, so when I can belt out a full arm day I feel pretty strong — and buff.

Bicep curls are the best and worst for me. There’s a kind of pain/exhaustion that is really uncomfortable but when I push past it, not only do I get the physical response of visible swelling (and a tighter shirt) but the emotional feeling that I ‘did it’.

Henry Cavil, the perfect male.

Generally, I enjoy working out. I mentioned in one of the earlier prompts that I admire Earnestine Shepard and it’s to be healthy and strong in my old age — I plan to live into my 150’s — that I work out, generally four days a week. I try to mix yoga and running in on the days I don’t go to keep my metabolism up and my body flexible.

You can’t have a conversation about strength and not talk about Superman.

Bloganurary: Dreams

Write about a dream you remember.

(whew) I’m beginning to feel the tug and pull of too many projects — but just a few more days of Bloganuary. I can not give up!

Dreams. When I read the prompts a dream that I had half a year ago came to mind. I don’t have nightmares. My dreams all seem to be wish fulfilments, but this one was surreal:

I was in the middle of an American suburb high in hills that overlooked the an urban center at night — lights everywhere, it was night at it was very beautiful. Godzilla was after me. Not the whole body, just the head. And not one, but like six. So in my dream I could see myself from an overhead position running down a cul-de-sac and there were these six giant, glowing pink Godzilla head going down the street in unison blowing up houses with their breath.

That’s it. The dream wasn’t short. It felt like it went on for hours.

The Buddha in repose. This is an old film photo from Kumamoto. The temple I took this in was destroyed several years ago in a earthquake.

I remember waking up in the morning with the dream in mind and I just turned it ’round and ’round in my head trying to puzzle out a meaning (which is why I remember it so clearly).

My best guess is my subconscious is telling me that my life in Japan is supplanting my former life in the US.

Here’s a question I’d like to know: In my dreams I seem to visit the same places over many years. I don’t know if this is usual or not, but in the dream world I can visit dreamscapes I visited weeks or months before, and these are not repeating dreams but dreams where I have long-lived relationships with the characters in these dreams spaces. There’s a sense of seeing an old friend after a long absence sometimes.

Does this ever happen to any of you?

Bloganuary: Interview

Interview a fictional character.

Well, I’d like to personally thank you for meeting with us today. It’s a great honor.


So how are you today?


Happy to hear it. So let’s ease into this interview with the basics. How would you describe your work and how do you like it thus far?

🔪👩🏼🚿🩸 👍

I see. I guess you have been quite the lady killer. So how did you start?


And when was this?


Wow, that’s young! So what do you do for fun?

💃🕺 🍷 💋 🔪

My gosh, Norman. You’re all work! Well, I’ll take that room now.

🙋: 🛏❓ 🛀❓🚿❓ ☕️🍳🥞❓

Ah, single room, definitely with a bath — no shower, and I’ll take a morning breakfast.


Can we finish our interview after I’ve checked in? I’d like to clean up.

😁👍 👋

Bloganuary: Quotes

What is your favorite quote and why?

I have a YouTube video to finish, I’m going to be brief (for once).

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”

Julia Child

Because fat is delicious. Just use moderation,

I lost a full day because of computer problems, I wanted to release this yesterday — I’m so behind. This is going to be a video on (Japanese) nabe. You can make it anywhere on the planet with a few substitutions. Wish me luck! I’m not going to bed till this is done. 😭 I’m thinking two or three…

Bloganuary: Let’s Do the Timewarp!

I warned you in the superpower post that I am a super villain at heart. If our world has the technology to send me back in time, then I’m going locked and loaded with laser weapons, a force shield, a universal (language) translator, projection mapping technology (and toilet paper): Send me to Ancient Rome because I aim to be worshiped as a Pagan God!

I’m already taller and fairer than most people. In Ancient Rome, as I tower over the little people, with some zipity-zaps from whatever doodads I have on hand, I will have the their compliance — and an audience with the Emperor Caligula. If the Emperor doesn’t agree to my requests, zippity-zap-zap zap.

My requests:

I want to experience an extravagant Roman feast. True excess!

I want to see the brutality in the Coliseum.

I want to be bathed in the Roman bathes (so I’m bringing Penicillin).

And I want him to hire a battalion to tour me round the Ancient Wonders of the World and pick a fight or two.

If you’re going to dream, dream big. Tell me something about excess in the comments!

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