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 !

Visiting a photographer’s studio

Monday, December 29th, 2008

I visited a wonderful photpgrapher’s studio. This studio is located in Asagiri Highland in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka. I took this photo of Mt. Fuji in front of the house.

My Dream Christmas Eve

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

When I was younger and singler, the days toward Christmas Eve were a tense period. Because I thought that I needed to find someone decent who go on a date with on that day. In my imagination, we should exchange presents, wearing nice clothes and go to a posh French restaurant and say cheers over a glass of champagne.

I used to joke with my friends. If I can’t find anyone nice, I’ll sing “Single Bell” alone at home. Now I know for many people who celebrate Christmas, the day is for family reunions . While Japanese Christmas Eve and Christmas are for couples or friends and New Year’s Day is for families.

Another big difference may be that Japanese vacation is from December28 to January 4 or 5 ( Though it depends on the person). On the other hand in many countries they start to work on January 2. I often hear many business people complain about the gap. Since today’s business has grown global, should we change the system or keep as it is ?

Food as medicine

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

On the winter solstice day, we eat pumpkin and azuki beans. The carotin and vitamin C in punpkin prevent us from catching cold. Azuki beans are also good for health and their red color is believed to drive bad luck away. Particulary this combination is very good for those who are suffering from diabetes.Taking a bath with yuzu and eating this small dish will bring you health and happiness.

A heart-warming story

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

I read a very nice story yesterday. It’s a true story. It dates back to 1959 in Kanagawa.

A teacher at a school for handicapped children visited a company to ask them to hire two of their mentally handicapped children. The company was a middle-sized one making dustless chalk. The teacher visited the company twice to beg the president to hire his school’s children , but the president couldn’t say yes. At the third visit the teacher saw the president was agonized so he said ,”I’m not going to ask you to hire them anymore but would you please give them a chance to experience working ? Otherwise they’ll never know what work is like in their life.” The president agreed to accept them for one week.

The work started at 8:00AM and finished at 5:00PM. The overjoyed children were at the door everyday at 7:00AM. They worked very very hard. On the day before the last day, company employees visited the president and asked ,”Please hire them as full-time workers. We’ll support them to make up for anything they can’t do well.”

Since then the company has kept on hiring handicapped people for some 50 years and their share of the chalk market has risen to 30 %. Now 70% of the workers are handicapped. Many people who visited the company are touched and become supportive.

I’m glad to know that such a wonderful company exists in Japan. Even while big-name companies are having to cut their temporary workers.

I wonder what success in business is.

Soy Milk Nabe

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

This is soy milk nabe. Nabe is a dish, such as a stew, that is cooked in a pot at the table in front of the people who are eating. People enjoy this style of cooking in winter. This dish is very easy to make and good for your health.

First, I steam some vegetables such as Chinese cabbage or green onions. Then, in the same pot I add soy milk and heat a little it and add some nigari. Nigari is a kind of natural magnesium. Simmer it and when the soy milk starts to firm, it is ready to eat. I don’t add any seasoning except for a splinkle of natural salt. The soy milk is very creamy and tasty. The combination with seasonal vegetables makes the dish perfect.

George dodged a pair of shoes

Monday, December 15th, 2008

I’m not talking about ” Courious George”. But the present American president George.W.Bush. Everyone must have been surprised and so was I. I hope it’s not going to be a new fashion. If it should be, everyone will have to take off their shoes at press conferences. Or if that doesn’t work, people will have to meditate before press conferences so that they have a peaceful mind. That Iraqi journalist must be really angry. However I would like to remind him ” The pen is mightier than the shoe.”

Annual Sushi Party

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

We had our annual Sushi party last night. Every year around the middle of December, we get together at someone’s house. It was the 14th time for us to do this and we are the most recent family  to join the party. Last night about 30 people got together. Many of us don’t see each other very often. So I’m often amazed to see how the children have grown up. While the parents have managed to stay young !

I hope we will get together next year and I’ll do my best to rejuvenate myself !?

The pinch is the chance

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

All the news I see or hear seems to be bad news these days. So I came up with a game called “nega. posi. game”. I’ll tell you the rules. Here’s some bad news: Some companies cancelled job offers for some college students. Yes, this is terrible news but any bad thing has its good side. The game is to use your imagination and try to think of better consequences of the bad news. The person telling a very interesting or extraordinary possible story is the winner. The judges are all the people who play the game.

Example: The student got a job for another company which is relatively small but he tried hard and eventually got a top management position.

On the otherhand, a student who clung to a big famouns company got bored with his job because he can’t feel any accomplishment with his job. Besides, his chances of getting a management position seem very small.

People say,” If you eat a live toad in the morning, you can be sure that nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of that day.”

How do you like it ? I’m going to play this game in the next class.

By the way, the answer for Yokan is ” lamb soup”.


Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

I visited a Japanese confectionery factory, TORAYA www.toraya-group.co.jp

They make many kinds of beautiful and decicious confectionery. The factory is located in Gotenba City, Shizuoka. It took about 40 minutes from my house by car. This Yokan is made from Azuki beans,agar and sugar. It is formed into a kind of firm jelly. The ingredients they use are all top-notch. After the factory tour, they served me generous portion of Yokan and green tea at a sophiscated lobby.

Here is some trivia for you.

Around 13th and 14th century, Japanese Buddhist priests went to China to study.

In China, they had (          ) as a small meal between breakfast and supper.

(A) lamb pie  (B) lamb soup (C) grilled lamb  (D) smoked lamb

Japanese priests introduced this custom to Japan but at that time, they were not supposed to eat meat.So insted of meat they used Azuki beans or flour and made something to eat.

This is the origin of Yokan.  The answer will be seen in the next blog.