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Showing posts from December, 2012

Shibuya's Finest: Happi Wear

                       くろまつけんびし = Kuromatsu Kenbishi



Thick and lovely is how I like them.   With the seal of excellence stamped at the back on a hemp Happi gown.   Oh, what a happi meal? 



Perhaps happ-tastic?   Happ-tacular?   Happi-licious?   Happi-man?
Happi-day?   A Happi is a tradition gown worn during festivals here in Japan.   It is the most important garment next to the traditional Japanese kimono. 




And then there's nothing quite like the goodness of fresh sake to go with your "happi-meal."  My subject is an avid tennis player, and that's where the thickness comes from.






As cute as this theme comes off, I still find the allure of her sexiness  quite mature.   It was nice getting to know a little about her  and the love she shares with me over Japanese nihonshu.    Like I have stated in previous essays, sake and Japanese women are the perfect balance, like peanut butter and jelly; corn flakes and milk; pizza and coke.     These pairings cannot be argued.   There are …

Tenno Heika Tanjoubi

Tenno Heika Tanjoubi

Or, better understood by Westerners "The Emperor of Japan's birthday."     It's not often you get to offer well-wishes to an Emperor, who was, and has been to all Japanese, a living god for centuries to all of his subjects, especially  with a lineage that stretches back thousands of years, the oldest unbroken reign in recorded history.    

1% of the nation is Christian whereas the  99% either claim Buddhism or Shintoism as their faith, Shinto being the indigenous faith of Japan which is centered around the Emperor of Japan and Buddhism being more associated with matters of the dead by many.   Still the mystique surrounding the Imperial lineage leaves much to be learned and understood even by Japanese.   I love the continuity of tradition and I love how Tenno Heika embodies all that there is about his own country and people.   There is something so paternal and beautiful in it all.  


The reality is that all Japanese in Japan are  still experimen…

Beer in Japan: Making in Roads...

Making in roads …..

Micro/Nano/Homebrew are words often associated with craftbeer, is beginning to make ' in roads' in Japan, and with a much younger crowd  I believe.    Major in roads, I am not entirely sure yet.     Since the 17th Century Japan has been brewing beer and it's no secret that  beer is the most popular drink in Japan, even more so than my beloved nihonshu.    

When Happoushu, low malt beer, was first introduced to the market it was even cheaper to produce than regular beer, as tax was lower and cheaper to buy.     Beer simply became the drink of choice for brewers and drinkers..   I remember asking Japanese about this and often times they would tell me the main reason they drink beer is because it's cheaper to buy than distilled spirits and rice brews, and that their ultimate aim was to just get wasted, cheaply, and not necessarily for the taste.      Times have changed I believe as younger drinkers are starting to expand their range of preferences and …

To Solo or not To Solo

To solo or not to solo

Travelling with a companion,  or not to travel with a companion.   
I'd say firstly, it depends on your attitude and level of Japanese.   Also, it depends a lot on how you typically travel.   For instance, if you travel an average of once or twice a year then by all means bring someone with you for good company and to enhance the experience.     But, if you are cataloging your experiences, and spending a lot of your time immersed in writing and photography then in my opinion going it alone is far better than with someone, unless you are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or going on a dangerous expedition  somewhere.    Being able to read, write, speak, and understand Japanese is a must if you travel deep in the sticks.   I do not recommend using English.    

Being able to read kanji is a must because there are few signs in English.   This is my opinion only.  Sure, there are people who travel Japan with absolutely no knowledge of Japanese and they get by just fine.…

Route 7

Love of the backcountry:   December 6th, 2012, the day before the big 7.3 quake struck Tohoku.



Mikasayama and Shirasawa off route 7 lay on the outskirts of Hirosaki, surrounded by Inakadate and Owani.      These micro towns represent what is left of a bygone era.   The old lumber mills that provides jobs and resources for this whole community is still in operation.   Most folks in these towns would rather use wood and sheet metal for just about everything it seems.    Often times, the houses in these communities look the same: flimsy and dated, yet they hold up against snow storms, and freezing temps.    And, surprisingly quite cozy, warm, and comfortable once you are inside of one.




 I love these little sleepy towns that exist as a reminder of what used to be.    Fifty years ago, I'm sure these little towns were bustling with little school children and blue collar workers.    You know, I learned something, and for what's worth I learned what's here is perfect.   I mean, you…

Bound for Ikarigaseki, Aomori Prefecture

Post was written at 5:45 December7,  on location
Bound for Ikarigaseki, Aomori Prefecture.









Shin-Aomori, Hirosaki, Owani Onsen, Ikarigaseki, 

As the train sped deeper up into northern honshu (mainland) there were visible signs of winter dotting the vast expanse of farmland and rice fields.    It's wonderful watching the scenery change from the comfort of your train window, especially from Tokyo.        From Sendai to Morioka, snow began to powder the tundra,  blanketing the many rolling hills and hamlets along the way.    Soon afterwards, I could see the first snow plough being pushed along by a lone obasaan ( elderly lady ) who watched as we sped by her tiny little plot of land.     



The hotel where I stayed is called the Atsumashi in a little onsen town called Ikarigaseki.   It's one stop between Owani Onsen and Odate, two towns I have been to some time ago, each with great hot spas.     Owani Onsen  have more luxurious deluxe spa hotels than Ikarigaseki and are more modern, w…

Mine no Hakubai

Mine no Hakubai ( White Ume  Blossom atop a Mountain Peak) Hiyaoroshi
                          ("Slow cooled and slow aging, yet not aged, but aged to perfection")

Keypoint to remember, full bodied and mellow.    To use such hyperboles as 'water of the gods' or sake from a mountain peak blossom is justifiable when you taste this sake.    But, whatever you do, don't use  words like cotton candy and peaches.    Rather, the  ephemeral qualities of a plum blossom dripping nihon-shu would  evoke a better sense of how this sake tastes, than mere fruit from a farm.     Sake that is naturally slow cooled and  aged through a series of labor intensive techniques could only produce something like this.    When you hear terms like nama-zume, hiyaoroshi, and  honjozo  thrown around you know the sake is going to be well worth a sip.    Honjozo is a term used to denote a premium grade of sake that has very limited amount of alcohol added and is stored without pasteurization.   N…