Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Too Many People In the Subway

The first line I ride in my morning commute is the Marunouchi line, one of the oldest subway lines in the city. Somehow they haven't yet lengthened the platform to handle more subway cars. In addition it travels to some of the places where office buildings are most highly concentrated here, such as Otemachi, Tokyo, and Shinjuku stations. As a result it's jam packed during morning rush hour. As I got on this morning carrying my gear for this evening's ultimate pickup, I couldn't squeeze into the car fully and my cleat bag got squished in the closing doors. The nice lady next to me helped me to pull it out when they briefly opened them again.

A few stations down the line some poor woman's sweater was hooked by the fastener on some guy's satchel. He dragged her out of the train car before he realized what had happened.

Now that the G8 Summit has concluded, the police presence is back to normal, the trash cans in the stations are back in use, and the vending machines are once again accessible. I can't say I understood the security risks posed by machines selling fizzy drinks in plastic bottles and canned coffee to start with.

I noticed a guy standing outside the small bookstore by Myogadani station this morning with a banner, making some sales pitch. When someone is doing this at 8am here in Tokyo, it usually means they are running for a political office, but then I noticed he was wearing a vivid, pointed turquoise cap and the banner informed passersby that the Japanese edition of the last Harry Potter book was now on sale. That's almost exactly one year later than the English language edition, by my estimate.

In other news, butter seems to be slowly returning to the stores. My local supermarket now has it taking up a tiny corner of the refrigerated case that is full of 30 different types of margarine. The cheapest price looked to be JPY480 for 200g (that's about USD4.50 for 7oz.).

Made hiyashi-chuuka again last night, leaving out the ham as usual. A simple, satisfying summer dish.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Butter Shortages

The first time I heard about this issue was in a brief mention in the blog of another foreigner living quite nearby me. Then I made a (delicious) quiche that exhausted all the butter in our fridge. When Minako went to get some more she found that our local supermarket Santoku, normally a veritable cornucopia of comestible delights from around Japan and overseas, had almost no butter on the shelves. Single stick packages of pre-sliced pats was all they had in stock.

I had some time to check out the situation yesterday and found that margarine has almost entirely replaced butter on the shelves of two high-end supermarkets near my office: National Azabu and Meidi-ya. What they did have was predominantly imported and they both had signs describing their policy of one package of butter per customer. Naturally the prices were higher than usual as well.

After being used to American and Japanese abundances, this was pretty shocking. Apparently increased costs for dairy food stocks as well as higher demand for dairy products is to blame.

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