Sunday, June 23, 2019

Monday, May 27, 2019

"The Truth about Wasabi", a Short Video

Highly recommended:

Izumozaki, Niigata: Basho, Ryokan-sama, and Grilled Fish

The town of Izumozaki in Niigata Prefecture has much to offer: haiku poet Basho spent a night there (commemorated by the sign pictured, which includes a haiku the poet wrote after gazing seawards from the window of his room) at "Travelers' Inn Ozaki-ya" in 1689 during the tour of northern Japan that inspired Narrow Road to the Interior; nineteenth-century poet and calligrapher Ryokan-sama was born in Izumozaki- be sure to visit the monument (shown below) and nearby museum curating his work, and the Ishii Fish Shop, which serves up local catch (from the Sea of Japan- of which there are wonderful views from the town) freshly grilled.

The haiku (inexpertly rendered):

The turbulent sea
Stretching to Sado Island
The glittering sky

Basho Memorial

Ryokan-sama Memorial

Grilled Saba from Ishii-ya

View of Sea of Japan (Sado Island just visible at right)

Monday, April 22, 2019

Black Ships and Dancing Girls

Shimoda, a city at the tip of the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture, was one of two ports (the other being Hakodate) opened to the outside world in 1854 with the signing of the Kanagawa Convention between the Tokugawa Shogunate and the US government. The first US consular office was located at a temple in the city and manned by Townsend Harris, who was later instrumental in negotiating the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the two countries.

The limited express linking Tokyo to Shimoda is named Izu no Odori-ko, or "Dancing Girl of Izu", which evokes the short story by Yasunari Kawabata and its title character. I can't think of a lovelier or more appropriate name for this train.

Monday, January 28, 2019

A hand towel, a monk, and the first alpinist

Pictured is a hand towel, or tenugui (手ぬぐい), commemorating 1,300 years since Mt. Haku (2,702 m) was first climbed. Taicho, known as "The Monk of Echizen", accomplished this feat of mountaineering in the year 717: in other words, over 600 years before Petrarch (he of the sonnets to Laura in the style that bears his name) became the "first" alpinist in the modern sense (that is, climbing mountains to enjoy the views, among other things) by scaling Mt. Ventoux (1,912 m) in 1332. Whether Taicho admired the views from the top of Mr. Haku (which, by the way, straddles Ishikawa, Gifu, and Fukui prefectures and has been considered sacred from ancient times) is, well, irrelevant. In 717 there were no climbing routes, so Taicho had to blaze his own trail. In the following century three paths were established, one starting in each of the three prefectures (not then known as "prefectures", if you care about such things) mentioned above. Nice hand towel/ wall decoration.  Tenugui make good souvenirs, too.     

Sunday, January 13, 2019

New Year's Decorations: the Kadomatsu

Examples of kadomatsu flank the entry to a trad villa in downtown Niigata City.
For a discussion of the "gate pine" and other decorative elements, see the earlier post titled The Japanese New Year.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Poet and Priest Ryokan-sama

From a 2009 post:

One morning death comes before
They can use even half their money.
Others happily receive the estate,
And the deceased's name is soon lost in darkness.
For such people there can only be great pity.

Well, I get the idea about the pity, even if it is tough to feel in this case.