Friday, November 29, 2013

Film: X Years Later (Hoshasen wo abita X nen go)

Next week Tewassa & JREX will be screening X Years Later (〜放射線を浴びた〜X年後). We'll be showing the film with English subtitles although I apologize that the only trailer I could find doesn't have subtitles. You can read about it in English at the Hawaiian International Film Festival site where it was screened earlier this year and in this The Japan Times piece: Director sheds light on Bikini Atoll. The film will be followed by a moderated panel discussion. Director Hideaki Ito will also be attending.

Date & Time: Friday, December 6, 2013
6:00PM - Doors open
6:30PM - Film starts
8:00 - 9:00PM - Panel discussion (Update 12/1/13: I just noticed that JREX says the panel discussion will be only in Japanese.)

Tickets: $5 and must be purchased online with PayPal. See instructions below if you can't read Japanese. 

X Years Later

(website in Japanese)
Directed by Hideaki Ito
2012 | 83 mins | Documentary 
In the aftermath of WW2 the Bikini Atoll was used by the United States as a testing ground for Nuclear and Thermonuclear technology until 1957. In 1954 the largest test - the detonation of a Hydrogen bomb in Operation Castle Bravo - resulted in a significant amount of fallout that impacted inhabited areas. Among the exposed in the incident was the Japanese fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru with a crew of 23, who at the time was outside of the "danger zone" declared by the US Government. While history has documented the plight of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru, the reality is many other boats also outside the "danger zone" were similarly exposed. Now 59 years later, a documentary crew in Japan revisits the incident and interviews surviving fishermen, including some from other Japanese boats in the area, to bring to light an ordeal whose full impact has been kept in the dark by both the US and Japan governments. (via HIFF)


  • Hiro Saito, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Harvard U.S.-Japan Relations Program postdoctoral fellow
  • Takuya Tsujiuchi, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor at Waseda University, Research Fellow at Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT)
  • Tetsuro Araki, M.D., Research Fellow, Department of Radiology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Purchasing Instructions

JREX's event page for the screening is only in Japanese. (Update 11/30/13: Oops. It seems that since I drafted this, someone updated the event page with English.)

Step 1: Fill out the form on this page.

Step 2: Click "Online Payment" to the right of the form. The only option is a $5.00 USD option.  Click "Add to cart" which will take you to PayPal where you can adjust the number of tickets and then check out.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Nihongo Toshokan - The Library at the Japanese Language School of Greater Boston

Last Saturday I set foot in a Japanese Saturday school for the first time in 25 years. The Japanese Language School of Greater Boston has been at Medford High School since 1975. A while ago I'd read on their website that the library is open to the public but not being able to read Japanese anymore, I didn't see any reason to go. Recently I got to wondering if they might have origami books so a friend and I decided to check it out. I found a shelf of books that appeared to be the home & cooking section - it had mostly cookbooks and one beading book, but I didn't find any origami books and I was too shy to ask anyone.

The library was much larger than we were expecting. There were thousands of books. It fills a former lecture hall that my friend tells me is the sort of room usually used for detention for Medford HS students. At 10:30am the library was packed full of parent volunteer librarians and parents who were reading and checking books out. Students were in class. I didn't get too many pictures since I didn't want to take photos of anyone without permission. The one above gives you the best sense of scale - there are more books to the right and the left and behind me. In addition to textbooks and children's books, they had an extensive selection of adult fiction. There's also plenty of manga and even some books in English (these seemed to be mostly books about Japan). They also have magazines and CDs.

There are several carts of books in the front of the room that are for sale. They receive a lot of donations (we saw many boxes full of books) and they sell the ones they don't want to add to their collection. They also hold an annual book fair in late October.

It was very surreal to be at a Saturday school again, but at least I didn't break out in hives. Japanese school was unfortunately not a good experience for me and after dropping out after 6th grade, I never thought I'd voluntarily set foot in a Saturday school ever again. Still, there was something nostalgic about being there. 

The library is only open during the Japanese school year from 8:45am to 11:30am so check their calendar before going. You'll need to enter the school through the main entrance at the front of the building. There will be a map in English & Japanese in the center of lobby. The library is located in the rear of the school.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

H Mart Update: 2014

Update 5/6/14: H Mart Cambridge is finally open! & H Mart Japanese groceries

Future home of H Mart Central Square

Folks hoping to eat ramen (and other Japanese food) in Central Square next month will have to wait a little longer. Although news outlets reported during the summer that they would open in November or December, a source told me that H Mart tenants received email a few weeks ago saying they would be allowed to move into their stalls in January. However, as you can see from these photos I took today, they're nowhere near ready to open. H Mart has been plagued with delays, so I'll be very surprised if they hit that date (I think they were first hoping to open in the fall of 2012). I suppose it's possible they could complete construction by next month or January but then they still have to pass their inspections which can be a lengthy process. The entire facility - the grocery store and the food concessions - have to pass before they can open. I'm thinking spring 2014...

Grocery store area

Food concession area

See also: Ittoku Update / Sapporo Ramen coming to Central Square @ H Mart

Monday, November 11, 2013

First Look: Ittoku!

Ittoku!, which I believe is Boston's first traditional izakaya, quietly opened last Wednesday for a soft opening. They were open until Saturday then closed yesterday to prepare for their grand opening tonight. From here on they should be open daily. Ittoku is a joint venture between Kentaro Suzuki (known to all by his nickname Chiki-san), a former sushi chef at Ebi Sushi, Carlos Garcia, owner of Café Mami and Ittyo, and Manabu Ito and Taiji Mineo, co-owners of Sapporo Ramen.

I made it there today for the first time to take some pictures and eat! I just wanted to get some details up since people have been asking me for a long time when Ittoku would open. I'll write about the food in more detail after I have a chance to go a few times. Check out more photos in the Ittoku! gallery. There are currently some not great photos of the menu (it was difficult to photograph because of the glare), but I should have jpegs in a few days. Update 11/14/13: Menu is here.

For now they'll be open seven days a week from 5pm to 11pm (that's when the kitchen closes). The bar may stay open until midnight some days (possibly only weekends). They're still trying to decide. They hope to open for lunch next year.

There is a large main dining area which includes the sushi bar where there are only 4 seats. Another area has a 4-seat yakitori bar and some additional tables. The bar is in a separate room and seats 6 at the counter and a few more at tables. There are 2 TVs in the bar. The restaurant's official capacity is 98 but Chiki-san said they currently have just over 80 seats. I also saw a couple of high chairs.

Update 11/12/13: Chiki-san has informed me that they have valet parking for $1! If you want to self-park, read on.

When I first told a friend about Ittoku's location, he told me that the parking situation there was terrible. I was really concerned about parking but I went over there twice today and didn't have any trouble, although the first time was at lunchtime and the second time was around 4:30pm. One of my friends arrived around 5:30pm and also report no trouble parking on Warren St.

Ittoku is located at 1414 Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton near the intersection of Comm Ave. and Warren/Kelton St. (the street has different names on either side of Comm Ave.).  There's actually a surprising amount of free parking near the intersection. Some of it is 2 hours Monday through Friday from 8am to 6pm which means it's unlimited in the evening and on weekends. Some of the free parking has no restrictions.

  • Your best bet for parking is likely to be on Warren St. if you're heading towards Comm Ave. (the other side is resident only). After you pass the Brighton Marine Health Center you'll want to look for parking between there and the corner. 
  • There are a few spaces on Kelton St. heading away from Comm Ave.
  • There are a few spaces on the Comm Ave. access road between the corner of the intersection and the restaurant. 
  • There is free unrestricted parking on the other side of Comm Ave. from Ittoku on the access road, but when I drove by in the afternoon it was full. I failed to notice what it was like in the evening. You have to drive down to Allston St. to enter. 
  • There are also a few spaces on Comm Ave. in front of Subwa/Cozmo Market/Harry's Bar & Grill but you have to drive up to Summit Ave. to enter. 

If you fail to find parking in any of these spots, keep driving. There is some unrestricted free parking in front Brookline Liquor Mart just before Scottfield Rd. Metered parking begins at the Joshua Tree after you pass Redford St. and continues past the intersection of Comm Ave. and Harvard Ave., although at that point you'll be walking pretty far. Meters are in effect from Monday through Saturday 8am - 6pm. Please note that on Sundays and holidays, resident parking is not enforced & meters are free.

The closest T stop is Warren Street Station on the Green B Line.

Bacon & Enoki - $3.50

I had previously written that Sho Inoue, former yakitori chef at Yakitori Zai, had accepted a job at Ittoku. Unfortunately, Inoue-san's plans changed and he returned to Japan, so there's another Japanese chef (and a Latino chef) manning the grills. My bacon & enoki was delicious and I also got to try a friend's order of chicken meatballs (tasty teriyaki sauce) and another friend's order of chicken gizzards (apparently I'm not a fan). They have a traditional Japanese grill which they seem to be using mainly for the meats and a back up gas grill on which I saw veggies and yaki onigiri.

Gyukotsu Ramen minus scallions & garlic - $8

I forgot to mention that Ittoku's single ramen offering, Gyukotsu Ramen, is exclusive to their menu (it's not served at Sapporo) and they are serving it this week. I wanted to try the ramen tonight but I got distracted by the Kaisen Don. I saw some other customers get ramen and they looked like smaller portions, which makes sense, given that this is an izakaya. I just wanted to mention it since some people may be expecting Pikaichi or Sapporo-sized bowls.

Kaisen Don - $12

My Meal
I ordered the Kaisen Don (a medium size chirashi ) which was very good - the scallops were outstanding (Update 11/12/13: Chiki-san told me today that scallops will not usually be part of the Kaisen Don. More on this in a later post), one skewer of Bacon & Enoki which was fatty and delicious, and a couple of pieces of tamagoyaki on the house, which is one of my favorite foods. The tamagoyaki is probably the best I've had in Boston. In addition to the yakitori mentioned above, I also got a piece of Anago Oshizushi (delicious) and some Kinoko Butter Itame (mushrooms fried in butter) which was awesome and very, very buttery. Usually this sort of dish is best eaten with beer or sake. My friends seemed happy with their food and we were already discussing what we want to try next time!

Opening Pains
Like any new restaurant, Ittoku still has some stuff to sort out. Their menu is extensive but I heard that some items aren't available yet. They have several dessert options but this week only ice cream is available. My friends and I are eagerly awaiting the Waffles à la mode - Belgian waffles, flan (Japanese purin), and ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce.

They forgot to order low sodium soy sauce so that won't be in until next week. I also suggested gluten-free soy sauce so hopefully they'll have that as well.

The servers did a great job of keeping green tea and water topped off, but when it came time to pay, we had trouble getting their attention to get our bills and then to have them picked up again. They seem fully staffed, but at times the servers seemed confused about where they should be and what they should be doing or who should be doing what. I'm sure that will all get ironed out in the next month as they learn to work together as a team.

By the time I left at 7pm, the restaurant was almost full, although the bar had only a few patrons. Chances are you'll need reservations on weekends and most certainly for large parties, which they can easily accommodate in the main dining room.

I have a long list of stuff I want to try so I can't wait to go back!

I just noticed that Yelp has their name wrong (probably due to their Facebook page name) - they are doing business as Ittoku and style the business name as ITTOKU! Google Maps inexplicably places them in Weston, though I reported it, so hopefully that will get fixed soon. Here is the right info.

1414 Commonwealth Avenue (the bar is at 1418 Comm Ave. - Update 12/10/13: Last time I went they were using 1418 as the main entrance, probably to keep the cold air out of the main dining room.)
Brighton/Boston, MA 02135
Tel: (617) 396-8420

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ittoku! is open!

Update 11/11/13: First Look: Ittoku!

It seems that I failed to see an email from Chiki-san (Kentaro Suzuki), co-owner of Ittoku!, letting me know that they had their soft opening on Saturday last Wednesday then closed on Sunday to prepare for a grand opening tomorrow. Unfortunately, I don't have their hours, but I'll post them when I do. Update 11/11/13: For now they'll be open seven days a week from 5pm to 11pm (that's when the kitchen closes). The bar may stay open until midnight some days (possibly only weekends). They're still trying to decide. They hope to open for lunch next year.

I did get to look over the menu last month. The offerings are extensive and include:

  • izakaya-style dishes (starting at $2.50), many that I've not seen on other Japanese restaurant menus
  • yakitori, including bacon-wrapped options - I'm looking forward to trying the bacon & enoki ($1.50 - $14.50)
  • sushi (including oshizushi) & sashimi
  • and assorted comfort food like okonomiyaki, yaki onigiri (grilled onigiri), omusoba, and three types of ochazuke

Ramen lovers will be sad to hear they reduced their ramen offering to just one - Gyukotsu Ramen, a beef broth ramen for $8 (I had seen three options on a previous version of the menu).

Prices look very reasonable and I'm looking forward to eating my way through the menu!

Ittoku! is located at 1414 Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton.