Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Japanese Curry

Forced to leave neighboring Fukushima after the tsunami and nuclear plant disaster, the proprietor of this 200 yen curry shop moved his business to Niigata City. On a good day he moves 500 servings of curry.  As a native of Louisiana, USA, I especially like the hot sauce and the New Orleans jazz he plays at the shop.


Yamagata Prefecture Specialities

A stall at a recent food festival in Niigata featured authentic Yamagata いも煮 (imo-ni, or boiled potato stew) and すじ肉煮込み (suji-niku nikomi, or stew with meat and vegetables). Very tasty, and just the thing on a cold winter's day.

Japanese School Lunch: The Real Deal

Read Mother Jones' piece here about the kerfuffle surrounding health- conscious restaurant chain Sweetgreen and its "School Lunches around the World" photo essay, in which "representative" lunches from Finland, Italy, and France, among other countries, shame typical fare served in US school cafeterias.

Unlike the "staged" photos in the Sweetgreen gallery, those of Japanese school lunches shown in these pages are the real deal.

Yesterday's lunch (with a touch of hinamatsuri, or Girls' Festival, which is observed on March 3):


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Hossu

This Buddhist monk is holding a hossu (払子), defined by my dictionary as a "priest's bushy flapper", one of the implements used in Buddhist ceremonies.

The Onusa

Ever wonder what this is called? 

It's the onusa (幣), the sacred staff used in Shinto ceremonies.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Huffington Post on Japan

Just read this on "tracks-less-traveled" destinations in Japan.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

More Japanese School Lunches

Most meals are served with rice, all with milk, regardless of the menu (see http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/niigata-town-drops-milk-from-school-lunches for the decision of a nearby city to stop serving milk from Dec. 1- the last day for school lunch in March; see my comments for additional information not in the JT article). 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ippudo: Authentic Hakata Ramen in Niigata

I have it on the authority of a Kyushu native that the only authentic Hakata-style ramen in Niigata is to be found at Ippudo (一風堂).  It certainly was tasty.  Hakata ramen originated in Fukuoka City in either 1941 or '42 at the open-air stall 三馬路  (Mimaji? Mibaro?), operated by one Morii Kentaro. The ramen is characterised by a pork-based soup and thin, straight noodles.

Yesterday's School Lunch

Chinese-style tofu over rice, salad dressed with vinegar, pear wedge

Thursday, November 13, 2014

School Lunch for November 14

Chinese cabbage soup
miso-flavored fried tofu and pork
corn dumplings dressed with vinegar and sesame

*The average school lunch in November contains 845 calories.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Persecuted Christians and Miracle Soba: A Traditional Story from Kyushu

Long, long ago, in the islands of the Amagusa archipelago, there lived many who believed in the teachings of Christ. However, Shoguns Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu banned the Christian religion, arguing that it was a pernicious foreign influence.

The authorities hunted down suspected Christians, burning some at the stake and waterboarding others.  And so it came to pass that many were executed for their beliefs.

One autumn's day a certain peasant, Shinkichi by name, was planting a soba field with seeds with the aid of his wife.  All of a sudden the two were startled by a clatter as of running feet, and before long they beheld a small band of people running towards them, the band comprising a few peasants led by  men who were most certainly not Japanese serfs; as the group advanced, the Shinkichis could make out the brown hair and towering forms of two foreign gentlemen.

"Help us, do help us, we are being pursued by the authorities", the fugitives implored.  "God will reward and protect you if you do."

"But we have no business succoring those wanted by the law," replied Shinkichi.

"We may be outlaws, but our only crime was to pray to our God," remonstrated the group.

And then it occurred to Shinkichi that these were not ordinary fugitives. "So you're Christians", he said. "In that case, see that you run as fast as you can yonder, where you'll find a cave at the base of a cliff.  You'll be practically invisible there."

"God will most certainly reward you for your charity. If the authorities come looking for us, be sure to tell them you saw us fleeing in the direction of the cliff at the time you were sowing your field with soba."

So saying, the two foreign men led their small congregation in the direction pointed out by Shinkichi.

Shinkichi and his wife watched as the group receded into the distance.  Then, turning their attention back to the field they were sowing,  the couple were startled to see that the seeds they had planted just moments before had already begun to sprout. And lo, before their very eyes, the sprouts became fully grown and the field a blanket of white.

Just then a party of soldiers appeared. "Hey, you there.  Did a couple of foreigners with some peasants in tow pass by here earlier?  Speak up.  You know what happens to those who harbor fugitives, don't you?"

"Yes, most honored sir, a group like you described did pass by here in the direction of the cliff. But that was when my wife and I were planting the field," replied Shinkichi to the leader.

"What's that you say?  But the soba's now fully grown."

"Indeed it is, honored sir.  I am certain I saw the people you seek when I was planting the seeds."

"Well, that must have been quite some while ago.  I suppose it can't be helped. Let's go, men, back to the fort." Thus ended the interview between Shinkichi and the leader of the posse.

As soon as the men were out of sight, the soba began to wither. Magically the field returned to its earlier condition.

"Truly, God did come to our aid just then.  Come what may, God will always keep us from evil."  With clasped hands Shinkichi and his wife fervently thanked God and asked His blessing.

News of Shinkichi and his soba passed from person to person, from village to village, until few were those ignorant of the story, and even fewer who didn't believe in God's mighty and mysterious power.

Translation: Brian Southwick, 2014