There is perhaps nothing more simple and divine at the Japanese table than a pristine bowl of snow white shinmai, new rice, to close an autumn meal. Like the wafer at mass, newly harvested rice speaks to the Japanese soul of the divine, of things both eternal and ephemeral.
Drawing back a clump of desiccated fronds, I find an emerald trumpet of delicate leaves cradling a cluster of quilted button like buds. I raise the dirty, wet stem to my nose and drink in the earthy, pungent aroma of spring breaking from winter. This is fukinoto.
This month marks a dozen years since I came to Japan. A full cycle of the Chinese zodiac has passed and a new decade begins. I’m inclined to consider it an auspicious moment and a good time for reflection. I still remember those first months vividly, that feeling of being thoroughly lost in a foreign […]
Japanese cuisine celebrates hazawari, the texture or literally tooth-feel of foods, to which the language is full of words to describe the textural aspect of flavor. Most are onomatopoetic, sounds that simulate physical sensations and the feelings they evoke. It speaks volumes to the sensual aspect of eating and to how wholly immersed and attentive […]
As long as we’ve kept track of time, the day on which we reset the calendar has been celebrated as an occasion for reflection, for mental, physical, and spiritual renewal. Hemp fibers twisted into rope figures adorn the entryways to purify and protect the home. Inside decorations made of rice and boughs and bamboo, each […]
When you marry into a family, you marry into their food. Perhaps my case is extreme having relocated to a far flung country with a cuisine most divergent from mine. But no matter who we partner with, there are just some dishes that come along with them, ones that seem to bring comfort in a […]
Chickadees flit from perch to perch. They are a cheerful bunch, gray-winged little birds of winter with black caps and beards. I remember them fondly, their whistling chatter constant and merry throughout the long snowy months of my childhood in Vermont. It’s comforting to see them outside my window here too. The days have grown […]
The almanac tells us that it is the season of first winter. Far north in Hokkaido where the seasonal divisions are more pronounced like in New England, first flurries must be falling fast. But here the songbirds still chirp on days warm enough to dry our laundry outside. But signs of winter are creeping in. […]
A kettle of water is set to boil. All dishes are cleared and rinsed and and then we set the table a second time with three dishes, a bowl of rice, a cup of houjicha roasted green tea, and a small plate for pickles. The evening’s tsukemono is presented in a serving bowl. I imagine […]
In the waning glow of autumn the rice fields yellow with age. Paddies are drained in preparation for the harvest and the seed grains begin to dry on the stalk. Flaxen tassels sway in the autumn breeze amidst fields of golden grasses, a sight as quintessentially fall-like as the blazing foliage of sugar maples in […]
Here in Karatsu the soundtrack to October is haunting, a simultaneously joyful and melancholy refrain practiced in pockets of darkness where boys gather to prepare for our grand festival. There is no written musical notation for these melodic refrains passed by ear from generation to generation over the last two hundred years. With flutes in […]
A storybook moon hangs low in the sky as though tethered by a thread to Venus. But only a sliver, its pure light shines unusually bright. These days mist crawls in overnight and morning grasses glisten in the slanting rays of the rising sun. Though summer insects still chatter, they are subdued. Chirps and cricks […]
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