Mt. Fuji in Summer

Monday, August 1st, 2011

This year’s weather is something unusual. Normally, Mt. Fuji can’t be seen this clearly in Summer. (The photo was taken on July 23rd)  It is often covered with fog or cloud. A friend of mine who regularly visits us in Summer even said that Mt. Fuji doesn’t exist: it’s an imaginary mountain!

 As we had guests from a foreign country, we took them closer to Mt. Fuji.

This place is located to south east of the mountain. The Houei crater looks different shape from when viewed from Fujinomiya which is to south of Mt. Fuji. As many people know, Mt. Fuji has erupted many times, and the most recent eruption took place at this Mt. Houei 304 years ago.

 Some people ask me if I am concerned about another eruption. I am not worried about it. The power of nature is beyond our control. I’d rather enjoy myself each day, each moment, without worrying about the future. Besides, a friend of mine who works for Fujinomiya city hall told me that they always monitor low frequency vibration of Mt. Fuji so they can tell if anything wrong is going to happen or not.

 I like to view Mt. Fuji and I understand why many people have been worshiping this mountain as a sacred one.

  On our way to this site, we saw many people (more than 100 people, some are Japanese and others are from foreign countries ) walking along the road. I don’t know if they mean to climb from zero station to the top or just hike around the foot of Mt. Fuji. Usually people start to climb from the 5th station. It’s the high season so private cars aren’t allowed to go as far as the 5th station. They must be parked in lower parking space and everyone must take a bus.

 People should do enough preparation before climbing. Otherwise, even without an eruption, Mt. Fuji can be more dangerous enough.

Stay-vacation in Fuji

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

I learned a new word “ stay-vacation “. This means that you spend your vacation at home with exploring around your neighborhood. In Japanese “ an kin tan “ can be equivalent one. “an” means cheap, “ kin “ means near and “ tan” means short. This expression is composed of three abbreviations. During consecutive holidays called Golden Week from the end of April to beginning of May, I usually go out of town but this year I stayed in Fuji.

I discovered many wonderful things around my house. After cherry blossoms, many kinds of flowers such as wisteria, iris, calla and some other wild flowers in the mountains start to bloom. Each flower’s best time doesn’t last very long so I have been missing to appreciate the beauty of my town.

Best of all was the discovery of buckwheat noodle shop in the mountain was a great discovery.

    

The restaurant is located in a hidden place at the edge of plum orchard with hundreds of plum trees. The restaurant doesn’t have its billboard but it has noren, or short split curtain at a shop’s entrance. I still don’t know if the restaurant has a name or not. The people at the shop told me that they have started to serve soba as a hobby. They pick wild vegetables or vegetables grown by their yard and serve them for the customers. The food they serve is delicious and inexpensive. The people at the shop are generous and interesting. First I was going to keep this place as a hidden restaurant but I couldn’t keep it secret and eventually I have already introduced the place for three or four people. They don’t advertise anything at all but probably by word of mouth, many people manage to reach the place. On weekends, it’s rather crowded. One Saturday lunch time, they were open but they put up the sign “ We are closed.”

 

Kaiseki, Japanese cooking

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

I took a cooking class the other day. We made a set of dishes for a tea ceremony called “ yobanashi “. Yobanashi is a tea ceremony session taking place in December or January starting around 5 o’clock in the evening.

In Japan this time of the year, that is almost time for sunset. After seeing sunset, they enjoy the dishes and tea ceremony. “ yo” means night and “ hanashi “ means talk. These two words are assembled and called “ yobanashi” or a night session. I haven’t been to a yobanashi tea ceremony but I heard it has a special atmosphere under the light of candles. I heard in western culture, having a candlelight dinner is something very romantic but I don’t know if this applies to yobanashi or not.

Our teacher has a lot of knowledge and ability. She talks to the point and give us directions. Once we start to work, the kitchen is just like a battle field ! First we made confectionary for tea ceremony. They are “ Ichigo daifuku “ A fresh strawberry is wrapped with white sweet bean taste and tender rice cake called “ gyuhi”. I had no chance to take the photo but we made another one called “ uguisumochi”.

Then we started to make dishes for yobanashi kaiseki.

One teacher and five students worked together. I think one of the most difficult things is to serve food at the right time and right temperature.

If I serve soup 10 minutes after cooking it, it’s too tepid. If I add dressing to raw fish too long in advance, it doesn’t taste good. I was also impressed by the rules or style of dishing up. For example, this is called “ hattusun”. In this case round items are served on square wooden dish. We are to dish up one food from the ocean and one from the mountains. On a green leaf, we placed grilled scallops and these yellow round fruit are simmered “kinkan” or kumquat. The combination of square and round makes things balanced. This idea is from “ onmyoudou” .

The old calendar, health care such as Chinese medicine or acupuncture, and many other things we take it for granted are from “ onmyoudou”. I found it is very interesting.

 

1.On this black tray, a bowl of rice cooked with black soybeans.

A cup of steamed tofu, strained tofu, seafood, egg, lily bulb and mitsuba leaves are mixed and steamed. It has to be served warm. I think lily bulbs are a very interesting food. They are used as medicine in China and are good for people who have high blood pressure and suffer from diabetes – as well as being good for healthy people too, of course.

Raw tuna topped with ground yam with dressing of soy sauce, sake, mirin and juice of yuzu and topped with nori.

2. Simmered turnips topped with miso flavored with yuzu and yuzu peel.

  Simmered leaves and stems of turnips.

  Grilled and simmered black mushrooms.

 

We started the class at 9:30 and after a short explanation, we tackled the work and completed at noon. It was a lot of fun. Just around noon, we said

“ Itadakimasu”.

 

 

 

 

Kimono

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

   

 

She came to English lesson in kimono for the first lesson of the year.

She can put on her kimono all by herself and looks very beautiful in it. Kimono is the traditional clothing of Japanese people, though many people can’t put one on without help. The kimono she was wearing is called “ tsukesage “ and it is a relatively formal one so it can be worn at wedding receptions, etc.

If you have a good look, you’ll see pine trees , plum blossoms, maple leaves.

That means this kimono is suited to three seasons (the one it is not suited to being summer).

The sash includes the design of “ gosyoguruma” or an old vehicle that nobles used to ride in.

Sashes are often even more expensive than kimono. I heard some people from foreign cultures buy sashes to decorate their rooms or make bags out of. Even though the quality may be very good, once it gets stains the price will go down. Many kimono and sashes are available at lower pricse at secondhand shop.

Kimono isn’t very easy to handle for me but it’s a great thing.

Hand-rolled Green tea from Kanaya ( Shizuoka )

Friday, November 19th, 2010

 

I got hand-rolled green tea from Sugimoto Seicha in Kanaya as a souvenir.

I brewed it for my family. I was a little nervous about brewing it since now I know what it takes to make it and how delicate it is.

I think I did it successfully. All of my family said the taste was delicious and very unusual.

The second serving got a little closer to the kind of tea we usually drink.

The leaves looked delicious so we picked some leaves and ate them.

I didn’t throw them away but made green tea tenpura with sweet potato.

While I was cooking, I could enjoy a nice roasting smell !

Our family loved the tempura. Next time I’m going to make potpourri.

Last spring at a green tea festival in Fujinomiya City, I got tea potpourri made by tea farmers’ wives.

They said that someone kept this in his Kendo bag then his bag was free from stink or mold !  

Atami

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

I went to Atami in Shizuoka. From Tokyo station by bullet train, it takes only about one hour.It’s famous for its hot springs.

In Chinese characters ( Kanji ), Atami is written “hot sea”

It is said that a long time ago, a hot spring emerged under the ocean. Since hot water sprung up fish swam away and fishermen were in trouble.

A certain priest prayed and his power moved the hot spring to the land!

Since then Atami has been one of the biggest hot spring resorts.

The Tokugawa Shoguns loved it very much. But the Shogun was too busy to visit Atami ( or perhaps did not travel for security reasons ) so they carried hot spring water all the way to Edo ( Tokyo )! It must have been heavy. Besides, since the water is for Shogun, they were not supposed to put it on the ground to rest. The day we stayed in Atami, the weather was cloudy. The hotel we stayed in is located on the hill overlooking the ocean. They had many guests but they were all quiet. The people working there were all tactful so I enjoyed myself staying there. The hotel doesn’t display many things. I like their style but some people might find it boring. They displayed only a few hanging scrolls and a vase made by ex-prime minister Morihiro Hosokawa (who resigned about 17 years ago) and he is often compared with ex-prime minister Hatoyama these days. I think both of them are from good families but their characters look very different to me. I don’t know them personally though. I remember the weather of 17 years ago was very similar to this year’s. History repeats and so does weather ?

Or does weather affect people’s behavior ?

 

A crossover concert at the foot of Mt. Fuji

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

I went to a concert at Maple House, a photographers house. When I arrived, there were already a lot of people, probably more than 50. We enjoyed three different kinds of performances.

1. Jazz : Two Japanese guitarlists and one American Shakuhachi (a traditional Japanese bamboo flute ) player performed together. I met the shakuhachi player John Kaizan Neptune for the first time in many years and enjoyed talking with him. I sometimes listened to his CD but I havent been to this kind of concert for many years. He is a self-made man. For example he makes Shakuhachi by himself and he made a new type of percussion. He says buying shakuhachi is very expensive so he makes them. Both the players and audience enjoyed the music. I always think that jazz can be enjoyed fully in that style, I mean very casual and in a smallish and intimate room.

2. Hula : A very beautiful Japanese woman danced hula. I tried to take a good photo of her but I couldnt make a successful one. Her dance is very graceful. According to her hula is said to be very good for our health, too. Some doctors are studying how the dance affects people’s bodies. She is keen to introduce hula to many people.


3. Mongolian folk songs: The singer, form Mongolia, lives in Fujinomiya. He played Mongoloian violin and sang Mongolian folk music called khoomii or throat singing. He paints,too. I really like Mongolian music because its very powerful and mysterious. I like the costume,too. He gave us a short khoomii lesson. I had a chance to talk with him and asked a strange question. Someone told me that if one keeps singing khoomii for a long time, the person will die. I doubted it that but I asked about it.He laughed and said, No way, Im going to live up to 200 years old. In fact this type of singing is very good for health.

Visiting Hakuin’s temple

Friday, November 27th, 2009

On 23rd of Nov. my Australian friends and I went to Ryutakuji Temple in Mishima. ( Shizuoka , near Hakone )

Honestly speaking, I was not sure if they would enjoy visiting Japanese temples but I was very happy to see they are very interested in the temple, art work and the monks who are training at the temple. They are interested in the monks’ lives because they are  almost the same generation but they are spending very different lives.

I was also amazed that they asked me very difficult and sharp questions while viewing art work. And I found myself being amused answering and thinking  about their questions. They asked many questions to the monks and I’m sure the monks felt the same as I did.

There were many surprises and discoveries. We all had a great time. The weather was lovely and it was such a wonderful day.

Feedback

#1

Hi everyone this is Rob. I’m an English teacher in Shizuoka prefecture, Japan.
I was fortunate enough to have been invited to attend the once in a year opening of Ryutaku-ji, a Buddhist temple,  in Mishima.
It was a really great opportunity to see 300 or more year old Japanese scrolls and to speak to Japanese monks about the temple and their experiences as Buddhist monks.
Also, the Autumn leaves were really nice as the backdrop to the temple.
If you ever have the opportunity you should try to visit and experience it for yourself.

#2

I went to a real Buddhist Temple, on Monday the 23rd of November, 2009.  It was a great experience.  I saw beautiful paintings and artwork from past monks from the monastery.  I saw the history of the temple and felt the calmness and tranquility of the temple.  We even got some photos with priest.  It was great.  I learnt about Buddhism, and enjoyed hearing what the monks had to say about their daily lives. 

 

Kimono, Japanese traditional outfit

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

I visited a kimono teacher’s house. She teaches how to put on kimono. You may think it’s strange but not many Japanese people can put on kimono by themselves so they take lessons. Basically you can wear whatever you want but kimono has its rules. Depending on the age, occasion and season, we need to choose a suitable kimono to wear.

People think kimono is a luxurious garment. It may be right but kimono can be handed down from gernration to generation, as long as we take good care of them. Mrs. Sudo, the kimono teacher, also helps people to have their portraits taken in kimono.

She showed me some examples.

  They are her kimono students. They chose their favorite kimono and a professional photographer took their portraits. There are some nice site to take photos around her neighborhood. This one was taken at Yonenomiya Sengen Shrine in Fuji city. At that shrine we can enjoy cherry blossoms as early as February. In this photo you can see a daughter and her mother, each of them wearing kimono suitable for their age. Of course as I said before you can choose whatever you want but I can see at any age people can show their own beauty.

This one is also her kimono student. She hs been dreaming to wear this type of kimono with a white parasol. By coordinating parts such as sashes, strings, hair style or parasol, etc, kimono enable us to create numerous possibilities.

If you are interested in trying them on or taking photos, please contact us. They have some kimono for men, too. Just trying it on costs about 5,000 or 6,000 yen. Or you can buy second-hand kimono at her place. They are very reasonable.

Mt.Fuji Winter Day Tour

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

 Mt. Fuji is at its most beautiful in Winter, but most tourists or people living in Japan visit in Summer to climb to the summit.

At greenT Guides we believe in offering something different and we are planning a day tour to experience the beauty of Mt. Fuji in Winter. The trip will be available to people visiting or living in Japan, and it will be arranged through a licensed travel agent.

 

 

Here is our special Mt. Fuji winter experience day tour.

Group size: From 5 to 8 persons.

Fee: 15,000 yen each

Period: December to the end of February on demand.

Schedule

10:00 Shin Fuji station ( Tokaido Shinkansen )

11:00 Visit Fujisan Hongu Sengen Shrine in Fujinomiya

 Take a walk in the precincts and learn about Shintoism and the shrine      dedicated  to the god of Mt. Fuji.

12:00 Lunch  Local delicacies can be arranged

13:00 Sake Brewery ( Takasago )

Winter is the season when sake rice wine is fermented and the newest products are readied for sale.

Enjoy the traditional old warehouse and Buddhist statues that were brought from the summit of Mt. Fuji in the Meiji Era.

Sake tasting

Rice wine absorbs strong fragrances very easily so please refrain from wearing perfumes or colognes.

Local shopping.

14:00 Leave for Asagiri Highland

14:30 Photo lesson at Maple House.  Receice a lesson from a fanouse professional photographer and create some original pictures of Mt. Fuji’s winter scenery.

 This is a part of Maple House . It has such a beautiful  garden

The photos of the garden , Mt. Fuji and Sake brewery are taken by our teacher’s wife Noriko Nagatsuka.

The professional photographer is Seishi Nagatsuka. He is a leading photographer of automobile advertisements; the late Honda Soichiro, ex-CEO of Honda Motor, called him ” an amazing chap”.

16:30 Finish

 People who return home will be taken to the station.

 For those who want to stay, our affiliated travel agents can find good lodgingd or places to eat to suit any budgets or tastes though.

 If you want to know more in details, please contact us.