Mt. Minobu

Monday, March 30th, 2009

I visited Mt. Minobu ( Yamanashi ) to view their new five-storied pagoda and cherry blossoms at Kuonji temple. Nichiren ( 1222~1282 ) the founder of the Nichiren sect spent his later years here. We often see five-storied pagpdas at Buddhist temples. Do you know why they are five-storied ? In Buddhism all matter is believed to be composed of the five elements: earth, water, fire, wind and air.

 

This temple and mountain have many beautiful and old cherry blossoms. There are many kinds and they bloom at a slightly different time. However the end of March and beginning of April is said to be when they are at their best.

 

   

Going to a Kaiseki restaurant

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

I went to a Kaiseki restaurant the other day. They served us really delicious dishes. Some of them looked so delicious that I forgot to take their photos.

We all enjoyed these dishes and were happy to know that we have such a good restaurant in our town.

I was quite satisfied except for the fact that I gained 1 kilo !

Let me introduce some of the dishes.

1. Hors d’oeuvre: Cherry blossoms and Hina dolls are symbol of Spring.

    

2. Soup : with fish, mushrooms and vegetables.

3. Raw fish : from left to right, fluke, blue fin tuna, razor clam, sweet shrimp, cuttle fish.

4. Grilled sea bream with spinach, broccoli, and deep fried vegetables.

5. Steamed egg dish topped with generous portion of shark’s fin. ( This is very good for my skin.)

6. Grilled bamboo shoot, beef, and abalone.

7. We had a dish pate de foie gras with taro. It was very good, too but I don’t have its photo.

Mt.Fuji has many faces

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

As it gets warmer, the chances of viewing Mt.Fuji clearly get fewer. From October to April is the best season to view Mt.Fuji. A friend of mine who always visits us in Summer asked me,” Does Mt. Fuji really exist ? I’ve nerver seen it.” I strongly recommended that he should visit us in Winter.

By the way, I started to take photo lessons. These photos were taken by my photo teacher Mr. Seishi Nagatsuka. He is a famous photographer. He takes photos of cars, nature and Kabuki actors, etc. He also gives lessons from beginners ( like me ) to professional photographers.


Aren’t they great ?

The Tea Museum

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

        

Sometime ago a person told me that oil is the number one traded commodity in the volume nowadays. Before oil it was tea. Tea has been playing an important role in our lives all over the world. Shizuoka produces a lot of tea and is famous for its good quality.

I visited The Tea Museum in Shimada. www.ochanosato.com  This museum has a Japanese tea house and tea rooms from around the world. Such as a Chinese one, a Turkish one and a Tibetan one.

       

They also have a world tea-tasting counter. On that day they served us grapefruit flavored tea. It was very refreshing. They introduce many different kinds of tea to the visitors on a monthly basis.

  

I also saw a Turkish -style tea pot. It reminded me of the time when I visited Turkey. Under the strong sunshine, hot strong tea with a lump of sugar tasted so good. I never add sugar when I drink tea in Japan but I needed sugar there. Although we drink tea in different styles, tea brings us comfort and relief. I’d like to visit this museum again to study more about tea.

Hourai Bridge

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

    

This is Hourai Bridge in Shimada City ( Shizuoka). This city is on the old Tokaido highway. According to the Guiness book of records, this is the longest wooden bridge in the world. It’s about 982 yards in length and 2.6 yards in width. It takes about 30 minutes to walk from one end to the other. Also you have to pay a tool. For adults 100yen. Children 10 yen. One month pass for adults 800 yen. ( zero for children)

This bridge crosses The River Ohi. The first bridge was built in 1869( Meiji Era). The people of that time reclaimed the land on the other side to make a tea farm. For their convenience it was built.

During the Edo era, the Tokugawa Bakufu government didn’t permit bridges because of their military policy. So people had to cross the river like this.

 

       

When there was a lot of water in the river travelers were stranded in the town nearby and waited until the river was safe to cross. It took about 14 days to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto on the old Tokaido highway.Now it takes only 2 hours and 15 minutes from Tokyo to Kyoto or vice versa by Shinkansen.

If you have a chance to travel around Japan, why don’t you take a slow boat and visit Shizuoka.

Fukinotou ( petasites japonicas)

Friday, March 6th, 2009

   

When I visited Chokoji Temple the other day. I discovered these cute wild vegetables called Fukinotou. This plant belongs to the Chrysanthemum family and is indigenous to Japan. They look so lovely, don’t they ? They give off a refreshing smell and taste a little bitter. Wild vegetables in Spring are bitter and eating them in Spring is good for us. Because they wash out  the fat we stored inside our body during winter. Bears eat these in Spring too after waking up from hibernation. They must be picked to eat when they are not in full bloom. It’s preferable to eat them when they are buds.

I discovered Fukinotou at a farmers’ market nearby and made deep fried ( Tenpura ) Fukinotou.

 

When I make deep fried vegetables I always make more than we eat and eat more than I should.

When Tenpura is ready I sprinkle salt on them and eat them straight away. They go well with a glass of beer!

Cheers!

They can also be enjoyed with hot noodles or with rice later.

   

Peach Blossoms

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

This time of the year, we see peach blossoms for Hinamatsuri in many places. The pink color of peach blossoms is believed to drive evil spirits away. I love the fruit,too. We have to wait until July for that, though.

According to the ” Kojiki “, the mythical chronicles, the first  god couple was Izanagi-no-mikoto( husband ) and Izanami-no-mikoto ( wife ). They made the Japanese islands and also made many other gods. When the wife gave birth to Hinokagunotsuchi-no-mikoto (Akiba) who is the god of fire, she got a terrible burn and died.

Izanagi missed his wife very much and decided to take a trip to the world of the dead to see her. He saw his late wife there and was shocked. Because she had turned into an ugly and scary woman. He changed his mind and tried to escape but his wife got angry with him and ran after him. To make a safe escape Izanagi threw some peaches at Izanami and he made a narrow escape.

I heard that Shinto is reluctant to take care of funeral matters, so Buddhism takes care of them. When we had a funeral at our grandparents’ place, we covered the Shinto altar with white paper. Incidently, Hinokagunotsuchi-no-mikoto is called Akiba. This god protects us from fires at the same time as fire benefits us in many ways. So we can find many shrines devoted to this god. The town Akihabara in Tokyo comes from this god.

Hinamatsuri

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

  March 3 is Hinamatsuri. It has been a girl’s festival since the Edo era. We decorate dolls dressed in ancient costumes. Some people start decorating as early as January. But it is said if you still keep decorating the dolls when the season is over, the girls of the house won’t get married or will get married in relatively old age. Do you believe that ? In my house, dolls were decorated all year long ! What happened ? Eventually we got married but relatively late.

 

 I saw different type of Hina dolls in Toshogu Shrine in Shizuoka. They are called ” Thsurusibina ” or hanging dolls. Aren’t they beautiful ?

Originally this festival stems from a kind of ceremony to purify our body. Before the Edo era people didn’t have luxurious dolls. They just had dolls shaped from paper or something simple like that. They touched their body with the paper to take something evils away from their body. Then they floated them in the river. The doll-shaped paper  was supposed to carry evil things away. I wonder where the evil things go ? Never mind !

We have an expression ” Mizu ni nagasu”. It means ” Let’s forget our grudge and renew our relationship.” I’m not sure if these two things have a connection. But holding a grudge against someone for a long time consumes a lot of energy. However according to a certain historian, this idea is unique to Japanese and people from a different culture don’t understand.

Is it true ? Do you have this kind of ” forget it and start again” idea in your culture ?