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Showing posts from April, 2009

Dried Fruits of Nihonmatsu

Whenever I visit a local farmer’s  market in this area I’m always amazed at how beautiful and hulking the women are, like silly little big legged bovine beauties walking around so carefree – fair skinned, black hair, long and flowing like a horse’s mane.  I wanna marry this type of woman.  I would do anything to marry the type of Japanese woman who only cares about making love, eating, and drinking delicious sake, and of  course onsen and shrines.  She is a fruit of the earth.  She’s a Japanese fruit.  A Fukushima variety.
Fruits come in many forms and can be eaten in many ways.  Kanpyou(かんぴょう), or dried strips of the flesh of a variety of gourd, used in Japanese cooking…i.e. dried fruits.  

Whole dried honey apricot(みつあんず), which tasted a bit too sweet, but was  nice on a warm sunny day.

This is a type of citrus called yuzu, which was dried  shredded and marinades in honey.  Always a favorite for me.

And then lastly, my favorite.  Whole dried baby tomatoes.  I love eating these as i…

Nihonmatsu Part 2: Dairin Temple

Here at this temple are the remains of the Nihonmatsu Boy’s Squad.  In Boshin War, boys from twelve to seventeen years old fought to protect the castle.   Among them, the souls of 14 boys and the captain and the second in command who died in the war are resting in the family temple.

This picture was taken at another location honoring the Byakkotai also.     The first picture was the family plot and this one here is the memorial plot.

   Just down the hill from the memorial lies the remains of many foreign delegates from Europe who   came to Fukushima to study and teach, many living here permanently after learning about the Boshin War.

This monument was sent over from Rome in honor of the Byakkotai and their sacrifice to their master.   In the photo you can see the  classic Pompei motif, the symbol of the Roman Empire.  

What nobody else will tell you, is that Adolf Hitler sent over another monument in honor of the Byakkotai, but was removed by the Occupational Authorities in 1945.…

The Beauty of Nihonmatsu!

Nihonmatsu (nihon=Japan / Matsu=Pine), so Japan Pines, or pines of Japan. Tucked away in Fukushima prefecture , the city itself used to be a town, until it was upgraded to a city back in 1958. But even with its current status, it still holds on to its old charms as a boring little city/town replete with castles and historical monuments. Two castles to note are Obama Caste and Nihonmatsu Castle, which happen to be in Japan’s top 100 best castles category.

The guards of the castle once upon a time were boys as young as 12 and 13, in fact there are many tragic tales of children who fought for their lord, even unto death through ritual suicide, or ritual disembowelment.

It is their legacy that lives on in the hearts and minds of the locals here. The picture above are figures of the Boy's Squad on the Odanguchi Battle Field, the bloodiest battlefield of the Boshin War, and that of a mother who is making the battle cloth of her child.
And then, there are the beautiful things that …

Omen of Death

Two very strange things happened to me recently. The dead black butterfly on my dashboard yesterday morning; I always lock my car doors. I have no idea how this black butterfly wound up dead on my dashboard - no one else has a key to my car but me. I gently removed it and placed it over by the garbage dump. It was a really beautiful full size black butterfly with trailing green and gold lines down the bottom backside of its wings. //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////According to popular superstition a black butterfly is an omen of death, perhaps of a loved one or even your own death. The superstition also goes on to say that if you sight a black butterfly flying around you, you should kill it immediately! Do not let it fly out of your window or else misfortune will visit you. In my case, however, the butterfly was already dead and intact - no signs of physical abuse or struggle were there. Still it freaked me out knowing that there was a dead …

ToroToro Umeshu: plum liquor

Going forward I will from time to time include some Japanese into my blog posts when regarding food or sake. The excerpts below were taken from the label in the packaging of this product along with my own article.  The pictures you are looking at are my own rare photos which I took of a type of umeshu(plum liquor) some time ago. Brewers today do not make umeshu the same way they use to make it.  皆! これを読んでください。。。あるさいとからコーピをしました。
終わり。。。] 終わり 
■江戸時代の梅酒、再現してみましたー!!■ 」

The Old Country: Backbone of Tochigi

Local  lady with her back against the sun working in the garden.Beautiful streamers against a blue cloudy sky. An old shed, a cherry blossom tree, miles and miles of rail line stretching deep into uncharted lands.  Tourism isn’t needed here.Old man working in the field, elementary school kids at play.

The Quiet Rural Life

The backcountry in Tochigi is beautiful. This father and daughter were strolling along enjoying each others company.Farmer cultivating his fields and preparing for another season of rice growing.Of course I had to snap a few pictures of trains. I love JR.In the end,this is the real Japan. Getting away from the grind, enjoying the simple life and simple ways like walking along miles and miles of rice fields. Soaking in the morning sun and breathing in that fresh country air. I love Tochigi prefecture.

Cultural Property 5: Corridors

Corridors of Yomei-mon Gate:  The panels of corridors of the Yomei-mon Gate are decorated with chiseled figures of birds, flowers, beast, etc. in brilliant color.   The carvings are plated with gold in order to protect them against rain and fog.   The carvings were originally painted by the famous painter Kano Riemon.

Cultural Property 5: Revolving Lantern

Revolving Lantern (important Cultural Property):  Dedicated by the king of Holland.  Misdesigned by  a Dutch; it’s hollyhocks at opare are set upside down. They can be seen near the top in circular shape.

Cultural Property 4: Sacred Stable

This is also very interesting for me.  Finally, I had a chance to see the sacred horse who was housed in its stable, which is the only (un)lacquered structure in the precincts.  Lovely wood carvings along the entrance.“Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.”It came right up to me.  When others would approach it he would turn his head away.  It must be some love connection there.   The sacred horse.

Cultural Property 3

A Japanese lady off to the far left holding baby……

Elephants in relief were carved after the original drawings by Tanyu Kano.  Known as “Elephants of Imagination” from realistic viewpoint of appearance of tails and ears.

Cultural Property: part 2

The Main Shrine is where the remains of one of Japan’s most venerated Lords, Tokugawa Ieyasu is enshrined. 
A couple of things I look for in a shrine is the elaborate colors and reliefs that are used, which not only represent the prosperity of the people who built it, but also the spiritual quality of the person who was deified in it.
Another thing I look for is the style in which the inner sanctum was designed.  The most widely recognized design style is the Gongen-zukuri style where the inner sanctum is interconnected to a series of corridors and hallways in the shape of an “H.”  This shows a unifying link between Buddhist and Shintoism dating back all the way to the Heian period(798-1185).

Main entrance to the hall of worship which is called the Kara-mon Gate and Haiden, both national treasures.

Important Cultural Property: part 1

“Shoro Belfry and Kuro Bell  and Drum Tower were built in Buddhist style at Nikko Toshogu.  I really love the balance with cedar and the dignity of this tower.One note that a lot of people don’t blog about on this tower and Buddhism in  general is that Buddhism has been, for centuries, one of the most culturally and racially inclusive religions in the world.   Some of the bell drum towers surrounding Toshogu were donated from countries as far as Denmark, and then built according to Buddhist techniques.Toshougu is arguably the only “shrine that is a temple, and a temple that is a shrine” all in one. The melding of these two archaic religions go back centuries and is what has shaped Japanese people and its culture over the ages.

Slow Times in Japan: Silence is Golden

The tank is full, the car is clean, and I'm cruising down the expressway at 120k/h with my windows down on a beautiful Thursday morning, not a cop in sight -- not a care in the world. I finally get to Hakone, world renowned for its hot springs-- just before noon then follow a long winding road up to the top of a hill to one of my favorite onsen.
After I get to the locker room I peep out to check who’s outside. "Excellent" I say to myself. Just a few pieces of furniture ( one or two old men gazing off into nowhere and sitting idly and complaining about everything and nothing). I can never bring myself to sit in an onsen full of people and then chat the whole experience away.

I get undressed, head over to the shower area with my long nylon towel (extra coarse). I make sure to rinse everything around the wash area before I squat down on one of the little stools. Then, I fill my bucket up with hot water, squeeze a little liquid soap into it and then dunk my nylon …

Nikko Part 1: My Apotheosis

The hotel I’m staying in for two nights is just lovely. Walking down the hallway to my room I felt like I was entering a time warp. The more steps I had taken the further back in time I went. Another thing I noticed is that all of the flowers that had adorned the hallway were all real! Nobody ever takes notice of this. I stopped and smelt every flower I walked by, all each fragrant and full of beauty as if I was being embraced and welcomed by this floral scented hotel. Wide and spacious hallways, dimly lit and deeply alluring. Even from my hotel room I could hear a raging river from just below my balcony as water gushed forth from some mystic crevice somewhere deep, like it sprang forth from mother nature’s womb, soothing my soul.Sitting down in my kotatsu, a low table with a heat source, my legs are fully stretched underneath. My kotatsu is situated up close and facing the window where I can see everything. From my window the view is very modest, yet pleasant to the senses: …

Seikai and Oze

The name of this sake is called Seikai no Tokubetsu Honjozo Nama!  I paid 1500 yen for a 500 ml bottle of this gem of  a sake.  This was the finest sake I had all year so far.  Bitter and floral!  I don’t recollect ever having a sake like this one.  It came highly recommended by the hotel’s head chef and I loved it.  Acidity was very low, extremely smooth, floral, but not sweet, lightly bitter after-taste and left a pleasant after taste in the mouth.  I will order this one again, but from online.

Every chance I get when visiting a new onsen I try to drink the local water also.  This one, like a mentioned in another post is Oze no oishi no mizu, which is named after a very famous marsh land in Japan. 
I love water. 
continue down to Nikko on the next post.