Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Sake

SRF / JRMC New Year Celebration

The SRF / JRMC New Year celebration was held on Friday, January 12th. The event was held in one of the large “shop” spaces within the SRF / JRMC compound. There was a plethora of food and beverages.

The celebration included a speech given by the Commanding Officer and the presentation of awards.

After the speeches and awards, the traditional ceremony of opening a sake barrel was conducted.

I recorded a short segment of the music.

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At the correct moment, the master of the ceremony (his hand is in the left corner of my photo and video) directs the openers to crack the lid.

I did a little research to understand the sake opening ceremony a little better. The ceremony is called “kagami biraki.” Kagami means mirror and biraki means to open. Obviously, no mirrors are used or opened during the ceremony. The lid is broken using a wooden mallet called a kizuchi. Then using a wooden ladle, hishaku, the sake is is poured into masu cups. The masu or sake cup is a square cup made of pine. The pine adds a nice flavor to the sake as you sip.

The reason the ceremony is called “kagami biraki” is because the surface of the sake looks like a mirror when the lid is removed. The ceremony is believed to bring good luck to the organization.

It was a fun afternoon. I mean, what’s not to love? Drinking sake during the work day with my husband in uniform. I wore one of my new Thailand skirts.

And if sake wasn’t your drink of choice, there was plenty of Miller Lite! The pine also added a nice taste to our Miller Lites.

Plus, I had a chance to catch up with a couple of Wubas. Class of ’00 & ’97 represented in Japan!

As always, it was fun to observe another Japanese traditional ceremony. Happy New Year! Wishing you good fortune, friendship, and prosperity. Kanpie!

Sushi and Sake

After our adventures exploring the Wara Animal Sculptures at Uwasekigata Park, we worked our way back to Niigata. Fortunately, the taxi driver gave us a card of the taxi service to call when we were finished. We called and had a taxi within minutes. We went back to the train station and then back to Niigata. We had a short walk to our hotel. 

We booked the Shinkansen and hotel through IACE Travel, the travel agency on base. The travel agent made everything so easy. She printed the train schedules because they don’t run as frequently as trains near the bigger cities. Also, she printed our hotel voucher making our check-in super easy (always remember to bring your passports). Our travel agent also gave us a voucher for a free sushi platter to use at one of several participating sushi restaurants in the area. To help us locate the restaurants, she printed a map! At check-in, the receptionist gave us two ¥500 coupons to use with dinner. 

We dropped our backpacks and headed out for sushi. I wish I had my camera ready to capture the sushi chef’s face when we walked in the door. He was obviously shocked to see two American girls walk into his restaurant. 😆 The chef and sous chef were welcoming and gracious hosts. They seated us at the sushi bar. We ordered two beers. When the beers were served I handed the sous chef our voucher and coupons. There was conversation between the two chefs and from what I understood, the voucher was good and the coupon would be applied to our beers. A short minute or two later, the sushi chef was displaying pieces of sushi for us to eat. 

The pile on the left is ginger. The white fish was good and the tuna was so buttery. Yummmmmmm… my favorite. 


Next, from the kitchen we eat were given a bowl of miso soup. 

The sushi chef placed more tuna (on the right) and raw shrimp. I wasn’t as squeamish as last time about the shrimp. It was delicious, actually. 

He added to our sushi display, krab stick, clam, and another white fish. I was worried about the clam. It was ok. It was slightly pickled, making it very crunchy. It was kindof a weird texture, but tasted ok. 

He place tamago (egg) on the right. And then the salmon roe and sea urchin arrived. I couldn’t do the sea urchin. I still remember the awful taste from our experience in Hiroshima. I used a trick my Mom taught me when she was forced to eat oysters. I hid the sea urchin in tissues and threw it away after we left. Sonia was so much braver than me. She ate hers like a sushi boss. 

When we eat completed our platters, I was still a little hungry. I ordered two additional pieces of tuna – maguro. “Oishi des” – “This is delicious!” Our sushi chef smiled. 

Once we finished, we requested our bill. The total costs was ¥1300 – less than $13.00. The voucher and coupons covered everything except my second beer and two pieces of additional maguro! The tuna was ¥350 each and the beer was ¥500. I’ve never eaten so much delicious food for so cheap!


We decided to walk around after dinner. We headed toward the train station and discovered an interesting sake shop. For ¥500, you received a sale cup and 5 Sake tasting tokens. 


There were 111 different sakes to taste! I started with #97! It was good. Better than any Sake I have tasted. 


We asked for recommendations for others to try. Number 86 was pretty delicious. 


The process was so kawaii. You set your Sake cup underneath the dispenser, inserted your coin, and then pressed the yello button. Five seconds later, you had Sake to taste. 

In addition to the Sake tasting, there were a plethora of different salts. Using the little scoop, you placed some on the back of your hand and licked it before tasting the saki. It was like the Japanese version of tequila shots. 


A map in the Sake tasting room showed where many of the Sakes were produced. 


The sake and salt tasting was another unique Japanese experience. It was another peek into the beautiful culture of Japan! 

Full Dance Card

We enjoyed a fun weekend with two traditional Navy events. Friday night we hosted Dave’s Wetting Down and Saturday we attended the 242nd Navy Ball. 

The Wetting Down tradition is when a newly promoted officer hosts a party for friends, family, and coworkers. The officer is expected to spend the pay raise on the festivities. Dave elected to have his Wetting Down at the Officer’s Club. 


There were plenty of appetizers and more importantly, an open bar. 


To help make the event a little more festive, I made “kawaii” centerpieces for the tables. All of the decorations I was able to purchase at the Daiso (100¥ Store). Well, except for the American chocolates and candy corn. I bought those on base. I was thrilled to hear our guests loved the “edible arrangements”.  


We wish you could have been here to celebrate with us. I know you are all proud of Dave – just like me! Promoting to the rank of Captain is a pretty big deal. We truly enjoyed ourselves and the celebration! 


Saturday night we attended the 242nd Navy Ball. The Navy Ball is held every year in October to celebrate the Navy’s Birthday. 

At each Navy Ball it is a tradition for the youngest and oldest sailor to cut the cake. Dave didn’t quite make the oldest sailor mark, he was 4 years too young. Theoretically, at our last Navy Ball before he retires (in five years), Dave should be the oldest sailor. I can’t wait! 


One tradition that is unique to a Navy Ball held in Japan, is Sake being distributed as you approached the cake! 


These cute little wood boxes on the tables are Sake cups. They were our Navy Ball party favors. 

After dinner and the official toast, the Navy Band started to play and the gymnasium lights dimmed. This signaled it was time to dance. And we did. A lot! So much fun. I’m already looking forward to next year! 

Full Dance Card

We enjoyed a fun weekend with two traditional Navy events. Friday night we hosted Dave’s Wetting Down and Saturday we attended the 242nd Navy Ball. 

The Wetting Down tradition is when a newly promoted officer hosts a party for friends, family, and coworkers. The officer is expected to spend the pay raise on the festivities. Dave elected to have his Wetting Down at the Officer’s Club. 


There were plenty of appetizers and more importantly, an open bar. 


To help make the event a little more festive, I made “kawaii” centerpieces for the tables. All of the decorations I was able to purchase at the Daiso (100¥ Store). Well, except for the American chocolates and candy corn. I bought those on base. I was thrilled to hear our guests loved the “edible arrangements”.  


We wish you could have been here to celebrate with us. I know you are all proud of Dave – just like me! Promoting to the rank of Captain is a pretty big deal. We truly enjoyed ourselves and the celebration! 


Saturday night we attended the 242nd Navy Ball. The Navy Ball is held every year in October to celebrate the Navy’s Birthday. 

At each Navy Ball it is a tradition for the youngest and oldest sailor to cut the cake. Dave didn’t quite make the oldest sailor mark, he was 4 years too young. Theoretically, at our last Navy Ball before he retires (in five years), Dave should be the oldest sailor. I can’t wait! 


One tradition that is unique to a Navy Ball held in Japan, is Sake being distributed as you approached the cake! 


These cute little wood boxes on the tables are Sake cups. They were our Navy Ball party favors. 

After dinner and the official toast, the Navy Band started to play and the gymnasium lights dimmed. This signaled it was time to dance. And we did. A lot! So much fun. I’m already looking forward to next year! 

Kamikochi 

On Saturday, Dina, her daughters, and I went on an ITT tour to Kamikochi. Kamikochi is a hiking area in the Japanese Alps. It is located in the Nagano prefecture and about a five hour bus ride from where we live. 


Out guide gave us a map of the route we should follow during our hike. The hike was advertised as being a 6-7 mile flat and easy hike. We were also told to be watchful for monkeys, deer, and bears. We only saw monkeys. 

The bus dropped us off around 9:30am. It was a clear and sunny morning. We all decided to leave our sweatshirts on the bus. 


Our first point of interest was Taisho Pond. The views were stunning in the bright sunshine and the water was so clear. 



Our next point of interest was Mt. Yakedake, an active volcano. 


We continued along the nature trail and had our first monkey sighting. We were warned not to look them in the eye! 


We continued along the trail and crossed a couple bridges and went past a shrine. 


It wasn’t too much further when we saw our first bear sighting sign report. We appreciated the sign also being in English. Fortunately, the sighting was almost a month ago. 


More beautiful views. 


And soon we made it to the Kappa Bridge. We stopped briefly for a little souvenir shopping and for a quick lunch. I took this picture when we first arrived. 


By the time we were leaving, the clouds had rolled in and it was starting to sprinkle. We had no rain gear or jackets. Fortunately, we were able to purchase new fleece for everyone! Here is the view from the Kappa Bridge. 


And oh, was it ever windy! Here we all are decked out in our new fleece. 


Being the super troopers that we are, we set out for the remainder of the hike. It was approximately 4 miles. In the light rain at first and then very heavy rain. 


At one point we all started to have Mt. Fuji climbing flashbacks. Even though we didn’t climb Mt. Fuji on the same day, we had very similar experiences. Rain. 

I took a quick recording of the rain sheets coming down. 

We were completely unprepared for foul weather during this hike. Dina mentioned the irony of us not being prepared for rainy season especially after I discussed in yesterday’s blog! Live and learn and pack a rain coat. The turn around point was across the Myojin Bridge. 


We made one more quick stop for energy aka Sake.  


After this last stop, we quickly scampered back to the Kappa Bridge area where we would find the bus. 


We had one more chance to see a monkey. 


And another bear sighting report. When we realized how recent this sighting was and that we should be especially cautious in rain, we really started to scurry! 


But first, one more selfie… 

And me with my new Wabi-Sabi Sole SnapBack and fleece. 


The day started out beautifully and turned into one of those days we will always remember. There was Eme almost falling in a puddle, no one having gear, and Dina getting snarled at by a monkey. Or maybe it was running back to warm up, playing tag, and silly science puns to keep us all laughing. Regardless, we made the entire hike (4 of the 6 people on the tour who did) and laughed more than we complained along the way! 

One More Sakura Adventure 

Tuesday it rained and rained. It was pretty ridiculous. If this isn’t the “rainy season” I’m not sure I’m gonna make it without owning a canoe! Haha

The clouds finally parted and Wednesday started off beautifully. Dina and I had plans to hike to Mt. Miurafuji and to visit the cemetery pagoda in hopes of catching a few remaining Sakura.

We set out on the hike I did last month to Mt. MiuraFuji and made the steep climb. Unfortunately, today was not a clear enough day to see Mt. Fuji. The blue skies want to promise you otherwise. None the less, the views along the hike were stunning. If we were going to see Mt. Fuji, it would be in the first picture.


At the top, we made the decision to head towards the Nobi train station. There was a trail and a sign pointing the way and I thought this might connect us to the pagoda faster. Simultaneously, we knew we wouldn’t see Mt. Fuji anywhere else on the hike. So, the pagoda became our next goal.

Off we set, back down the mountain.


Soon we came to a fork in the path and a sign. Google Maps helped to point us in the correct direction. We veered right at the fork.


Down we went.


It doesn’t look very steep from the top. How about from the bottom!


We continued hiking down and found a beautiful little over look. The dark spots in the photo are Sakura petals falling. It was so serene.


We were eventually dumped out into urbanization. We followed Google Maps to the cemetery. On our journey, we passed through a quaint little park and beautiful cemetery. Both with Sakura trees in bloom.

My beautiful friend! How is she not a sweaty mess?

Me… Sweat-a-Saurus Rex! Honestly, who cares about me! Look at those Sakura Blossoms!


Ok, enough with the suspense already, we made it to the cemetery. First stop, Buddha.

This view!


A few more steps and the pagoda was in sight!


The Sakura trees in bloom with the pagoda were well worth the hike. Dina and I picked up onigiri for lunch and had our own Hanami under the Sakura trees. It was perfect. Except we forgot the Sake!!

I think the first picture is my favorite. Or maybe the second…


By the time we stopped for Hanami, I was pretty hungry. I snapped these pictures after we both finished our onigiri. Oops! It was a beautiful setting!


As we returned home on the train, clouds started to roll in and so did a few sprinkles. By the time I was walking up the hill towards home, it was full on raining. I had no umbrella, just more beautiful Sakura and a chu-hi!


Kanpie!

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! 

Running Errands

I think we can all agree that “running errands” is not our favorite thing to do. Simultaneously, they are necessary and can only be put off temporarily. They best way in my opinion to run errands is with someone. This way, you have someone to talk to and distract you from the annoying tasks! 

Dina and I set out on errands today. Our first stop was Costco. We needed our regular items. For me, fizzy water and kale. This is the second visit in a row Costco has not had kale and I had to settle for spinach. Grrr. 

Dina also needed a cake for her oldest daughter’s birthday. The one at Costco was of course Costco size. Too big. So, we headed to Sweet Tooth in Hayama. While Dina picked out the chocolate cake she needed, I picked out a few treats I didn’t need! The first was a Sakura macaroon. 

The second, a Sakura tiramisu. Can you guess which one? Oh, right. It’s in English. 


I mentioned before how Sakura is everywhere. Check out the number of Sakura treats! Besides macaroons, there were muffins, cookies and donuts! 


After dropping everything off at the house, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch. Our reward for “running” our errands. We went to Zushi and tried Kappa Sushi. It is a Sushi-go-round. Very similar to to Sushi-ro, with the exception there was no English option on the menu! 


Google translate and the pictures helped. We did have to call the server once to help us order Sake. Now that is a reward!! Tuna Sushi and Sake!! To quote Delaney, “my favorites!”


Everything was pretty much the same. The experience took a little patience. But, all things considered, we were champions. Tip: don’t take the plates on the special bowls! 

Up close picture of tiny squid and shrimp. No, we didn’t try this one! 

Juice boxes!! This made me laugh. 


Days like today when I can accomplish normal things ( like running errands)  without incident make me feel pretty good. Simultaneously, I suggest we all give ourselves a “reward” when we successfully “run” our errands. Life should be celebrated! 

Ikebana New Year

The January meeting of Ikebana was held at the residence of Mrs. Sato’s at the Great Buddha of Kamakura. This is the same location as the first Ikebana meeting I attended in September.

The January meeting was held on a Saturday enabling family members to attend. Lucky for Dave, he was my plus one!

Julia, Dina, Dave and Brent (Dina’s plus one)

Even luckier for him the meeting included a kabuki makeup demonstration, a Nihon Buyo performance, Mochi pounding and Sake tasting! Kanpie!

The Sake was served with our lunch in traditional a traditional Sake box. The Sake box is made of cedar. The cedar enhances the flavor of the Sake.


The guest performer was Minosuke Nishikawa. He has a detailed resume with extensive training, international performances, and notable awards in theater and dance. He began by introducing himself without makeup and giving simple demonstrations of Nihon Buyo.


Following his introduction, he applied kabuki makeup. He started by wrapping his hair and applying a sticky paste to help the makeup adhere to his skin and stay flawless during the performance.


Next, he applied the white face makeup.


And then he drew eyebrows.


Once his face was prepared, he donned the kimono he would wear during his performance. He had an assistant to assist him with tying his obi.


The top kimono was elaborate and required additional attention from his assistant. In the picture, his assistant is ensuring the obi and kimono are secure!


The final pieces to his costume included yellow socks, sideburns, and a hat.


He was now ready to perform the Nihon Buyo. Nihon Buyo is a traditional Japanese dance dating back to the 18th century. The dance was originally deeply rooted in worship and religion. Over time, it developed into a more creative and theatrical performance. In the performance we observed, Minosuke Nishikawa imitated a stringed marionette doll. His assistant was the puppeteer. It was impressive, unique and very entertaining.

I was able to download a few pictures from the Ikebana Facebook page of the preparation and performance.


After the performance, we had the opportunity to enjoy different flavors of Mochi and Mochi pounding. Black sesame seed, red bean, and ginger.

After letting the guests take turns, Mr. Tago Yuji, showed us all how to get the job done!


All of this entertainment and we still had lunch to enjoy! A bento box and Sake!

Another fun cultural experience made even better because I was able to share the day with Dave and friends!

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