The winter solstice

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

December 22nd is the winter solstice. Traditionally, we eat a dish called

“ toji kabocha “, simmered pumpkin and azuki beans. Both of the ingredients are very healthy and its combination is said to be perfect.

Pumpkin is a summer vegetable but we can preserve it for some time it as long it is uncut. Its rich carotene prevents us from paralysis caused by strokes. Azuki beans are also good for many things. We have many drinking parties in this time of the year but azuki beans work as an antidote.

 We take a bath with yuzu so that our body stays warm. It is said if you do that you don’t catch a cold.

 I found these Japanese sweets at a store in Fuji City. They said this set is for the winter solstice. One dumpling with a small green cup is yuzu. Another yellow one topped with azuki bean means “ toji kabocha “.  They are beautiful and taste good.

 Since it was very cold we enjoyed hojicha. In winter, we drink hojicha more often because we would like to drink it hot. In the case of sencha, we don’t use water that is less than piping hot. After eating a rather fatty meal, hojicha refreshes your mouth. I heard it’s very good for the people who had surgical operation because it can heal a damaged vascular system.

 I have a feeling that this winter in Japan is going to be very cold. I have to take good food and drink not to catch a cold. I am almost in winter sleep mode.

Enzyme bath part 2

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

I took a British person to my favorite enzyme bath in Fuji city.

One American said that by his experience, Japanese people like to make people from foreign culture surprised or even scared. If they are not surprised, Japanese people become very disappointed.

It may be right. In fact, I wanted to show him something unusual.

Enzyme bath consists of rice bran, fermentation agent and water. All of the ingredients are from nature. These things produce heat. We soak our body in the rice bran which is from 45C to more than 60C. We can’t take a bath in water as hot as 50 degrees but in the case of an enzyme bath, it’s not a problem. We can choose the temperature depending on our preference.

 This bath is good for the people who are fatigued without any serious health problems and even for people who have cancer. The owner of this bath told me that her client who has three tumors kept taking this bath. Then to their surprise, three tumors are united one and made the operation easier, then the operation went well and the person became healthy.

 My friend works hard and travels a lot, also he had a slight cold on that day.

Usually the one who tries it for the first time takes a bath around 15 minutes, but he said he would like to stay longer and ended up taking it for 25 minutes. After taking the bath, he looked very exhausted and sleepy but after that he looked refreshed. I hope more people experience this magical bath. Even babies who have skin problems can try. I heard it’s much better than taking medicine. I guess babies can be given something wrong from their mothers but since they are young , it’s easier to get rid of it.

For senior citizens, it helps them to rejuvenate by adding more enzymes.

Tea gathering at Kobayashi En in December

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

I went to the tea gathering at Kobayashi En in Fuji City the other day with my friends. We all felt grateful for the generous and warm hospitality with which they served homemade sweet and delicious tea. We could also learn lot of things about tea ceremony.

Learning about tea ceremony is learning Japanese culture. Since tea ceremony comprises literature, philosophy, architecture, pottery, kimono, flower arrangement, cooking and tea of course. Tea ceremony is not simply drinking tea.

 Our everyday lives are hectic and it’s not easy to have a chance to enjoy tea in such special circumstances. This moment is very important for me.

After tea ceremony, we took a walk in the garden. It was sunny and warm for December. I discovered my favorite flower called “ wabisuke “. It’s a kind of camellia. (Green tea is also camellia, as I’m sure you know.) Camellia blossoms stand out in the winter garden with their glossy leaves and cute blossoms. Whenever I see these kinds, I feel like they are giving me energy.

 

The first tea ceremony in 2012 at Kobayashi En is on January 8th from 10:00.

Admission per person is \500.

 

Kaiseki lesson for Hatsugama ( New Year’s tea ceremony )

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Though it’s a little early for Hatsugama ( New Year’s Tea ceremony )

we made this Hatsugama Tensin ( light meal ) anyway.

1.    Steamed sushi ( down on the left ). Prepare sushi rice and combine simmered brown mushrooms and simmered lotus. The rice is served in a relatively deep bowl and topped with sliced omelet and crab meat. Then steam the sushi.

In many cases, sushi isn’t served hot but in winter hot sushi tastes very good. I think it’s worth trying on cold days.

2.    In the middle, the round purple thing is called “ kinton”. It is a typical New Year food. “ Kinton” made from sweet potatoes and chestnuts are common. This one is made from purple sweet potatoes. Peeled and boiled and mashed, then seasoned with sugar. It is decorated by gold powder on top. We put only a little bit of gold. Our teacher said, if you add too much gold, it doesn’t look elegant.

3.    The soup called “ wan mono “ is on the right down. The white dumpling in the soup represents petals. A ball made from prawns and burdock is in the dumpling. When people eat the dumpling, they discover what’s inside.

I think it’s a nice surprise.

4.    On the square plate, on the left is soused blue fish rolled by kelp. This kelp is probably used only for kaiseki and not easy to find at normal supermarkets. This kelp is softer than other dried kelp. It was the first time for me to handle this it. It is a very healthy and delicious food to eat. The combination of vinegar, ginger, blue fish and kelp sounds perfect for people who might have trouble with heart-related disease.

5.    In the middle of the square plate is pickled carrot and Japanese radish.

Both of them are symbols of happiness at New Year. The ribbon-like black item is made of kelp.

6.    On the right of the square plate is baked chicken. Ground chicken is baked with mushrooms, lotus and ginger, seasoned with soy sauce, sugar and saikyo bean paste. Its shape represents a fan which symbolizes felicity.

 

Each one of the dishes has meaning. I think this beautiful tradition has to be maintained.