Kiritanpo Nabe 

Winter has already arrived in Kitakami, which means it's time to start making nabe. Nabe is the Japanese word for cooking pot; the term is also applied to various one-pot dishes like soups, stews, or sukiyaki. One of our favorite nabe comes from Akita Prefecture: kiritanpo nabe.

Kiritanpo is made by mashing cooked rice into a paste, then shaping the paste around a stick and grilling it. Because they get soft rather quickly, they're added to the nabe toward the end of cooking.

Chicken thigh, shirataki (noodles made of devil's tongue jelly), maitake mushrooms, carrots, and seri (Japanese parsley) rounded out the nabe. It was the perfect dish for a frigid, rainy night. กก

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All in the Details 

When you get damaged or misdirected mail in America, it usually arrives with some sort of brief explanation. Often, the explanation is an impersonal form with one of multiple preprinted reasons checked off (or the ever-popular "Other," with a terse, often illegible explanation). It might also say "We apologize for any inconvenience," or something like that. It's all very cold and official.

Not so in Japan:

This came on a piece of mail we'd been expecting to arrive from America last month. It says, essentially: "This mail was sent from America to Jamaica, then arrived in Japan on November 13. The honorable customer's important mail was delivered late, and for that, we offer our deepest apologies."

Interestingly, it seems that mail from America bound for Japan gets sent to Jamaica often enough to warrant preprinted labels with spaces to write in the date.
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Autumn Crow 

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Doctor Doctor 

Unlike last year, I haven't been getting sick on a monthly basis. Unfortunately, I have gotten sick enough to require my first visit to a doctor in Japan. As one does, I went to the doctor that came recommended by a student. This doctor had the added benefit of having the most entertaining office sign in Kitakami:

Unless you're presenting with a dire emergency, the medical intake process in Japan is very DIY. The nurse handed me a digital thermometer along with the patient information sheet so that I could take and record my temperature. Once that was done, she pointed me to the self-service automatic blood pressure cuff. Much like the photo booth at the drivers' license center, the machine exhorted me to relax before pressing the button to activate it.

Communicating with the doctor was not as hard as I feared it would be, save for a misunderstanding about why needles were going to be involved. After doing a blood test and determining that I did not have pneumonia, the doctor sent me off with a prescription and a directive to fill it at the pharmacy across the street. Which I did, and encountered one of the more curious things about Japanese medicine: powdered medicine. I also got a couple of different kinds of medication in addition to the powder (although not as many as the six pills plus powder Matthew got for his recent illness). They weren't difficult to take and they worked, but given the side effects (anyone who's ever taken corticosteroids would understand), I think I might just skip the doctor in the future.
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Autumn in Miniature 

Fall colors aren't just on the big trees in the mountains — they're also on the bonsai that some people keep outside their homes.

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Old-School Housing 

Compared to other cities in Japan, Kitakami is relatively young. Consequently, there aren't many examples of traditional Japanese architecture around. This house is one of the few.

We're not sure whether this is actually an old house or a newer one built in the traditional style.
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We attended an event for the local Okinawan joint on Saturday evening. As we were leaving, the owner's sister gave us a dragonfruit that she had grown and brought from Okinawa.

Dragonfruit tastes rather like kiwi, but less tart. They're as pretty on the inside as they are outside. Some are all pink with black seeds; others, like ours, have a thin layer of pink between the skin and white pulp with black seeds

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Another Dewy Web 

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Jeweled Web 

On a misty autumn morning, spider webs are bejeweled with dew. There are many spiders that build large webs here, so the effect is quite spectacular.

The large, colorful spider makes a nice backdrop for the web; equally, the web makes a striking backdrop for the spider.

Even the spider's legs glitter with dewdrops.

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Fall in the City 

Looking out over the Kitakami Poem Park on a beautiful October day.

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