Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Culture

Hyakunin Isshu

Last week, my English student brought me a bag of rice crackers with the Hyakunin Isshu pictures and poems printed on the labels. She attempted to explain the meaning of the card game to me. However, it had been so long since she played she wasn’t sure how to explain it correctly. In the meantime, she encouraged me to enjoy the crackers with my husband while sipping a beer. I followed her directions, poured us a pint and invited Dina and Brent to join us. The crackers were actually pretty good. Only one of them had a strong fish flavor. The rest were very good.

Today, she brought me a print out with an explanation of the game. According to the information, Hyakunin Isshu is a traditional Japanese playing card game. It is typically played on the Japanese New Year’s holiday. There are 100 cards with 100 different latter parts of poems written on each card. The collection of poems was chosen by a poet named Fujiwara of Teika during the Heian period.

If you look closely, you can see the poem written on the package next to the picture.


To play the game, the cards are arranged neatly on the floor face up. The “referee” reads allow the start of a poem and the players scramble to grab the correct corresponding card with the latter half of the poem. The player who is able to accumulate the most number of cards is the winner. The referee declares the winner after correctly assessing the cards selected by each player.

Maybe once I am fluent in Japanese, I will challenge my Japanese friends to a game. In the meantime, I will enjoy delicious rice crackers with my beer! Kanpie! 

Yokohama Baystars 

Dave and I went to the Yokohama Baystars baseball game on Saturday afternoon. This was our second time to a Japanese baseball game. We went last summer shortly after we arrived. It was funny to read my previous post. It truly seems like forever ago and that I was still in a jetlag haze. This experience was so much easier!

It was a beautiful day and I was able to take a few pictures of the flower gardens surrounding the stadium. The tulips were stunning.


Unfortunately, the Baystars lost. They are actually off to a rough start this year. It still was a fun day with my favorite liberty buddy.


Despite the lose, the game is entertaining on so many other levels. Including the always happy beer girls.


Not only have they perfected the art of the perfect pour, they climb up and down the stairs the entire game. All while carrying a pony keg on their back and smiling. Plus, they look perfect! They pin their hats to stay in place and their makeup is flawless! I can only imagine how strong their legs are by the end of the season!!

The other entertainment is the constant chanting for each batter. It is constant regardless of who is at bat. The highlight is during the seventh inning stretch. Everyone releases blue balloons.


The other treat is as the food options. Because we are in Japan, edamame is always an option. And always a good one!


Another cultural difference is how clean the stadium is after the game. Attendees are expected to put their garbage in the garbage cans. The stadium is very tidy, for the most part, after the game. Imagine expecting Americans to put their trash in the trash can!

The Japanese baseball schedule follows the American schedule very closely. Please consider that if you are interested in attending a game when you visit.

Izakaya

Friday night, Dave’s work held a “Department Head” outing at an Izakaya restaurant in Yokosuka. Izakaya is a Japanese style restaurant that offers an all you can eat and drink set menu for a set period of time. The Izakaya restaurant we went to was called わん or One.  The cost was 4,200 yen (~$42.00) per person. For that price, we enjoyed 10 courses of tapas and drinks for 3 hours. This wasn’t our first experience with Izakaya, just the first time I knew what to expect and was prepared to snap pictures!

At わん, we dined at low tables with benches. There was space for our legs to go under the table so we didn’t have to sit cross-legged for three hours. We were given an oshibori (wet towel) to clean our hands prior to eating. Wet towels are served at most restaurants in Japan. Along with heated toilet seats in the winter, wet towels are a favorite “Japan thing” of mine! The table top gas grill will be used to cook the crocodile pot – course 9. Each setting had two bowls, a plate, a dipping plate, chopsticks, and a glass for your cold beer!

Izakaya is different than other Japanese styles of eating because the food is shared, similar to Spanish tapas. The portions in each of my pictures (except the sashimi and ice cream) was shared by 4 people.
Our 10-course menu included:
1) Edamame


2) Bang-Bang Chicken Salad


3) Sashimi Set (Tuna, Fatty Tuna, Octopus, Salmon) This was my favorite course, of course!


4) Deep-fried Sea Eel


5) Chicken Ball Grilled Avocado Cheese – I didn’t get a picture of the tray before the Chicken balls were served. This is my plate of meat and the chicken ball is on top. Food started arriving quickly and I had to load my plate because I couldn’t keep up!


6) Fatty Tuna Flavor Rice Sushi – This was my second favorite.



7) Karaage Chicken


8) Beef Steak


9) Crocodile Pot – The crocodile pot was cooked on the table top gas grill featured in the first picture. Seriously, the crocodile tasted just like chicken.


10) Desert is Green Tea and Vanilla Ice Cream

As we walked through the Honch to the train station to head home, we ran into Darth Vader. Never a dull moment in the Honch!

Sake, Soba, Sakura

Three points of interest were included in our ITT trip to the Yamanashi prefecture. The first was at the Shichiken Sake Brewery. We left Yokosuka at 6:30am and arrived at the brewery around 10am. Here was our route. It took us longer than the projected 2.5 hours because the bus has to stop every two hours for a driver change. Safety is paramount. 


The Sake Brewery tour was interesting. We were required to wear a hair net and remove our shoes. 

The hair net! So, cute and small and so Japanese! 

One size fits all slippers were provided. 


I have never seen such a clean and organized Brewery. These pictures show the various stages of the rice being washed. The worker is dumping rice into the washer. 


Something living in Japan has taught me: always rinse your rice! 


After being washed, the rice is placed in these huge tubs with water, yeast, and malts. The ingredients age for 30 days. The alcohol content increases as the rice sits in the tubs. We were cautious not to fall into the huge tubs as the sign advised. The best quote from the tour was about the bubbles formed in the fermentation process. It was translated as “rice moss” by our tour guide. “Rice moss makes sugar.” 

Rice moss. 


We had an opportunity to stir the fermenting rice. 


After the 30 day fermentation, the rice is pressed to remove the Sake. The fancy Sake (very expensive) is not pressed. It is instead allowed to drip patiently into the barrels. 


After our tour, Sonia and I had the opportunity to taste the Sake. We were given one free taste. We purchased two additional tastings for ¥100 ($1.00) each. 


We left the Brewery around 11:30 and went to the Sobadokoro-Izumi. Here we were able to make our own Soba noodles for lunch. It was quite an intense process. It took about an hour! We were paired up with a group of four. The child with them became the expert Soba maker. Fortunately, we also had a sweet Japanese lady directing us and helping us! Step one: sift the flower. 

Step two: add water to flour and mix. 


Step three: kneed the dough


Step four: roll out dough. The long rolling pin was used in a traditional manner in the beginning. Then, the dough was actually wrapped around the pin and rolled. This created even thinner dough. 



Step five: fold the dough. 

Step six: cut the dough. 


Step seven: boil the dough for 1 minute! 


Step eight: EAT!! 


Our last stop of the day was at the Jissoji Temple. Here we were able to see the a Sakura tree over 2,000 years old!! The tree was amazing. Unfortunately, we were about a week too early for the blooms. The tree has numerous posts and wraps to help it stay upright. 


There were several different Sakura. Unfortunately, not yet blooming. 


The daffodils were my favorite! 


Sonia and I both decided we want to take a small Sakura tree home with us. 


It was a little disappointing not to be able to see the trees in bloom. But, the temple was cool and I was able to get a pretty detailed stamp. 


My stamp. 


After our visit at the Jissoji Temple, we made the voyage back home. It was a great day experiencing different aspects of Japanese culture. And a great kickoff to my staycation! 

Hina Matsuri

The February meeting of Ikebana was a field trip to the Meguro Gajoen in Tokyo to view the Hina Matsuri. Hina Matsuri are Japanese dolls dressed in traditional court attire. The dolls are typically displayed in households the month prior to Girls’ Day which is March 3rd.

The Meguro Gajoen had a special display of Hina Matsuri throughout seven rooms which were connected by the venue’s beautiful Hyakudan Kaidan (Hundred-Step Staircase). Yes, there were literally 100 steps. There was a number on each one as you climbed. Fortunately, the seven display rooms were staggered throughout the climb allowing you time to rest as you viewed the dolls.

The dolls dated back to the late 1800s and came from the Kyushu region of Japan.

One of the Japanese members of Ikebana explained to us the tradition of Hina Matsuri. When a girl is born into a family, she is usually given a Hina Matsuri display from her grandparents. It is either purchased new or often passed down through generations. It is said to bring her good luck, health, and a happy marriage. The display is set up about a month before Girls’ Day in the family home. Often, when the girl is young, she is photographed with the display. The display is promptly taken down and packed away after Girls’ Day to prevent back luck, illness or a girl from not finding a husband. She told us because she had only boys, her parents would put out the display and take a picture of their female dog among the Hina Matsuri as a joke. 

The unfortunate part was photography was not permitted of the displays. I was able to take a few pictures of the Meguro Gajoen, which was beautiful and pictures of the display case in the reception area with a modern Hina Matsuri collection.


On the top level are the bride and groom dressed in traditional kimonos (12 layers). The servants, attendants and cooks are in the lower levels. 


The Ume Blossoms in the display were real!! 


There were also beautiful Ume arrangements throughout the venue. 


Here is a picture of some of the Ikebana members.

 

Pictured below are mobiles with cloth animals and woven balls known as sagemon.


One of the restaurants overlooked a garden with a waterfall! 


I also need to tell you about the bathroom. There was a bridge and a wishing pond! Seriously. 


It was yet another wonderful opportunity to learn about Japanese culture and see a beautiful venue. 

Washi Eggs

My Japanese student, Manami, and I meet once a week in order for me to help her with her English conversation and pronunciation. I find the time we spend together very enjoyable. Manami tells me each time how much it helps her to hear English from a native English speaker.

We met this morning and she arrived with a very special surprise. Her mother, Atsuko, who helped me make the Japanese tea box, made Washi Eggs with Dina and her daughters last Friday. Atsuko sent Dina and email inviting me to come along. Here is the sweet quote from Atsuko that Dina sent to me.

“Dina Julia has no plan today how do you think to come together, eggs are not enough but she stay home is so lonely.”

Unfortunately, they were meeting during my Friday afternoon English class so, I wasn’t able to tag along.

Fortunately, for me, Atsuko is very kind and super sweet. Atsuko made me six Washi Eggs and had Manami bring them to our session today. Atsuko is very thoughtful and they are beautiful.

In case you are unfamiliar with Washi Eggs, they are made by blowing out the yolk of an egg and then covering the hollow egg with washi paper. Washi paper is a thin Japanese paper used when making origami. The washi paper is glued to the egg and then a varnish is applied to seal the paper and create a shiny finish. The final step involves adding a small hook in order to hang the decorated egg.

One more thing to tell you. I loved my Japanese Christmas Tree with the small cell phone charms so much that I ordered a table top birch tree so I could continue to appreciate my charms throughout the year. Since it is no longer Christmas, I renamed my tree. It is now known as the “Japanese Tree of Happiness.” Here is a picture of my “Japanese Tree of Happiness” with my six Washi Eggs!


At first, the differences in the size of the egg and cell phone charms bothered me. Then I realized, the “Japanese Tree of Happiness” portrays wabi-sabi. Finding beauty and happiness with imperfection.

While Manami was here today, I showed her my “Japanese Tree of Happiness” and told her I was going to add the Washi Eggs. I sent her the picture and asked her to share it with her mom, Atsuko. Her mom was pleased to see I enjoy them and that they make me happy.

I took close up pictures so you can see the detail and appreciate the beauty. Notice the paper was cut into strips and then glue precisely in place in order to align the patterns.


I truly love and appreciate the gift I was given today. It was very special. I am adding “make Washi Eggs” to my list of things to do while living here in Japan.

Purikura 

Purikura (pronounced pu-ree-ku-ra) is the shortened common name for Purinto Kurabu meaning Print Club. Purikura are Japanese photo booths that enable the users to take digital pictures with a twist.

Purikura photo booths can be found in shopping malls, arcades and of course, Harajuku. Yesterday we stopped in one while walking around Takeshita Street. The purikura was in the basement of one of the buildings on Takeshita Street. It had about 12 different booths to choose from. This is the one we selected.


Check out the close up… so weird and funny. Something was lost in translation, obviously.


For only ¥400, the six of us were able to cram together into the Japanese sized photo booth and have 6 silly pictures taken.


The purikura photo booths have image editing features that wash out skin tones giving the person smoother, lighter and blemish free skin. Also, there is a feature that will enlarge a person’s eyes making them look like an anime character. The pictures can also be enhanced with decorations using a stylus before the pictures are printed.

A few close-up pictures of the editing and decorating.


In the purikura there was also Gacha. The Gacha were all boy bands!

The experience was yet another opportunity to enjoy a fun and funny aspect of Japanese culture. I can’t wait to take you during your visit. I’m giggling just thinking about it!!

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