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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Still Vegan

I purchased a large quantity of chicken, a day before George announced that WE (he didn’t say…he) would be vegan. Now, I have to clean out my freezer.

Here is one boneless and skinless chicken out of the package. I usually remove all of the fat. I don’t do as good a job as George’s mother, but look at the amount of fat I removed. Yes, it takes time to clean each piece of chicken. Almost a quarter of the chicken is fat. I wonder how many restaurants take this much time to remove the fat. Instead, they cover the chicken in some sort of breading and fry it in grease that is oxidized. I know that’s why it tastes so yummy.

I used to cook beef that had only 7% fat. The fat would cling to the dishes and I had to use twice the amount of soap and scrubbing power to clean the dishes. Now, without any beef, I can cook with a small amount of vegetable oil. Very little soap and scrubbing are required to get the dishes clean. Imagine the amount of animal fat that goes through our digestive system and into our organs after years and years of eating meat. Yuk! We can’t scrub our intestines with soap. No wonder I gained 20 pounds after moving to the U.S.

This is the positive side of being vegan. I just hope I can continue. The more I speak out, the more I feel I have to be responsible for my words. It is tough. The chicken I cooked…went to my doggies. They were very happy. I boiled the chicken to remove most of the fat.

The news from Japan continues to be heart-wrenching. Half of the cows in Fukushima have died from starving and the other half are crying out loud for food and water. I usually don’t have the guts to read this kind of news or see the pictures, but I had to read the news when I saw a cow with tears in his big eyes. The suffering of the people and animals is beyond heartbreaking. One of the tsunami victims living in a shelter hoped that the people who are suffering from the disasters in Japan are not forgotten. Please don’t forget them.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Waiting for Clear Skies

We are in the midst of the longest winter in the history of human kind in Seattle…at least it feels like it. The streak of 41 days without sunshine ended yesterday. Wouldn’t you know it…it’s cloudy with a chance of rain for at least the next 7 days. I was able to take some photos of the night sky about month and a half ago. Pleiades, which is also known as Subaru, is a birthplace of starts. The Rosette and California Nebulae could have used more exposure time, but the clouds started to roll in. I’ll try to photograph them again at a later time. Isn’t the Owl Nebula cool looking? It’s supposed to look just like the face of an owl. The Andromeda Galaxy is our closest neighborhood spiral galaxy (2.2 million light years) and looks similar to our own Milky Way Galaxy. This galaxy can be seen under dark skies without the help of a telescope ( I hope the weather will be clear soon. I have so many objects that I wish I could photograph before I box up the scope and move to Japan. Keep looking up.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011


 I don’t enjoy vegetarian food, but George said that food is generally overrated, so I suffer. It’s been two weeks since I became a vegan. George likes to call it,”Vegan-lite” since we still eat some dairy products. I drink less beer now. Beer doesn’t go well with veggies. That is okay…I can live without beer. It’s amazing though, I don’t crave dessert after eating tofu and vegetables. I just quickly brush my teeth to change the taste in my mouth. A few days ago, my friends invited me for lunch at an all-you-can-eat restaurant. When I saw meat, my pupils grew large and I was so happy. I grabbed a lot of meat, but somehow the smell bothered me. I have never wasted meat after I have cooked it or chosen to place it on my plate. This is out of respect for animal life. In this particular instance, I couldn’t finish the meat. I felt so guilty, but I guess my body is gradually changing.

George used to joke, “Don’t worry, ketchup will fix everything on your dish.” Our food storage shelves and the inside of the fridge have many different kinds of sauces and spices. We used to pour them on just about everything. We gradually craved a stronger taste as our tongues became numb to the subtle flavors of food. I miss those rich tastes, but I already feel a little healthier. We’re more sensitive to taste and smell and we don’t need to use those pre-made spices as much. I still cry as I try to be vegan.

When we were just married, George showed me how to prepare his lunchbox…junk, junk and junk and I laughed at him. Now, if he eats potato chips, he gets a sore throat and junk food makes him dizzy. I thought it was just a coincidence or that he worried too much. I found that eating healthier food over the course of the past year; I could really see a positive change. We started eating less meat a year ago after watching “Food, Inc.” and now we’ve “kicked it up a notch” by becoming vegans.

When I was working in the corporate world, they provided me with so much junk food. They said, “Come on, Erika, just a little bit won’t hurt you and once in a while it’s okay.” The fact is that there were too many “once in a while,” my senses grew numb. I didn’t have a guilty conscious gobbling down junk food.  When I first went shopping in the U.S., I was upset at many of the young mothers whose carts were full of boxed foods. I couldn’t understand how a mother could be so irresponsible to their child and to the environment. It didn’t take long for me to become one of them. My cart was often filled with boxed foods because I loved the convenience. I sometimes hid those boxed foods from George. It was easy to fall prey to those beautifully colored boxes and tasty ads promising that in less than two minutes you can have a healthy meal…full of chemicals and preservatives…yum. I am one of those victims, foolish enough to threaten my own health and put my money into the rich corporate executive pockets. I’m sure those executives don’t eat their own junk.

I am becoming enlightened and starting to take care of myself thanks to George. I don’t have the willpower he does, but I’m trying to be vegan.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


George is trying to be vegan. Since we watched the movie, “Food Inc,” I have tried to buy natural and organic food. It’s a little more expensive, but in the long run, we’ll save on medical bills as we get older. We hardly ever eat at restaurants, but when we do, we support Chipotle. I’m not a big fan of Mexican food, but this restaurant is trying to do the right thing and we believe in that.

George recently read the book, “Veganist” by Kathy Freston. He was strongly influenced and disturbed by what the author wrote. Soya milk??? I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams that he would drink soy milk. One of our Japanese friends invited us to her country home and she prepared most of the food with vegetables that she grew. It was amazing that she could create a huge variety of dishes with only vegetables to fill an entire table. George said, “I’m not a rabbit. Where’s the beef?” Now, he wants to have a similar kind of life. He says he wants to be a vegan, not only to benefit his health, but to prevent cruelty to animals and preserve the environment.

It is interesting that there are many people who are sensitive about importing food from Japan. Some people are taking iodine for even a small amount of radiation. If you take a moment to think about it, processed foods along with many foods that are found in restaurants are unhealthier than the produce coming from Japan. Meat that has been charred can cause cancer. Food that has been cooked in aluminum or microwaved in plastic can also create health risks. We usually never question those foods because we enjoy the taste and convenience. I am guilty for being one of those people.   

We rarely watch TV, but we did notice how many commercials are about pharmaceutical drugs, weight loss, diabetes, or junk food. In the short period time our TV was on, we heard about the various side effects of prescribed drugs. The advertisers of these medications talked so fast that I had a hard time following what they were saying. I found it to be a good way to practice English. Every once in a while I would hear, “death” as one of the side effects. Why would anyone want to take a medication that could cause a more serious side effect than the original symptom? George says that those fast food companies help the pharmaceutical companies make big $$$...Junk food →weight loss → diabetes → drugs.Umm…shouldn’t we be a little smarter?

To help George become a vegan, a lot of effort is required from me. It’s not easy to create a dish that tastes good without fish, meat, or animal byproducts such as cheese. I, however, totally agree to respect animal rights. I’ll follow the principle of my favorite English phrase, “What goes around, comes around.” Investing more time with the health, life and the lives of others, and caring more about the Earth will eventually come back to help us with our future.  


Friday, April 8, 2011

Safety and Convenience

I recently read an article describing why the Japanese prefer to live in their country rather than somewhere else. Naturally, I thought it was because it was their home. I read that the Japanese remain in Japan because of two reasons: Safety and convenience. Living in Japan is supposed to be one of the safest places in the world. I can’t say that is true for the larger cities. Most of my Japanese family lives in Tokyo. They lock their doors every time they step out to run an errand or go to work. Things are changing in Japan. Often the news will have a story about a murder or a robbery. I found it interesting that the news reports a murder like a murder/mystery story. They would reenact the scene of the crime using 3-D animation, giving the audience little doubt as to what transpired during the crime. Then the news would present various clues to the public. Each day a new piece of the puzzle would be introduced. This would go on for weeks or even months. A story about a woman spiking some curry with poison and killing people was big news when I visited Japan a few years ago. The news carried the same story along with more information when I visited a year later. This is in stark contrast to the U.S. Here, the news will run through all the murders, rapes, and robberies in the first 5 or 10 minutes. Then it’s time for weather and sports. We’ve become numb to all the violence. Not so in Japan. A single murder story could take up an entire newscast. The news reporters attack a murder story and turn it inside out and upside down. The Japanese demand to know all the details of a crime. I think it has to do with the tight knit Japanese society and the fact that society is slowly unraveling. People who live in the large cities are often crammed together because of the lack of space and the tremendously high real estate prices. If a possibility exists that your neighbor is a murderer, rapist, or thief…I think you might want to know all the details. The disturbing fact is that these types of crimes are slowly working their way into the countryside. Even during this recent disaster, some families refused to leave their homes because they feared they would be robbed. It’s not like this everywhere in Japan. Erika’s family still leaves the door unlocked in their small town.

The second reason people remain in Japan is because it’s convenient. I have no doubt about that. When I visited my aunt in Tokyo, I found that she did not drive. The transportation system is incredibly efficient. She doesn’t need a car. The trains and buses are on time, clean, bright, and comfortable. They drop you off close to any number of stores, attractions, or whatever your heart desires. The entire system runs like a well oiled machine. That is until the power turns off. Some of my relatives decided to go north to Hokkaido. They wanted to get away from the inconveniences of living where there is unreliable power, food shortages, and the threat of radiation exposure. Fortunately, they have a place to stay in Sapporo. Many people aren’t as fortunate. They have to be patient and wait for things to return to normal. It’s scary to think if something as catastrophic as the triple disasters in Japan were to happen here. The news in Seattle keeps asking the same question, “Are we prepared?” If a country that is considered to be the most prepared for an earthquake and tsunami suffers damage exceeding 27000 lost or dead, how in the world can we think we are prepared? The west coast of the U.S. is just as vulnerable as Japan, perhaps even more. “The big one” is way overdue to happen. The Earth’s crust is in constant motion and eventually it will move in a way that will cost many lives and leave unimaginable destruction. It’s just a matter of time for the U.S.

 I asked Erika, “Maybe we should leave the U.S. before the next big earthquake hits, but where do we go?” Japan is on a volcano watch for the next few months. With all the seismic activity going on, there is a fear that a volcano may erupt. One of the volcano’s that is being watched is located less than 10 miles from our home in Tsukahara. A volcano (Shinmoedake) on March 13, 2011 erupted violently in southern Kyushu, leaving people wondering if the recent earthquakes and volcanic activity are tied together. Humm, Japan is safe and convenient, Japan is safe and convenient, Japan is safe and convenient…I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz…Japan is safe and convenient…I heard that Arizona is nice.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Self Restraint

In a recent article, I read that the Japanese are practicing self restraint. This has taken many different forms. Downtown Tokyo has toned down the huge displays of neon lights. People attending ball games keep their expressions of excitement to a mild clapping of plastic horns rather than an obnoxious roar of enthusiasm. Stores that often blast the customer with jingles and shouting over the speakers have silenced. All of this uncharacteristic behavior has been focused towards self restraint. The suffering amongst the Japanese has sparked a movement for people to be less colorful, glamorous, and extravagant. Instead, acting conservative and moderate are in vogue. Many have compared this reaction to the recent disasters as being similar to how the Japanese reacted after World War Two. Erika and I have shared feelings of guilt for doing anything that brings happiness to us. Apparently, this is a common reaction to a catastrophic event. I can see that the only way through this is by doing something to help others. I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m learning that materialistic things have little importance, and that caring for others in need is what really matters the most. I think we could all use some self restraint.