Were it not for the weird architecture, the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil wouldn’t amount to much; the art collection was rather underwhelming.
Yet, its prolific and widely regarded architect, a Carioca by the name of Oscar Niemeyer, quickly learned that the museum, better known the acronym MAC (Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói), might be mistaken for another acronym, UFO…to those who knew the English word, anyway. Bonus– here’s the Portuguese term: OVNI.
Completed in 1996, the design of the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum was supposed to evoke a continuously growing flower, rising atop the Praia da Boa Viagem (“safe journey beach”) in Guanabara Bay.
A day earlier, I had gone up to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain (in Portuguese, Pão de Açúcar; I am still clueless as to how to pronounce it) and had no idea to look for the Niemeyer icon. This shot of both more than made up for the oblivious behavior.
In April 2016, the 下水報道プラットホーム, or Sewer PR Platform, decided to capitalize on Japan’s increasingly popular マンホールの蓋/ふた, or manhole cover designs, and introduced the first set of limited edition trading cards. Although April Fool’s Day is not Japanese holiday – nor is it a holiday in any country, for that matter – the first edition was issued on April 1st. And collectors are called manholers.
There’s got to be a joke somewhere in there.
Roughly every quarter since then, a new batch has been introduced, showcasing manhole cover art from each of Japan’s 47 prefectures. To get them, it might be as simple as going to a visitor information center next to a train station, or more awkwardly by paying a visit to a city/town hall or sewage treatment information center. Whatever it is, the cards are free, and you’re limited to one per visit. As far as I know, English versions of the cards also exist.
Having first noticed these sewer covers a number of years back, I just wish that these were printed way back then, if for no other reason than to learn the background story to the designs. The front of a card shows a colorized manhole cover and city coordinates (and some type of manhole card collection legend in the lower right), and the back, a description of the art, as well as when the design was first executed:
After checking the invaluable Sewer PR Platform website, I decided to check out one of these sewer cards with my own eyes, this time in Fukui, the prefectural capital of Fukui…prefecture.
Although it’s best known for dinosaur fossils, according to the above, with Fukui suffering from the calamities of earthquakes and air raids, the city government adopted the 不死鳥 (ふしちょう・fushichou), or phoenix, as its symbol, and as the design on its manhole covers. Though plenty of other Japanese cities could join them in choosing the phoenix for the same reasons, the backgrounder goes on to note that the phoenix was selected in 1989, to celebrate the centennial of the establishment of Fukui as a city. Huzzah!
Forget I said that, but stay on the same wavelength for a moment.
Tokyo might be my favorite city in the world (thus far), and part of the reason is due to the randomness that can be found on just about every block. It could be a sampling of dyed tapestries in the middle of an unlit alley (can’t recall where exactly, but it was near Nihombashi), a Statue of Liberty near Odaiba, a bowl of coffee-flavored ramen, or that Balinese-themed love hotel in Kabukicho.
Yes, that last one is a Japanese mainstay, and although the Tokyo area has plenty to choose from, I might have to give Osaka the point for its collection of zanier architectural styles. Come to think of it, “love hotelism” should be a neologism in an architect’s vocabulary.
However, today’s emphasis is not on the exterior of the hotel. We’re going to have a brief look at the meaning of the word on the sign; Warning– this language lesson might be slightly off-color.
The two characters that make up 醍醐 (だいご “dye-go”) refer to cream in its purest form. Thank you, you’ve been a great audience.
If you’ve heard of the Indian staple food ghee, – which may also be known as the greatest flavor of all – that’s one definition. Staying in the same region of the world, 醍醐 has adopted another, more transcendent meaning- nirvana.
Never thought Buddhism would pay a visit to LearningFeelsGood, but here we are. Though, if nirvana is supposed to be the point where one’s sufferings and desires are extinguished, what kind of name is that for an Osaka love hotel?
Then again, if the owner was going for the unattainable goal definition, perhaps it’s surrounded by a moat?
Ever end up in the wrong city? I ask this, because I read a story a few years ago about someone flying to the wrong “Taiwan.” Which is to say, the passenger meant to go to the island, but ended up in Taiyuan, China instead. Never mind that the two places are spelled differently – in both English and Chinese, that the former isn’t a city, and that the person likely needed a visa for China, but I decided to see how common this type of mistake was. Indeed, it does happen from time to time, that folks end up in the wrong place– just ask these travelers.
And then we have Atlanta, which really doesn’t want you to get anywhere quickly if you’re looking for an address on Peachtree Street. (Hint: there are no less than 71 streets with the name Peachtree in them.)
Thus, in the vein of this topic, I’ll pose this question to my readers– if someone offered you a trip to Mecca, which would you choose?:
Mecca, population ~ 7, 100, in California? It is also close to the fascinatingly dubious Salton Sea, which I’ll get to in a later post.
Ten ingredients you may not want to see in the same bowl of ramen:
Eggs (and their yolks)
Vanilla ice cream
Gouda (inexorably processed, that is)
Kamaboko (processed fish cake with mind-numbing preservatives)
with a generous sprinkling of Japanese parmesan cheese, because that’s what you were missing. Listverse, here I come.
Is this the antithesis of Tampopo, the Japanese movie about a woman trying to create the perfect bowl of ramen? Probably. But in a country where using Colonel Sanders as a buoy is soyesterday‘s news, I cautiously introduce you to coffee ramen.
The restaurant’s (it’s more of a kissaten, or coffee shop) name is 亜呂摩,or Aroma, and it’s located in Ohanajaya, Katsushika district, in the endless sea of black- and graham cracker-tinted hair specifically known as Tokyo, but generally known as Japan. Rookie advice: don’t go on Wednesdays- that’s the off day. I carelessly made the nearly hour long trek from Narita Airport first on a Wednesday, and got shot down. The typhoon happening at the time made it that much more of a thrill, as umbrellas suddenly lose their will to live.
The chef was an older affable man, and used to having foreigners in his restaurant. Not that the restaurant gets too many non-Japanese in the first place, but he’ll probably ask you to sign a guestbook, Pre-consumption of said ramen. He told me he changes the ingredients, or toppings might be a better word, every once and again, but don’t fret, for parmesan cheese is a staple garnish. You can try it hot or cold, but because I wanted to make it back to my hotel without being slumped over the whole time, I tried it cold.
Oh, and I don’t even much like coffee.
This is a great dish to make for your significant other when you’re about to break up with her/him. Unless she/he digs this kind of stuff, then you’re sending all the wrong signals.
After all of the muted hype, it wasn’t half-bad; better yet, at the time it cost only ¥700 (which can be anywhere from US$6.40-8.50, depending on how skilled you are in the forex game). The noodles were skillfully cooked, and the chef appeared humbled by his bizarre creation. Sure, that pink and white ninja weapon is none other than kamaboko (蒲鉾), patiently seated atop banana and kiwi slices, and the coffee bean riding the egg yolk evokes Salvador Dalí, but the majority of the dish, true to its name, had the flavor of (sweetened) Boss coffee, which apparently keeps bringing ’em in.
Don’t cower out and eat the toppings by themselves. That ham looks way too relaxed on the sidelines. Take a piece, then scoop out some kiwi and egg, dip it into the murky broth and slurp to your heart’s content. Fact is, I rarely eat any type of ramen, since most of the time I feel as if I’m in a salt mine while doing so. Also, if you’re not too adept at using chopsticks, it would seem wise to eat ramen if you’re not wearing a shirt.
Is it time you experienced coffee ramen? If you’ve already tried it, wouldn’t you want to know where to find life’s rewind button?