Coming to the end of the year, I think the school cooks are getting more adventurous - both for the better and worse. Today we had "menchi katsu" which my eletronic dictionary tells me is a breaded pork cutlet. Delicious but deadly. It was served with two slices of white bread, I assumed to make a katsu-sandwich. That sort of thing is popular here, but personally I find bread w/breaded thing rather redundant, so I slipped those into my bag for later dining. On the side was something like solid whipped-cream with a slight strawberry flavor, which I carefully ate with a spoon like yogurt. I looked at the menu afterwards and realized the the strawberry stuff was supposed to be put on the bread as a "serefu ichigo kuriimu sando." Self(made)-Strawberry-Cream-Sandwich! Guess I'm not creative enough to appreciate the Japanese culinary creations.
Case in hand - the tentacles. (Skip this paragraph if you're squeamish). I've slowly come to terms with those that entwine in my yakisoba - I'll pick them out and make a neat pile in the corner of my tray and endure the flavor of the noodles. As cephalopod limbs go, these are fairly non-offensive specimens - they are short, rubbery, knuckle-ish things. I just like talking about them twining around the noodles, 'cause, isn't that just a visual? The other day, however, changed how I see squids and portions thereof forever. We were having soup - broth here is usually clear dashi but this was thick and murky brown. Usual suspects were large chunks of carrot, potato, konnyaku. Okay, I can handle. BUT. There were tentacles unlike any I'd consumed before. Not just knuckles, these were the full finger length. Not just solid chunks, these were thin and tapered to a point so that they bent and twisted as ladled up. And horror of horrors, they were bisected, as though our meals were scraping up the very dregs of marine life. We were not just eating squid, we were eating mutant squid, a creature doubly likely to seek revenge for its breathen. Seeing as it's my duty to hand out trays, I picked a bowl that looked least infested and snuck it onto my desk. I ate in peace for a bit, and all seemed safe. Then I picked up a carrot, and a hidden tentacle looped itself around my chopsticks as I picked it up, terrifyingly life-like. I shook it off, and it slithered back disappointed into the muddy stew in a way that reminded me of nothing more than the creature that grabbed Elijah Wood outside Moria. I couldn't contain a full-body shudder, and set to picking out the creatures so I could eat my soup in peace. But then they looked so disturbing, lying on my tray, that I put them back in the bowl, covered them with potatoes, and gave the dish up as a lost cause. And I thought I identified with Calvin when I was a kid.
So, in the late 1980s-early 1990s there was a Japanese pop group called Hikaru Genji. They were named for a famous literary character, and they were known for performing on roller skates. They were actually seniors from the agency that most of the artists I like now belong to, so Kinki Kids and friends always have horror stories of, "That one time when something really embarrassing happened when I was back-dancing for Hikaru Genji." (I'm not sure exactly what could be more embarrassing than back-dancing for Hikaru Genji.) Fast forward to last year, when a group appears on the comedy shows. They're called Murasaki Shikibu - the author of Genji - and they spell it with one kanji - 紫SHIKIBU, just as 光GENJI did. They have the simplistic lyrics with a sprinkling of gratuitous English, the bright headbands and fluffy bangs, the tighttight shorts, the "irrational exuberance" - and they're "dancing" on stilts. It's not the most subtle comedy act ever, but I haven't laughed so hard in a while. What makes it even more priceless is you can actually buy the single:
I also really love - in a completely different way - the music video to "Her Morning Elegance" by Oren Lavie: