Kitakata , the town of warehouses

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Kitakata is located in northwest Fukushima Prefecture. Aizu Wakamatsu city is less than 30 minutes by car. You can find old warehouses all over the city. I heard there are as many as 4,000 in the city. This area has been blessed with good water and rice and that enabled people to make good sake ( rice wine ) and miso ( soy bean paste).

Kura (warehouses ) can keep the food stock in perfect condition. Many people worked hard to make money to build warehouses by the age of 40 in that area.

Long ago, refrigerators weren’t available but kura provided environmentally friendly storage. In summer the inside of the kura is cool and in winter it’s warm. Nearly 100 years ago, a big fire broke out and burned down many houses in this city but the warehouses were fire proof. After that people realized the value again. Thanks to kura, Kitakata keeps many old things.

   I stayed at an inn to find nice furniture in our room and asked about it. Then the landlord introduced me to the person who repaired it. I visited the shop.

 

I was very excited to see many fantastic pieces of furniture and goods he made and repaired. Also the old fixed drawers aren’t as expensive as I thought. He used the old chest of drawers as a cupboard. Since the top drawer was broken, he placed some cups on it. I like the idea. As he made tea for us, he told me that he can design and build houses. I really like the sink and counter which he designed and made. He finds some old things which are not in use and fixes them to make something new. Or he goes into the woods to find material for his new furniture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He knows which wood makes good chairs or tables. For example this chair looks very hard but when I sat on it, it felt warm, soft and comfortable. This chair is made of walnut. That reminded me of sitting on grandmother’s lap as a child.

According to him, trees are cut into wood and become furniture but wood is

alive so it makes us happy and provides us with comfort. He thinks to make good use of wood and keep using old wooden things are very important. By cherishing them, we can show our gratitude to nature.

 

Getting to know hemp in Yamanashi ( Lake Kawaguchi )

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

I happened to know about hemp by reading someone’s blog. I don’t know why but I became really curious about it. I learned that a couple living on Lake Kawaguchi ( Yamanashi ) and growing organic rice and vegetables also deal with hemp products. The wife makes clothes, underwear and accessories, etc.

I visited their place and found beautiful hemp clothes. They say that hemp is not only beautiful but also gives you energy and health.

Honestly I couldn’t believe that at first. So as a trial, I bought some pairs of socks made from hemp ( 46% ), cotton ( 38 % ), nylon ( 13 % ) and polyurethane ( 3% ). I bought some pairs for my family and we all tried and were surprised with this magical power. 1. Socks and feet don’t get stinky. 2. After wearing them for a day, the socks stay dry. 3. We all felt our feet warm in the socks.

 

 

 

Then I bought a loincloth since they say loincloth is the best to feel the effect of hemp. The loincloth is made from 100% hemp. Loincloth covers the point called “ seika tanden “ or “ hara “. The point is located about two inches below the navel. When I do zazen I try to bring my mind to focus on that point. Probably hemp provides my hara with its energy. The loincloth is thin but strong. It didn’t look very warm like a blanket but in fact I feel really warn when I wear it. They say wearing underpants often lowers our immune systems. But when I wear loincloth, our hip joints move smoothly and lymph glands work properly to make us healthy.

I feel very relaxed. The touch of hemp is very nice, too.

I heard that god gave humans hemp and water. After trying out hemp clothes, I understand that. It’s fun to know about hemp.

Cutting down on electric consumption in Japan

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Our consumption of electricity of August went down by 44 % than last August.

We were all surprised to find out as we saw the bill from TEPCO. Given the fact that last August we were all away about one week in August, we have almost saved more than 50% of electricity.

 

Since the power plant problems, we have always been thinking about how to be free from nuclear power as much as possible. Then we did these things.

1.    Replaced incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs.

2.    Bought a new TV, a new fridge and a new washing machine. Three of the ones we replaced were more than 12 years old.

3.    Used air conditioning only for its drying function.

4.    Used a big electric fan in the living room.

5.    Planted bitter melons to make a shade. Bitter melons give us energy.

6.    Turned off the heater on the toilets.

7.    Cooked rice on a gas stove. It took only 10 to 15 minutes, while it takes 45 minutes

by electric rice cooker.

To save more electricity, I should stop using the dish washer. But we can save water by using dish washer.

 

My conclusion is that we all consume too much unnecessary electricity at home.

Also our houses are designed to consume more electricity. We are trapped.

 

It’s fun to think how to save energy.

Green Tea Potourri

Monday, December 6th, 2010

    

I made some tea using hand-rolled green tealeaves. After that I spread the leaves and dried them. You can eat the leaves or they can be used for cooking but this time I made tea potpourri. It was very easy. You can make a sachet like this. A tea farmer’s wife made this and gave it to me. According to her, her friend’s son does Kendo ( Japanese fencing ) and he keeps gear in a bag. He always tried to keep it clean but since gear gets a lot of sweat on it, sometimes it stinks or even mold grows on it. But after putting the tea potpourri sack in the gear bag, he hasn’t had a problem. Tea has power as a sterilizer.

Hear I use tea potpourri, tea seeds, snake gourd ( the red ones ) and pine cones.

Everyone who visits my place see it and ask me what it is . I always tell them to smell it and everyone enjoys the smell. After drinking high quality tea, why don’t you make a tea potpourri ? High quality tea might be expensive but it will give you long-lasting benefits.

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 !  

Magic Carpet

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

I bought a magic carpet. This is it. The Japanese summer is pretty hot. Every summer I can’t sleep very well because of the heat . If I turn the air-conditioner on when I sleep , I always feel terribly tired. When I come to think about sleep, it takes up rather big portion of time  every day. I can’t take it lightly. I decided to buy this to enhance my sleeping quality. And it seems very good. This carpet can be used as a bed sheet. You can’t do the laundry but all you have to do is wipe and dry it. The carpet is made of rush. The material is organic and safe to touch. It smells really good and its texture makes me relaxed and happy. In my house hold we only have this one and all of the family tried it in turn and they unanimously agreed to buy one each. I have almost made up mind to buy one for each of us instead of buying a new TV set. Instead of watching TV I would rather lie on this and read books.

A paper company at the foot of Mt. Fuji

Friday, June 5th, 2009

In the city where I live, there are many paper factories. And Hayashi Paper Company has been making interesting toilet paper. They started to make such things to make toilets fun place to be in. Toilet have usually been considered to be dark and dirty places. Frankly speaking, I don’t think people pay much attention to how comfortable they are. Now I think we must pay more respect to toilet paper and these small spaces that are so important to our lives. Let me show you three different types of toilet paper for this time.

This is their latest one. Mr.Koji Suzuki, the author of “ring” or “edge” wrote a short story for this toilet paper.

Next is my favorite The Tokaido Highway paper.

We can study Japanese history or culture here. As a student, I had to cram for tests but now I can learn it at will with this.

  

The third one, in this paper, a well-known economic analyst Mr. Morinaga gives 10 useful tips to survive economic hardship. Let me try a rough translation.

  

1) Prioritise saving and then try make both ends meet with what is left.

2) Live in the suburbs. Rents and prices are lower there. Living there will bring you benefits such as easy       access to sightseeing spots. No need to be competitive.

3) Buy cheaper manual cars. They are economical both in efficiency and maintenance.

4) Check your home phone and mobile contracts. You may save more by changing some of them.

5) Don’t decide what to cook before going to the supermarket. Have a look and pick the day’s most inexpensive ingredients and think about what you can cook.

6) Don’t use carts at the supermarket. You may buy more than you need.

7) Choose the right level of school for each child. If the person isn’t good enough for the school it’s a waste of money and if someone happens to pass the school entrance but is not really good enough for it, the person will be unhappy after getting in it.

8) Use internet banks. You can get slightly higher interest rate, charges are lower than conventional ones. Also you can get cash back by doing shopping on the website.

9) Sell the things you don’t use on internet auctions.

10) If anyone gives you anything, even though you don’t need it, accept it with all smile and be very thankful. You may get more in the future.

What do you think ? Do they help you ?

Home made cleaner

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

Many Japanese think that they have to clean their places before ushering in the new year.

An American friend of mine asked me why we do this at such a cold time of the year. They have spring cleaning instead of our new year end cleaning. Does it have something to do with Easter ?

I’m not sure but probably our cleaning stems from the idea of “Misogi” or purification. New Year is considered to be something auspicious so we have to deal with any remaining untidiness and time to reset our lives.

A friend of mine taught me how to make a great ecological detergent. This is it.

This is made from water from rinsed rice, honeydew and good bacteria. Mix these materials and wait for fermentation. When it is ready, it can be poured into the drains of the kitchen bathroom, toilet and even into a washing machine. Good bacteria works hard and eats up slimy things. With clean drains, I feel like welcoming in a wonderful new year !