Monday, December 31, 2012

ima staff tour Gannett Offset

Daigo Fujiwara, Editor-in-Chief, next to a whole lot of paper

About a week ago, ima magazine staff took a tour of Gannett Offset in Norwood, MA, who will be printing the magazine. I'm bummed I didn't get to go. It sounded exciting.

We also surpassed our Kickstarter goal of $4,000 last week! Thanks to everyone who donated! There's still 21 hours left if you still want to donate. Every little bit helps!

Our first all staff meeting was on Saturday before and during the snowstorm. Lots of interesting stuff planned for the first issue! We're really excited!

Monday, December 24, 2012

KFC = Christmas in Japan


I was still a baby the last time I was in Japan on Christmas so I don't remember a thing about Christmas in Japan. I was surprised to learn from a friend that if you were to ask a Japanese person to name the thing they most associate with Christmas (or rather Kurisumasu), they'd say KFC. Apparently, back in the '70s, some brilliant KFC Japan employee decided they should market their fried chicken as a special Christmas meal, and thus, a new Japanese tradition was born. Some people report that this was because expats couldn't find turkey anywhere in Japan and KFC was the closest they could get. Whatever the origin, it's paid of massively for KFC.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Senator Dan Inouye passes away; final word is "Aloha"

I was just looking at the ima magazine Twitter feed and learned the sad news that Senator Dan Inouye of Hawaii passed away yesterday. The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports that he died of a respiratory ailment.

Unlike most Japanese Americans in the United States, Senator Inouye was able to escape incarceration during WWII because he was living in Hawaii, where very few Japanese Americans were taken away. Instead, he enlisted and was assigned to the 442nd Regimental Combat Unit, comprised mostly of nisei from Hawaii and some nisei who left camps on the mainland. Their motto was "Go for broke," a pidgin English phrase meaning to bet it all and win or lose big. 

Per the White House, Senator Inouye was the "second-longest serving Senator in the history of the chamber." When I was growing up in the 80s, Senator Inouye was one of the few famous Japanese Americans I could look up. After Mark Takano takes office next year, there will be just five Japanese Americans in Congress. This is a great loss for Hawaii, and really a great loss for America.

Aloha, Dan.

"Go For Broke: 442nd Combat Team Song" music & lyrics written by Pfc. Harry Kamada

Jake Shimabukuro's beautiful tribute also titled "Go For Broke," 
"In honor of the Americans of Japanese ancestry (AJA) soldiers who fought and sacrificed their lives in World War II, Jake Shimabukuro released “Go For Broke,” a heartfelt tribute to the men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 100th Infantry Battalion, the 1399th Engineering Construction Battalion, and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS)."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

ima: 15 days to go and around $1,500 needed

I'm reposting something I posted a week ago. There's 15 days left in the ima magazine Kickstarter campaign and they need around $1,500 to reach their goal. Please help make this publication a reality by donating and/or posting to social media. Thanks!
Saturday December 8, 2012:

My friends are launching an ambitious project - publishing Boston's first bilingual Japanese-English print and online magazine "for Japanese or Japanese-Americans who live in Boston, and Bostonians who are interested in Japan." The publication, ima magazine, will cover and analyze news, culture, entertainment, sports, and area events. [Ima (今, pronounced ee-ma) means "now" in Japanese.]

I'm really excited that they've decided to do this. I've long wished for a central place where Japanese Americans and Japanese could interact. While a magazine isn't a "place" per se, it will provide a central point of contact between both communities. I've been invited to write for ima magazine and hope I'll be able to contribute!

The magazine will be available for free around Boston. They're hoping to publish their first issue in February 2013.  To get the first issue out, they're running a Kickstarter campaign until December 31, 2012, at 11:59 PM (Eastern Time). Please donate if you can!

Arigato gozaimashita!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yume Wo Katare v. Sapporo Ramen: Apples & Oranges

Left: Yume Wo Katare Ramen without garlic  Right: Sapporo House Ramen without scallions

People always ask me, "Which is better - Yume Wo Katare or Sapporo?" I don't think it's a fair question, because it's like comparing apples and oranges.

Before Yume Wo Katare opened I wondered if it wasn't a little unfair of them to open so close to Sapporo Ramen when there are so many other parts of town that are lacking in nearby ramen. I wondered if Sapporo was worried about competition. After having my first bowl of Yume Wo Katare ramen I realized they're really not in direct competition. Just about the only thing Yume Wo Katare ramen and Sapporo ramen have in common is that they're bowls of soup noodles with veggies and meat on top. That's where the similarities end.

I have to confess to no longer being a fan of Sapporo. I used to eat there quite regularly, but a few years ago they changed their broth and menu and got rid of one of my favorites (Seaweed Ramen). I tried the new ramen a few times and went as recently as this week with a friend who doesn't eat pork, and I still don't understand why it's so popular. I stopped going to Sapporo a while ago because I found the new broth fairly flavorless. My recent visit was the same. It's possible that other ramen at Sapporo has more flavor, but due to food allergies, the House Ramen is the only one I can eat. 

Aside from the broth, my biggest problem with Sapporo is that I'm still hungry when I'm done eating. I've even tried ordering their ramen with extra noodles. Still hungry. If I'm paying $10+ (including tip) for a meal, I don't want to leave hungry. Pikaichi serves slightly more noodles in their Tokyo Shoyu Ramen, but when I was ordering just ramen, I would leave a little hungry. Then I noticed you can add a bowl of curry (or cha-su don) for $1.99. Problem solved. Sapporo has sides, but none sized for an individual. My current favorite of Sapporo, Pikaichi, and Mentei is Pikaichi. Yume Wo Katare is in a class by itself. I find their ramen too rich to eat regularly, although I've noticed some of their customers eat there weekly or even more than once a week.

I've heard that Sapporo's business is up since Yume Wo Katare opened. Many people don't want to stand in a 2 hour line at Yume Wo Katare, but they want a bowl a noodles, so they'll head over to Sapporo. The wait time at Yume Wo Katare continues to be long even though they recently expanded their hours by an hour each night. Others leave Yume Wo Katare after learning they serve only pork ramen since they can't or don't eat pork (or even meat). Sapporo's main broth is made with chicken & vegetables and they also have a vegetarian broth.

I tell everyone who likes pork that they should try Yume Wo Katare. Their ramen is definitely more value for your dollar, but not everyone can/wants to eat a bowl of noodles as calorific as theirs or stand in line in the cold for 1-2 hours. Since opinion on Sapporo is so divided, I recommend that people try it for themselves even though I'm not a fan. Really, with only four ramen restaurants in Boston, it's easy to try all four and decide for yourself.


Yume Wo Katare Ramen - $12 (including tax) 
  • Broth: Extremely rich (some say too rich), fairly salty (some say too salty), a little sweet tonkotsu (pork & soy sauce) broth (some have described it as being closer to a light gravy).
  • Noodles: 350g of wide, dense, house-made noodles cooked al dente.  Chewy but soft.
  • Pork: Two large, thick, fatty slices of rolled pork belly. They're not always consistent - some days saltier than others, some pieces fattier than others.
  • Other Toppings: Briefly boiled bean sprouts & cabbage (fairly consistent from day to day), seabura (pork back fat - some people find this too rich), and a heap of fresh minced garlic. Extra toppings are free.
Sapporo House Ramen - $9.50 (including tax)
  • Broth: Thick but flavorless (to me anyway - some people rave about the flavor of their broth) chicken & vegetable broth. I've heard people refer to their broth as "rich." It's certainly a little richer than your average ramen broth, but I don't find it rich. I feel that the broth is lacking in depth.
  • Noodles: I'm not sure what the portion is but it's on the small side - my guess is around 140g of thin, light, commercially-made noodles cooked al dente. I find their noodles are usually more al dente than I'd like but I always forget to ask them to cook them longer.
  • Pork: Two small, thin slices of lean pork with very little flavor.
  • Other Toppings: Sweet corn, raw bean sprouts, half of a medium well boiled egg (I thought mine was perfectly boiled the other day but I've seen a lot of complaints about their overcooked eggs), one tiny square of nori (roasted seaweed), and scallions. There is a charge for extra toppings.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tewassa Christmas Charity Concert on Saturday

Tewassa's Christmas concert is just a few days away. New raffle prizes keep coming in and we now have over $1,200 $1,305 $1,320 worth of prizes from many local Japanese businesses. Hope you can make it!

Our Christmas quilt will be on display. It's headed to the Ivy Baby Home nursery in Yamagata, along with some toys.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rice Sticks and Tea Asian Food Pantry

I recently learned through the New England JACL newsletter that Boston has a food pantry for Asians! While I'd imagine they probably aren't serving Japanese families, I wanted to publicize their work. 

The Rice Sticks and Tea Asian Food Pantry has been around for 14 years, "serving over 120 pre-screened low-income Asian immigrant and refugee families each month. Those 120 households represent over 300 children, adults and seniors. It is the only food pantry program in the region whose mission is to serve the Asian community and provide food that is consistent with their cultural cooking traditions and preferences. The program began as a collaboration between the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry and the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence. RST was created in response to legislation that denied food stamps to all immigrants regardless of their circumstances. Battered immigrant women and children as well as the elderly are among the most affected."

Monetary donations can be made online or by mail. You can also volunteer on the second Friday and Saturday of every month when they pack and distribute the food.

Yume Wo Katare has fancy new chopsticks

Please see my Everything you need to know about Yume Wo Katare post 
for more information.

I have a backlog of half-written posts, most of which are about Yume Wo Katare. In the meantime I thought I'd share that they have gorgeous new chopsticks that were hand-delivered from Japan a couple of weeks ago. Tsuyoshi-san described them as having a "tornado" grip. I have to admit to having a fondness for their old wooden chopsticks, but I haven't had a chance to eat with the new chopsticks so they may well be more awesome.

Ittoku opening this month?

Rumor has it that Ittoku plans to open before the end of the month! I haven't managed to confirm this with Chiki-san or Carlos Garcia yet, but will see what I can find out.

Update 12/12/12: I should have known better than to post this without confirming. Chiki-san told me tonight that although they received approval for the transfer of the Le Petit Robert's liquor license to them, they don't have it in hand yet. He expects they will have it before the end of the month. After that, construction & inspections. They're aiming for a February/March 2013 opening.

It's Not Just Mud

I just stumbled across an interesting volunteer organization in Ishinomaki via a lip dub some of their members made. In spite of the silliness of the lip dub, It's Not Just Mud (INJM) is doing serious rebuilding work in the Tohoku region.

INJM was founded last year by Jamie El-Banna, a British former English teacher who had been working in Osaka. He told the BBC that prior to 3/11/11 he "had never done any volunteer work in [his] life." He didn't start out with the intention of forming a non-profit but things snowballed and they received official status as a non-profit this year.

I love that they have a F.U.E. (Frequently Used Excuses) list on their website that addresses the excuses people make for why they can't volunteer. I told myself for years that I was going to start volunteering when I had the time, but other than a few random bits of volunteering here and there, I didn't commit to long-term volunteering until I joined Tewassa this year. When I think of all the hours of my life I've wasted doing meaningless things, I'm sorry that I didn't start volunteering sooner! Check out their video in which volunteers answer the question, "Why did you volunteer?"

I enjoy working with Tewassa but feel that I'm still fairly disconnected from really understanding what people in the Tohoku area are going through.  This also seems to be common for Japanese in Japan who live outside Tohoku. Some of our members have delivered our quilts to schools in the area so they've been able to see things first-hand and talk to people directly affected, but for those of us who haven't gone on one of these deliveries yet, I don't think we can really grasp what they've been through and what the challenges are from the pictures and reports of other members.

I haven't been to Japan in nearly 25 years and I have to admit that my memories of my visits are dim and I have no recollection of living there (we moved to the US when I was two and a half). In spite of the fact that my memories of Japan are so fragmented and mostly exist in photographs, I was deeply saddened by the images of Japan in the aftermath of 3/11/11. I looked around for volunteer opportunities, but at the time, it was difficult to find English-language organizations looking for unskilled volunteers and it seemed the consensus was that it wasn't helpful for non-Japanese speaking volunteers without specialized skills (like search & rescue) to go because you'd be more of a burden than a help.

Things seem to have changed now that Japan is out of the initial crisis phase. I really like that INJM encourages people to volunteer with them regardless of their Japanese or English language abilities. They appear to do a good job providing information in both languages. I have my own special F.U.E. (multiple food allergies) for why it would be a bad idea for me to go to Japan, but perhaps I'll look volunteering with them at some point.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

ima: Help a new Japanese-English magazine get off the ground through Kickstarter

My friends are launching an ambitious project - publishing Boston's first bilingual Japanese-English print and online magazine "for Japanese or Japanese-Americans who live in Boston, and Bostonians who are interested in Japan." The publication, ima magazine, will cover and analyze news, culture, entertainment, sports, and area events. [Ima (今, pronounced ee-ma) means "now" in Japanese.]

I'm really excited that they've decided to do this. I've long wished for a central place where Japanese Americans and Japanese could interact. While a magazine isn't a "place" per se, it will provide a central point of contact between both communities. I've been invited to write for ima magazine and hope I'll be able to contribute!

The magazine will be available for free around Boston. They're hoping to publish their first issue in February 2013.  To get the first issue out, they're running a Kickstarter campaign until December 31, 2012, at 11:59 PM (Eastern Time). Please donate if you can!

Arigato gozaimashita!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"What you see in the mirror, and what you are can be two different images."

Transgender fortune

On Saturday I had dinner at a Taiwanese restaurant where I received the above fortune. I had spent the evening chatting with my friend's friend who works at Keshet (Hebrew for rainbow), a Jewish LGBT advocacy group that works to ensure that Jewish LGBT people are included in all aspects of Jewish life. He reminded me that Sunday was Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to memorialize transgender people who have been murdered because of prejudice.

I'm a little late to the party as Transgender Awareness Week was last week, but after thinking about this for several days, I decided to post. On Saturday I'd come across this extremely moving story from Korean American adoptee Andy Marra talking about her experience meeting her birth mother, coming out as transgender, and gaining the courage to complete her transition. (Get your tissues before you read it.) Reading her story made me realize that I'd never read a story written by an Asian transgender person before and it got me wondering if there were any famous Japanese American transgender people. A quick search for "Japanese American transgender" turns up very little. I tried a few other variations without any luck. 

My search results reminded me about Kim Coco Iwamoto, a member of Hawaii's Board of Education. Kim was recently featured in The Huffington Post's list of The Most Influential LGBT Asian Icons at #2, along with 1 lesbian and 5 gay Japanese Americans. I'd first been introduced to Kim via Equality Hawaii's excellent forum No Shame! Talking About the Gay/Lesbian/Transgender Japanese American Experience In Hawaii (Part 1 & Part 2 of the panel are available, but sadly the keynote from George Takei isn't!).

The only other Japanese American of note I found was Marsha Aizumi, mother of a transgender son, Aiden. Marsha authored the book Two Spirits, One Heart, about her journey accepting that her daughter was actually her son and becoming an advocate for LGBT youth. She's an inductee to the API Family Pride Wall of Pride, a project honoring supportive Asian families of LGBT people and exhibiting their profiles. Part of the Wall of Pride was recently exhibited in Boston at The Meeting Point in Jamaica Plain, thanks to QAPA, the nation's oldest queer Asian organization. API Family Pride is the only support organization for Asian families of LGBT people in the US.

As far as I can tell, Kim, Marsha, and Aiden are the only three somewhat well-known transgender-related Japanese Americans.

Something else that turned up in my search was The Visibility Project, spearheaded by two Japanese Americans, Mia Nakano and Shawn Tamaribuchi. They travel the US taking portraits & shooting video of "Queer Asian American Women, Gender non-conforming, and Trans[gender] people," to bring "more presence and representation to our community through powerful imagery." It seems that this year they also started including parents. Marsha Aizumi is currently the only parent of an LGBTQ API. Their tags and labeling aren't consistent, so it's not easy to find the Japanese Americans, but they do have a few portraits of genderqueer Japanese Americans. You can find them by looking through the gallery of participants.

Growing up during the 80s, at some point I learned to be afraid of men who wear women's clothing (I should note that people who cross-dress and perform in drag are not necessarily transgender). I have no idea when this notion was introduced to me, but it took root and festered. I'm still unlearning many years of prejudice, so I don't feel qualified to write a treatise on what it means to be transgender, but I wanted to highlight a topic that's rarely discussed in the Japanese American community. 

Something that's been incredibly helpful in changing my understanding of what it means to be transgender and genderqueer is the increasing number of articles profiling families with young children struggling with gender identity. Boston's Children's Hospital has a Gender Management Service Clinic (GeMS), "one of the few of its kind in the world." I never knew that this was something that most transgender people know and try to express from a very young age. Most of the articles feature only white families, so I was surprised to find that this New York Times Magazine piece, "What's So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?" features an interview with Moriko, the mother of a boy struggling with his gender identity, who I assume is Japanese.

For further reading, I recommend the following resources. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tewassa Update

I just noticed that I never actually posted this back in late September. Oops. This quilt is going to the Ivy Baby Home nursery in Yamagata.


Capping off my weekend full of Japanese stuff, I went to Tewassa, where we had our first felting class so people could make ornaments to attach to our Christmas quilt.

I couldn't participate since wool makes me itchy, so I worked on the quilt by myself. I forgot to take a picture of the quilt. This picture is from August.

Everyone always comments on how kawaii the bears are.

Maple sometimes attends our meetings...
...and sleeps when we don't pay attention to her.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Margie Yamamoto: Justice Denied: A Personal Perspective in Concord & Acton

If you don't know about the Japanese American incarceration during WWII, you may find my introductory post helpful.

I meant to post about this sooner, but completely forgot! Margie Yamamoto, co-president of the New England chapter of the JACL, will be speaking about her family's incarceration experience twice this month.

Tomorrow, 11/15/12, she'll be speaking for the United Women's Club of Concord at the West Concord Union Church at 1317 Main Street at 1pm.

Later this month on 11/30/12, she'll be speaking at the Acton Council on Aging Senior Center at 50 Audubon Drive.

Justice Denied: A Personal Perspective 
Friday, November 30th, 10:30-11:15
This richly illustrated talk by Margaret Yamamoto tells the story of the Japanese internment during World War II as seen through the eyes of a Japanese-American family. It follows their passage from immigration in the 1890s through imprisonment during the war years and documents how they rebuilt their lives. Beyond describing the internment experiences of a single family, the talk focuses on the plight of the 120,000 Japanese - two-thirds of them American citizens - who were imprisoned by a Presidential order deemed by many to be in violation of the US Constitution. Margaret Yamamoto, a Lincoln resident, is a member of the family featured and was incarcerated at two months of age. She is co-president of the New England Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and is retired after 40+ years in communications and public relations, mostly recently at WGBH.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tewassa Christmas Charity Concert

I will continue to update the raffle information. 
Last updated: 12/12/12

Local Japanese violinist, Momoko Matsumura, is generously organizing a Christmas concert to benefit Tewassa, the Japanese quilting group I'm involved with. Momoko-san played in the Play For Japan concert series that raised money for the Japanese Red Cross Society to support victims of the 3/11/11 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The concert is also being supported by the Japanese Women's Club of Boston (JWCB), where Tewassa started. There will also be a bake sale and raffle. A Christmas quilt that will be delivered to a nursery in Yamagata next month will be on display.

Date: Saturday, December 15, 2012
Time: Doors open 2:00PM, Concert 2:30PM - 4:00PM
Location: First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, 630 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, MA 02476
Tickets: $12 includes one concert ticket and one raffle ticket. $20 includes one concert ticket and 6 raffle tickets. $2 each for additional raffle tickets. Kids under 12 are free. Tickets will be available at the door. Cash only.

Parking: Parking in Arlington municipal lots is free on Saturdays until 12/22/12.

MBTA: Multiple bus lines stop near the church. Please check the MBTA Trip Planner or Google Maps for directions.


The concert will be kid-friendly. The first half of the program will be classical music, including music from the Nutcracker. Then we'll show a video of Tewassa's work and give out raffle prizes. The second half will be Christmas music with a surprise visit from Santa at the end.


$1,320 worth of prizes!
  • 314 Studio: Two necklaces - $40 & $45 value (Chihiro Makio) 
  • Amnet: Ten $30 discount vouchers for JAL airfare (Tomoko Leman, travel agent) 
  • Café Mami: $30 gift certificate (Carlos Garcia) 
  • Ebi Sushi: One Sashimi Set - $15 value (José & Alfonso Garcia) 
  • The Genki Spark: Two spots in a taiko class - $60 value (Karen Young) 
  • GrayMist Studio & Shop: Gift items - $100 value (Etsuko Yashiro & Ken Kimura) 
  • Hair Stylist Kayoko: Two gift certificates for hair cut, shampoo, and blow dry - $70 value (Kayoko Matsumoto) 
  • hanaya floral: Dried flower arrangement - $50 value (Hiroko Takeshita) 
  • Miso Market: Japanese snacks - $24 value (Fumi & Steve Genova) 
  • NOCA GlassSchool: Hand-blown vase - $40 value (Jesse Rasid) 
  • Snappy Sushi: $20 gift certificate (Kazu Aotani) 
  • Studio Aika: Reversible Japanese apron/skirt - $120 value (Miho Takeuchi) 
  • Tomoko Photo: One portrait photography sitting - $190 value (Tomoko Leman) 
  • Tokai: Tokoname style teapot - $68 value (Hideyo Kanai) 
  • Yakitori Zai: $50 gift certificate (Kazu Aotani) 
  • Yume Wo Katare (no website): Ramen for 2 - up to $28 value (Tsuyoshi & Naomi Nishioka) 
Thank you to all the owners!


Update 11/11/13: Ittoku is finally open! See First Look: Ittoku!

I'm finally able to announce the name and location of the restaurant I mentioned in this post back in September! Ittoku, a joint venture between Carlos Garcia of Café Mami, 2 people Manabu Ito and Taiji Miheo of Sapporo Ramen, and Chiki-san, a sushi chef at Ebi Sushi, hopes to open early next year at 1414 Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton. This location is currently home to Petit Robert Bistro. They were on the schedule for the Boston Licensing Board tonight to transfer the alcohol license from Petit Robert to them.

I'm told that they will be serving the same ramen as Sapporo.

Mazie Hirono and Mark Takano make history

Japanese Americans Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Mark Takano (D-California) made history in yesterday's elections.

Hirono is making history on multiple fronts:
  • Hawaii's first female senator.
  • First Japanese American female senator.
  • First Asian American female senator.
  • First person born in Japan (or anywhere in Asia) to be elected to the Senate.  She is also the first foreign-born Asian woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.
  • First Buddhist senator. She is also one of two Buddhists who were the first to be elected to the House of Representatives.

Takano is making history as the first openly LGBT Japanese American, Asian American, and person of color to win a Congressional seat. He was one of eight LGBT candidates running for Congress this year. Of the 8, 6 have won and 1 is too close to call 7 won. Two other LGBT candidates also made history: Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), as the first openly gay person to be elected to the Senate, and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), as the first openly bisexual member of Congress. Takano was recently featured in The Huffington Post's list of The Most Influential LGBT Asian Icons at #38.

Hirono and Takano join four other Japanese Americans in Congress. Omedetō gozaimasu!

List of Japanese American Senators and Representatives:
Update 12/18/12: Sen. Dan Inouye passed away yesterday. Gov. Neil Abercrombie will appoint a successor who will serve until 2014, at which time they'll have an election for someone to fill the remainder of Sen. Inouye's term (until 2016). Sen. Inouye wanted Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to succeed him.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Voted!

Just because it's my responsibility to vote, doesn't mean I can't reward myself. :)

Celebratory cupcake from Lyndell's

No excuse not to vote

If Japanese American internee and WWII vet, Frank Tanabe, can vote on his deathbed, you can vote too. Japanese Americans were only granted the right to vote in 1952 - just 60 years ago.

Asian American and Pacific Islander voter turnout has historically been very low and our vote is often overlooked. As non-whites, we face additional obstacles to voting such as our names not being listed correctly on voter rolls, language barriers, racism, and improper requests for identification. As American citizens, it's our responsibility to vote.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Genki Spark / Pilgrimage to the Past: Tule Lake and the Japanese Incarceration Why it Matters Today

The Genki Spark just sent out updated info on their Tule Lake lecture next week. Looks like it's going to be a great event. I believe this is the 4th Japanese American incarceration-related event in Boston this year. I've posted about Eric Muller and Wendy Maruyama's talks, but have yet to finish my post on Konrad Aderer's film showing at the Boston Palestine Film Festival.

Dr. Sus Ito, a veteran from the 442nd, will be in attendance. 

Apologies for the formatting fail. I just copied this out of The Genki Spark email and don't have the time to figure out how to make it happy with Blogger.

Pilgrimage to the Past: Tule Lake and the Japanese Incarceration
Why this Matters Today

Tuesday, November 13, 2012, 6:00pm - 9:00pm
(doors open 5:30pm, refreshments served)

Wolffe Auditorium, Tuffs Medical Center
Boston, MA
Free and Open to the Public
On February 19, 1942, following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Executive Order 9066 was enacted which forcibly relocated 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry to camps for up to 6 years. The majority of those incarcerated were US citizens. Tule Lake was the largest of the camps and arguably the most controversial.
In July 2012, 12 members of The Genki Spark with nearly 400 others, participated in a pilgrimage to Tule Lake, CA to learn more about the history of the camp and to honor the elders affected by the decades of anti-Japanese violence, discrimination, and propaganda. We had the priviledge of being part of a supportive community attempting to face and shed light on this deeply damaging event while celebrating triumph in an attempt to heal. For many of us, this was a deeply personal journey.
"I want to go to honor my father's legacy."
  - Monique Morimoto, performing member
Come hear the powerful experiences and personal stories of our members from the pilgrimage. Also join in a discussion about the discrimination that continues in our broader communities today.

5:30   Doors Open, Networking, and Reception

6:00   Welcome and Introductions
         History of the Tule Lake Pilgrimage, Slide Show, and 
         Personal Stories

7:00   Honorary Guest/s: Dr. Sus Ito and additional members
         of our nisei/elder community 
         Question and Answer

7:45   Creative and Artistic presentation: In Honor of Our Voices

8:00   Why and How This Matters Today
         Breakout Groups on issues such as: Islamophobia, Immigration and Deportation Rights, Systematic Targeting of Youth, and Addressing Issues on a Personal Level
8:45   Closing, Wrap-Up

Location: Tufts Medical Center-Wolff Auditorium
800 Washington Street, Boston, MA

Public Transit/MBTA:
Orange line: Tufts Medical Center or Green line: Boylston
Bonnibel Drum
The Genki Spark is a multi-generational Asian women's performance troupe that leads workshops, sponsors events, and conducts performances that build community and promote creativity while advocating respect for all. Like us on Facebook
The Genki Spark is a fiscally sponsored project of ASPIRE, (Asian Sisters Participating in Reaching Excellence) a Boston based nonprofit organization serving Asian American women and girls.
Bonnibel Drum
Sponsored by
The Genki Spark
Co-sponsored by: 
The Boston Women's Fund and The Haymarket People's Fund
Hosted by: 
Tufts Medical Center
Free and Open to the Public
Useful Links:

NY Times Article
NY times

Herald and News Article
Herald and News

The Genki Spark
Facebook Album

Tule Lake
Please Contact 
Van Lee:
Join Our Mailing List

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ramen coming to Central Square?

Some of you may have heard that H Mart, the Korean grocery chain, is coming to Central Square. One of my Japanese friends told me a few days ago that he heard there will be ramen in the food court. No idea if it's true, but just thought I'd mention it. Will update if I hear more.

Boston Asian American Film Festival

The 2012 Boston Asian American Film Festival starts tonight! It runs through Sunday at several venues around town. There are two films by Japanese American filmmakers: Model Minority, directed by Lily Mariye (Saturday @ The Paramount Center) and short film, People Aren't All Bad, directed by Matthew Hashiguchi (Sunday @ The Paramount Center). Sadly, it doesn't look like either of them will be in attendance.

Earlier this month the BAAFF co-presented Enemy Alien, a really powerful documentary by Japanese American filmmaker, Konrad Aderer, at the Boston Palestine Film Festival. He did a Q&A and a few of us went for drinks with him afterwards. I've been meaning to write about it, but have been too busy writing about ramen. I was sorry the film didn't get more publicity in Boston's Asian American community - I think there were only five of us in attendance.

There are many other interesting looking films by non-Japanese Asians and a lot of the directors are planning to attend (see press release for details). Check it out!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gyu-Kaku coming to Brookline

Months ago a friend told me that a Japanese yakiniku chain was going to open in Boston but I completely forgot to look into it. Tonight my fellow volunteer at Yume Wo Katare reminded me about it. He heard that it's a franchise and the owner isn't Japanese, but that shouldn't matter. It's going into the former Ginza location. I didn't even know they'd closed.

Update 4/28/13: Gyu-Kaku had their soft opening a couple of weeks ago. I haven't made it there yet, but the report from a friend who ate their a week ago is that Gyu-Kaku in NYC is better, but it's still good. Per their website (and a phone convo I had with them), you should call for a reservation.

Night 6 @ Yume Wo Katare: Craziness in the rain

Please see my Everything you need to know about Yume Wo Katare post 
for more information.


I thought that the rain would keep people away tonight but by 5:45pm there were 55 people in line. By 6pm the line was already to the end of Dunkin Donuts. The first guy told me he got in line at 4:30pm!!! That's the earliest the line has started. Doors opened at 5:50pm and the line was closed at 9:25pm, apparently because they were running out of broth. The wait was well over 2 hours for a lot of people. By 7pm, around 40 people had gotten in and received their food, but things slowed down later on. There were some particularly slow eaters tonight. The last customers were in the door by 10:25pm but didn't get their food another 10:45pm.

The crowd tonight was very heavily MIT. Twenty people showed up from Sloan and I saw at least 2 others from MIT (they had an MIT umbrella :). The Sloan guys told me that someone had invited a few friends and then it turned into a chain mail and the next thing they knew there were 20 of them. They had to split up into several groups.


There were a lot more families with young kids than I've seen before. When one family got to the front of the line the little boy was jumping up and down yelling, "Tabetai! Tabetai! Tabetai!" (want to eat!). It was pretty funny. Earlier in the night I'd actually heard an adult in line yelling, "I'm hungry!" Someone in line asked me why there was a seat that had been empty for the hours she'd been standing in line. Just because there's an empty seat, doesn't mean that it's available. The number of people who are let in next is based on the number of each group. They usually only let 5 or 6 people in at a time, but sometimes it's only 4. They generally won't let people jump the queue by more than a few people, so if a group of 4 is followed by groups of 4, 5, 3, and 2, the group of 2 can't move ahead.

I know it's frustrating for people to see an open seat, but they've figured out a system to work for them. The main reason the line moves so slowly is that many people eat slowly, talk, text, and surf the Internet while they're eating, and sometimes continue to sit at the table after they've finished eating. If people ate quickly and left without chatting with their friends for 30 minutes, the line would move more quickly. Being Japanese, the owners are too polite to rush people out the door. It surprises me that after waiting in line for 2 hours people aren't more mindful of the people behind them. 

I asked my fellow volunteer how long it takes him to eat ramen and he said 10 minutes. Even when I hurry and don't talk, it takes me a good 15-20 minutes to eat Yume Wo Katare ramen. He said to me that girls always eat more slowly. I gather that most men in Japan can inhale a bowl of ramen in 5-10 minutes.


People continue to ask me when the best day/time is to come and I still don't have a good answer. I thought the rain would deter people but it seems not. It was surprisingly warm tonight so maybe if it's cold and rainy on a weeknight, maybe that would deter people, but on the other hand, that's perfect ramen weather. You really need to be in the first 6-12, although if the line starts at 4:30pm, then you're still going to be waiting a long time for your ramen. It seems that you ought to get in arrive by 9pm to ensure the line hasn't closed.


This is what the guys eat at the end of a long night.
10:45pm Bowl #5!


I really am beginning to think that getting through a bowl of Yume Wo Katare ramen is a process of building up endurance. I did better tonight than I did on Wednesday night and left less broth behind.

Gochisousama deshita!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Original Yume Wo Katare

Please see my Everything you need to know about Yume Wo Katare post 
for more information.

Just came across a Japanese post with lots of pictures from 夢 を 語れ (Yumewokatare), the original shop in Kyoto that the Nishiokas opened in 2006. The ramen looks exactly the same. In Japan they have nifty vending machines where you buy your ramen tickets/tokens.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Night 5 @ Yume Wo Katare: Less crazy

for more information.

I wasn't at the restaurant tonight but I saw the line as I was driving home, so stopped by to see how things were going. The line was about 15 people at 9:15pm, although it could always jump towards 10pm. The folks doing crowd control outside told me that it was less busy tonight. Ran into a couple of friends who were eating at the counter!

Night 4 @ Yume Wo Katare: Still crazy

for more information.


Rar. Found out last night when I got home after over 7 hours at Yume Wo Katare that there was a hater on Yelp who'd said I was an employee and that my review was fake. I actually like their ramen. If I hadn't, I probably would have just posted some pictures and no review. People have assumed that I'm an employee, but I'm just one of several friends volunteering to help them out. I don't think the Nishiokas had any idea how high the demand for their ramen would be. They already have fans and there were many repeat customers last night. The lines have been insane every night and I get the feeling it's not going to die down any time soon, especially as word gets out and people keep coming back. Which is great, because although this is the 7th ramen shop they've opened, it's the only one they currently own, so it's like starting from scratch. It was certainly a gamble to come to the US and open a shop with a style of ramen (Jiro) that is love it or hate it.  They are looking to hire staff but although they've had some inquiries, nothing has panned out yet.

So, I'm working for free ramen and an all access backstage pass to the workings of an authentic Japanese ramen shop which I then write about here for the public. I try to stay out of the way when I'm taking pictures and not ask too many questions, just watch, listen, and learn as I go. I won't help out forever, but they need the help and it's fun for me.

I had half a spinach knish from Kupel's and some Raspberry Noosa Yoghurt (first time and it was delicious) before heading out to Yume Wo Katare. Early in the evening it wasn't too bad opening the door but as the hours went by I got hungrier and hungrier. About halfway through the night I had some delicious apple cake baked by a friend of the Nishiokas. I was good for a little while, but late in the evening standing inside the restaurant was torture. My fellow volunteer and I couldn't wait until it was time to eat. When the line dropped after 9pm we got very excited, but by 10pm the line had jumped to 27. We closed the line at 10:05pm. The last customers didn't get their food until 11:25pm.

By 5:45 the line was past the edge of the window.

I took some notes but managed to lose them over the course of the evening, so I'll write what I can remember. Last night the line started at 5:15pm. You really want to be in the first 6 or 12 to get in with the first group. By the time they're open the wait seems to be well over an hour. We actually opened at about 5:50pm. The first (repeat) customer was out the door by 6:15pm and I think we started seating the next 12 by 6:30pm. We got 30 people in the door and eating by 7pm, but things slow down substantially as the night goes on because some people eat slowly. You can't judge the wait by how many people are in line because many people are waiting for friends.

The line at 5:59pm after the first 6 people were let in.

I forgot to ask what the count was at the end of the night but I'm pretty sure it was over 100. Saturday and Tuesday were about the same at 110. I noticed it's going to rain this weekend. I'm wondering if that will keep the crowds away.

My fellow volunteer is ready to stuff ramen into his mouth.

11:25pm At last! Bowl #4.

Mine is not as tall as the others.

I was right that you need to be starving to finish. This was the first time I managed to eat all my food and some of the broth. I also learned from reading other sites about Jiro-kei ramen that the way to do it is to eat quickly, eat the noodles first and the rest later. There's no shame in not finishing the broth, although damn impressive if you can.

Gochisousama deshita!

Tsuyoshi-san finished his ramen in 5 minutes flat and went right back to work. I think it took me about 15-20 minutes.

Update 9:40pm: Stopped by Yume Wo Katare and found out last night was almost 130 people, so close to Friday night's crowd. People have asked me when is the best night/time to go and it's really hard to know. I'd guess that when the weather is bad people will be less motivated to stand in line, but so far the cold hasn't deterred too many people. From what I've seen you really need to be first or last in line to have the shortest wait.