Weeding in paddy field in Kobuchizawa in July

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

We visited paddy field to experience weeding. This field is organized by people who would like to grow rice or vegetables in as friendly a way as posisble to the earth. That means weeding is one of the most important tasks to do in summer. Mr. Tobe who is famous as a rice maestro helps them grow organic rice. According to him the yield or quality of the rice depends on how much you tend to the paddy during this time of the year. In August we shouldn’t go into the paddy field since it may interfere and reduce the yield.

 

The weather on the day in Kobuchizawa was cloudy and cool. It was much easier for us to weed. They showed us how to weed. With two bare hands, we grasp the weed with mud and twist them to remove the weed’s roots, after which we bury the whole weed in the mud immediately after. I was worried about damaging the roots of rice plants while twisting the weeds around, but they said paddy is very strong and it recovers. I don’t know other methods of weeding but I think this is a very clever way to do. Because: 1. We can work more speedily and effectively. 2. The weed dies in the mud but at the same time they can help grow rice as fertilizer. This field is free from harmful chemicals so people can touch the mud directly.

 

It was a cool day but as I kept working, I was sweating a lot. It was a great exercise for me. Unless you have problems in your back or knees, it’s worth trying.

 

After work, we went to a hot spring called “ the hot spring of the Fossa Magna”. The hot spring is located at the place where The North American plate and The Eurasia plate meet. This hot spring is rich in alkali. After soaking our body in this good warm hot spring, we enjoyed drinking cold beer.

When I take a trip I often eat too much without doing enough exercise.

But the experience of practical work will bring you more enjoyment from hot spring, food and drink. Above all, meeting and making friends with the new people is the most enjoyable and precious thing. This could be a new style of tourism.  I hope my British friend who experienced this agrees with me.

Eels

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

This year 27th of July is called Doyo Ushinohi. Many people eat grilled eels at this time. Eels are said to contain a lot of vitamin A and B which can be a source of energy to overcome the harsh summer climate. So many people feel like eating this at this time of the year.?Also many restaurants advertise eels to encourage people to visit their places, and supermarkets offer pre-cooked ones. However I heard eels are said to be less nutritious in summer. A better time to eat is when it is cooler.

I haven’t had eel for more than three years. I have some reasons for this.

1.    Eels are too expensive.

2.    I couldn’t find any good eel restaurants I feel are worth visiting.

3.    Eels are said to be in danger.

But I went to an eel restaurant deep in the mountain. It’s a small restaurant.

They open the shop at 11:00 AM and when the eels of the day are finished, they close the shop. I arrived at the restaurant about 10:45 to find three people came waiting ahead of us I don’t like to stand in line for food since it looks like being greedy, but in fact I was very greedy that time. I skipped breakfast and got active before going to the restaurant. My mouth watered when I smelled eels being grilled on charcoal.

The eel served for us was very savory and tender. The sauce was just right for me.

The skin of the eel was lightly charred and crisp. We were all satisfied.

I don’t know what it takes to be a chef to cook eels. It must be hard to learn the skills.

Now some people are planning to put eels on the list of restricted imports. I think we have to take measures to preserve eels but I disagree with the idea of controlling eels by the Washington Pact.

Once it is ratified, things get less flexible. Poaching or smuggling will be prevalent. Some people try to make a lot of money doing it.

Eating eels and the skills to cook them are part of Japanese culture. We have to reduce the pace at which we eat them for a few years and we can make Kabayaki using different fish. The TV program said that catfish can be a substitute.

I know many people from abroad enjoy eating eel Kabayaki. I do hope eel restaurants and eel cooking skills are kept in Japan.

Mt. Fuji in 2012

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Her name is Atsuko and she has taken me to mountains a few times.

She has climbed 97 of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains.

(Nihon Hyakumeizan) She is going to climb the remaining three mountains this summer and autumn to make it 100. She climbed Mt. Fuji twice last week.

  The first time she climbed, she was not in perfect condition since she hadn’t slept well the night before. She gave up going to the top and came down from the 8th station.

 A few days later, she climbed again. The weather was beautiful and she was in great shape. She took some photos on her mobile phone.

They were taken from the 7th station, viewing the 5th station , where people start to climb. You can see a part of Houei crater. She made the summit on that day.

 She said that she started to climb at 8:30 and reached the summit at 13:55.

On her way back, starting 14:20 and reaching 5th station at 16:45.

It seems rather a fast pace to me. She saw two big snowy patches remaining on her way to the top. In the last few years I heard the snow patches have got smaller and this could be due to global warming, but perhaps things will get back to normal if we are fortunate. 

 Many people hope to climb Mt.Fuji and they think it’s an easy mountain to climb but some people are not well-equipped nor well-prepared and end up asking for help. Also people are not always in perfect condition. Even Atsuko gave up going to the top for the first climb of the week.

 She saw many climbers from foreign countries and enjoyed talking in English. The interesting thing is that many people in Fuji where I live don’t climb Mt. Fuji. They say the mountain is to view and worship and not for climbing. Some people may think that it’s only an excuse for being lazy though. In any case Mt. Fuji is a special mountain for everyone. Both Atsuko and I hope we can preserve this great nature untainted.

 

 

 

 

Kaiseki for June

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

We have rainy season in June and July. It is usually humid and steamy. I sometimes feel depressed in this season, although the seasonal appearance of my favorite flower, the hydrangea, makes me happy. And this year it’s cooler than usual year so far in my area. I heard northern part of Japan is much hotter than usual though. I went a Kaiseki lesson at the end of June to learn how to make “ Minazuki no Tenshin”. “Minazuki” means June in the solar calendar but in the lunar calendar it is July. It’s so confusing to me. The Chinese character “ minazuki “ means “ a month without water “ Some people say that’s because in lunar calendar it is July and in that month rainy season is over and they have already applied plenty of water in paddy field. 

“ Tenshin “ is a small refreshment served before taking thick green tea. Thick green tea contains a lot of things to benefit your health but taking green tea on an empty stomach can be too strong. On the other hand, if you have a big meal before having green tea, you can’t appreciate the green tea. I guess this volume is suitable one for the occasion.

 1.    The bowl (front left) contains sushi. Minced myoga, beefsteak plant, shallot bulbs and sesame seeds are mixed and dried laver seaweed are the toppings.

2.    The bowl (front right) contains eggplant salad seasoned by stock, soy souce and lemon juice and topped with dried bonito.

3.    The green pudding like one in the middle is tofu made from green soy beans and kudzu vine. Sauce made from stock, soy sauce, sweet rice wine for cooking, salt and fresh ground wasabi is applied before eating.

4.    On the rectangular plate (left) is fried chicken topped with sour plum (umeboshi) sauce. Sour plum is strained and mixed with vinegar, sugar, rice wine and stock. The green item is pickled cucumber. And conger eel rolled with Japanese omelet.

5.    It’s not included in this photo but we also made a bowl of soup.

6.    Dessert called “ minazuki “. 

 With one teacher and five students, this took about two hours to make. I think we worked very quickly, thanks to the efficient teacher and hard-working class mates.