One of the mysteries in Izu ( Shizuoka )

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

At the beginning of December, we had a year-end party after a study meeting about economics. I often go to study meetings on economics in Numazu. The organizers know many different kinds of people and they invite guests to give us lectures. And for the December meeting, we had a person who is very familiar with Chinese related matters. He is Chinese but has been living in Japan more than 20 years, married a Japanese woman and became a naturalized Japanese citizen. He has published some books and occasionally on TV. His name is Mr. Hei  Seki.

As everyone knows, some problems underlie the relationship between Japan and China.

Personally, I’m very worried about it and so are my friends.

By listening to his talk, we got new ideas and understood the things better.

I think a person like him is a treasure for both China and Japan. He can help both of us to understand each other.

 

After the lecture, Mr. Seki and some of the members went to Heda village located in the western part of Izu. This village is said to be one of the most loveliest traditional Japanese villages, with a view of Mt. Fuji over the ocean, beautiful paddy fields, a fishing port and mikan orange orchards covering the hills. We all enjoyed eating fresh fish and drinking high quality Japanese rice wine from all across Japan.

The following day, some went orange picking. But I was in a group going to Shuzenji on my way home.

 

 

 

The weather was not perfect but we could see Mt. Fuji over Suruga Bay.

We also overlooked the Ose promontory as we drove. This promontory jutting out into the ocean has a pond called “ Kamiike “. “ Kami” means god and “ Ike” means pond. This pond is in the precincts of Ose Shrine, surrounded by a juniper wood, which is a protected plant. Strangely, the pond water is fresh, not salty, even though it’s located only 20 meters away from the ocean and only one meter above sea level. Fresh-water fish such as carp, crucian carp and catfish are living there. The water is not very transparent so we can’t see into the pond very well and no in-depth studies have been conducted on it because people say that if we investigate the pond, a curse will come on us !

I have been scuba diving in the nearby ocean but I haven’t visited the pond and shrine. I’d like to do so someday. This is one of the famous scuba diving spots in Izu with many kinds of sea animals.

This place has an interesting festival on April 4th. Many fishermen wear women’s costume and makeup and they go on board. In Japan, March 3rd is called girls’ festival, May 5th is boys’ festival. So maybe this festival in April, lying between March and May, could be a gay festival!

Mr. Seki seemed to enjoy himself viewing Mt. Fuji. Talking with him was a lot of fun.

 

 

Going back to Minami Soma

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Minami Soma in Fukushima is my hometown. Before 3.11 in 2011, it was not as well-known as now. Now whenever I say I’m from Minami Soma, people look rather puzzled or even astonished. I sometimes feel kind of uncomfortable and tell myself “ I shouldn’t have said that.”

 

Minami Soma and Soma city have a very old festival called “ Soma Nomaoi “.

It’s at least 1,000 years old. Last year, it was a big issue for the whether to hold the festival or not. But this year the festival recovered up to 80 % with 400 horses. Many people and horses left Minami Soma last year but they came back. I’m really happy for that.

 

I came back to Minami Soma to attend a memorial service for my relatives; it was just a co-incidence. I wanted to get a ticket to see the festival but all tickets were sold out in June. This festival is usually around 23rd of July but they decided to have it on 28th, 29th and 30th  of July this year. This weekend schedule enabled more people to visit Minami Soma more easily. Some families living separated could be reunited and people who came to know this festival visited Minami Soma for the first time. In fact, as I was walking on the street some people from different areas of Japan asked me for directions.

 

Tradition is important but being flexible is also important. I wish this festival were held sometime in autumn so that more people could enjoy the festival in better weather ( it’s too hot at the end of July ). Also tourists can visit nearby hot spring while admiring autumn leaves.

 

My parents and relatives who have been living in Minami Soma are all fine.

According to my parents, moving into different and unfamiliar places is more harmful for older people since they feel tremendous stress.

   

After the memorial service, we had meal at a restaurant in a hotel. I was very surprised with the quality of food and skills of its chef. I didn’t expect this good meal in the affected Minami Soma area. All dishes were great but I liked fresh sea urchin ( from Sanriku ) and other dishes cooked in good stock.

 

 

The one big problem was transportation. We had to drive to Fukushima City to take the Shinkansen. From Minami Soma to Fukushima, it usually takes one hour and half but it took about twice as long. Joban Highway and some part of railway aren’t functioning so people have to go to Fukushima City. We also had to give priority to homecoming horses. When horses are on the road, cars have to wait. More people visited Minami Soma for the weekend and the city doesn’t have enough accommodation and many people stayed in hotels in Fukushima while taking the bus to visit Minami Soma.

 

We still have many difficult problems to overcome but I’m sure we can do it.

 

 

 

 

Going to Tohoku, Sendai

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

I went to Sendai, the center of Tohoku and where I used to live. I was very happy to catch up with some of my friends there.

One of my friends lost her house in the tsunami. But she was lucky. All of her family members are all right. Two other friends I met were affected in some way too but they have houses to live in and their families are all right, too.

Superficially, Sendai looks the same or even more impressive than before but people’s mind set seems to have changed. They became more family-, friend- or community-oriented. They had been too busy to ask each other how they are doing but now they are more supportive of each other.

Tokyo is too crowded and everything is centered on it. Japan should change. I think would better if more people spread outside Tokyo and each main city in each region maintained its own character, culture and center of gravity. It would be more interesting. Thanks to internet, working in the countryside isn’t as difficult as it used to be I guess.

I think it’s crazy how so many people working in Tokyo have had difficulties in going home because of earthquakes or typhoons. People should live nearer to their schools or workplaces as it’s safer and more productive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was also happy to drink rice wine from Yamagata called “ Jyuyondai, which  means  “14th generation. They don’t produce much so it is only available in special places. I love its sharp and crystal clear taste. I also missed this seafood called “ hoya “. Many people in other areas don’t know and haven’t tasted it. It looks kind of scary but it tastes really good. It goes very well with rice wine. I went to a Japanese a type of pub known as an “ Izakaya “ with my friends and was surprised to see the great variety of foods and volume of the portions served.

 

Let’s go to Tohoku in autumn.

 

Going to Kamakura and Hayama

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

I went to Kamakura for this exhibition. One of my friends from high school days, Yukiko Kasahara, is a sculptor. This exhibition was for her partner, Sanpei Takata, who is a painter as well as a ceramicist. He started with paintings but his ceramics are beautiful, too.

I was impressed with some tea ceremony utensils and flower vases.

After viewing his work, we visited their house in Hayama. They have their studios and living place there. I discovered that they have a tea room in their rather western style house and understood why he makes things for tea ceremonies.

His mother is a tea ceremony teacher and he used to practice with her when he was small. I really like their place with enough space for guests to relax. They bought this building second hand and renovated it by themselves. Only three minute walk away is the beach.

Mr. Takata gives ceramicmaking lesson in their studio and anyone can learn or experience how to make their own ceramics.

We also had a happy coincidence at the gallery in Kamakura. We ran into two ladies who went to the same high school as us. They were also invited for the party.

We all had a great time, listening to Yumiko who has just come back from the 200th anniversary festival for Liszt in Spain. She played the piano at the festival and enjoyed traveling afterwards. Another interesting coincidence is that one of the ladies we ran into works for the Hungarian embassy (Liszt was from Hungary). Yumiko’s husband, Mr. Egami is also a sculptor who has worked with Yukiko. Mr. Egami worked for Taro Okamoto. I am a great fan of Taro Okamoto. I’d like to hear more about Taro Okamoto next time.

Four of us attended the same high school in Sendai so our topic naturally went to the Tohoku disaster. One of us who is a dentist talked about their volunteer work in the affected area. They had a very sad and tough job to do: identify people by their teeth. But it helped many of their bereaved relatives very much. My artistic friends and I felt a kind of helpless in this case. Yukiko told me that she is always thinking how she can contribute to the affected people but I think she does or has already contributed to society by creating something beautiful.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Green tea and Wild vegetable picking at the foot of Mt. Fuji

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

We picked wild vegetables and green tea leaves on May 3rd.

For tea farmers, this time of the year is normally the busiest but the season hasn’t started yet because of relatively low temperature. They are going to be very busy in a few days. Mr. Katsumata,

 http://www.pure-green.jp took us to the foot of Mt. Fuji, an area he is quite familiar with, to look for wild vegetables and showed us how to pick green tea leaves.

 

 

 

   

As we got together, we had a cup of new green tea. It tasted and smelled wonderful. This green tea is the second infusion. For the first one, I didn’t get around to taking photos since I couldn’t wait to taste it. The second one tastes more robust and the first one tastes sweeter with the taste of tannin.

   

They showed us the tea they processed today. We ate it as it is. The taste and fragrance was wonderful. We also tried tea picking. First Mr. Katsumata showed us how to pick. We have to pinch two leaves and one bud without using nails but with our fingers. It was fun and I couldn’t stop. They don’t apply pesticide for very long, so it’s safe to eat as it is. After picking leaves we made tempura at my place. This lady is very good at making tempura and these girls made pizza with tomatoes grown by Mr. Shimizu’s fertilizer.

 

     

Tea leaves are easy to get but wild vegetables are not easy to find. Many people have already picked many early in the morning. We went to the forest in the afternoon and most of the wild vegetables were gone. Still with the help of Mr. Katsumata and Atsuko (a wild vegetable maestro ), we got some. Also Chikako did a great job to find this nice one. She looked so happy.

Wild vegetables in spring taste a little bitter. I heard the bitterness resolves the fat we accumulated in winter. Bears eat them for the same reason.

I think nature is great and sensible. We need to eat and live according to nature so that everything goes well. I was simply happy to breathe the air rich in phytoncide.

Walking in the forests always makes me happy.

 

Dining Cafe and Bar in Fuji

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

I had two guests from Kyoto and Kobe. They came by bullet train and got off at Shin-Fuji station. Tokaido bullet trains are very fast and punctual. It takes about two hours and forty minutes by Kodama Express. They arrived around lunch time and I took them to this café. It is only a few minutes’ walk from the north exit.

They have many different types of food. We had Fujinomiya Yakisoba.

Yakisoba is a fried noodle dish seasoned with broth and Worcester sauce.

They were happy to try this famous local food. Fujinomiya Yakisoba is well-known as so called B-rate gourmet food. They liked the noodles’ chewiness.I like the atmosphere, BGM ( jazz ) and the cost performance.

Yakisoba and coffee cost only 680 yen. Some diners took their pet dog and they had lunch on the deck outside. It was wise enough to reserve a non-smoking table. It was almost full for lunch time. Café Seri 10:30~21:00, Tuesdays closed. 0545-60-0063

 

 

This Year’s Cherry Blossoms

Friday, April 16th, 2010

   

This year the cherry blossoms started earlier than usual. Then we had a cold snap. Warm weather and cold weather alternated many times so the blossoms lasted longer than usual. In this place the flowers started coming out about 2 weeks ago but they took a long time to be in full bloom, and some flowers are still hanging on now. To me it seems very strange. I prefer it when cherry blossoms bloom and drop relatively quickly. That is their real beauty. This year’s situation is like when someone overstays at a drinks party and misses their chance of leaving. Complaining about the weather doesnt help, however. Probably Mother Nature is trying to teach us something.

 Notice:

Green tea field tour  April 25th ( Sun )

                  Start at 9:30 AM in Fujinomiya

                  You can experience green tea leaves picking, green tea leaves tempura, walking the tea field, enjoy shopping, etc.

                  If you are interested in it, please contact us.

Cherry Blossom Viewing Part2

Monday, April 12th, 2010

This young man is from the U.S. Since Hanami (or Cherry blossom viewing) was a first experience for him, he was very excited to take part in Hanami. He studied history in the U.S. and is particularly interested in the Japanese toilet or sewage system of the Edo era and he even wrote paper on it !

 

 

This young lady is from Scotland. She is trying to fix her camera but it’s not easy for her. She has already had another Hanami party before so it’s not new for her but she is excited to find something new.

 

I took these photos in front of an old inn called Honjin where feudal lords called daimyo used to stay.?In those days feudal lords had to alternate their residence between Edo ( Tokyo ) and their local town. Their wives had to stay in Edo rather like hostages. For feudal lords it cost a lot of money to travel with their followers but on the other hand it must have stimulated economic activities. It is said that when their processions were going on commoners were not to look at them so they got down on the road with their heads down. When commoners were not around the processions the group of feudal lords moved very quickly so that they could save money.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We visited another old house. It is said to have been built more than 120 years ago. This house is very unique since outside is western but inside it is in typical Japanese style.

After Meiji Restoration, Japan took in a lot of western culture. After a long period of international seclusion, many Japanese might have longed for something western. The owner of this house was a carpenter and his son became a dentist and then remodeled the house as a dental office.

As patients he had VIPs such as Count Tanaka who spent his retired life nearby. Or in the back of this house, we can see another old house. I heard some patients who came from?far away place used to stay for a month or so for their dental care. For example geisha from Atami. Thanks to bullet trains we can travel from Atami very quickly but it took a long time to travel then.

It must have been very luxurious to have dental care.  This is a waiting room for VIPs. It has an alcove and goldensliding doors with gorgeous painting on them.

 

 

 

 

  

  

   

I also encountered “ Sakura Zensen Otoko “ or the “cherry blossom front man”.He carries a guitar and karaoke equipment with him. He travels around famous cherry blossom viewing sites. Japan arches from south to north and this man travels according to cherry blossom blooming. He suddenly appears at Hanami site and sings songs.

This lady asked me “ How do you say konnichwa in English ?” She said “ hello “ to him and they greeted each other. At Hanami people have fun in a friendly atmosphere.

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.

Year End Party

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

I just had the first year-end party of this year. It may sound too early to be having one in November but from now on it will get more difficult for many people to fix get-together dates.

All of the people at the party were much younger than me but they all seemed down to earth.The youngest person must be this beautiful Canadian lady. Ooops! I made a mistake. The youngest person was the 2-year-old cute girl.

We all had good time and enjoyed Philippine dishes. We’ll go on a Sake brewery tour next January. I suppose that’s going to be our New Year’s Party.