-･- From My Everyday Life to Japanese Culture -･- Why don't you see the real Japan, not the typical foreigners' version.
I took my Christmas tree out of the storage and decorated it with ornaments today, a week earlier than usual year.
When I was a child, Christmas was a happy family day. We trimmed a tree and had an excellent dinner. Needless to say, none of my family members were (and are) Christians. We accepted it as one of seasonal events.
Most of all, it was a good opportunity to get a gift from my parent in addition to my birthday. I wore a letter requesting a gift to Santa Claus at the suggestion of my mother, but I knew….
Since I became an adult, I’ve had Christmas parties with my friends and fellow workers. December is the season of Bonenkai (忘年会, literally means "forget-the-past-year party") in Japan, and the party doubled as Bonenkai in many cases.
Now I live with my sister, and we didn’t display a Christmas tree for a long time.
Seven or eight years ago, I had something on my mind and bought this tree.
Displaying a Christmas tree keeps me happy at this time of year.
When the air becomes crisp, I feel a desire for raw oysters.
Unfortunately, this is a poor year for cultured oysters in Japan because of the crazy summer heat. However, I didn’t realize that at this oyster bar, “Season”, in Roppongi. Unlike the latest trendy oyster bars, it’s a small and cozy restaurant under private management.
I visited the restaurant with my friends the other day. There were five kinds of raw oysters: Hokkaido-Akkeshi (厚岸), Hokkaido-Konbumori (昆布の森), Iwate-Kamaishi (釜石), Miyagi-Hamaichi (浜市), Hamaichi- Creamy Pearl Oyster(珠姫牡蠣).
The First Round (individual plate)
Each of us tasted all of them (we described it as “the first round”) and then reordered those one liked (“the second round”). I liked Creamy Pearl Oyster the best.
The Second Round
I’m always in a good state of mind at the restaurant because everyone there, including customers and the members of the staff, loves oysters. This might sound silly, but it’s my happiest moment when I enjoy oysters, as much as I want, with people with the same interests.
I really recommend the oyster bar, which has a nice atmosphere.
Oyster & Wine Season
B1, Power House Bldg.
7-12-3 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Bar Time: 23:30?04:00(L.O.03:00)
Closed: Sunday & Public Holiday
(There isn’t a non-smoking table.)
The trio named “Poka Suka Jan (ポカスカジャン, all three words are Japanese echoic words)” is a group who performs “BOYS (ボーイズ芸).”
BOYS is one style of entertainments in which comedians (usually three or four) uses instruments and funnily sing songs. The origin of the entertainment is regarded as “Akireta-boys (あきれたぼういず, meaning unbelievable boys)” formed in 1937 in Asakusa (浅草) by Yoshio Kawada (川田義雄), Saburo Bouya (坊屋三郎), Rie Shiba (芝利英), and Keaton Masuda (益田喜頓). I think the boys’ were influenced by American and English vaudeville performance at the time.
I saw Poka Suka Jan’s performance at the 40-year celebration party of an eatery my best friend and her mother run. Each of them was a vocalist of a band before forming the group, so they have singing and also instrument abilities. They uniquely arranged Japanese popular songs, for example in bossa nove and ancient Japanese court music style, sang them and danced.
A style of popular comedies has been changing over time, and Poka Suka Jan is a scarce successor to BOYS.
In addition to the group, an eccentric comedian named “Neko-Hiroshi (猫ひろし: Hiroshi the cat)” appeared. He is 147 centimeters tall and has a ridiculous style.
It was first time for me to take a picture with celebrities (nobody pays attentions to “celebrities” in Azabu….).
I was pretending his signature gag.
I went to Hakone (箱根), one of the most popular hot spring resorts in Kanto area, for last weekend.
I awoke at 4 o'clock in the morning with hunger because I only had a light early evening meal the day before. I had a sweet bean paste bun, a treat from the hotel, and then soaked in a hot spring at ease.
When I passed through the empty hotel lounge after taking a bath, the morning glow had started out under the rain clouds.
When it was light enough, I saw autumn leaves and foggy mountains.
The leaves are at their peak color in Hakone.
Thanksgiving Day is observed annually in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November.
In recent years I have turkey dinner at my friend's house. Her husband is American, and he never misses annual festivals of his country for his children living in Japan. I visited the family yesterday and had the dinner.
I have a memory about the event.
When I was in my early twenties, I stayed in an American family in Washington State with my best friend in early November. The family arranged traditional turkey dinner for us.
I was really hungry in the morning of the day subsequent to our arrival. I knew that we would have the thanksgiving dinner that day, but I had a full American breakfast around ten o'clock because I thought we would have “the dinner” in the evening.
To my surprise, the dinner (a big turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, biscuits, and a pumpkin pie) started from noon….
I was full. I was completely full, but I forced myself to eat because they wanted us to have traditional dinner. I had no choice.
That was a good meal.
But sadly, I have a sensitive stomach.
The dinner, of course, caused a stomach disorder, and I suffered from a stomachache for the next week.
That is a happy remembrance, and a roasted turkey reminds me of the stomachache even now.
The official release date of Beaujolais Nouveau is the third Thursday of November (that was yesterday this year). Japan is the first country to release the wine because of the time difference.
Beaujolais Nouveau became popular during the economic bubble. Some people had a party to celebrate the foreign country’s new wine at that time.
Many years ago, when I was in Paris on the release day, I had one at the suggestion of my friend at a café. A small barrel was placed on a bar counter, and my friend had a chat with a garcon about the product of that year.
Now, the third Thursday of November is a promotional event for liquor shops, supermarkets, convenience stores and eateries in Japan, and I believe no one has Beaujolais Nouveau smugly. Many people may be smart enough to realize the silliness of being thankful for it.
Even so, I drink it every year quietly at home.
I feel nostalgic for the past.
Icho (イチョウ, ginkgo biloba), a deciduous tree (落葉樹) native to China, is a popular boulevard tree in Japan. The leaves on the trees turn yellow in autumn and are pleasing to the eye.
An Icho tree that bears ginnans in a nearby park.
It’s a dioecious plant: individual plants are either male or female. Only female trees bear fruits called ginnan (ギンナン). Though the fleshy outer layer of the fruit is smelly, delicious nuts appear after peeling away it.
Roasted fresh ginkgo nuts are one of my favorites. They are beautiful jade green and go well with chilled sake (rice wine).
This time of year, I stop at the side of the road, look up at a ginkgo tree, and think that I would like to drink ginjo-shu (吟醸酒, a kind of sake made from polished rice) with the roasted nuts.
The fresh nuts are available only during fall and winter.
I could see the silhouette of Mt. Fuji between buildings yesterday.
Mt. Fuji is special to many Japanese (at least, to me).
It makes me happy to see it even though it isn’t photogenic, and I feel like something good is going to happen.
Sometimes, there's a breathtaking sunset view from the elevator lobby of a building where I am during the day, but it was the first time I had taken pictures.
Sorry for the brief post. I've been a little too busy recently.
These are second pea sprouts (豆苗: tomyo).
In Japan, pea sprouts that still have roots are available at any supermarket, and we can grow them again after eating first sprouts. All you got to do is put remaining stems and roots on a tray and give them water. They begin to sprout in a few days.
I don’t have a foliage plant in my house because my cat eats leafs. (She doesn’t eat cat grass that I specially got for her.)
So, it’s delightful to see the plant growing vigorously.
I don’t eat second sprouts.
My cat does….
It’s priced at about 130 yen ($1.50).
This prestigious Shinto ritual takes place at Azabu Hikawa Shrine (麻布氷川神社), local Shinto deity of my town during Shrine festival every year.
My sister and I participated in the ritual by chance last September.
We went there to see Shinto music and dance numbers on the festival day and came across the ritual. After I took these pictures, a member of my neighborhood association who attended it found us and persuaded us to have a seat.
There were five Shinto priests and gagaku (雅楽, ancient Japanese court music) players though the pictures doesn’t show all of them.
Participants except us were elders of neighborhood associations, and the ritual was performed with stateliness.
I had a strange sensation of going back in time during the ritual.
I felt as if I were in ancient Azabu in Edo period (1603-1868) when it was a peaceful suburb, in an earlier time when it was the open field.
Originally, Azabu Hikawa Shrine was established in the mid-8th century and relocated to the present location in1659. I’m not sure when the festival in present style started, but there is an old print art that shows the festival in 1832. So, the ritual has taken place at least for past 178 years.
Azabu drastically changed during those 179 years, and it’s still changing.
There are a lot of visitors and residents who do not root oneself in Azabu and its community.
I was deeply impressed with the fact that no matter how Azabu changes and how many people come and go, the locals continue the ritual without making a fuss.
Okonomi-yaki (お好み焼) is a thin and flat pancake cooked on a hot plate with bits of meat, seafood and chopped cabbages. Okonomi means “what you like” or “at one's choice.” You can add your favorite ingredients in it beside those listed above, for example, red ginger, corn, green onion, cheese, and more.
Though it’s popular everywhere in Japan, Osaka (大阪) and Hiroshima (広島) are well known for their okonomi-yaki culture. Especially, Hiroshima-style one is unique in its method of food preparation and ingredients. While in Osaka style and other popular recipes, chopped cabbage and other ingredients are mixed with the batter and cooked together, in Hiroshima style, the cabbage is cooked on top of thinly spread batter, and noodles and ikaten (イカ天, crisply-fried thin squid) are usually added in it.
Menu of Mitchan in Hiroshima
I used to visit Hiroshima for business and always had one for lunch at a famous okonomi-yaki restaurant, Mitchan (that brings back some memories). It was a little heavy but very delicious.
I tried Hiroshima style okonomi-yaki in Tokyo many times, but unfortunately I haven’t found a place comparable to the restaurant so far.
Teppan Jaken Mori (鉄板じゃけん もり) is Hiroshima style okonomi-yaki restaurant in Azabu-juban (麻布十番).
I had a lunch set (1,000 yen: half-size okonomi-yaki, rice balls and miso soup) the other day. It was kind of light and tasted rather nice. I’m going to have regular-sized one with ikaten next time.