A Chinese Medicine Class: You are a part of this universe.

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CAM00373-a     “You shouldn’t try to go on a diet in summer,” said Prof. Yang Wei-ping seriously. I was attending a lecture about Chinese medicine at Aichi Shukutoku University last month. The theme of the class was “healthy summer eating habits.”

     Prof. Yang is from Kunming in Yunnan Province, Southwest China. Kunming has one of the mildest climates in China. That’s why it is called “Spring Castle.” My town, Nagoya is incredibly humid and hot in summer and very cold in winter. So, I assumed he is having a tough time here, but he isn’t. He is a Chinese doctor. He has a broad knowledge for surviving harsh weather conditions.

     There is an idea of “Tao follows nature” in China. That is, it is essential for living healthily and longer to follow nature. From the point of view of Taoism, today’s Japanese diet seems to be crazy. There are a lot of out of season vegetables and fruits which were grown with a large amount of pesticide, meat of animals which were given antibiotics, and many products with added artificial preservative in grocery stores. Japanese people rely on this kind of food industry. CAM00376

     Prof. Yang mentioned five key words for healthy eating manner: warm, mild, soft, little, slowly. That is, you should eat a small amount of warm, soft and mild tasting food slowly at each meal. If you have something hard, you should chew it well until it becomes soft. This eating manner is good for your digestive system.

     On the one hand, in Western medicine, doctors start medical therapy on people after they catch diseases; on the other hand, in Eastern medicine, doctors start treatment before people catch diseases. If you are not in good condition, such as having a headache, stiff shoulders, back problem, or dizziness, and go to see the Western doctor, most of you will be told, “I don’t see any problems. Let’s see how it goes.” But Eastern doctors will regard those symptoms as signals that your internal organs are not working well and start to treat you earnestly. They believe that it is too late to treat patients after they are sick. 漢方 en

     China has the yin-yang principle. Heaven is yang, and the earth is yin. Human-beings take the air from heaven and food from the earth. The Chinese character, which means energy, is made up of the symbols for ‘air’ and ‘rice’, the latter representing food. That is, you get energy from the air and food, and you become healthy with your respiratory and digestive systems working well. You are a part of this universe. You cannot be healthy if you forget about it and ignore natural laws.

     As I told you above, it is very humid and hot in summer in Nagoya. The temperature is over 30 degrees every day. So, people tend to have something cold. But inside the buildings and trains are air-conditioned, and it is sometimes very cold. It means that you make yourself cold both inside and outside. It is bad for your digestive system. If your digestive and absorptive function does not work well, your immune system will weaken. This problem is not only in the summer. It will affect your condition until next spring. That is why you should eat wisely to become or stay healthy. You should eat something warm and avoid cold drinks in summer! Ah, beer and ice cream are calling me from the refrigerator…What shall I do?

The Early-Morning Sumo Practice: You should have done it that way from the beginning…

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CAM00379     “You should have done it that way from the beginning…” murmured Sakanabe, a sumo wrestler. I was observing an early-morning practice of sumo in Nagakute on July 26. A sumo stable called Tagono-ura-beya was staying at Daiyu-in Temple during the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament in July. Taeko, one of my friends picked me up at 6:45 in the morning, and then we went to the temple to watch sumo wrestlers practicing outside.

     Four young men were training when we arrived at the temple. About 15 people had already been there and were watching their performance keenly. The number of spectators and journalists gradually increased. Most of them came with the aim of looking at Takayasu, who had a chance of winning the tournament as a Japanese and lower position wrestler. Non-Japanese wrestlers have been winning the cup for eight years, and all of the champions except for one were yokozuna (the first-rank wrestlers) or ozeki (the second-rank ones). CAM00388

     The four young wrestlers were practicing hard but sometimes they smiled at each other. Their expressions changed suddenly when three other wrestlers appeared at the sumo ring. Those three in white loincloths were wrestlers in the senior division and three times as big as the youngsters in black sashes. The young people had strained looks. One of them hastily went to take some water with a dipper and then came to the biggest and oldest wrestler, Wakano-sato, to greet him. He offered Wakano-sato the water deferentially, saying, “Good morning.” But Wakano-sato did not accept the water and said nothing. Then another young man did the same thing, but Wakano-sato did not accept the water from him, either. Surprisingly, another one did the same thing! I thought, “Hey! Wakano-sato doesn’t want water now! Can’t you tell that?” Probably, it is a tradition or something…CAM00392

     Two of the young wresters, Sakanabe and Taka-saito began to practice. Takayasu was stretching and the second-rank wrestler, Kiseno-sato was training outside of the ring during their practice. But Wakano-sato was sitting down and staring at them. Taka-saito was throwing himself against Sakanabe again and again. Finally he was about to leave the ring, saying “Thank you.” Then Wakano-sato opened his mouth. “Do it again.” Taka-saito was stupefied and stood rooted there. He could not seem to understand what had happened for a while. Sakanabe nodded when Taka-saito looked at him.

     Then Taka-saito’s crash course began. He threw himself against Sakanabe and then was turned over. The same thing was done with Wakano-sato’s word, “Again.” It was repeated over and over. Taka-saito could not stand up quickly. He was panting on his knees. But Wakano-sato said, “You’re slow. Get up quickly and do it again!” Takayasu and Kiseno-sato kept on practicing without any expressions. But the other young wrestlers tensed and were doing muscle training frantically. The sense of tension hit the audience. The spectators were just looking closely to what was happening with bated breath.

     Suddenly Taka-saito’s eyes changed. He tackled Sakanabe with every ounce of his being. Sakanabe murmured, “You should have done it that way from the beginning…” Wakano-sato nodded and Taka-saito was released from the special training at last…CAM00409

     After that, Sakanabe throw himself against Takayasu for a while. Then Takayasu left the ring with many journalists and the early-morning practice was over. Kiseno-sato and Wakano-sato did not enter the ring at all…

     In the evening when I turned on the TV, Wakano-sato happened to be about to fight against his opponent. He defeated the adversary. I was happy to see he win somehow. Unfortunately, Takayasu and Kiseno-sato lost their fights…Hakuho, yokozuna, or the first-rank wrestler, from Mongolia won the tournament. But Takayasu received a fighting-spirit award. I hope the four young wrestlers, especially Taka-saito, who had a crash course, will become high-rank wrestlers and play important roles in the sumo field someday soon.

The Bangladeshi Curry Class @ Aichi Summer Seminar 2014 : Will I be able to greet the summer next year?

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CAM00359-a     Oh, no! Hold this class next summer, too! Please!

     I was in the kitchen of Takakura High School of Economics Nagoya University on July 20. It was a cooking class of Aichi Summer Seminar, which is an annual event held by private schools in Aichi Prefecture. Aichi Summer Seminar is also known as “The Dream School” because anyone can become teachers and students freely. You can choose and take any classes basically for free from more than 3,000 classes. It was held at some schools near Nagoya City Museum in Mizuho-ku from July 19 to 21 this year. The places change every year, but I’ve joined the same cooking class for five years. I like the Bangladeshi chicken curry in the class! CAM00363-a

     It was a very hot day when I attended the class. But the kitchen was very comfortable because of the air-conditioner. There were 20 people in the room. The participants were separated into some groups, each of which had about half a dozen people. I used “cooking” above, but there are not so many things to do in the class. You fry onions. That’s all. Oh, one more thing. You check the other teams’ progress. The room was cool, but we soon became hot and started perspiring a lot. All the teams began frying onions… CAM00364-a

     Actually I’ve already introduced the recipe in my past article. (Aichi Summer Seminar 2011) But I tell you how to cook the Bangladeshi chicken curry again here:

Bangladesh Chicken Curry Recipe   

Serves: 6

Ingredients: 750g           chicken drumsticks
                         2              onions
                    1 1/2tbs       ground ginger
                    1 1/2tbs       ground garlic
                      6tbs           salad oil
                    1 1/2tbs      curry powder
                    1 1/2tbs      salt
                                         some water CAM00368-a

1) Rinse the chicken, chop the onions, and grind the ginger and garlic.
2) Heat oil in a pan, fry the onions until brown.
3) Add the ground ginger and garlic, curry powder and salt.
4) Pour water, cover the pan, and cook it for about 30 minutes. CAM00369

     How easy! No.2 is the most important! You need to fry onions patiently! I was able to eat delicious curry and rice this year, too! Thanks! Teachers served Bangladeshi spiced tea and snacks. I had a really good time! But one of the teachers said to me, “We might not have this class any more…” What?! I really like this class! So, I asked her to have the class next year too. Summer will never arrive for me untill I take the class! Will I be able to greet the summer next year?

The Study of the Stone Walls of Nagoya Castle : Building stone walls is the same as a battle!

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     “Oh, this is wrong!” Professor Miura shouted, pointing at the information board reading “The stone walls of the castle tower are inclined that the upper parts are curved outwards. This incline is called ‘kata-kobai’ and can bear the heavy weight of the stones and high pressure of the soil. In addition it is beautiful.” “Everything is wrong, except ‘beautiful’,” he added. Actually, the castle tower of Nagoya Castle has S-shaped edges. CAM00342

     Last Saturday I attended an interesting lecture about the stone walls of Nagoya Castle. The event was held by Nagoya International Tourism Association (NITA), whose deputy director is a DJ of ZIP FM, Chris Glenn. He is famous because he is not only a radio personality but also an ‘otaku’ of Japanese castles. He was the MC of the event, and the lecturer was Professor Masayuki Miura of Hiroshima University, who is a leading expert on castle architecture. 石垣1

     The place where the lecture was held was an oldish spooky building called Ohka-kaikan near Nagoya Castle. I did not see any ghosts there, but I could not stay inside alone. Along the eerie stairs, I finally opened the door and I felt relieved. There were about 40 living people in the room. Surprisingly, the student sitting in front of me was Nagoya’s Mayor Kawamura. After the 90-minute class about the stone walls of Nagoya Castle, the participants went to the castle with Professor Miura and Chris. I had visited the castle many times, but it was the first time for me to look at the stones so intensely. CAM00326

     Nagoya Castle was built on a marshy area to prevent invasion by enemies. That is why, the castle tower has been sinking since it was constructed about 400 years ago. You can see a Chinese character which expresses the number three on a stone in the second layer of its stone walls. It means that the stone used to be on the third layer. The first layer has sunk completely below the ground. The castle tower does not lean because of its method of construction. There are wooden bars called dogi under the base stones. They make the building sink uniformly. It seems the castle has sunk from 50 cm to 1 m during 400 years. CAM00347

     Most of the stone walls of Nagoya Castle were piled by the two ways mainly: Nuno-zumi (to make all of the layers uniform height) and Ran-zumi (to pile the stones at random). The arrangement of stones has also two methods: Uchikomi-hagi (to fill gaps with small stones) and Kirikomi-hagi (to put the stones without spaces), and the castle’s stone walls were mostly made by the former. But since the Meiji era, walls have been mended by the technique called Tani-zumi, which is to put stones in sideways. It is because the method is easier to pile stones and it looks beautiful. The strength, however, is much inferior. CAM00328

There was a big earthquake in 1891, and the broken parts were mended with Tani-zumi by the Imperial Household Ministry. According to Professor Miura, the repaired parts were terrible. He predicted, “All of the parts mended by the Imperial Household Ministry will tumble into ruin if a big earthquake hits the Nagoya area, but the original stone walls which did not break in 1891 won’t unpile. I can’t wait!” CAM00323

     The length of the stone walls of the castle is about 8.2 km. This large scale construction was done in just a half year. The founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, Ieyasu Tokugawa ordered 20 feudal lords to build the stone walls to prevent their rebellion, and he took away their money and drive power of opposing to him. Those lords were subordinate warriors of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who had ruled over Japan before Ieyasu. Nagoya Castle needed three times as many stones as Hideyoshi’s Osaka Castle, and the scale of its castle tower was as four times as big as Osaka Castle.CAM00346

     All of the stones for building Nagoya Castle were quarried from Shinojima Island. They were carried along the Horikawa River via Ise Bay. You can see words or marks carved on stones in the castle. It was to prevent the different building teams from stealing each other. But there was a big stone under the castle tower on which the name of a powerful lord, Kiyomasa Kato, is carved to assert his power in perpetuity his power. CAM00353

     Speaking of Kiyomasa Kato, there is another big stone called “Kiyomasa-ishi”, or Kiyomasa’s stone, in the castle. It has an information board explaining that Kiyomasa was standing on the stone when it was carried into the castle. However, Professor Miura denied the story. According to him, the stone walls which have so-called “Kiyomasa-ishi” were made by another lord, Nagamasa Kuroda, whose father, Kanbei Kuroda, is the protagonist of the long-running historical drama on NHK TV this year. Professor Miura claimed that the stone should have been called “Nagamasa-ishi,” or Nagamasa’s stone!CAM00350

     You might notice that some of the stones have cracks or are reddish when you see Nagoya Castle’s stone walls. They are due to being exposed to high temperature when the castle was burnt down by the air-raids in 1945. Most stones of the walls are granite, which is weak against heat. Iron in granite changes to ferric oxide by heat and reddens the stones. Unfortunately, Nagoya Castle’s castle tower was lost in the war, but still now you can see most of the original stones… CAM00332

     Actually, I learned much more about the stone walls of Nagoya Castle. I cannot write all of it here! I had never thought that I could learn so many things about the stones and the castle’s walls, nor looked at them so intensely before the lecture and tour. Professor Miura and Chris talked passionately about the castle and its stone walls. I am sure they can enjoy drinking for at least three hours with the theme…Professor Miura said, “Nagoya Castle is the best in Japan to study the stone walls!” And Chris said, “If you want to see Kiyomasa’s name clearly on the stone, you should come here at around 4:30 p.m.” Well…why don’t you come to Nagoya Castle to see the stone walls and stay there until the closing time?

Dohyo Matsuri ~ a ceremony of a sumo tornament ~ : Sumo is still a Shinto ritual…

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     Now the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament is on at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium. Sumo is a kind of wrestling and Japanese national sport. In these modern days, sumo is regarded as a sport, but it used to be a Shinto ritual. That is why, there are many Shinto rites in sumo wrestling still now. A ceremony called “dohyo-matsuri” was held last Saturday, and I went to see it with two of my friends. CAM00260

     Dohyo-matsuri is held on the day before the start of the tournament to purify the ring called dohyo and pray for safety of the event. It is opened to the public for free, but many people do not even know of its existence. It is probably because it is not given publicity in a positive manner. It is still a Shinto ritual and they want to hold it in a quiet and respectful manner. So, the entrance door of the gymnasium was closed by 9:50 a.m. to start the ceremony at 10:00.

     CAM00283High-ranking sumo wrestlers and authorized people were seated around the dohyo ring. Three sumo referees called gyoji, in white Shinto priest costumes performed the ceremony. They purified the participants and the place with some holy plants called sakaki, paper streamers named shide, and sake. Then the main referee recited a Shinto prayer. CAM00287

     There was a small hole in the center of the ring. The referees put offerings – some rice, salt, kelp seaweed, dried squid, nuts called kaya, and chestnuts into the hole. And then they poured sake over them. Two drum corps appeared and walked around the ring three times, striking the drum. Then, the hole in the ring was sealed…CAM00302

     While I was watching the ceremony, I realized anew that sumo is not only a sport but also still a Shinto ritual. That is why women cannot enter the dohyo ring today in the 21st century, either… Oh, I am not going to be a sumo wrestler, mind you!

The “Type One” Classes Reunion: Long time no see! We haven’t talked before, though…

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“Umm…Who are they?”
“Check your yearbook!”

CAM00216-a   It was at the beginning of June when I communicated with the organizer of the reunion via text messages. T-chan, the party organizer, planned the meeting this time and invited me. He sent me the list of the prospective participants, but I did not know half of them.

     There was a big high school reunion last year. It was an official one for former students who entered the school in the fifth, fifteenth, twenty-fifth, thirtieth, and thirty-fourth years from the school’s foundation. It seems that about 200 graduates attended the party. I received the invitation, but unfortunately I could not make it. T-chan joined the reunion and had a really good time there. Then he decided to have small reunions every year. So he organized the party at the end of last month, but this time he invited just people who had been in the “Type One” classes.

     The Type One…I had forgotten the word completely until I saw the word in his message. My school used to be separated into four: The Type One, Two, Three, and Four. The Type One was classes for students who were planning to major in liberal arts in private colleges, Type Two, liberal arts in national and public ones, Type Three, math and science in private, and Type Four, math and science in national and public. T-chan and I were in one of the Type One classes. He found out at the big reunion last year that the Type Two people often met after graduation, and wanted to have a party with former students of the Type One, like the Type Two.CAM00229-a

     Okay…the yearbook….the yearbook?! Where is it? I searched my apartment, but could not find it. It may be in my mother’s place… When I found the dusty album with the faded spine in a paper bag in a corner of my mother’s house, I could not help feeling nostalgic. I was very surprised when I opened the photo book. I could not remember my principal at all. Moreover, most of the teachers looked younger than I had thought… “Were they so young?! Actually, my homeroom teacher passed away in his 20s. I was shocked when I heard the news. It was because he departed at such a young age and I had believed he was in his 50s…

     I found my own picture soon, and then T-chan and another boy N-kun on the same page. But I could not find the others easily. At least, I was able to know the others had not been in the same class…It seemed I had never talked to them…

     “Actually I can’t tell the restaurant name because I don’t know how to read the Chinese characters. One represents ‘fish’ and ‘existence’ and the other ‘horse’ and ‘to be’. I hope all of you will find the restaurant. Let’s meet there at 6:00 ! See you tomorrow!”

     I received such a terrible text message from T-chan the night before the party. Great! The party organizer cannot tell the meeting place correctly! I began solving the puzzle, anyway. It must be a character of ‘tuna’ made from ‘fish’ and ‘existence,’ and ‘speedy’ from ‘horse’ and ‘to be.’ But I did not know how to read the restaurant’s name. Nevertheless, I was able to get the answer soon on the Internet. Luckily all the participants came to the sushi restaurant named ‘Ichi’ the next day.

     “Long time no seeeeeeee! Well…we haven’t talked before…right?”

     We graduated from the same high school in the same year. But I did not know half of the participants. So, we started with a self-introduction. T-chan was in Class 1 and belonged to the kendo club, N-kun, Class 1, and the tennis club, M-kun, Class 2, and the badminton club, Y-chan, Class 2, and the swimming club, K-chan, Class 3, and also the swimming club, and I, Class 1, and the chorus club.

     “The chorus club?! Did our school have a chorus club?!” All of them shouted. Yes, it did…it was a small club…and no longer exists, though…After the self-introduction, we had animated conversations looking through a yearbook that T-chan had brought to the party. Lots of forgotten memories were reawakened for us. All of us did not know each other, but spent the same time at the same place. So, we had many things to talk together. I had a wonderful time and made old and new friends!

The Handcraft Fair in Nagoya 2014: No one would recognize it as a UNIQLO product!

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CAM00233     “You buy a cheap hoodie at a UNIQLO store and then add something like Tyrolean trims or something, or change the cord to a fancy one. You see, you can get an original item easily! No one would recognize it as a UNIQLO product! ” Mr. Tomoyuki Tanaka, a fashion designer, explained how to modify old or plain clothing items, showing many examples: T-shirts, hoodies, jackets, hats, bags, shoes…CAM00212

     I was in Fukiage Hall last Friday with two of my friends. There was an annual event called “Handcraft Fair in Nagoya.” I attend the event every year. (The previous articles about the event: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008) My main purpose is to buy bags from a bag designer called Yukako. She makes bags from used clothes. I like her taste. The two bags in the photo were the ones I bought this year. They are lovely, aren’t they? CAM00214

     That morning, I had an English class, and my friends had a Chinese medicine class. We met at a restaurant for lunch around 1p.m. All of us were tired and sleepy when we arrived at the place at about 3. We bought some coffee and slumped on to chairs in front of the stage. We did not have stamina for walking around. Then, the talk show began. I was able to get many ideas for modifying clothing.

     After the show, we went to the bag designer’s booth. It was difficult to choose one from her works. Every bag was appealing. I bought a big tote for Tai Chi and drum practice. I often need to bring a pair of shoes and extra clothing for Tai Chi and drum sticks and musical scores for playing the drums. The other one is for my usual outings. I met the bag maker with the one I had bought from her last year. She was very pleased to see it, as if she had met her child who was living far away from her. CAM00215

     My friends each bought some automatic needle threaders made in Italy and wooden clogs. All of us were happy to get what we had wanted. Whenever I come to the event, I am surprised and impressed by many fancywork devotees. I have not made anything by myself for a long time, but the event gave me many hints about modifying this year. According to Mr. Tanaka, you can get many items for modifying at 100 yen shops or hobby stores. I cannot make a bag from old clothes like Yukako, but I might be able to decorate my old bags and to perk them up!