JR Station Pub Crawl – Yamanote – Director’s Commentary

The last of my director’s commentary pieces! Thanks for tuning in this far. I can’t believe I haven’t put out a new video in over four months. Travesty. I’ve been taking footage for two new videos recently. I should be able to release them by early February.

For now, here’s my commentary on the Yamanote Line Pub Crawl:

JR Station Pub Crawl – Yamanote from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

00:27 A live version of “Gimme Some More” from The J.B.’s anthology Funky Good Time. Pretty good collection of their best stuff.

00:42 I still can’t believe they don’t have Guiness on tap. What a disappointment. The machine they use to froth up the beer is hilarious. The lady couldn’t even get it to work when I was there.

00:47 For most of these I used actual footage in between the stations. I got drunk and forgot to film at one point (toward the end) and had to double up one of the clips.

00:52 Gotta love Tamachi. Nice clean station. Decent beer and restaurant representation within the gates.

00:58 Arguably the best beer clip from the video. Very nice looking.

01:10 My Japan departure tradition is usually to pick up beer at either Seijo Ishii or Queen’s Isetan in Shinagawa and then get a bento to take with me on the Narita Express. The food at Paul is so good that I may have to reconsider the bento the next time. Hmm…I could also pick up a doughnut at Doughnut Plant upstairs in the eCute shopping center. Mmm.

01:44 You can see the billboard for QB Cut, a quick haircut place right next to this noodle joint. This is the 1000 yen haircut place that cleans your head afterward with a vacuum. Yes, I have had my hair cut at QB Cut before, but not in a station. I find it really relaxing to get a quick haircut at lunch sometimes.

01:59 The front of the train is definitely the place to be. The trainscape of Tokyo is something that definitely needs to be beheld. Very impressive. I love it when the path suddenly expands into a huge number of tracks outside a major station. That’s cool.

02:07 Sara-udon – a highly underrated Japanese food, even though it’s Chinese. Anyone know the Chinese name for this stuff? The key is to just douse the plate with vinegar. I love the kick it gives the dish.

02:16 In retrospect, I probably should have had a beer at the Italian place across the way from this ramen place. This video needed some pizza in it.

02:21 By far the coldest glass of the crawl.

02:43 I wonder if this place is still around. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if it had closed and been replaced with a konbini already.

02:54 This clip is definitely tilted, heh. Drunk.

Original post here.

Thanks again for sticking with me this month. I’m on break except for 号外 posts until the beginning of January. I’m excited to begin the year of the tiger with aggressive new posts about learning Japanese.

Good Eats – Musashi – Director’s Commentary

Good Eats – Musashi from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

00:28 The music is “Yakiniku” by Papa Grows Funk. They are a New Orleans-based Funk band with a Japanese guitarist named June Yamagishi. He hails from Kyoto but moved to New Orleans in 1995. I know he played with the Wild Magnolias for a while and probably some other local bands, but around 2000, Papa Grows Funk grew out of a group of musicians who would jam on Monday nights. There’s a nice set of interviews with with the Papa Grows Funk members on YouTube, including a three part interview with Yamagishi in Japanese. If I remember correctly, the saxophone player wrote the song “Yakiniku,” but it has a great guitar lick and is inspired by Yamagishi’s cooking.

If you’re looking to pick up some of their music, I’d recommend their second album Shakin’. They occasionally tour in Japan, and I’ve seen them once, but the tickets were about twice as expensive as back home.

00:39 I love the combination of old and new you get from the SL Hiroba. The old, crowded neighborhoods on the Shimbashi side and then the shiny, new glass buildings on the Shiodome side.

00:42 The New Shimbashi Building (that big, kind of white-checkered one), however, is just terrible. It must have been some architect’s vision of “the future” seen from the 1970s. It’s a giant mistake because this vision turned out to be the perfect pigeon roost, forcing them to cover the awfulness in mesh wiring.

01:19 I can’t believe these guys sit in 正座 the whole time.

02:20 I was running low on either battery or tape when I took this footage. I never got the perfect shot of the guy serving with the paddle. I was hoping to get a nice angle of him swinging it around widely, but didn’t have good enough timing.

02:40 I hate it when Americans have a laugh at tofu’s expense. It always seems to be the butt of the joke when it comes to flavorless foods. I’d argue 1) that their palettes aren’t experienced enough to appreciate the subtle flavor of plain tofu (the stereotypical tofu) and 2) that they haven’t tried enough different tofu dishes. Ageatsu are so coddamn tasty.

Original post here.

Natto Experiments – Director’s Commentary

Natto Experiments from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

00:27 The music is AudioBody’s “You Gotta Tap” from the YouTube video “The Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments.”

00:36 The cumin seeds I brought back to Japan from New Orleans. They’ve lasted me quite a while as I only use them in one lentil dish I make occasionally. In that dish, they get stir fried with garlic and red pepper, so I thought that might work here, too.

00:42 The knife shots work really well with this music. I think I was playing the song in my mind as I was chopping.

01:06 Yarg. Could use some lighting here.

01:26 When I was living up in Fukushima, there was a weekly men’s cooking class at the Town Hall called 男エプロン. It was only around for about half a year, but I learned this avocado-seed-removal trick from the lady who taught the course. Very effective.

01:57 Mmmm. This is the only of the three recipes that I actually eat regularly. I wait until avocados are on sale for 98 yen and use the natto and avocado to supplement my meal (generally a bento).

02:17 This is the cheapest cheese in Japan. They have both cheddar and mozzarella in this size at Seijo Ishii stores, and it’s only 299 yen. As I’ve mentioned before, probably the best value in the whole store.

02:43 The schools in my town in Fukushima used to eat natto like this. It was good, but they used a really weak cheese. The sharper you get, the better, in my opinion.

Original post here.

My New Orleans – Director’s Commentary

My New Orleans from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

00:02 Allen Toussaint’s “Tipitina and Me,” a striking minor-chord variation of the legendary New Orleans song. Apparently Elvis Costello wrote lyrics for this version of the song, and I’m sure they’re great, but I can’t imagine anything other than the instrumental version.

00:04 The neighborhood where I grew up has these tiles in all of the streets. I took my senior yearbook photo next to one of them.

I took all this video when I was back in New Orleans in April/May 2009. A few days before I flew home from Tokyo, I jammed the door of my camcorder and it stopped working. I was totally bummed out during the start of my trip and had given up hope of taking any footage, but eventually I snapped out of the funk and borrowed my buddy Vasu’s camera.

00:09 This is the neighborhood where I grew up. The street used to be in disrepair, and there was a big dip right in front of this blue house on the corner. It was a lot of fun to ride down it on a bike, and it filled up during floods.

00:15 612 Webster St. My memories of this house include: feeding our first cat (a black cat named Mr. Cat) in our little backyard, my parents sweating to the oldies, riding little plastic cars and motorcycles around, my mom bringing my little brother home from the hospital.

I’m not sure if the tree in front was there or not. If it was, it has grown quite a bit.

00:23 600 Webster St. Two doors down from the first house. Memories: playing basketball in the backyard, shooting off fireworks on the corner, carving pumpkins, watching the Gulf War on CNN, leaving apple empanadas out for Santa at Christmas, eating vegetarian food like “spinach balls,” waiting out a hurricane in one of the bedrooms upstairs, old computers (Commodores, Amigas, and all the awesome games that my Dad bought or pirated from friends), running my forehead into our shed and splitting it (my forehead) open, snow in New Orleans, eating all the snacks my Mom’s friends brought when she hosted “Quilt Group.”

00:30 Eleonore is only a few blocks over from Webster, but the street tiles cut out at some point.

00:34 This is Eleonore. We lived on this street briefly after living in Texas for sixth months. The filmed some commercial for a bank on the street one time and you could see my brother way in the background.

00:41 A curious house. The kitchen was on the second floor (“flood-proof” you might call it), and there were two distinct second floors with separate stairways that met. I had my own room for the first time. Memories: listening to the Top 10 songs on the radio every night (Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World” comes to mind, as does that terrible “Big Bad Wolf” song), listening to Weird Al Yankovic tapes, watching constellations move at night for a science project, eating pizza and root beer with friends, rooting for Charles Barkley and the Suns in the ’94 NBA finals, Easter Egg hunting, drinking powdered tea (and probably becoming addicted to caffeine).

00:49 The front of Audobon Park from the streetcar tracks. We have always lived close to the park, and I used to bike around it quite often. My mom used to walk around the park at five in the morning, and I would ride ahead a bit and then wait for her to catch up.

00:56 A close up of the fountain. That’s all I got.

01:02 This used to be a pond with two bridges on the ends. There was a track that went around the pond, and it was fun to ride around real fast and then zoom up and down the bridges. That was a long time ago. During middle school and high school we used to play ultimate frisbee here. It was the perfect size for us back then. Probably a little small now. In the distance you can see a little hut that sits on the edge of the golf course.

01:09 This is a shot of the pond closest to our old houses. We used to feed bread to the ducks here, and one time my babysitter took us to this area and we were unknowingly included in a photo that was included in a volume of park photos. We were tiny in the photo, but it’s still pretty cool. You can see the cypress trees with cypress knees.

01:16 The Audobon Zoo, from The Meter’s legendary song, “They All Ask’d For You.”

01:23 The elephant exhibit has been there forever. It’s exactly how I remember it from when I was little.

01:30 The fountain and oaks in the area between the reptile exhibit and the sea lions (?). Nice, quiet area perfect for picnicking.

01:38 This shot might be my favorite serendipitous shot. Run, you crazy looking chicken, there’s a lady with a camera after you!

01:50 Camp St. This is where we live now.

01:54 Here’s Camp looking from State toward Webster. It’s only three blocks from the other houses where I’ve lived. It’s a pleasant little neighborhood.

02:01 A relatively new New Orleans house. I think the newest of any we’ve lived in.

02:08 The back house. It used to be a garage, but we converted into a little house – my Mom’s pet project to tempt us home more often. It works – she stocks the freezer with frozen pizza and the fridge with beer.

02:17 The yard. Nice little garden, which is where all of our late-cats rest in peace.

02:23 This is Butthead. No joke. That’s his real name. He had a brother named Beavis, but he ran away. Butthead is still really skittish and hasn’t warmed up to me yet, so I try to spoil him. I gave him kitty treats two to three times a day when I was back home, but he still wouldn’t let me approach him. He looks far sweeter than he actually is.

02:27 Bill is the big, fat, orange cat. He might be our nicest cat yet. He loves attention, especially early in the morning. For some strange reason, whenever Butthead is on the couch, he’ll let you pet him if you’re sneaky about it.

02:36 My firm belief. I have lived a rambling, cat-less life for the past nine years. I think my resolution for 2010 may be to acquire a cat.

Original post here.

仁亭 – Director’s Commentary

仁亭 from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

00:28 George Miller’s “King of the Road.” You might recognize George Miller as the voice for the rooster from Disney’s animated version of Robin Hood. He also wrote and sang some of the songs from the movie, notably “Oo de lally.” What’s that you say? You want to hear the Swedish version? Well, YouTube delivers.

00:36 The Yaesu side of Tokyo Station. I wonder if this part of the station will get renovated. I really like the look of north Yaesu, but that’s mostly because of the big Daimaru over there.

00:44 That big glass building on the right is the International Forum. It’s a great building, and it’s free, so I always try to take friends to see it. I never knew about it until my college roommate Dave came to visit Japan with his skinny little hipster guidebook. Thank you, skinny little hipster guidebook.

00:47 Ah, the Sakura Bus. The best way to get up to Fukushima. If you’re taking it to Aizu, it’s often just as fast as taking the train because you have to change trains and wait in Koriyama. Much cheaper than the train, too.

00:59 Big jump to Koriyama. I wanted to film more, but when I got on the bus, I realized my camcorder battery was really low.

Love this little sign. It says “Right: Jintei. Left: Edo, 60 里” I can’t really tell if that kanji is 里 or not, but it makes sense. 里 is an old Japanese unit of measurement that is equivalent to 3927 meters. 60 would be approximately 234 km, which seems right.

01:04 This is Jintei. I wrote a lot about it in the original post, so I won’t say too much here other than note again that it’s a fantastic restaurant run by a really nice guy.

01:09 Seeing the video I took of this sign was the first time I realized that Jintei serves “yakikatsu” and not “tonkatsu.” I’m not sure what the difference is, although from the video it does look like the katsu get a bit of pan-searing on one or both sides.

01:22 Ha, Jintei noob. Everybody knows you just have to wait.

01:28 Doh! This lady didn’t unfold the fan completely, so the “Jintei Special” on the far right is still hidden.

01:54 Mmmm. Jintei salad. The salad is so critical to the Jintei experience. Not only does it have more foliage than your standard tonkatsu salad, it has two dressings that need to be mixed in appropriate portions. A creamy one and a more vinegary one. They cut through the greasiness of the katsu perfectly and really balance the whole meal (along with the karashi and lemon, of course).

02:11 Does look like some searing, eh? Perhaps yakikatsu aren’t deep fried at all.

02:17 The moment of truth. Yes, there is cheese and ham and a leaf of basil in there. I’m so hungry watching this.

02:25 I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. I discovered through experience that I was always better off leaving the last three to four cuts and getting them to go. I also can’t believe the master let me sit at the table even after I told him the counter (space for two) was fine. I scarfed everything down because I felt so bad for the people waiting outside.

How to Bank Mad Cash in Japan – Director’s Commentary

How to Bank Mad Cash in Japan from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

00:26 Johnny Cash’s “Busted” from At Folsom Prison. Great song. Wish they had it at karaoke in Japan.

00:35 This is the Ginza on a Sunday. They close the road during spring, summer and fall…I think as long as the weather is decent. There are even cafes that open up with tables and chairs in the middle of the street.

00:44 My roommates commented that this actually isn’t that expensive. I think people in Japan routinely spend upwards of 10,000 yen on their cell phone bill. I don’t use it to talk all that much, so it stays relatively cheap. I still miss the days of free nights and weekends.

00:49 Okay, I cheated here kind of. This is gourmet fruit from Queen’s Isetan in Shinagawa, so it’s pricey. Normal apples are closer to 100 yen.

00:52 Beer, however, is expensive. Part of it is due to the taxes, which are much higher than in Europe or the U.S., but part of it is also due to the high quality of the beer itself. Your regular 100% barley malt beer offering from the big four breweries is, I’d argue, higher quality than the basic beer from American breweries. I know that Budweiser doesn’t have anything on Premium Malts. That’s for sure.

00:55 This cheese is outrageous. I have narrowed down the best cheese in Tokyo. Go to Seijo Ishii and look for the wedges of cheddar or mozzarella that are 299 yen. Arguably it’s the best value in the whole store.

01:00 On Sundays this same natto is only 68 yen. If you can bear the stink, natto is a great way to supplement a bento.

01:05 “Lacrimosa” from Mozart’s Requiem.

I ate all three of these natto containers in about 15 minutes. I wanted to use all of the footage, but it was too long even after I sped it up to 700%.

01:17 I rarely ate natto until the principal at the junior high school where I worked commented that it was called “the samurai meat” in Japan. Samurai apparently used to roll cooked beans in bamboo leaves, put them in their pocket, and then run off to battle. Whenever they got hungry (sometimes weeks later), they’d pull out the beans (rotten by then) and dig in. I thought that was awesome. Then another teacher mentioned how cheap they were. This I also thought was awesome. So now I eat them quite frequently. Probably a three-pack a week or so?

02:01 Spinal Tap’s “Gimme Some Money.”

I still think this relative change section is genius. Check out my writeup in the original post. Basically, I argue that psychologically we are more likely to spend change too freely, and that kills you in Japan because you end up throwing around the equivalent of 1 and 5 dollar bills.

Think about this. When the exchange rate was down at 86 yen/dollar a couple weeks back, two 10 yen coins were basically equivalent to one quarter. But doesn’t a quarter feel more expensive? That’s because it’s the coin of highest value.

That reminds me. These numbers would be even less now because the dollar is so low. It would probably be like 9 or 8 yen average for each coin in the U.S. Worthless!

02:35 I don’t know the specifics in Europe, but apparently not all of these are used commonly.

02:39 I love the Aussie 2 dollar coin.

02:59 Allen Toussaint’s “Viva la Money.”

It really is tempting to buy drinks in Japan. One of my friends returning to Scotland after the JET Program was seriously concerned that he might suffer terrible dehydration post-repatriation.

03:12 My bag o change. Currently filling it (not so strictly as before) with the intention of taking the money with me on a trip to Europe next year. Very exciting.

I got a stern talking to from the bank lady because I left a few U.S. coins in with the yen. Won’t make that mistake again.

03:17 Thank you Internet for providing the random sounds used in this section of the video! (Yes, that is the Mario coin noise.)

I think the total amount ended up being closer to 160,000 yen because I had been taking bags of 500 yen coins with me to use for my daily expenses. All the cool guys pay for stuff with dirty Ziploc bags full of coins, right? Most of it I was able to change at the bank.

How to Higaeri Onsen – Director’s Commentary

How to Higaeri Onsen from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

00:30 The music is Beck’s “Hollow Log” from the album One Foot In The Grave. Beck was the first band (musician?) I listened to intensely. Back in middle school I got the album Odelay in a soccer team Christmas present exchange. I have his entire catalog including a lot of bootlegs and B-sides and Japanese versions. (Up until his most recent album Modern Guilt, he always had bonus tracks on the Japanese versions. All I got this time was a link to a stupid 携帯待受画面 image. I was seriously disappointed.) His early stuff is rough and creative and all over the place genre-wise. There are some real gems like “Hollow Log.”

My Seishin 18 Kippu. I went to Minakami Onsen on March 8th and then Atami Onsen and the Numazu Taproom on March 15th.

00:33 My buddy Kai calls these magazines “onsen spank mags.” Ha. Always thought that was hilarious.

00:40 This is exactly how I found this onsen. I was just flipping through the travel brochure (which mainly lists the cost to stay overnight) and saw one that looked great – 法師温泉長寿館. I did some research and found that they allow higaeri bathers. Fortunately it wasn’t far from Minakami Onsen, so I was somewhat familiar with the area.

00:44 Hyperdia is great, and they recently did a site renovation. Now the form auto-predicts the station as you type, and you can select your departure/destination from a list of stations that pops up. Makes it really easy to use.

The one problem I’ve discovered with using Hyperdia over long distances is that they always ride lines to the end. When you’re going across the county on a Seishun 18 Kippu, sometimes it’s more strategic to get off a station or two early to catch the start of a new line (or new section along a line), which gives you a better chance of getting a seat.

00:51 This is my room from a different angle. You can see my bookshelf and my door.

Not showering before an onsen trip makes that first bath so sweet.

01:06 Love this shot of the girl waving to someone on the train.

01:12 Another of my favorite shots – three guys chilling out and two guys sleeping on the ends.

01:16 My roommate Teppei thought me napping on the train was hilarious. I should have used my messenger bag as a pillow. Would have been much more natural.

01:23 When I went out to Minakami, I bought some food at a konibini somewhere along the way and then seriously regretted it after finding this bakery in Takasaki. This time I was prepared and hadn’t had anything for breakfast, so I gorged myself on tasty パン.

01:27 I love how the trains get older the farther you go into the inaka. One of my favorite lines is the one along the Japan Sea that runs from Naoetsu in Niigata Prefecture to Toyama. The train looks like it’s been carved in one piece out of the mountains that it runs through.

01:34 I was a little stressed on this trip up until this point. I was preoccupied with making every train and getting all the footage I needed, but once I filmed this bus, I was finally able to relax. Most of the hard work was done, and I knew I’d probably catch the second bus. There was only one set of buses in the morning and one in the afternoon, so if I’d missed either of them, I would have been facing a steep taxi bill.

01:41 This is the second bus, an even smaller local bus that runs out to the onsen – as mentioned before, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. I like the driver’s little wave.

01:50 Here’s the building. It’s an amazing place out in the mountains. I was hoping there might be some magical extra bus back, but the driver of the neon green bus told me that there weren’t any and that taxi would cost quite a bit. It was only 7km back, and I figured I could handle that much.

01:52 Foreigners, including myself, like to collect these. All the Japanese people I’ve ever mentioned that to think it’s really strange, and one even said she uses them to pick up dog poop (?!).

01:55 Really wish I could’ve filmed inside the bath. I think I even went as far as emailing the place to ask for permission, but they never replied. The bath is one of the few mixed onsen I’ve ever been to. It feels straight out of the Meiji Period or maybe even earlier – just one big pool that has a pattern of wooden bars running across. People lean their heads on these or rest their feet on them. There aren’t even any shower heads, so you have to sit by the side of the water and shovel it on yourself with a bath bucket.

01:57 The walk wasn’t bad at all. The sun came out, so it wasn’t too cold, and I had an hour of the BS Report to listen to.

02:02 I guess I would’ve been disappointed if I hadn’t seen monkeys in a place called 猿ケ京 (a literal translation of this could be “Monkey Capital”). I was a little uneasy when I first saw them down the road because I was in the middle of nowhere, not exactly a home court advantage for humans when it comes to monkey fighting, but they walked off to the side, so I readied my camera to catch them on film. As soon as I got to where they were and peaked over the side rail, they scampered off.

02:08 I got to this place right on time. About ten minutes after I finished filming, some other people showed up. The indoor shot is a little steamy, but the rotemburo part is great. Just be glad I didn’t include any “bonus footage” as part of this post.

02:15 There was a liquor store right across from the bus stop, and they had a couple of local beer selections including Echigo Stout. Nice.

A great little trip, and I highly recommend it. There are plenty of onsen that aren’t quite as far away as Houshi. Atami is only an hour and a half or so from Tokyo. Plenty of others closer than that. Maybe this year I’ll focus on slightly less epic trips.

Original post here.

Tonkatsu – Director’s Commentary

How to Japanese: Underrated Japan Vol. 3 – Tonkatsu from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

00:26 Clip from Pulp Fiction. What a movie.

00:35 The music is “Los Dias Sin Dias” from Estradasphere, one of my favorite bands. I’d wanted to do a video about tonkatsu for a while but didn’t know how to structure it until I heard this song on shuffle one day. The idea came to me instantly – the mood so perfectly captures that strung out, hungover feeling.

This is my room. You can see my pole. That’s where I hang my futon when I’m not sleeping on it.

This is probably my favorite of all the videos I’ve made. Maybe number two with the onsen video being number one.

Other things of note: The Meters self-titled first album on my desk (best funk album ever), Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II (sadly I don’t have a record player, but they are fun albums to look at), my UV-blocking curtains I brought with me from Fukushima.

00:42 My futon in action. Things of note: Tempur-Pedic pillows, my mini Mapple, bag for my yoga mat (which lives under my futon), camera case for my Canon HV20.

00:50 Full shot of my room. It’s a mess. It’s a little cleaner these days thanks to a massive purge I went through when I thought I might have to move apartments. I still have too much stuff.

Things of note: gray bags from Tanakaya in the foreground (full of beer), my low-ass chair I bought from the Shinagawa Ward recycle shop (it broke about a month after I bought it and is now stuck in the lowest position), art by Kestutis of Lithuania on the wall.

00:59 My desk. Did you notice what’s on my desktop screen? PAIN. I thought that was funny. Things of note: iPod, DS case, hard drive I use for all my video footage, earplugs, calendar of my yoga lessons, my air-con remote control.

01:09 My kitchen. I’m a huge fan of taking pictures or video very close to small objects to make them look epic. I think it started when I was traveling in South East Asia and started taking close-ups of beer bottles. I got this amazing shot of my friend Faye:


I’ve been looking for an excuse to do something with that picture for years.

01:18 I don’t know why I bought negi-toro. I rarely eat it in any form, onigiri or don. They must have been out of mentaiko or ume – those are the two I always buy.

01:27 Kaiten-zushi at Yokohama Station. I really wanted this shot to be of the dishes going by on the conveyor belt, but I couldn’t hold the camera still enough, and I don’t have a tripod. And in all honesty, I didn’t want to be that weird foreigner with a giant tripod in the sushi restaurant. I was already that weird foreigner with a mini-tripod taking video of sushi, and I think that’s about as weird as I’m willing to get.

01:42 Aji no Tokeidai ramen in Shibuya. I had this bowl right before a big beer session in Shimokitazawa during Kura Kura’s January nomihodai offering. Great ramen. Perfect foundation for beers. I really was hungover the next day, and that was the day I went to Tonki in Meguro.

02:00 Tonki Tonkatsu. The ロース variation. I hate the way the fried batter falls off so easily. That’s my main criticism of an otherwise exquisite place to eat tonkatsu.

02:06 Katsuretsu-an in Yokohama. Very thin katsu, but still tasty. The Katsuretsu-an Teishoku is ヒレ, but I think this is one of the few stores where I prefer the ロース.

02:15 Good God that’s a massive piece o pig. It’s the kurobuta from Maisen. Tasty, but also 3000 yen a plate. The first time I went, the menu was a little confusing (Maisen’s big downfall is that they offer too many variations), and I thought the kurobuta was the only katsu they had.

02:24 Droolz.

This clearly show’s Tonki’s flaws – the pork shrinks within the batter or gets somehow gets dislodged during the cutting process. It’s worth mentioning that they cut the katsu lengthwise, which I guess makes the pieces easier to handle. I prefer just widthwise cuts, although there’s a place in my neighborhood that gives you three small diamond-shaped doubloons of katsu for the ヒレ. I always thought that was neat. Tonki still has the best service of any tonkatsu place I’ve every visited. Hard to leave unsatisfied.

02:35 Gnompf, carbs, gnompf.

02:38 I liked the butajiru at Tonki but still prefer red miso with katsu. I guess that’s the second mark against Tonki.

02:41 I can just imagine what went on in the kitchen: “Yo, let’s put another leaf on top.” “What for?” “I dunno. It just looks nice.” “True.” That dude got his bonus that year. Brilliant.

02:46 Karashi really does make the katsu. I only respect restaurants where the karashi is sinus-burningly powerful. Tonki’s is strong stuff, although they only provide you with a small amount. Maisen is self-service.

02:54 You can see from the Tonki clock that it’s right around 4:40pm. They opened at 4pm. Yep, it fills up quickly.

02:58 I was third or fourth in line, right behind this guy. He did things right – brought a newspaper, ordered a beer (which comes with peanuts). Respect. This shot also gives a great look at the pristine countertops. So smooth and clean. Bonus points.

03:07 Don’t be fooled. Maisen has tons of seating. It never takes all that long to get inside. The atmosphere is nothing compared to Tonki, though.

03:13 Love the Katsuretsu-an atmosphere, especially the lantern outside. During the indoor shot, the lady carrying the katsu realizes that I’m filming about halfway across the screen and then tries to skoot out of the way. I thought that was cute.

03:18 They also have very nice countertops. The information in the subtitles I found on Japanese Wikipedia quoting some book, but it has since disappeared. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal that lists a different place as the tonkatsu origin, but I haven’t had a chance to go yet. The article is really nice, but I’m not sure why Maisen and Tonki get excluded. I’m also confused why a tonkatsu restaurant would need a wine list. Call me a purist, but beer is the only beverage that goes with tonkatsu.

Original post here.

Mikan – Director’s Commentary

Week two of Director’s Commentary Month at How to Japonese.

How to Japanese: Underrated Japan Vol. 2 – Mikan from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

00:32 Harry Nillson’s “Coconut.” Not sure about other readers, but I became familiar with this song after they used it in the Lime Coke ad. This is the demo version, which I prefer to the original. A lot simpler. Just Nillson and his guitar.

00:35 I bought all of these mikan at the off-brand konbini called “Tom Cat” near my apartment. The mikan are cheap, but they’re all kind of unhealthy-looking and relatively tasteless. During peak season I eat about eight mikan a day, though, so this is the only way I can afford my citrus addiction.

You can see my roommate Ayako and her yellow jumper in the background.

01:00 I had a pile of about 40-50 mikan, and everyone started playing with them. I think my roommate Teppei was the one who started drawing faces on the mikan. It was either him or my Korean roommate Son-san.

01:07 This is Son-san’s self-portrait.

01:28 Embarrassingly terrible screen capture of Google Earth. If anyone knows how to do HD video screen capture, please share.

01:49 There are also lots of mikan in Nagasaki and parts of Kyushu. I travelled in Kyushu for New Year’s a couple years in a row and was always stunned at how cheap they are down there.

01:59 Son-san gave me the idea for this section of the video. He kept trying to balance them in all these weird positions after I finished filming the pyramids. I thought it was funny to think of them as “inherently unstable.” Unlike apples, which are clearly an inert fruit.

02:22 Kotatsu + mikan = Japan.

02:28 “From the top” was briefly a hilarious meme in my apartment. I guess it was simple enough for everyone to understand and pronounce, sort of like “Yes we can.” I think it’s still the part of this video they remember the most.

02:48 This was an element of contention when I initially posted the video. I’d be curious to see a pie chart style breakdown of peeling styles. I prefer this method because it keeps things tidy.

Original post here.

Old Edo Great Beer Pub Crawl – Director’s Commentary

How to Japanese – Old Edo Great Beer Pub Crawl from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

00:27 This movie was definitely inspired by the song, Van Morrison’s version of “There Stands the Glass.” It pretty much sums up the content of the video – glasses of beer on bar counters.

This is the first video I made with my wide-angle lens. I picked up the lens in Akihabara, had a sandwich at Subway, and then went on a pub crawl. Not a bad night! I think the results are clear – everything would have looked terrible without wide-angle conversion, especially the indoor footage. I use it all the time now.

00:42 I love Dry Dock. The big secret is that although it looks rectangular, it’s actually more triangular in shape on the inside. I’m interested to get a better look inside the kitchen (er, I should say “galley”) to see how much farther it goes back.

00:48 I had my expectations for this beer way too high after reading that Michael Jackson labeled it the best American dry stout. It’s good. Maybe I need to try it again. Dry Dock has a great blog. Sato-san, the master, posts pretty frequently about what they have on tap, different events, magazine articles he’s written/appeared in, and Motocross races. They are pretty intense with the way they clean and care for glassware at Dry Dock. Respect.

01:08 Organic Saison Dupont – nothing noticeably different from the regular Saison Dupont. I have a giant crush on the Houblon lady.

01:26 Another beer I’d like to try again, but I don’t think it would beat Green Flash’s Le Freak, which has to be the pinnacle of Belgian IPAs. I left the case for my new lens on the counter. Right behind the bottle. Doh!

01:40 If you haven’t been to Towers, you are missing out. Especially if you can speak some Japanese. The master is a really funny guy.

02:04 I haven’t been to Bacchus for a while now. Really should make an effort to go. They brew quite a few original beers. I’ve only had this one, but it was solid.

Original post here.