Chokoji Temple ( Zen part 2)

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

         

I visited Chokoji Temple in Numazu ( Shizuoka ). It is located on the old Tokaido road. It’s only about ten minutes walk from the beach. ( Suruga Bay on the Pacific Ocean) And we can view huge Mt. Fuji to the North of the temple. I visited it because it has a beautiful tea ceremony room and garden. I’m also interested in Hakuin. The Zen master whose home temple Shoinji is next to the temple.

The chief priest, Rev. Matsushita, showed us the beautiful garden , the tea room, and the inside of the temple. Everything I saw amazed me ! When Hakuin lived in Shoinji, lots of Zen students used to stay at this temple like a dorm. Now Rev. Matsushita let many foreign students who study at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies stay at this temple during their Summer and Winter vacation since he is an alumnus of the University. I think they are lucky to be able to enjoy staying in such a fantstic place.

 

 

Since the yen has surged against many other currencies, I guess this is a big help for many foreign students living in Japan. However, I wonder if the decadent ex-finance minister and the people hanging around him might help to depreciate the yen again.

 

 

This is the green tea made by the chief priest. It was very delicious. And here is some confectionary. We eat this kind of sweet before having ” Usucha”.

I saw too many wonderful things to introduce in one entry. I’ll write about them little by little in other entries.

Cooking

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

 I’m clumsy but I like cooking and eating. Today I cooked two small vegetable dished. I’m not vegetarian. I eat almost all kinds of food but the food I cook is almost always based on vegetables.

Shiraae

Ingredients: green peas, Tofu, sesame paste, sugar, salt, soy source

1. drain the Tofu by wrapping in kitchen paper and keep it in a fridge for 30 to 60 minutes.

2. Boil the green peas.

3. Mash the Tofu and combine salt , sugar, sesame paste, soy sauce and mix it all together.

4. When the green peas have cooled down mix up the sauce prepared at 3

 

 Spinach rolls

Ingredients: spinach, laver, an egg, oil, Japanese Sake, salt, sesame seeds, pickled ginger,

1. Boil the spinach. Then put it in cold water.

2. Squeeze the spinach and make a few spinach bars.

3. Beat an egg and add a little Sake and salt.

4. Apply a little oil to a frying pan and heat it.

5. Put 3 in it and make a thin crepe-like omelet.

6. Roll the spinach bar with the laver and the crepe.

7. Then cut the resulting roll into bite-sized slices.

8. Or you could cut the spinach bars to bite-size chunks first and then roll each one with the laver or crepe.

9. Put some seasoned sesame seeds and add pickled ginger as garnish.

When I caught a cold my grandmother used to cook the spinach rolled with laver. And I have always believed that Popeye got stronger by eating spinach.

Rakugo ( telling entertaining stories )

Monday, February 16th, 2009

 I went to a Rakugo performance given by a British Rakugo entertainer called Diane Kichijitsu. She has been in Japan for 18 years. She is a very powerful entertainer. She also has certificates in flower arrangement and tea ceremony. She has 120 kimonos and can dress herself in them without any help.

She was fascinated by the late Katsura Shijiyaku, a famous Japanese Rakugo performer who did Rakugo in English. She told us many interesting stories. Let me tell you one of them.

Rakugo is a unique artform. The performers have only a fan and a handkerchief as props and a single performer tells vivid stories using voice and gestures to convey the parts of men, women, children, the elderly, etc. For her it was very difficult to explain to her mother what rakugo is like. She sais, ” I remain seated on a mat and talk alone for 30 minutes.” Her mother sounded worried and said ” That sounds like a very lonely job. Are you OK ? Do you have friends? ”

Later her mother had a chance to see her rakugo and found it interesting and understood what it is.

A British friend of mine said,” I’ve been to most kinds of Japanese traditional performing arts, but never to Rakugo. I suppose it is because humour usually requires a very high understanding of language and culture. But I should try.”

Diane Kichijitsu appreciates Japanese culture so much, may be more than some Japanese do. She encourages us and gives us a lot of energy. Thank you Diane !

St. Valentine’s Day

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

In Japan, on the day women are supposed to give chocolate to a particular man as a confession of love. However, these days most of the gifts are “giri”. “Giri” means obligation and it doesn’t mean ” I’m in love with you.” This year I often hear about ” reverse chocolate “. This means men give women chocolate. As far as I’m concerned, I never hear of anyone giving or receiving real love chocolate nowadays. Or do they handle this matter as a top secret ?

Chocolate giving campaings were statred in 1960 by Morinaga ( a confectionary company ). I heard the president is a Christian. Probably he wanted to introduce the story of St. Valentine to the people and to sell chocolate at the same time. This business has been really successful, but I don’t think those who buy chocolate always know the story of St. Valentine.

Some people are surprised to know that in Western countries men treat women. Or family members exchange cards. Moreover in Japan a month later on March 14th men who got the gift must give biscuits to women in return.

Mariko-Ji ( Mariko Path)

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Mariko-Ji has been an important road since The Heian period. The Tokaido route had 53 stations from Edo to Kyoto. At each station, travelers could rest and eat something. Mariko was the 20th statiom from Edo.I went to Mariko to view its famouse plum blossoms .

There’s a big private garden with 800 hundred trees with 300 different kinds of blossoms. The owner of the garden was facinated by Korin Ogata’s red and white plum blossom painting and started to collect  plum blossoms from all over Japan and even from China. This garden has been open to the public since 1996. We can enjoy viewing blossoms from around January 20 to  around March 5th. They are beautiful and smell very good. I wish I had a special phone or computer that could send you this smell.

Mariko and Maruko ( Chibi Maruko chan, an animation character) are often mixed up. I’ll introduce the Chibi Maruko museum sometime soon. But as you walk around the big garden, you might bump into Tomozo ( Maruko’s grandfather )?!

Mariko is famous for its first black tea produced in Japan.

Setsubun

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Feb.3 ,the eve of the first day of spring according to the traditional Japanese calendar, is  the day of Setsubun. We scatter a handful of beans as we yell,” Out with the ogre! In with happiness!” while wishing everyone good health fot the year.

Then we eat the same number of beans as our age. No way ! I can’t eat that many ! How many ? No, I don’t want to spill the beans. Let’s change the subject slightly.

I found some interesting pottery in Shizuoka. It is called Shizuhata Yaki. Shizuhata was an old name for Shizuoka. This pottery has a long history. It is said that Tokugawa Ieyasu loved this kind of ceramics.

 

 They made these things in a few different sizes. If you look at the outside you can see the face of a slightly scary ” ogre ” and inside a woman’s happy face. This reminded me of a piece Dali made for Air India. From one side you can see a swan, an image of airplane and from another side you can see an elephant, an image of India.

Learn from Tokugawa Ieyasu

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

I visited Toshogu Shrine in Shizuoka. It’s located on Mt.Kunou. Tokugawa Ieyasu who established Tokugawa Government ( Edo Era ) is enshrined here.

Later with some reasons, they enshrined Ieyasu in Toshogu in Nikko,too. Ieyasu spent his childhood and retired life in Shizuoka . Then he was enshrined here according to his will.

 

He underwent a lot of hardships since his childhood. He was raised as a hostage but the lord who took him gave him the best of all things, such as the best clothes, food etc, in the first place. The lord meant to spoil him, thinking that people who succeed without having to try can’t be satisfied easily and will be frustrated all the time. But Ieyasu was an unusual person and ended up establishing the basis of the long lasting Edo Era. He said ” Life is like a long journey we are making with a heavy load on our back. So, don’t hurry. Be slow and steady.” The word patience comes to my mind each time I hear his name.

Since I’m used to a convenient life and take a lot of things for granted, there will be a lot of things I can learn from his life.

 

At the foot of Mt.Kunou, there are many strawberry farms. They build low mounds with some bricks and soil and strawberries are grown there. They are covered just with plastic sheet to protect the straberries. In many farms they burn oil to keep the house warm but here they don’t have to do that since it’s warm enough.

After walking up 1,159 stone steps to the shrine and coming down, fresh strawberry juice tasted very good.