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August: The Return of Souls

August is peak summer season in Japan.  We can look forward to some of the most spectacular fireworks displays and festivals in the world, ...

Obasaan English Club

A few times a month I teach an English for Obasaans club around my area. I get the greatest amount of enjoyment teaching these women, they are so fun. Once a month we have a pot luck and they each bring their own homemade specialties. This week was natural foods week, and boy, did they bring some very unique dishes. The way it works is that I eat while they explain to me how they made their own dishes in English. Most of them just sit there taking notes and eating a little here and there.

(N.B. These are students only!)

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The rice dish you see on the left is full of fava beans and garlic with bacon. Very delicious. And then there’s the pudding like dish which is plain yogurt and dried mangos. Next to that is a tofu cake full of rum raisins and vanilla extract. Yum!

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From the noon position is a cinnamon and walnut apple cake made with all organic ingredients. At one o'clock there’s a lemon cake with lemon peels on top – Fabulous. The bottom half was made with oranges and at nine o'clock there's the mango cake with coconuts sprinkled at the top.

All of these cakes were made by using a rice cooker! Yes, I know what you are thinking….But really, there’s a technique that these mothers employ to produce delicious cakes using a standard rice cooker machine, no ovens.

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In ancient China, there was a garden once called “ The Garden of the Forgotten Greats,” which was basically a retirement home for the Emperor’s concubines once they had reached a certain age. That’s what I think about at times when I’m with these women, that at one point in their lives they were ‘greats’ and that they had meant something to someone and now that they have lived passed their prime are forgotten to the point that they longer even cast a shadow in society. Left to fate.

When I think about who’s working tirelessly behind the scenes to make Japan a reality, I think of them, the unsung heroes who work in the kitchens and in the crèches. Learning English gives them a chance to be free and to escape from the mundane routines of their everyday ordinary lives. For me, they are a part of the true beauty of Japan too. They are quintessentially the backbone of the nation, especially at a time when the young see no future here in their own country who lack talent and common sense, stupid and without a clue. It’s the Japanese mother who represents Japan for me, in the broader sense.

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