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


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Trains and Bikes

Japan Rail assesses passengers no surcharge for traveling with a bike. Such passengers are, however, required to use a bike bag. 

Junior high school lunch

A recent school lunch.