Monthly Archives: June 2014

Kinshachi Plate @ Aichi Gakuin University Meijo Koen Capmus: Why don’t you eat a castle?


“How was the lunch?”CAM00206
“It was nice.”
“Did you go upstairs?”
“I had lunch on the first floor. I didn’t know there’s another cafeteria on the second floor.”
“There’s a café named Saru-Café on the second floor.”
“Oh, really? Okay, I’ll try the café next time!”

     When a friend of mine and I walked by the information booth of Aichi Gakuin University’s Meijo Koen Campus, a guard came and talked to us. Actually, we had talked before going to the school cafeteria. CAM00207

     I took a Chinese exercise class near Meijo (-Koen) Park last Thursday. After the class, the friend and I went to Aichi Gakuin University’s Meijo Koen Campus nearby. When we were looking at the map on the wall of the information booth, the guard came to tell us how to get to the cafeteria.

     The cafeteria had two types of lunch special: Today’s Lunch and Today’s Domburi. Domburi means a bowl or a bowl of rice with other food on top. My friend decided to have Today’s Lunch, and I, Today’s Domburi.

     I was overwhelmed by the appearance of Today’s Domburi: “Kinshachi Plate.” It was a baguette sandwich with two fried prawns dressed with tartar sauce on top of a rice omelet with demiglace sauce. kinshachi plate

     This dish was a represenation of Nagoya Castle. Kinshachi means golden shachi(-hoko). Shachihoko is a fish-shaped ornament decorating the top of the roof and a kind of charm against fire. Nagoya is famous for the castle and the roof ornament. That is, the rice omelet represents the building of the castle, and the bread the roof, the fried prawns, Kinshachi. Funny!

     It was a little difficult to eat, but the Kinshachi Plate was very nice. The lunch was only 500 yen with a cup of soup and a salad. Today’s Lunch had soup and cost 450 yen. CAM00204

     The Meijo Koen Campus of Aichi Gakuin University just opened this April. The public can use its cafeteria except from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. According to the guard, there is a café upstairs. How about dropping by the cafeteria when you come to or near Meijo (-Koen) Park or Nagoya Castle? It is a few-minute-walk from the exit 2 of Meijokoen Subway Station.

Ajisai Tea Ceremony ~ Cross-cultural Event in Shirotori Garden : I’m happy that I came to Japan!


CAM00170-a     “I never teach them in a cursory style just because they are non-Japanese or they are staying here a very short time. I think teaching Japanese culture has nothing to do with the nationality or duration of stay …” Ms. Kato began talking to the audience.

     There was an interesting event named “Ajisai Tea Ceremony” in Shirotori Garden near Atsuta(-Jingu) Shrine last Saturday. Some foreigners who love the Japanese tea ceremony made tea for Japanese people following the oficial protocol, some non-Japanese ladies appeared in yukata, a kind of kimono, which had been made by themselves, and talked about their favorite points of Japanese culture, and several Japanese volunteer guides showed some of us around the garden with English commentary. CAM00172-a

     I took part in the English guided tour and the talk show. (About Shirotori Garden and the English guided tour is HERE.) The tour finished around 11:20. I arrived in time the talk show which was supposed to start at 11:30, but the room was already packed and I had to stand. I saw many people in yukata or kimono among the audience because the people who were wearing traditional Japanese attire were able to enter the garden for free that day. (The regular entrance fee is 300 yen.) In addition, those people were not all Japanese. CAM00173-a

     Ms. Kato is the teacher who taught the performers of the talk show how to make yukata. Actually, she teaches not only making kimonos but also about Japanese tea ceremony, flower arrangement and traditional practices. Moreover, she is a pioneer among licensed interpreter-guides in Nagoya.

     “…I knew they had sewn by hand with effort, but I sometimes drew the thread out when I thought the seams were rough. I’m sure they had a tough time. But I believe they should do good finishing jobs. Besides I didn’t want people to think, “Because they’re not Japanese,” if they found my students’ clumsy sewing. But it might have been my fault that they couldn’t sew well. I’m sorry…” said Ms. Kato, and some performers melted in tears. CAM00195-a

     It took most of the foreign ladies more than one year to complete their yukata. One of them said, “I was very surprised when I knew I had to make yukata without patterns or a sewing machine.” Her words helped me to recall the differences between European and Japanese clothes. When you make Western clothes, you take the person’s size and make the pattern from the measurement. And you cut the materials with the pattern, and then you seam each part to fit together 3-demensionally. On the other hand, kimono is made by sewing rectangler pieces of materials and use sash belts to fit to your body. If the kimono gets too old to wear, you just draw the threads out and take it back to the rectangler pieces. You can make cushion covers or something with them. Then finally the materials finish their life as dusters. It is one of the innovative Japanese ideas to recycle kimono materials. CAM00190

     “I like a sense of tension and concentration when I write Japanese characters in calligraphy.”
     “I think each stroke in calligraphy has its own beauty.”
     “There’s beauty in the unique forms in Japanese flower arrangement.”
     “When I started making yukata, I just thought it would be a good souvenir to my return. But I was able to get something more than that. I learned many things. Japanese materials are good quality and their designs have both boldness and sensibility, and are very beautiful. I was able to learn about Japanese people’s diligence and patience through sewing my yukata by hand.”CAM00191

     All of the performers looked very nice and proud in their original yukata. You can never find another like it. They did not just sew the materials, write letters with a brush, or put flowers in the vase. They have received Ms. Kato’s spirit and have been learning Japanese culture in earnest. “I’m really happy that I came to Japan.” Some of them were in tears. Those ladies’ words were impressive and their works, such as yukata, calligraphies, ceramics, and arranged flowers, were wonderful. The talk show brought the Japanese audience the rediscovery of the brilliance of their own culture, and non-Japanese people the motivation for taking an interest in Japanese culture. I was glad I joined the meeting.

Shirotori Garden English Guided Tour : Shirotori Garden, a hidden scenic point in Nagoya



       “This garden’s name, Shirotori, means white birds, such as swans. Many birds have found sanctuary in this place and gather. That’s why this place was named Shirotori….” The guide started leading the participants in the park…

     There was an interesting event in Shirotori Garden near Atsuta (-Jingu) Shrine last Saturday. They invited some foreign ladies who live in Nagoya and got them to talk about Japanese culture showing their own art works. Actually, the event had other programs: Tea ceremonies and English guided tours. I decided to take part in a guided tour at 10:30 and then go to the talk show at 11:30. CAM00157

     It was my first time to visit the garden, though I have lived in Nagoya for a long time. One of the reasons is that the park requires an entrance fee: 300 yen for adults, 100 yen for citizens of Nagoya aged 65 or older, and free for children under the age of 14. If you come to the place with a one day ticket for Nagoya City’s public transportation, you can enter for 240 yen (20% off!). CAM00145-a

     The English guided tour was supposed to start at 10:30, but the tour had already started when I arrived at the gate before 10:30. One of the staff members explained that they had made a group depart earlier because more people had gathered than they had expected. According to her, the next group would depart later. But I decided to join the first group because I found two of my friends in it. CAM00153

     This place is located by the Hori-kawa River. The river was canalled to carry building materials for Nagoya Castle in the Edo period (the 17th Century), and the site of this garden used to be a pond for keeping the timber. After the completion of the castle, the place had been used as a lumber port. But Typhoon Vera a.k.a. the Isewan Typhoon in 1959 brought big damage to this area and the timber yards were decentralized. By the beginning of the 1980s, the lumber port was no longer required because of the decentralization and increasing imported materials.CAM00144

     Then, it was reborn as a Japanese garden for the World Design Exposition in 1989. After the event, it was opened to the public. This garden features a path around the pond and is designed to express the landscape features of central Japan. For example, there is an artificial hill near the gate of the garden. It represents Mt. Ontake in Nagano Prefecture. The big pond in the center of the garden represents Ise Bay and the stream the Kiso River. The garden even has a mock spot called “Nezame-no-toko,” which is a famous scenic place in Nagano Prefecture. CAM00161

     The garden has a cypress tree planted by Ms. Wangari Maathai, who was a Kenyan political activist and recipient of the Novel Peace Prize in 2004. She was very popular in Japan because she promoted an environmental protection campaign in 2002 using a Japanese word, “mottainai,” which expresses a sense of regret and concern over waste. It also has a tea house and Suikinkutsu, which is a garden ornament and music device.

     Many flowers and trees are in the garden, and they show you different expressions each season. Hydrangeas and gardenias were in full bloom when I visited the park. The beautiful autumn leaves will welcome you in the fall. Even after snow, you will find breathtaking scenery there. The entrance fee of 300 yen is reasonable for the beautiful site. Why don’t you come by Shirotori Garden when you visit Atsuta (-Jingu) Shrine?

The Way to the Ocean ~ A Fresh Stream ~ : A piano recital at Munetsugu Hall



      “Does anyone have free time this Thursday?” a friend of mine said. I was having lunch with some of my friends at a cafeteria after a Tai Chi practice last Tuesday. I did not know what she was going to bring up, but I rummaged through my bag and took out my schedule book. An event had been redlined in the box of the Thursday on the calendar.

     “I have time. So…?” I looked up from my schedule and saw her. This time, it was her turn to rummage through her bag. She took out an envelope and drew a few small cards from it. And then, she put them on the table.

     “What are they?”
     “Tickets for a concert.”

     When I picked one of them, she put another thing on the table. It was a flyer of the concert with the program and a picture of a lovely girl. It seemed to be a piano recital.

     “Aren’t you going to the concert?”
     “Oh, I am. But I still have extra tickets. Why don’t you go to the concert with your friends? I’ll give you the tickets,” she said and handed me the rest of the tickets and flyers.

     She gave me four tickets. I decided to go to the concert with my 82-year-old mother and give the rest to my friends.

     The concert was held at Munetsugu Hall in Sakae, Nagoya. Munetsugu Hall is a concert hall for only classical music. Tokuji Munetsugu, the founder of a curry restaurant chain, “Curry House CoCo Ichibanya,” established the concert hall in 2007 to have people enjoy classical music more easily and develop younger artists. They offer a concert at lunchtime (11:30 – 12:30) almost every day for only 1,000 yen. This piano recital was one of the lunchtime concerts.

      The concert was entitled: The Way to the Ocean ~ A Fresh Stream ~ “Classical Music for June.” Risa Okubo, the pianist, explained the meaning in the opening. Young musicians from Gifu Prefecture have had concerts under the same title, and this time was the eighth. Gifu is a water-rich area with many rivers. These young artists portray themselves as fresh streams and the ocean as the world. That is, they express their ambitions of becoming worldwide musicians. Besides, they introduce music relating to water. That was why the pianist played these numbers:

1. Prelude Op. 28, No. 15 in D-flat major “Raindrops” by Chopin
2. The Seasons, June “Barcarolle” by Tchaikovsky
3. “Auf dem Wasser zu singen (To be Sung on the Water)” by Schubert (transcribed by Liszt)
4. “Die Forelle (The Trout)” by Schubert (transcribed by Liszt)
5. “Ondine” from “Gaspard de la Nuit (Gaspard of the Night) by Ravel
6. Ballade No.3 in A-flat major, Op.47 by Chopin
7. Sonata in D minor K.213 / L.108 by Scarlatti
8. “Isolde’s Liebestod (Love-Death)” by Wagner (transcribed by Liszt)

     Actually, I don’t listen to classical music so much. But the concert was very nice and my mother and I had a wonderful time. I met a friend of mine to whom I had given the rest of the tickets at the hall. She came there with her friend, and they were also very pleased to have a great time. It is a good idea to drop by Munetsugu Hall at lunchtime and enjoy classical music once in a while. Classical music has a healing power. Nagoya’s summer is hot and humid. Why don’t you have an elegant time in the cool concert hall sometimes? You’ll feel refreshed when you leave the hall.

The Relation of Misho-kan Orange and Chagall: Would you like some fruit?



       “Would you like some fruit, Ma’am?”
A young man was standing holding a big cardboard box when I opened the door…

     That day, I was going to visit Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art , in which an exhibition of Chagall was being held. June is the rainy season in Japan, but it was not raining when I went outside at that time. There were even some blue patches in the sky. So, I was walking feeling good to the nearest bus stop. All of a sudden, however, the sky became overcast and the next moment it began to rain. I retreated into a building nearby and took out a folding umbrella from my bag. But the rain gear was too small to walk in the downpour. I got soaked in no time when I started walking again.

     I need a much bigger umbrella! I decided to withdraw to my home. After getting home, the rain stopped and the blue canopy began expanding while I was changing drenched clothes. What was that rain?! I was discouraged to go out and decided to assume that God or my guardian angels had stopped me going out with the heavy rain for some reason.

     Opening the umbrella to dry at the bathroom, I heard someone rang the doorbell. When I opened the door, a young man was standing with lots of fruit. A fruit-vender came to my apartment. Mind you, it is not common that fruiterers come to your house in Japan. It seems that a fruit store near Nagoya Station send their recruits to town to sell their commodities as a kind of training.

     He had some melons, fruit-tomatoes, passion fruits, and citrus fruits called Misho-kan. It was my first time to hear and look at Misho-kan oranges. “What a name!” I said because “Misho” means “born beautifully” or “beauty is born” in Chinese character. But the fruit’s name has nothing to do with the meaning. According to the fruit-vender, the oranges are produced only in a village named Misho in Ehime Prefecture. I bought some Misho-kan after all. He said one cost 150 yen, but sold four for 500 yen. The fruit was sweet and incredibly juicy. Although I had to give up going to the art museum that day, I was able to have an interesting experience at home. シャガール

     As to the exhibition of Chagall, I managed to make time the next day and was able to go to see it. And I had a great time! I’ve had some opportunities to see Chagall’s paintings before, but this exhibition showed his other art works, such as, drafts of ceiling paintings, stained-glass, wall mosaics, sculptures and ceramics. I was able to see the big images on the ceiling of the Paris Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera House, stained-glass of churches, and other big works on the screen in the theater room of the exhibition, and was touched so much. Ah…I want to see the real things! Chagall’s 3D works, that is, his sculptures and potteries are humorous and have a relaxed air as if donkeys or goats in his paintings just came out from the 2D world and fell asleep. Ah…I want one!

Let’s Speak English! ~ A meeting in a small English club ~ : Is your son good-looking?


CAM00088-a     “What kind of food do you like best?”
     Ah…you asked THAT question again

     I have a small English club with senior citizens in my neighborhood and invite a guest who speaks English once a year. We had Ricky, a Briton, and Jean, a Seychellois, so far. This time I asked Ricky to come to the club again because he was going back to his country soon, and was able to have a meeting at the end of last month. (The meeting with Ricky in 2012 is HERE, and the one with Jean in 2013 is HERE.)CAM00078-a

Most of the club members met Ricky at the club two years ago, when they were excited so much because it was the first time for them to talk to a non-Japanese in English. They fired many first-meeting-types of questions, such as, “Where are you from?” or “Can you use chopsticks well?” at that time. They asked Ricky the same questions many times because they were too busy thinking what they would ask him to hear others. So, Ricky had to say “Fish,” many times. They asked, “What kind of food do you like best?” again and again… But Ricky answered the questions politely without being cross. Thank you, Ricky! That was why, I told the members not to ask Ricky similar questions before the meeting this time.CAM00100-a

     “So, you can’t ask Ricky “Where are you from?” or    “Where do you live?” or “Do you like sushi?” and so on. Understand?” They screamed.
     “Oh, no! What shall I ask him, then?”
     “Think by yourself!”
     “What shall I do? What shall I do?”

     Usually the club has five seniors: Nori, Hossan, Choko, Akiko, and Mayumi. But the room was merrier than usual that day because we had ten people excluding Ricky and me. Mayumi brought her husband, Umeo. Two old members, Toshiko and Haru, came. Toshiko brought her friend, Manami, too. And Saeko came to the club with her new walker. She was a regular member, but had not appeared for a while since she broke a breast bone last December. I was very happy to meet old and new people at one time. They also looked happy and excited. CAM00110-a

     Their English was much greater than I had expected. They tried hard to talk to Ricky with various questions: Where are you going to live in England? ; How do you like it in Japan? ; What is inconvenient living in Japan? ; What are the good and bad points in the international marriage? etc. Of course, there were some impolite questions, too, like “How old are you?” or “Is your son good-looking?” But these questions brought additional excitement to the meeting. CAM00111-a

     Then THAT question came: What kind of food do you like? Hey, hey, you asked the same question many times two years ago! I thought. But Ricky kindly replied smiling, “Eels.” Oh, how specific answer he said this time! The members murmured “Oh, eels…eels…eels…” But a few minutes later, someone asked THAT question again, “Excuse me, what kind of food do you like best?” Come on! “Eels,” said Ricky in a calm way. Probably the same questions and answers repeated a few more times….But Ricky replied politely without any disgusting expressions this time, too. Thank you again, Ricky!

     Anyway, the senior citizens (the average age is around 75) seemed to be really happy during the meeting. They had stars in their eyes! Some smiled, saying “I felt younger!” some looked confident, saying “It’s nice to keep on studying English!” and some renewed their resolve to study English. And I myself think it is a good thing that I have organized this small English club when I see their smiles. After the meeting, Nori, a male participant, came to me and said, “You could invite a female guest next time, could you?” winking. Yeah, I knew you would say so…