An Average Sunday, Plus Powerful & Sexy Women

In which I briefly mention American white trash during a tangent about a fashionable hat, but mostly talk about a day spent shopping, visiting friends, cooking, and packing.

Today we spent some time with Lia’s friend Yoko. We did a little shopping, ordered a couple of inkans—Japanese name stamps—and had lunch with Yoko’s parents. Later, I cooked up a storm, and we had a fabulous supper.

And then we packed. On Friday we sent a 26-kilo box of papers and Jarrod’s old school workbooks to Canada, and a 22-kilo box of books and clothes to England. Tonight we packed another two boxes of stuff to send back to Canada.

Though all of this has absolutely nothing to do with today’s photo, which I picked at random from my list of photos to blog about. I’ll just arbitrarily put the picture here, so you have something to interrupt the interminable text.

Sporty & Femine meshback cap

It’s a meshback cap that I photographed in the basement fashion area of Canal City Hakata sometime last year. The text reads

The powerful &
sexy women are back!!

A nice sentiment, though I’m not sure whether the author meant feminine or feline. And a bit incongruous given my understanding of the word “meshback,” which I first heard in one of William Gibson’s novels. Here’s the definition from

In Missouri, a meshback is the kind of inbred, white-trash, inbred loser who wears a cheap adjustable baseball cap whose back half is made of nylon mesh. The hats tend to advertise trucking companies, fast food restaurants, or agricultural enterprises.

With the cognitive dissonance out of the way, let’s return to the record of today’s events. We went to one of Kitakyushu’s main department stores, an establishment in Kokura called Izutsuya. It occupies a a pair of approximately 9-storey buildings across the Murasaki River from the Riverwalk mall. We walked in on the ground floor, had passed some of the make-up counters and were just making our way through the hat section when the music started. And it wasn’t just any music. It was the opening blast of the Mission Impossible theme. Lia and I just looked at each other and started laughing because it was so strangely appropriate. Why was it appropriate? That’s probably an entire post of its own—one that Lia could do better than I can—but suffice to say that shopping in Japan is impossible on a number of different levels. Milliways impossible. I didn’t pay much attention to the music after that but later Lia remarked that they played various arrangements of the same song for our entire time in the store. Someone in management must have bought a remix album or something.

We went to the basement level to pick up some boxed lunches, but I escaped from our little group long enough to browse the herb section. It didn’t take long, given the fact that they only had two kinds. Basil and spearmint. Some of you may recall my rants about trying to find fresh, reasonably priced herbs here. Well, I was in luck. The packet of basil—maybe 15 leaves in all, plus the attached stems—was only 210 yen. I bought it and caught up with Lia, Jarrod, and Yoko.

I won’t bother describing the lunch-buying process, or the minibus that took us back to the parking lot. Or the parking machine or lunch with Yoko’s parents and other assorted relatives. Nor will I describe our attempts to see—despite thick fog—the new Kitakyushu airport, which is being constructed on an island they built off the coast of Kokura Minami Ward and which will open next spring.

But I will describe supper. I made multi-coloured rotini with two different sauces. The first was a cold sauce made of chopped fresh tomatoes, the basil, cut fine, and some finely chopped black olives. And assorted seasonings. Sauce number two was pine nuts—roasted, chopped, and then ground into a paste—with olive oil, lemon zest and juice, and copious amounts of freshly grated parmesan. I served the two pastas with steamed asparagus spears and fried chicken. Well, not really fried chicken. It was skinless boneless chicken breast, sliced into paper-thin strips then marinated in balsamic vinegar, oregano, black pepper, and white wine, and stir-fried on high heat in my giant wok. The pastas were garnished with more grated parmesan and some whole roasted pine nuts.

The most entertaining part of the meal was Lia and Jarrod guessing the nature of the little green strips of vegetation in the tomato sauce. Lia insisted that they must be tiny shreds of lettuce, to trick her into thinking that they were basil. She said that the fact that we’re in Japan overrode her first guess that they were fresh basil. Plus she couldn’t figure out when I’d have had time to buy the stuff. I guess she hadn’t noticed me wandering off in Izutsuya. It looked like basil. It tasted like basil. But it couldn’t be basil. This is Japan, after all. They were both genuinely and completely baffled.

The only other thing of note in our day was that at Izutsuya we finally saw a square watermelon. Due to tight security—well, a stockboy setting up a display of apples—I didn’t even attempt to take a picture of it, but I’m hoping to have another chance.

If you feel like reading—or re-reading as the case may be—my rants about herb withdrawal, these are the two posts you want: Cheap Like Borscht from 12 April 2005, and Culinary Herbs: Too Rare or Too Dear from 17 June 2005.