Ethiopian Dreams Satisfied, Gastronomic at Least

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Ethiopian Feat with Stews and Injera

My love affair with Ethiopian cuisine started back in my days as a university student in Tampa, Florida.  I was a vegetarian at the time and a friend recommended that I try an Ethipian place called Ibex.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect there and was overjoyed to know that mt taste buds were blown away.  The whole experience of touching my food, to sharing the plate with the table, and the amazing spices seared itself into my memory.  I have never forgotten those days of scooping up some of the delicious stews with the injera bread.  A soft pancake like bread made of the smallest yet mighty super grain teff.

My taste buds and I continued to partake in the Ethiopian food when we moved out to the west coast and settled in the bay area.

Between North Oakland and Berkeley there must have been a dozen Ethiopian restaurants along Shattuck Avenue.  And no joke we tried them all, but we settled on a tiny one that usually had no customers, and awful service, but the food was stratospheric in quality.  Then we fast forward to two weeks ago.

Something happened while we gathered for my brothers wedding in Huntsville, Alabama, I met one of the bridesmaids who was Ethiopian.  After we had finished having a huge feast of Chinese food we were talking about how I have attempted to make Ethiopian food, but haven’t really been successful at it yet.  Our conversation, even though I was stuffed, made me crave Ethiopian food like I never had before.   Actually, we both started to crave the food.

This craving continued once I got back on a plane and back to Japan.  Spongy sour injera bread bounced around in my head, but since it was Passover I knew that I had to wait to be able to indulge in the fermented injera bread.  It was one of those cravings that eventually had to be satisfied.

So once Passover finished, the wife and I headed over to Queen Sheeba in Naka Meguro.  The rain kept on coming down on our way over to the restaurant, and compared to the beautiful spring weather the day before it was chilly.

As soon as we entered those Ethiopian aromas filled our hearts.  I ordered a glass of tej.  A honey mead wine that is seasoned with a hard to find Ethiopian spice called  Gesho.  The cloudy elixir was sweet and silky on my tongue.  I had a feeling that the tej was homemade and the friendly waitress confirmed that they make the tej themselves.

The first course was skewered goat roasted over charcoals.  The cubes of meat were succulent and sweetly fragrant.  This was then followed by the main course served up family style on a large round plate with dabs of the stew beautifully arranged.

The foods spices went straight to my head and my heart filled with joy.  To tear off a piece of injera bread with spicy red lentils, and stewed spinach.

My soul was as satisfied as my stomach with my fill of spicy lentil in this home style cooking.  I thank Rahel so much for getting me thinking, if not obsessing, about the wonderful cuisine of Ethiopia.

My new challenge is to try to cook up some of these dishes for myself.  I love being able to cook that which I cannot eat so easily.  And, if I can’t I know at  least I will always be welcomes at Queen Sheeba.

Coal Fired Roasted Goat

The Fallen Prophet

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Fallen Prophet

At one time all looked up with the blue skies behind him.  They all came to admire his strength and eloquence.  The way he could peer into the soul of a crowd.  The way in which he would happily sway in the springtime breeze.  Dancing in the trees while those celebrated below.  Some would come from far around to listen to him speak.  People were always moved when he revealed his heart.

It all ended too soon.  There were many more hearts that he wanted to open.  So many more inspirations that he wanted to give.

But he knew it was his time.  There would be no more moving prophecies.  He wanted to deliver so much more, but he knew that he would be departing this earth.

This is where I found him.  On a concrete wall in a small neighborhood in Tokyo.  Momentarily motionless, until a stiff breeze would pick him up and return him to where he came.

I was the only one to pause and pay homage to the prophet.  I saw the works that he accomplished in his short life.  A life to be memorialized.  The words spoken to be remembered.

All bow their heads for a moment of silence for the fallen prophet.








Cherry Blossom Self and Shadow

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Cherry Blossoms' Self

The beautiful cherry blossoms are out.  They survived the near typhoon force weather that hit Tokyo the day before I returned to Japan.

I really haven’t had the time or energy to go out and enjoy them this season, basically because I have just been in a haze of jet lagged exhaustion.  That all being said, I did get out of the house for a bit of a walk around today.

The sun was beautiful and the temperatures made me feel like it really is spring time.  The previous days all felt pretty cold to me.  Especially after spending such warm days in Miami and Huntsville.

The wind was whipping in over Tokyo Bay as this let the cherry blossoms do their dance for me.  White ones, pink ones all out their boogying to the spring time jam.  People were out enjoying some picnic lunches with friends under the canopy of blossoms.

As I wondered around a bit this afternoon I found myself remembering what it was to walk around last year at this time.  The Tohoku-Kanto tsunami and earthquake were on everyones mind as well as the ongoing nuclear disaster.  So much has happened in the course of one year.  We in Japan had to face every known disaster imaginable at one point over the last 12 months.  It was a year I would not like to repeat again.

It was at this time that my eyes truly opened to the beauty of spring.  The rebirth of all the nature that lays dormant during the cold short winter days.  The flowers were a sign of strength for the future.  A sign that we had made it this far, and that out of the disasters beauty can once again be found.

I have since found myself paying closer attention to the natural world even if they may be confined to terra-cotta pots and curbside gardens.  I make an effort to observe the moon as it goes through its phases.  Which fruits are ripe and hanging from the trees.

Even in this concrete jungle their is nature.  We should all pause to take notice among the neon glow and the endless data byte streams.  Nature is there.  All we have to do is to open our hearts and eyes to fill our hearts with joy.

Cherry Blossoms Have to Deal with Their Shadow Too

Temporary Phasing

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Some things will last forever.  Somethings change too quickly to be seen.  Some things move between one phase and an other. It is just temporary.

Water is fluid and full of motion at room temperature.  In the heat of the earth the water becomes steam.  In the dead of winter the fluidity of water becomes motionless.

Wet snowflakes fall from the sky moving from one to another.  Hitting the wet cement it quickly transforms its alternative self.

It sometimes it is all just moment between one phase and the next.

Temporary Phasing

Even the Little Ones are Trying to Keep Warm

Monday, December 19th, 2011

I know I have Miami blood.  I can get used to the cold weather here, even if that weather is never that cold, but I don’t really love the weather in the winter time.  I dress fro it.  Wrap my neck in a scarf, pull gloves over my fingers, and double up on socks.  It helps, but I still feel cold.

I spotted this little one the other day as I was walking through a quiet Chiba neighborhood.  Still amazed at how many flowers are actually in bloom, considering it is just about the end of December.  Here she was rolling its tint petals in on themselves trying to keep warm just like me.  Turning its head towards the sunshine to keep all of its petals warm, just as I love it as I ride the train and the sunlight flickers as we zoom past the concrete shapes of Tokyo.

Just being myself, trying to keep warm.  Bundle up everyone.

Folding Petals, Keeping Warm

Shedding Violet Tears

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

The lack of sleep is catching up with me.  The wandering back to the station seemed like a dream.  I was jut floating on snow the road, being pulled this way of that way by something that caught my eye.  I am not sure the path I took, but i do know that it was the right path for today because I came upon this tree that was shedding violet tears.

Those patches of colors fell from a small street side shrine in Ichikawa.  Violet teardrops on the cold cement side of the road.  There they were just lining up to catch my dream state that I was in.  I just lost myself in the violet bokeh softness as I wandered back to the station.

Shedding those violet tears again.  For a autumn that was too short?  For a winter that will be too long?  I do not know, but there are these purple drops to comfort me in my waking dream.

Shedding Violet Tears

Winter: Orange, Blood, and Pride

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

The calendar now tells me it is winter.  Only two days ago the temperature peaked at 20 degrees celsius, however, the Creator must have looked at the calendar too because the temperature dipped down to 4 degrees celsius last night.  I am up and out of my house the earliest on Friday, which is a good thing.  It is like the sooner I can get my day over with, the sooner I can sit back and be thankful for the allotted time of the Sabbath.

I have to journey out to the boonies of Chiba prefecture, which entails using a train and a local bus.  On rainy days, like today, the bus is always jammed pack.  Today it was especially packed with junior high school students.  They are certainly a noisy bunch.  I got on the bus a bit late, but luckily I could find a seat.  Usually, I am in the back of the bus, today I was in the front sitting in the section that is reserved for elderly, moms, injured and the like.  After I took my seat an elderly man and woman also got on the bus.  I got up, tapped the elderly woman on the shoulder, and offered up my seat.  She, being the polite Japanese woman didn’t want to accept the seat, saying that she was going to get off the bus soon.  Eventually after some back and forth pleading, she took the seat.  I was amazed, but not surprised that none of the kids offered up their seats to the the elderly gentleman.  They all absorbed themselves with studying, or staring into their cellphones.  Quite a lack of respect for their elders.  It was me, the gaijin (foreigner) that set the example, that was ignored by the youth.

After taking care of what I needed to do for the day in Chiba I always take a leisurely walk back to the station to unwind, and to begin my mediations on the Sabbath.  It is the time to change those gears that grind away in my mind, and let them start to ease into a mode where I am able to give thanks, and recoup my mind, body and spirit.  The wind was whipping around my scarf as I wandered down the backstreets.  My eyes taking it all in.  I am on the lookout for that next perfect square to shoot.  I am amazed at how many flowers are still in bloom.  I am not sure if it is because of the late warm weather, or it is just that I never really pains close attention to the changing seasons and the changes in the blossoms that it brings.

Since returning to Japan post the March 11th earthquake disasters, I have been much more in tune with the seasons.  I notice how the blossoms hit their peak one week, then the next begin to whiter away, or change into green fruit.  I am thoroughly enjoying watching the seasons change.  I am fascinated in catching those changes with my camera.  The images are a visual diary of the intersection of my world with the the natural world.

As I continued on I came across an elderly man and woman.  The man had fallen down on the slippery slope and the woman, from what I could gather, was trying to help him.  The mans hand had gotten beaten up and was bleeding.  The woman to had blood on her hand from trying to help the gentleman.  I took the man by the arm and helped get him to his feet.  I rummaged though by bag and found a pack of tissues I had been handed at the station sometime before.  The man just kind of stumbled off. He pretty much refused our help.  The last thing the woman said to me was he probably was drunk.

I am thankful for these vignettes in disguise as life’s lessons.  They are the 24 frames per second that make up our lives.  I am thankful to pause and ponder my place in it all.  If I had taken another way back to the station, I would have missed the man that had fallen, yet I was pulled in that direction.

We should all take the time to respect our elders.  They have been here before us.  They have stories etched into the lines on their faces.  It is just one more piece of the life puzzle that I am thankful for.

May you all enjoy a beautiful day of rest.  Enjoy the time given to regenerate the spirit.

Three Triumphant Orange Winter

Violet Vribrant Autumn Beauty

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

This little one, actually, very little one was dancing in color sound vibrations.  All around him the browns, yellows, and earthen reds abound.  This little one was just shinning.  The purple hairs on the small buds that are about to open, to the flaming violet reds that color its petals.

Living and loving the colors that never cease to surprise my soul.  In the midst of all these earthen tones, I stumble upon these colors that light up my soul.

Sit back and let the meditative vibrant colors of this little on wash over your soul.  Let them soothe your troubled spirits, and see the light at the end of that tunnel.

Violet Vribrant Autumn Beauty

Afternoon Siesta

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

The sun is high, but it only stays that way for a moment as the nights become longer and longer.  There was a beautiful afternoon on Friday.  The air has warmed, in a last few puffs of the lingering summer before those cold arctic fronts move in from Siberia.

It is time to take pause.  Take in one’s surroundings to see what is to be seen.  Just like this snail is pausing on the razor edge of a leaf.  He hopefully has gotten hi full of leafy greens before pausing to rest.  To sit still.  To let the world move on by around, but to just enjoy the simple peacefulness of being on a green cloud and just be.

I need that as much as the snail does.  We become so warped up in the day to day running that we all tend to forget what is really important.  We run our lives by a clock.  When we get up.  Go to work.  Meet our friends.  I often wonder what it must have been like 2000 years ago when you decided to meet friends and family for dinner.  “Hey Joseph, how about coming over for dinner at sunset?” I would ask my neighbor.  Or would people just expect visitors with that open tent hospitality?  Those pause are necessary in our life.  The getting together with our wives, family and friends.  To put the vulgar world behind us, and to steep ourselves in the love of the now.

Rest up my friends.  Get together with those that you love.  Raise your glasses as you toast the Creator.  Enjoy the afternoon siesta and all that it can redeem your spirits.

Afternoon Wander, Snail

Eclectic Electric Afternoon Blue

Two Sides of the Same Bush

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

The weather peaked at a high of nearly 25 (77) today.  It actually felt a lot hotter than that.  We are back to having that schizo weather that afflicts Japan in its transitional seasons.  The light from the autumn sun was beautiful and hitting at just the right angle as I was making my way back from the station to my home.  The walk back always gives me some time to reflect on my day.  The walk also gives me a challenge by training my eye to seek out something that I had not seen before.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that I haven’t seen today’s focus on a urban bush before, but it is more in the way that all of the photographic elements of light, composition, color and subject all align themselves and move my spirit to photograph the scene.

The combination of these elements have to speak to me as a human being first and then I must be able to communicate what moved me to those that view the images created.  Today was about how the light were hitting these tiny fruit on urban bushes.  These were plain bushes that had been planted as a hedge to hide some of the industrialness of Kasai Rinkai Station.  But here they were; one blue and one red.  The setting sun was just hitting them with that autumn glow and moved my spirit.

The idea of change began to bubble up in me as I observed these two stages of fruit.  One in it blue hue that has yet to mature into its red cousin on the same bush.  How does it feel to change?  Do we, as humans, change as slowly or quickly as these fruit? Or are they (we) just two sides of the same bush?

Blue Fruit, Autumn

Ripe Fruit, Autumn

Red Fruition

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Sometimes it is about putting in the time.  We make investment in ourselves, family, and societies.  We pour our blood into projects that we care about.  We spend countless hours in the hopes of achieving our goals.  Sometimes we set them too high, others too low.  We take chances, or we play it safe.  In the end we can say at least we tried.

I like to think back on what I learned from Yoda as he was instructing Luke in the ways of the force, “Don’t try! Do!”  It is easy to say.  It just rolls off the lips and out into the world. Again, it takes putting that vibration into practice. Making it routine. Making it part of our lives.  Eventually a tree planted, and cared for will bring forth fruit in its due season.

The heat of summer is fading.  The battered leaves are falling, some are changing colors that survived the typhoon.  The red firecrackers are making their last bloom, and fruit is hanging from some trees.

Put in the work.  Work on your dreams.  Squeeze the obstacles that block your path into juice.  Bring forth that red fruition.

Red Fruition

Autumn Firecrackers


Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Overall this was a good week.  Even though there were many ups and downs, there were many more ups, or was it that the ups just outweighed the downs.  In any respect I am glad to have lived another week, and can take the time to reflect.

The walk back to the station in Chiba was gorgeous.  The air was cool with just a hint of heat that I was comfortable in short sleeves.  I love to wander around this countryside like neighborhood on the beginning of my day of rest.  The homeowners take such care of their land.  there are the small farms that the old pensioners tenderly care for.  There are beautiful blooming flowers that have been planted along the roadside.  Not by the municipality but by the homeowners in the neighborhood.  They really take pride in making their quiet little neighborhood look the best that it can.

It is a good meditation to wander through these small streets with my Ricoh in hand.  Even though I wander the same several streets there is always something new to see.  It could be the changing seasons, as the spring flowers bloom and wilt to make for the summer ones.  The cycle is never ending.

Yom Kippor fast is coming this sundown for me.  I have been mentally and spiritually preparing myself to go a day without food and water.  To be able to atone for my misgivings.  Bringing rituals back into my life has helped give me a foundation.  I felt like I was floating with no idea which way is up or which direction I should travel.  But, to be able to go back to milleniums old traditions has been a boon to my soul.

Prepare for the worst.  Prepare your soul for the best.  And be thankful for the time we get to spend were in the company of friends and family.




Mimomi Crocus Star Flower Gate

Sweet Aroma of Autumn

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

The air is crispier today that yesterday.  On my way in to the city you could see a faint Mt. Fuji off in the distance behind the ever looming Sky Tree Tower.  These are some of the signs that the seasons are shifting gears.  The air is clearer and we can see the mountains that ring the Kanto Plain.  I was actually felt a little nippy in the morning with just a windbreaker.  But, the sun came out and the day quickly warmed to a beautiful temperature.  A temperature that I felt at comfortable in in short sleeves.

As I was making my way to the station, I kept getting whiffs of a sweet fragrance.  The fragrance was so sweet to my uncivilized nostrils I thought it was some overly sweet candy.  That is what is smelled like, candy.  My reason returned and I knew that it could not be candy and their must be something in bloon that was giving off such a super sweet aroma.

I wasn’t able to answer the question what it was until I just about had reached my house.  There was a bushy tree that was covered with teeny tiny orange blossoms.  The blossoms could have been no more than 5 mm in diameter, yet their fragrance was unmistakable.  The sweet smell of autumn that drifts through the open window and across school children’s paths.






Sweet Dreams Aroma

The Beautiful Diversity of Flowers

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Flowers are an amazing gift of the Creator.  They come in all shapes, sizes, and hues.  I am always amazed at their diversity.  For me as an artist I can enjoy the flowers where ever they might pop up.  As I am walking around my neighborhood and I discover some beautiful flowers in terracotta pots in a tiny frontside garden.  Or I can be biking along and break upon seeing some lovely weeds that are in bloom in an abandoned distresses lot.  You see, the beauty is found everywhere.

Then there are the gardens.  Gardens are where man and the Creator come together in harmony.  Man takes what the Creator has given us in the beautiful diversity of flora and fauna and creates a hyper-real environment for humans to enjoy.  Man tenderly cares for the garden by watering, pruning and taking care of those plants that catch a cold.  The garden and grounds of Kawamura DIC Memorial Museum is one of those places.

The land has been catered to by the hands of human gardeners.  Some areas have been left in a rather raw state so that the visitor can appreciate what the area must have been like in the sticks of Chiba Prefecture 100 years ago.  Other areas have water gardens where lilies and lotuses thrive.

As we wandered around the gardens and grounds, I became attracted to the most minute of the flora in the park.  For all I know that may actually been unintentional weeds that had yet to be pulled by the gardeners hand.  But they are so beautiful, that I had to get down to the grounds level in order to fully appreciate them.  There tiny elephant shaped ears that were translucent in the noon day sun.  Or the spiked purple headed wonder that had sprung up on a corner of the path.  And finally to the wonderful white lilies that floated so effortlessly on the surface of the pond.

I am thankful for all the species of flowers in the world, in the same way that I a grateful for all the humans in the world.  Who would want to live in a world with only one kind of flower?  Therefore, we should celebrate our diversity.  See the beauty in what is different.  See humans as the beautiful creations as the the flowers in the garden.

Purple Headed Spiked Flower

Water Lilly Pond Blossom

Elephant Eared Blue Flower

Sunflower Shadow Dance

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

The sun played a game of hide and seek with the clouds today.  The bright sun shone down upon the earth for a while, then darted behind the clouds as if it were a shy Japanese child.  The temperatures were on the cooler side today. A sign that this long summer is going through a transition.  According to the Japanese way of counting the seasons we have already moved into autumn.

This sunflower was deciding whether or not to bloom.  It felt as if it were holding something back.  Could it be aware that the long days have shortened, and that the leaves will soon be turning into autumn hues?

I don’t know.  But I sure enjoyed watching the dance.

Sunflower Dancing in the Shadows

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