Ryutakuji ( zen temple in Mishima, Shizuoka )

Monday, November 29th, 2010

We went to Ryutakuji temple on Nov. 23rd. Every year they display their hanging scrolls and folding screens and the temple is open to the public. There is only one chance a year. It is called “ kanpuusai “. “ Kan “ means view. “ Puu” means maple. “ Sai “ means festival. In this season the maple trees color beautifully. They don’t advertise but each year many people visit this temple through word of mouth. 

 

 It was the third time for me to visit for the festival but every time I find something new.

 I believe this temple has had many respectable abbots and priests but I particularly respect Genpou Yamamoto( 1866~1961). Last year I didn’t know much about him so I didn’t try to find anything related to him. But this year I was very excited to find the great golden and black folding screen with his writing and his wooden statue. The American who went with me told me that he saw the picture of the folding screen in a textbook when he took zen class at his university. He was excited to see the real one, too.

The garden and buildings are worth viewing. I heard this beautiful building is the abbot’s office. I met the same person I met last year and thanked him for letting me take his photo with visitors. Then he introduced a trainee from Germany. He seems to be staying relatively long time. He is a very calm person.  I heard him speak Japanese a little and he sounded very fluent in Japanese. I missed asking his name.

Later an American trainee, Tobin from Seattle, talked to Tony. He has already trained there for a month and is going to stay there another month. I talked about Eric’s visit to the temple and if he had already been there or not but he arrived there later. This is such an international temple.

All the people who visited Ryutakuji admired its beauty and tranquility. We talked about the trainees. We were all amazed to see that they all have beautiful skin ! How I envy them. They might eat much less than I do and work much harder than me. Nobody looked overweight ! Once I heard zazen makes people’s skin beautiful. Zazen cleans our bodies and mind. Staying there more than one hour and half, I was hungry as usual. I found temple’s kitchen but nobody invited me for lunch ! I love Shojinryori.

Tea Ceremony in Fuji City ( Shizuoka )

Monday, November 29th, 2010

The other day I went to a tea ceremony with a friend of mine. Kobayashi En in Fuji City has a nice tea room and they let people use their property when they are not too busy. Once a month between April and August (they don’t open but other months) anybody can join a tea ceremony there. So a person like me who doesn’t know much about tea ceremony can learn and experience it in authentic facilities. Every month different tea ceremony teachers and students entertain us or teach us with delicious matcha and almost always home-made confectionery.

Each person pays only 500yen. Since it’s held on Sunday morning, some people might feel too lazy to go there but I think it’s a nice start to the week. My friend can put on kimono without anyone to help her and she showed up in kimono! She looked very beautiful. The owner of Kobayashi En told me that daily clothes are good enough but everybody wore Sunday best except me. Tea ceremony likes tidiness but doesn’t like gaudiness. So Kimono worn at tea ceremony should be restrained and chic, like their kimono.

 

 I tried to take good photos in the tea room but it was too dark and my skill isn’t good enough to take things beautifully. On that day I learned that in tea ceremony, they always combine dark and light. This is one example: the shelf is square and this is darkness; on the other hand the ladle has a round part and this displays lightness. The darkness and lightness make great balance so it looks good. This idea is originated from China a long time ago. This rule seems to apply to many things in the world.

Buckwheat noodle restaurant in Mishima ( Shizuoka )

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

    

These days many of my clients from overseas are vegetarian or they are eager to have vegetables or fruits. I always recommend buckwheat noodles or Udon noodles for lunch. But vegetarians can’t eat them for the soup, because bonito is used in the stock. But this restaurant understands and if you ask them beforehand, they prepare soup only with kelp and mushrooms.

My favorite item in this shop is “ soba teisyoku” . “ Soba “ means buckwheat and “ teisyoku” means set lunch. They only make four sets a day and if you really want to try it , it’s better to make a reservation or go there as soon as they open.

Ishido http://web.thn.jp/ishido/

November’s set lunch was mushroom noodles, buckwheat sushi rolls, buckwheat miso and buckwheat dumplings with sweet bean paste for dessert. It is only 1,000 yen and delicious. You can enjoy buckwheat tea as much as you can. They just started their restaurant last March. They are friendly, flexible and kind.

 

Green Tea Paradise in Kanaya ( Shizuoka ) part5

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

On the side of the mountain, you can see a Chinese character meaning tea or “ cha”.

They trim the trees and cut the grass to keep the character distinctive.

The farmers’ work is very neat. When we visited Kanaya at the end of October and beginning of November, they were not as busy as in spring but they have trimmed the tea trees beautifully so that they can harvest new tea in spring. They place straw on the ground to protect the tea leaves from frost and the straw will also make good fertilizer. A number of fans keep circulating the air to prevent frost. Growing tea requires a lot of care.

   

By the way, when Ken and Elise visited Kanaya, two newspaper companies came to report on us and the following day, we were in the two newspaper !

Since we were wearing special caps for hygienic reason it’s not our best look

though. When Jason visited Kanaya, The world tea expo has already finished

and the reporters didn’t show up. Even though the festival has finished, tea producing is going on and I hope people’s interest in tea keeps increasing.

Today’s Mt.Fuji ( Fuji City, Shizuoka )

Friday, November 19th, 2010

It’s getting colder and Mt. Fuji has already got a lot of snow. I took this photo near my house as I was taking a walk in the morning.

    

The weather was lovely today. Daytime is very warm but in the morning and in the evening it’s rather cold.The temperature fluctuate and that makes autumn leaves beautiful. I love autumn.

Hand-rolled Green tea from Kanaya ( Shizuoka )

Friday, November 19th, 2010

 

I got hand-rolled green tea from Sugimoto Seicha in Kanaya as a souvenir.

I brewed it for my family. I was a little nervous about brewing it since now I know what it takes to make it and how delicate it is.

I think I did it successfully. All of my family said the taste was delicious and very unusual.

The second serving got a little closer to the kind of tea we usually drink.

The leaves looked delicious so we picked some leaves and ate them.

I didn’t throw them away but made green tea tenpura with sweet potato.

While I was cooking, I could enjoy a nice roasting smell !

Our family loved the tempura. Next time I’m going to make potpourri.

Last spring at a green tea festival in Fujinomiya City, I got tea potpourri made by tea farmers’ wives.

They said that someone kept this in his Kendo bag then his bag was free from stink or mold !  

Green Tea Paradise in Kanaya ( Shizuoka ) part 4

Monday, November 15th, 2010

   

Sugimoto Seicha in Kanaya has many tea-loving visitors from foreign countries. I was very happy to be a translator for Jason C.S.Chen. He runs Lu Yu Tea Company in Seattle. www.luyutea.com. Since he is Chinese and loves Chinese tea but he also studies Japanese green tea. He is very serious about checking the quality of tea. He even runs tea farms in China and Taiwan. Until I met him, I didn’t know much about Chinese tea. In Japan, Oolong tea has been popular. It is often sold ready to drink at convenience stores in plastic containers. Honestly speaking, I have never thought it tastes good. But when I drunk authentic oolong tea at a restaurant, I was very surprised at its wonderful taste. I think it goes the same for green tea. Making green tea isn’t very easy and we need some knowledge and training to make it. From his website, I learned about the process of Chinese green tea and difference between Japanese green tea and Chinese green tea. It’s interesting. There are many kinds of tea in the world and each person has their own taste. Each food has a tea to match. The point is to choose the right tea for right food and make it in the proper way. To do this I have to study many things. Jason seemed to enjoy looking at the factories and tea field. He has a very nice camera and took a lot of photographs. He is good at taking photographs and his photographic collection has been published. A Tea Lover’s Travel Diary . All of the people I met in Kanaya are energetic and full of passion.

Green Tea paradise in Kanaya ( Shizuoka ) part 3

Monday, November 15th, 2010

I learned a lot about how green tea is produced. Green tea leaves fresh from farms are processed immediately at farmers’ factories. When the crude green tea or Aracha is ready, it is immediately brought to Sugimoto Seicha. Aracha looks good enough for me but this tea is to be further refined at Sugimoto’s factory.

As soon as Aracha arrives , the tea is tasted by the tea blender Hiroyuki Sugimoto. As he tastes he decides which teas are to be blended. The blending has to be done according to customers’ taste and budget. When they taste the aracha, they pour boiling water into the tea leaves. According to the maestro, when he smells he can tell the quality of the tea. He can’t describe the taste in words but he can feels it. Ken and Elise tasted the tea. They said they didn’t eat anything that tastes strong for breakfast in order to fully taste the tea ! Green tea is such a subtle drink. After visiting and seeing the factories, I came to have special respect for the tea farmers and blenders. I also respect people like Ken and Elise who came to Japan all the way from the US to learn about green tea.

 

Green Tea Paradise in Kanaya ( Shizuoka ) part2

Monday, November 8th, 2010

The hand-rolled tea is finally ready. It took nearly 6 hours. Only such needle-shaped leaves can form this pyramid-like shape. Doesn’t it look gorgeous ? Brewing this kind of tea requires special care.

  

             The Sugimotos’ first son, Masaaki, who is going to take over his father’s job, showed us how to brew it.  First, we prepare this kind of clay pot called a“ kyusu”. Choosing the right utensil is very important because green tea leaves need plenty of room to expand. We weigh the leaves. The water temperature and infusion time matter. We have to brew it at 104F water for one minute and forty-five seconds. When serving the tea, it is best to pour a little into each cup in turn first, then go back and top off each cup so that the tea in all the cups is of uniform strength and flavor. The temperature, amount of tea, infusion time can be varied depending on the leaves but this pouring method can be used for all leaves.

 

 

  

 

 

 

  We tasted the tea. This tea was totally different from the tea I drink every day. If I hadn’t known what I had, I wouldn’t have been able to tell what kind of drink it was. Since the color is pale, it looks weak but the taste continued to refresh my mouth for an hour. By infusing in low-temperature water, only the rich umami taste came through. Its taste is interesting and it is beyond description. It’s worth trying! If you drink too much, it’s not good for your stomach though.

 

 By the way, I brought Japanese sweets there. They go well with tea. A friend of mine in Kyoto makes and sells these.  http://www.rakuten.ne.jp/gold/miyako-kyoto/They have yuzu, or Japanese citron flavour. I love yuzu and to my surprise, I heard that yuzu is getting popular in the US now.

 

 

 

Green Tea Paradise in Kanaya ( Shizuoka ) part1

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

green tea processing

I was very happy to be a translator for these two tealoving Americans, tea maestro Hiroyuki Sugimoto and other people related to tea-production. The gentleman on the left, Ken Rudee is director of Tea Association of USA. ( big shot ! ) I understand his mission is to educate tea experts and enhance tea drinking culture in the US. He also runs a tea business based in Seattle. www.BARNESandWATSON.com  and Kyohei Sugimoto, the second son of the Sugimotos, runs a tea shop in Seattle www.sugimotousa.com/so they know each other. The lady on the right is Elise Scott. She is also engaged in the tea industry in Washington DC. http://www.pearlteas.com/  In addition, she works as a designer, consultant, advertising executive ( what a versatile lady ! ) www.nitrocreative.com

Both of them are very keen on learning about tea. They asked the people a barrage of questions. They met the tea farmers, visited the tea field, factories and even tried making hand-kneaded tea at Sugimoto Seicha. Even most Japanese haven’t tried that! Processing tea by hand is really hard and difficult. Now excellent machines are available but some people make great efforts to keep the old Japanese tradition.  

 On that day, Takeo Matsuura, a teacher for teachers, and Kazue Sugimoto ( she has a license as a teacher) and tea farmers showed us how to do the job. As Kazue gave instructions, she said “ Sou, Sou “. In Japanese that means “ That’s the way ! “ But in English “ So, so “ means “ Not bad.” Ken, Elise, you did a good job.