Woderful Japan Tour in Chita Peninsula: Make a toast with sake of Chita!

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“What does Ikuji mean?”

     I was in a sake brewery. I had seen the word of “Ikuji” many times on my way to the place, and the man standing in front me was also wearing a coat on which the same word was printed. I was curious about it.

     There was an interesting tour visiting around Chita Peninsula on November 16. The participants looked on a Japanese sake brewery, tasted many kinds of sake there, went to an agricultural establishment, studied about vegetables produced in the area and had a healthy lunch set made from some of the products there, and then visited a temple related to Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had established the Edo Shogunate. Actually, the tour was guided in English. I took part in it with some of my friends.

     The man I asked is the president of the brewery named Harada Shuzo in Higashiura. He introduced an interesting episode: Long time ago, when Prince Yamatotakeru passed by this area, he got thirsty and he drove an arrow into the ground. Then water started gushing. Local people still use the spring and the well is called Ikuji. Nowadays no one knows the derivation of the name.

     His brewery also uses the water and sells sake named Ikuji. The place is suitable for sake making because of the climate and good quality of water.

     The building was filled with sweet sake flavor. The participants were able to look into a big tank in which sake was fermenting and to taste many kinds of sake. CAM01666Interestingly, they have collaborated with Meijo University for creating new sake with yeast from carnations. The carnation sake was sweet and smelt like flowers. Actually, the university has also made ice cream from the sake lees. You can try it in a cafeteria of the collage.

     Next we headed to an agricultural establishment in Obu for lunch half drunk. The place is called “Genki-no-sato” with many facilities, such as a farmers’ market, a spa, a bakery, and lots of cafeterias and so on. We went to a restaurant named “Dan-ran-tei”, where a man was waiting for us. He was a kind of vegetable geek… According to him, he can keep on talking about just tomatoes at least three hours…

     We enjoyed the meal, hearing his lecture on vegetables. All of the foods were made from vegetables produced in the area: boiled sweet potatoes with tangerines, boiled crams and daikon- radish leaves, boiled garland chrysanthemums, boiled mushrooms with ginger roots, crabs with vinaigrette, grilled salmon with beans paste, fuki or boiled giant rhubarb with soy sauce, steamed egg custard, fried mushrooms, tomato-nabe (fish, crams, mushrooms, Chinese cabbages, garland chrysanthemums, tomatoes, and leeks), and sushi (shrimp, sea eel, fig, bell pepper, wasabi leaf)…Those were delicious!

     After lunch, each of the participants spent free time there for a while. For example, I went to the farmers’ market and bought some fresh vegetables, dropped in the fish shop and the bakery, and bought some foods in the souvenir store. Then all of us head over to a temple named “Uchu-zan Kenkon-in”. Uchu means cosmos or space. Strange name…

     This temple was built in the 15th Century and is related to the mother of one of the most famous feudal lords, Tokugawa Ieyasu. She was from a powerful family, the Mizunos. The temple was located southwest of a castle of the family. Both of “ken” and “kon” mean southwest, and “kenkon” means massive universe. That’s why, the temple has the name of cosmos or space as well.

     We strolled around the temple with some local guides. The participants and the guides got along well and we had animated conversations during the tour of the historic site.

     Delicious sake and food, interesting stories, sites, and people…I had a wonderful time!

Karaoke Party @ ISONA: This is like we are in an expensive dinner show, isn’t it?

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And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain…

     Charlee’s vibrant and resonant voice filled in the small pub Isona. Kenji, a friend of mine held a karaoke party there in the beginning of last November. I was having a good time with some of my friends. In fact, the owner of the pub is also a friend of mine.

     Although Charlee was using a microphone, I did not think he needed it. He is a professional singer. So, his voice was totally different from the other participants. It did not come from his vocal cord, but emanated from his whole body! His voice is lamprophony.

     Having delicious food with alcohol in the dim light of the pub, my friends and I were captivated by Charlee’s singing, saying “This is like we are in an expensive dinner show, isn’t it?”

     Of course, not only Charlee but also all of the participants sang various kinds of songs. I sang a famous Enka song, Tsugaru-Kaikyo-Fuyu-Geshiki, or The Winter Scenery of Tsugaru Straits, and Duran Duran’s The Reflex. Oh, don’t guess my age! CAM01479-a

     Some of the participants were shy and hesitated to sing at the beginning, but they loosened up and finally transformed themselves into different characters at the end of the session! I’m sure all of us enjoyed the party!

    

 

  

     Charlee Laine: http://www.charleelaine.co.uk/

     ISONA: 2-8-11 Nakata, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya (between Imaike and Ikeshita) http://www.site-builder.jp/1085/isona/

Happy Halloween and a Healthy Newborn Baby!: Do you know Japanese people love to party?

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As you know, Japan is not a Christian country. Nevertheless, most of the Japanese celebrate Christmas, and recently many of them have become enjoying Halloween as well without understanding the essence. Actually I’m one of them…

     Not only Christmas and Halloween but also many cultural things are used commercially in this country, and ironically many people including me like to get in on the crazes! You might have thought Japanese people are shy and quiet. Well, in a way, you’re right. But interestingly they also love to party!

     There was a Halloween party at Mairo, the bakery store, near my apartment last October 26. Actually, the shop holds a Halloween party every year, and I take part in all of them…But this time it was not only to enjoy disguising themselves for the participants but also to celebrate the debut day for a newborn baby of the baker.

     I was able to meet the angel and many of my friends there. We had a wonderful time over delicious food, beer, wine, spirits like vodka, and jack-o’-lantern-shaped cake. I suppose no one was thinking about Celtic or Christian cultures during the party. But I think it’s okay if many people can drive off their gloom in unusual costumes with their friends over delicious food and drink even though they don’t understand the meanings of the original event.

     I appreciate the bakery to have had such a wonderful party and wish the baby a promising future!

The Tai Chi Camp in 2013: I ate too much again!

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Why are they changing the light volume so frequently? I was wondering while doing a qigong exercise. I was doing that with other 400 participants. All of us were taking breath slowly as moving our arms at the same pace. No one uttered a word. The room became brighter and then darker repeatedly. Then I noticed that the room became brighter when we inhaled and became darker when we exhaled. I thought it was strange a hotel staffer changed the light volume in time with our movements…54220081000925697

     Then I came to a sudden realization that no one was controlling the intensity but I just felt like that way! Probably I perceived “qi” radiated from 400 people as light. When I inhaled slowly, the room got brighter and brighter, and when I exhaled slowly, it started darker and darker…How interesting! I’d never perceived “qi” that way. This strange thing happened while I was joining a big Tai Chi meeting in Toyohasi last October.

     The Tai Chi camp was held at Loisir Hotel Toyohashi on October 5th and 6th. I took part in it with two of my friends. When we got on a train, there were many ladies in it. And I glanced at them, wondering if all of us might be heading to the same destination. Sure enough, some of them who were sitting opposite to us smiled and gave us some candies! Suddenly our car became a kind of reserved train, and I was already able to have a wonderful time before the camp began.

     My friends and I had a lunch at a Japanese restaurant named Musashi nearby after we arrived at the hotel. They had many lunch specials, and I chose “hime-kgo-zen”, or a lunch set in a basket of a princess. Yes, the photo was that meal. It cost 1,000 yen. Hmm, reasonable. After lunch, the Tai Chi camp stared. But I was sleepy…you know, I ate too much…

     Around six o’clock, there was a feast. I met many people and made new friends over the wonderful dinner there. A teacher came to our table and told us an interesting episode: He has bought a new house recently in a countryside, where there are still many wildernesses. One night, he noticed a shadow of someone was getting closer to the frosted glass door. He wondered who came at that time of night. Then, the glass door slid open quietly without a knock, and a raccoon peered into his house. He was very surprised because he had not expected that non-human appeared. They stared at each other for a while. Then the raccoon seemed to give up something and left without closing door…

     Actually there was a workshop after the dinner. But I was sleepy…you know, I ate too much again…Around 8:30, it finished. I went to my room with my roommate. Not only me but also she ate too much at the banquet, but we went to a convenience store outside to buy some snacks… No wonder I can’t become thin…

    The morning training started at 6:30. I was almost a zombie. But I revived by breakfast! All of the participants practiced Tai Chi around 9:30. And as you’ve already expected, I was sleepy because I ate too much! After the session, there was an examination for becoming a master of Tai Chi. More than 60 people took the test and wonderfully all of them passed. I might be more nerves than the test-takers…During the test, there were a great deal of tension in the room… Relaxing after the event, I had lunch together with other participants. Ha ha, I ate too much again! Well, I had a great time at the Tai Chi meeting!

A Stormy Fireworks Display

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     When was the last time I wrote here? What? September 26?! Mmm…I haven’t posted anything for such a long time except for the annual report…My last article is about events which happened last July and September 11th. Okay, let’s go back to last September…

     It was raining hard on September 15. A big typhoon was getting closer to my area. There were not only heavy rains but also strong winds outside. A fireworks display was planned in my neighborhood that evening, but of course, many people including me had given it up.

     But I thought I heard something big bangs faraway around 6:30 in the evening. Then I opened the window and looked outside. The wind and rain seemed to ease a little. Then a big bright flower opened in the air before me. Wow! A firework!

     Actually the event was supposed to start at 7:00 p.m., but they began before the time. They seemed to decide to set off all of the fireworks while the weather was lulling. You know, once fireworks get wet, they will never be used. If they hadn’t fired them off, they would have had to throw them away. And it would be very difficult and cost a lot.

     Around 7:00, when was the originally scheduled time, the weather was getting worse. They seemed to fire the rest of the fireworks at once…The stormy night sky was filled with countless bright lights and glowed with loud blasts for a short time. And then the town was steeped in darkness in a moment.

     They fired all of the fireworks off in 30 minutes though it would take two hours for the event in a normal situation. I stood there looking at the dark sky for a while despite of the bad weather because the last one minute was spectacular. I felt like the summer had gone with the fireworks display while hearing the roar of the typhoon…

 

2013 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,500 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Teacher with Shafts of Love Comes to Small English Club: “Teacher, Teacher, I like him!”

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     “Chinese philosophy!?” The two ladies and I repeated the word in surprise. We were making curry in the cooking room of Nanzan Elementary school. It was a very hot day in July. An interesting event named Aichi Summer Seminar is held in Nagoya every July. There are more than 3,000 classes in it and anyone can take any classes freely there. That is why it is called “The Dream School”. I have participated in the dream school for five years and I take the same cooking class – Bangladeshi curry – every year. (I have written the event and the curry class in the past: 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012)

     The Bangladeshi curry class is led by some members of Japan Bangladesh Cooperative Society. Although I took the class five times, I have never met a Bangladeshi there but some Japanese members of the NGO and a Seychellois. Seychelles is a country officially called the Republic of Seychelles comprising more than 100 islands in the Indian Ocean. I think it is very rare to come across a Seychellois in this Far Eastern island country. He is Jean. He teaches English, economics, and Chinese philosophy in a university, and of course, teaches how to make delicious Bangladeshi curry in the cooking class.

     The opening exclamation was uttered when one of the classmates in the cooking class asked Jean about his leisure time:
     “So, what do you do in your spare time?”
     “Well…I read books.”
     “What kind?”
     “About my study.
     “What do you study?”
     “Chinese philosophy…”
     “Chinese philosophy?!”

     How interesting! You know, he is from Seychelles and studies Chinese philosophy in Japan! I wanted to listen to him more and I thought I should not get his story all to myself at the same time. Then a light bulb went on over my head. I have a small English club in my neighborhood and teach some senior citizens once a week. I decided to invite him as a guest to the club. In fact, one year had already passed since they had an opportunity to talk with an English speaker. (The episode is here: “An Event at a Small English Club: When is the next session?”) I was sure they would be glad at the meeting. It was very kind of him that Jean agreed readily to come to the club.

     The session was held on the second Wednesday this month. Seven members came to the club that day. The average age is around 75. The oldest person is an 83-year-old lady. The youngest is probably 63. Although one is a patient of Parkinson disease, one is recovering from a stroke, one has poor lung function, one is suffering from a spinal canal stenosis, and two of them have panic disorders, those elders and betters are flexible and curious, and enjoy their lives. So, they were waiting for Jean’s arrival in their excitement that morning.

     Jean entered the room in applause. The senior citizens looked a little nervous in the beginning, but soon all of them were attracted by his interesting stories and came out of their shells. They looked very happy during the meeting. I was also very happy to see them excited with their starry eyes. They were enjoying like children. Pleasant hours fly past. Finally the time came when they had to say goodbye to Jean. While the others were saying goodbye and thank you to him, one of them ran up to me and whispered, “Teacher, Teacher, Jean is gentle and good-looking. I like him.” “Ha ha. I knew you would say that!” I winked at her. Actually, the rest of ladies came to me later and left similar comments. It seems that Jean has not only boosted the elderly people’s motivation for learning English, but also pierced some senior women’s hearts with shafts of love!