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Showing posts from January, 2010

True Cold Winter Brew: 冬の月

It’s pronounced fu-yu-no-tsuki (winter’s moon)an arabashiri,which denotes the season’s first sake called run roughly sake, in other words moromi (fermented mash) naturally pressed from a traditional wooden press called a fune. What comes out after what’s either pressed manually or naturally from its own weight is what I am drinking now(rough run). Of course, I have only given you a condensed version of this whole process. Just remember, this sake was made by hand not machine. You do not drink sake like this hot but COLD.

This a Junmai Ginjo Muroka Nama Shiboritate (unfiltered first pressed draft type) and is produced by Kamikokoro( God Heart) Brewery in Okayama Prefecture, located in the westernmost region of Honshu called Chugoku or San'in-San'yō’s Asakuchi District. Sake from this part of Japan are typically fuller bodied than their Northern Japan counterparts, so if you are looking for something with more dynamic ranges in flavors then look West.

When savoring …

Knowledge & Beauty

Do you agree that gaining knowledge takes away the appreciation of beauty?  Samuel Langhorne Clemens did, or better known by the pen name Mark Twain.  I once had a friend who commented on an onsen I had took him to.  He walked around in it a bit and said, in an unctuous tone, to me “ it’s just water.”   And with those words my whole mood was ruined.  I have always thought that the onsen experience is more than just being in “water.”  For me it still is more than just sitting in water.  In Mark Twain’s essay called Two Views of the Mississippi he writes about the grace and the beauty of this majestic river called the Mississippi River!  He begins by writing about the wonderful sunsets which he witnessed when steamboating was still new to him.  Twain also recalled the river turning to blood; in the middle distance the red hue brightened into gold, through which a solitary log came floating black and conspicuous; in one place a long, slanting mark lay sparkling upon the water.  He goes o…

Funwari Breakfast

A part of me that will never change is my love for Western food, especially bread.  I guess we can thank the Portuguese for introducing bread to Japan 460 years ago by accident.  I mean,  if the Portuguese weren’t trading slaves at that time, then maybe  they were heavily involved in the spread of culinary knowledge…?  That’s the only historical association I have of them. 

Nevertheless, since we’re on the subject of bread I would like to introduce my favorite brand.  Funwari Shoku Pan(ふんわり食パン), a product of  Yamazaki Baking Co., LTD.   The term “funwari” means fluffy or soft in English, and of all the breads I have enjoyed over the years this one is my favorite. 

Out of the bag it’s very soft and a bit moist.  Smells fresh and goes perfectly with eggs and jumbo sausages.

The sausages to the right are spicy and larger than most that are sold in supermarkets across Japan.  These sausages, however, are American size and are sold at Fuji Supermarket.  I have been to just about every s…

Higashimaru Soy Sauce

Most of us who are familiar with Asian and Japanese cuisines are also familiar with soy sauce.  In North America soy sauce that’s sold in most major supermarket chains is called Kikkoman, and is practically a household name for many ethnic dishes from Asia.Living in Japan has given me many opportunities to explore other types of soy sauce.  I can hardly remember the last time I ate Kikkoman with anything.  In Japan there are hundreds of different soy sauces from all over the Island so it’s fun to dabble a bit in the kitchen and with different types of soy sauces.Since I like fried dishes like tempura or chicken, the type of soy sauce used would have to have a lighter taste.  Some North Americans like to drown their food with it, I don’t.  After several months of searching and taste testing I found the ideal shoyu(soy sauce).  It’s called Higashimaru Tatsuno no Toki which hails from Hyogo Prefecture in Tatsuno City.  So many great shoyu come out of West Japan and this one was no except…

Hiwata Junmai Nama Genshu

I’ve probably been to Miyagi pref. three or four times since first moving to Japan.  I’ve always been drawn to small rural towns in this area.  I love the sleepy town atmosphere and the bitter icy cold winters and warm onsen(s).  In this  picture there’s a kokeshi doll and a bottle of nihonshu called Hiwata – both are famous products in Miyagi.   Miyagi has beautiful girls, too."Hiwata", produced by Hagino Shuzo,  brewery in Miyagi Pref. is known for making some very good sake.    Hiwata is a Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu which uses a yeast called Miyagi kobo, resulting in 1.7 acidity. The Sake Meter Value is +4.   Yamadanishiki rice milled at 65%  This sake has very subtle taste while still maintaining that legendary namagenshu feel, which is full and natural.  I had a lady taste this today and she was impressed by the texture.  Namagenshu type sake really fill the mouth with some very unique flavors.  Sometimes you can get a little gassiness from namagenshu which usually goes a…

The Soul of Japan: The Book!

Back in 2008 I published my first book on Japanese  onsen.  At that time, and even still today I think, it still  has the largest compendium of just onsen in full color in the world in hardback form.  I think it’s 234 pages of  onsen that I have personally been to, yes, every single one.At first I was reluctant about self publishing it, so I spoke to Yurindo, second largest bookstore chain in Japan, about the book.  After looking at it, within five minutes, I was told that they wanted to start selling it immediately without any reservations at all.  I was given top priority over all of the books in this genre section.  Within weeks the book sold out, along with my sake & food pairing guide, which was a mini book -both did very well.  I was also advised to seek a large publisher, which I didn’t.  I told him that I was merely interested in turning this book into a coffee table book for restaurants or waiting rooms.  I have no interest in selling to a larger market.The book, however,…

Modern Inaka: Sento

Frank Lloyd Wright was strongly influenced by Japanese spatial arrangements and the concept of interpenetrating exterior and interior space, long achieved in Japan by opening up walls made of sliding doors.  This sento( public bath house) you are looking at is one of many such styles of communal bathing houses you can see sprouting up all over the countryside here in Japan.   Slowly fading away are the old brick and wooden public bath houses that use coal furnaces to heat the water.It’s been over a quarter of a century now since the Japanese have  started  blending late post modern European architecture with Japanese aesthetics, and it’s paying off with very nicely designed sento like this one.Space comes at a premium price here in Japan, so every cubic centimeter counts.  This sento makes use of every space and blends nature in with its spatial design very naturally.  You can see stone, water, wood and snow.The milky or mineral rich onsen is rich in sulfur which, as of late, is not p…

Russian Taraba Gani: King Crab

What you are looking at is about 900 grams of thawed king crab from Russia.  I purchased this at the three day sale at the  Misakiguchi Fisheries, in Miura – the last stop on the Keikyu Line.  I departed from tradition.  I always buy this kind of crab from fishermen in Kushiro who fish from Japanese waters just a few hundred miles off the northern coast of Honshu, the main island.Crab season generally starts from Dec. and ends in early March here in Japan.   King crab is sold from most major supermarket chains with the average market value per 750 grams at 3980 yen per pack.  Queen crab is about 1000 yen cheaper.  All of them are frozen and packed three legs and a claw with a few other minor parts added.  The three day sale that’s held every year at the Misakiguchi Fisheries has the best prices for crab.  I paid exactly 5000 yen for what you see in the picture.  Great price actually.  I enjoyed it.What you should look for when shopping for crab this crab season is where it was fished.…

Keikyu

Around the first of the year the train lines are not so crowded, so I decided to visit my local station to snap up a photo or two.The Keikyu line is always the cleanest and most efficient train line I think.  I think maybe there are more station attendants for this line than theJR.   This line is also more  frequent and for some reason is more comfortable to ride on than the JR Keihin Tohoku line.  Of course JR comprises a whole love of different trains, but the main lines I use are either Keikyu or JR Keihin Tohoku.Yes, now I remember why I like this line better; the seating.  Sofa style seating is what I like most about this line.  On the JR you have the same, but the seats are pleated.  You have to sit in the seat properly or you won’t feel comfortable whereas on this line the blue seats are very comfortable and cushy no matter how or where you sit.  At the bottom is a short clip on how to use the fare adjustment machine in case you can’t read Japanese.

January 2014 Edition

Did you remember to record your dream on the first day of the New Year?  I did.  I had a dream on the first, the second, and the third.  They were all nightmares.  Hanging, flooding, and death were the three themes of those dreams.

I mean, I have had lots of dreams that were full of doom and gloom, and yet none of the gloomy aspects of those dreams ever manifested.  Even still, I do take dreams very seriously, especially the meanings of those dreams. 

Did you enjoy your New Year?  I made the best of mine by staying home.  Instead of going out, I cooked and prepared all of my meals.  I purchased about 1400 grams of taraba king crab, enjoyed imbibing on some delicious sake and Japanese confectionary.   I’ve been at this sort of routine for years actually, and as a result I think I’m ruined  forever.  I can never return to normalcy in a sense that I don’t believe I could ever enjoy just having a beer and going out to some hot and stuffy nightclub, or just settling for just hors d'œ…

Akita’s Nama Chozoushu

The full name is called tokubetsu honjouzo namachozoushu.  That’s a mouth full, I know.  The first time I got turned on to nihonshu was because of this designation of sake -honjozo-shu.  A good reference point for chozoushu would be here.All of the characteristics about sake I came to love was born from the sake I am drinking tonight; clean, dry, and complex.  Nakakuchi, or medium dry as it’s called in Japanese, is served cold just like Akita’s winters and with friends or alone is fine too.  You can gain a better appreciation if you look out over the vast expanse of Akita’s snow country or sit next to a bubbling brook or natural stream of fresh water. The sake meter value is plus 2, acidity is 1.2, the alc. is 13.5.  Good flavor points is its smell and “nodogoshi” or throat feel/after-taste.  All-and-all I really enjoyed this sake a lot and hope that many people will have a chance to try it.  By the way, this sake came highly recommend at a sushi bar in Masakiguchi, which is home to Y…

Sneak Fuck

A Sneak fuck is when you allow yourself to indulge in repressed sexual passions with either an anonymous person or a young boyfriend in some secluded location; some off the beaten track location, some dark and dirty place where eyes have no vision.   A place  where two people can talk dirty to each other and pound each other senselessly. If young people can do such activities so carelessly than so should the adults.  The problem with older people is that pride and dignity get in the way; it’s not kosher to act like such animals in heat when you’re over the hill.When I was young I had indulged in such pleasures.  Backing my SUV into a dark pitch black alley with a full moon lit sky hanging just above us.  Placing the gear in park, I quickly turned the headlights off then disengaged the ignition.  I slowly eased  out of the car to check my surroundings while stopping to listen to faint sounds of other cars driving by.  The place was a business complex in an industrial park area that had…

Local Temple

Up these stairs there’s an ordinary temple, a place of solemn peace and quiet.  A place that’s far removed from the noise of Tokyo’s ultra touristy mega shrines that attract millions of visitors this time of year.  Hundreds of stairs up the way leading to this temple, full views of southern Yokohama come into clear view on the first day of the new year. Here, there’s a statue of the great Buddhist teacher named Nichiren who taught devotion to the well known sutra Namu-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō.Historically, Buddhist temples were responsible for the handling of matters related to the dead whereas the  Shinto shrines was and is still today the indigenous religion of Japan, which has more to do with deity worship and living things.Sometimes, you can see both a Shrine and a Temple in close vicinity to each other.  Such is the case for this shrine/temple - nearby.  There were many gravesites that had beautifully engraved marble head stones.And then a curious passerby was surprised to see me there ar…

Western Women vs. Japanese Women

Families.com is a forum for mostly women seeking advice on a wide range of issues regarding love, marriage, and sex.    The excerpt below was posted by a woman who goes by the name “unhappy wife.”  Just a note for the reader, the original thread is a bit old and has since been locked by the moderator of that forum, but thought, as a lead in to this topic, that this woman, unhappywife, would be the prime example for the title of my posting.   I feel that “thesoulofjapan” needs to address this topic.

unhappywife: I have no respect for my husband. Since the day I met him he has lied to me. He lied about his age, where he comes from etc. Recently I found out that he went with his co-workers to a hooters type bar on his lunch hour at work. He lied and said he just ran in and picked up the food and I found out from his co-worker that they in fact stayed there and ate. He said he did not know it was a hooter type bar and that he was too embarrassed to leave and hated every minute of it. His c…

New Year Confectionary 2010

One of the things I really love about Japan is its endless variety of sweets, or sometimes called confectionary. As the nights grow colder, I like to warm up with a nice hot tea and one of these delightfully delectable seasonal sweets. Every major department store has them and you can get them for every season.My favorite department store for these sweets is Sogo, which is a major department store chain located in just about every major city in Japan. I was there on the 31st around noon and the place was packed not only with my favorite kind of eye candy but also food.All of these little delicious delights are tasty and sweet, so some hot houjicha or green tea will work better. What a wonderful way to end the first full day of the new year. Happy New Year everyone!