The Lotus festival at the foot of Mt. Fuji ( Shizuoka )

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

   

We went to a festival at Daitsuuji temple. They exhibited and demonstrated “ Zoubihai”. “ Zou “ means elephant. “ Bi “ means nose. “ Hai “ means glass. Doesn’t  the lotus leaf looks like an elephant’s ear and nose ? Here’s the kanji characters which represent “ zoubihai”. All they had to do was to make a hole on the middle of the leave, since inside is a tube-like structure that can be made into a straw. Chilled sake ( rice wine) was poured onto the leaf ( glass ) and you can drink the sake through the lotus straw. Since this temple is at the foot of Mt. Fuji they served sake for the goddess of Mt. Fuji “Konohana sakuyano hime”. The gentleman who tried it is 100 years old ! He was wearing jeans and looked very young and healthy. Best of all, he seems to be curious about many things and that makes him young.

    

I tried lotus nuts. They sold a box lunch with these nuts. It is said that any part of the lotus can work as medicine but especially the nuts gives you energy. I can buy roots at supermarkets but I don’t think I can buy other parts. Now I started to think about growing lotus so that I can view and eat or drink various products afterward.

 

 

Lotuses at the foot of Mt. Fuji

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

    

We visited a temple at the foot of Mt. Fuji. That temple has 150 pots and 70 different kinds of lotuses. They are at their best in July and August. The flowers bloom in the morning and they close up again around noon. Some flowers stay open even in the afternoon and their petals will fall off the following day. Lotus flours bloom for four days. I like both the flowers and roots. We eat lotus roots, too. But edible lotuses are a different kind. I heard lotus roots will be good for people who want to be calm and steady. I think viewing this flower makes people calm, too.

They have an interesting kind of lotus called “ Ooga lotus “. Its name is from a scholar called Dr. Ooga. He discovered the seeds of lotus while he was uncovering the earth. Judging from the stratum, the seeds are as old as 2000 years old. Lotus seeds are covered with a very thick husk and as long as the inside stays dry they can come back and bloom again. It is such a mysterious and hardy plant. They use this plant in many different ways, for example for dying, making cloth from fiberrich stems, lotus tea, lotus rice balls or making crafts.

 

 

 

 

Tea Ceremony Gathering

Monday, July 12th, 2010

 

               Tea Ceremony Gathering

 Date :     August 22nd Sunday

 Place :    Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha

 Fee  :    1,500 Yen

 Meeting point : JR Fujinomiya station 10:30 AM

Let’s enjoy having matcha tea in three different styles.

 

1.    Usucha : thin matcha and confections.

2.    Chabako : thin matcha and confections.

3.    Koicha :  Thick and creamy matcha is served. A bowl of tea is shared by three people. with confections.

Each ceremony takes about 30 minutes. Between each ceremony you might take a short break. Since this meeting isn’t a very formal one, people who are not familiar with tea ceremony can enjoy having tea. Don’t worry about what to do, the main point of tea ceremony is to enjoy a bowl of tea with the host.

Dress code :  Please bring white socks. We wear them at the tea meeting. Jeans are acceptable but it’s better not to wear something tight since your legs go to sleep when you sit on your knees. Also short skirts are not recommended.

If you are interested in this meeting, please e-mail us by July 30. If you miss applying by that date but are still interested, please contact us in case we can still fit you in.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask us by e-mail.

Mottainai ( What a waste ! )

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

      

Do you know this Japanese expression “ mottainai “ ?

My grandmother and great grandmother used to tell me that whenever she saw things being thrown away.

In fact, we throw things away so easily. Sometimes things thrown away can be better than things kept for use. “ Nante mottainai ! “ I can hear my ancestors’ yells.

Do you ever cook carrot leaves ? I bought good organic carrots with their leaves on. I cooked tempura ( deep fried ) with carrot, corn and carrot’s leaves. It tasted very delicious ! The carrots’ leaves created great flavor and texture. It was my first try but it went well. To make it I mixed tempura flour with cold beer then combined it with corn, carrot and carrot leaves. I prepared a shallow pan with some oil, I don’t make it too deep. Unlike fish or meat you can use relatively little oil. But I always make sure if the batter is cooked enough or not.

When it’s ready, you sprinkle some salt on it. It goes very well with beer.

Green Tea in Kanaya ( Shizuoka )

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

    

I was very lucky to have a chance to visit the tea valley and factories in Kanaya with two American tourists. This beautiful American couple are very keen on learning about green tea and have a strong passion to make green tea more prevalent in the US. Particularly, Dan has been engaged in the tea industry ever since becoming enchanted by green tea.www.drinktheleaf.com and Teresa is making and selling wine from Napa Valley in California.www.zdwines.com

 Interestingly, growing grapes and tea leaves have many similar points. For example they can produce high quality tea and grapes on steep hills. Frost is a big threat for both of them.

 

     

 

     

 

   Mr. Sugimoto, the president of this tea company, kindly took time to show us their affiliated farmers’ factory, his own factory and his company. www.shizuoka-tea-no1.net They produce one of the best green teas in Japan. I thought their business is very promising because 1. All of the farmers look lively and happy. 2. Many young people work there and older experienced people are passing their skills to the young. 3.Mr.Sugimoto has very nice staff. His first son learns skills from his father. His second son works hard in the U.S. based in Seattle to promote green tea. www.sugimotoamerica.com His wife is trying hard to keep tea culture by teaching people how to process tea by hand – so called “ temomi “ which is very hard work.        

Delicious tea is made by nice people. The tea is appreciated by nice people like this American couple. Good tea makes people healthy. It sounds like a wonderful chain.

I was very glad to get to know Teresa and Dan, The Sugimotos and the farmers in Kanaya. I hope more people in the world visit Shizuoka and share the same experience. Also I feel like visiting Napa Valley where the couple live. It looks like a very beautiful place and their wine looks delicious, too !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zazen and Shojin Dishes

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

   

We had zazen tours on 21st and 27th of June at Chokoji temple in Numazu. According to Reverend Matsushita, zazen is like doing the laundry. We accumulate lot of bad things inside of us such as anger, jealousy, grudges etc. We do zazen to rid these things from our mind and try to be in the state of “ Mu” or “ zero “. Proper breathing and posture are important. As we uncover ourselves, we can see things clearly and then we come to feel new energy to initiate something new or get some creative ideas. Zazen breathing affects people’s skin, too. No wonder many priests’ skin is beautiful. Probably another reason could be that the food they eat is based on vegetables. After a zazen session that was relatively long for beginners, we all felt refreshed.

 

   

 

      

Then we moved to the restaurant nearby called “ Garden Bells”. There we enjoyed Shojinryori ( vegetarian dishes ) followed by Zen temple style food. Eating itself is also training in zen so we are not supposed to speak while eating. Eating time is very short since we all concentrated on eating. When the course finished we came back to normal mode and enjoyed eating more food while talking. All of us were amazed by Garden Bells’ service and savory dishes. The menus on 21st and 27th were slightly different. Now it’s the humid and muggy rainy season in Japan but the food and drink were a cool balmy breeze.

 

On 27th’s tour, after the lunch we took a short walk to Shoinji Temple. Hakuin, zen master, was the head priest of this temple. So it has Hakuin’s painting and calligraphy. Every year on April 29th it is open to the public.