Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Osechi!

These are today's shots.
This red three-tiered container is used only for this season to serve the Osechi dish. I bought it when I got married 28 years ago.

This is my Osechi.  In the top box, I put boiled shrimp and grilled yellow tail fish. In the second box, pink and white fish paste, sweet fried egg, cooked black beans, small fish, and kelp. And the bottom one includes various vegetables. And another container has vinegared dish of white radish, carrot and mackerel. They are all regarded as auspicious food in Japan.

Tomorrow we're going to have a New Year party. My two sisters' families will come to my house, so in total twelve people will join the party. They are looking forward to meet Rintaro.

Rintaro on his mother's back
A Happy New Year to you and your family!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cook & Taste

Today's morning. Went to the grocery store and the supermarket to get something missing. There were already many people who came to buy for the preparation of the New Year.

decoration for the front door
Then, I felt I need a break to make a strategy for the Osechi Preparation. Osechi is a special dish for the New Year. And for me, to make Osechi special feast is a challenge once a year, so  I thought I should make a plan to do at first, including a coffee break, of course.

Then, I started to cook at last.
First make fish- base soup. Then mise en place, cut, cut, cut various vegetables and other auspicious and typical for the New Year's Day, simmer, simmer, simmer for each ingredient, not all together at once. I cooked each ingredient tasting how the seasoning was. COOK and TASTE repeatedly. Finally I became almost full and got lost with the taste. Anyway, I've made it half now.  After a little break, I 'll start cooking again.

cherry-blossom-shaped carrot

Tomorrow, the New Year's Eve, I'll pull out a three-storied special container for Osechi and put the feast into it with special care.(I try to do).  I'll post it later.

How do you plan to ring in the New Year? I'm going to hold a home party like every year. We'll drink a lot and have wild time. Hope you all have a nice time.

red berry at the kitchen window

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Flower Arrangement

I arranged these flowers for the New Year's decoration in the living room. I've never learned flower arrangement, but I like it in my way. Pine tree branches, red berries, a white chrysanthemum. Plus two white rose-like flowers are real cabbages! But ornamental cabbages. They are often displayed to celebrate the New Year, both in the outside planter and in the flower vase.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook

For Today: Monday, December 26th, 2011

Outside my a cloudy winter day. It is snowing a little, fist time in this winter.

I am thinking...about what I need to get at the supermarket to cook the special meal for the New Year's Day called "Osechi". In Japan, after Christmas there is a hectic atmosphere to prepare for the New Year's Day.

I am thankful...for my friends to talk, laugh and walk together. I love both being together and being alone.

In the kitchen...lie a lot of empty bottles that had existed in the fridge and I cleaned yesterday. Tomorrow is the day for collecting bottles around my house.

I am wearing...a yellow-and-brown plaid shirt and khaki warm pants with fleece inside..

I am creating...a shopping list for "Osechi". It is the biggest purchase of food in a year.

I am cook curry made from vegetables and minced chicken for dinner.

I am reading...some lovely blogs I found out for the first time. It's amazing to have an encounter with nice people through the Internet.

I am hoping..that my stiff shoulder is gone.

I am looking forward to... have a family reunion on the New Year's Day in my house. I have a lot of things to do for that party.

One of my favorite things... is to have a cup of coffee at the cozy cafe reading a book or listening to some relaxing music.

A few plans for the rest of the week: cleaning my house, shopping, cooking special cuisine which I make once a year for the New Year. Busy, busy, super-busy...

Here is picture for thought I am sharing.. "Osechi" in the show case in the department store. Many people buy Osecchi to save time, but I will make it myself to save money.(but ingredients are also expensive) A few days later, I will show you on this blog.

This is the traditional Japanese special cuisine for the New Year's Days called "Osechi".

To read more Daybooks, please visit The Simple Woman's Daybook.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Golden Pavilion

Kinkakuji Temple or Golden Pavilion is the most popular tourist spot and landmark of Kyoto. The three-storied unique structure with three different styles was originally founded in the end of the 14th century as a villa by the third shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.  He had an absolute power at that time and tried to show off his power with this gorgeous pavilion.

The original structure was burned down by arson in 1950. The present structure was reconstructed in 1955 and renovated in 1987 with five-times-thick gold leaf during Japan's bubble economy. Really shining!

 In front of the pavilion, there is a beautiful pond called "Mirror Pond", you can easily imagine how the name came from. We can see double golden pavilions on a clear day.

Today was a very cold winter day and the weather forecast said that it would snow in the northern part of Kyoto city. I got up early to visit Kyoto as I hoped to see the Golden Pavilion in the white snow.
( Goden Pavilion is located in the northern mountainside of Kyoto, so I thought it would be snowy.)

However, as you can see, there was no snow. Some people enjoy matcha green tea in the open air.

Today I couldn't experience White Golden Pavilion, but  I had a nice time. With few tourists, I could relax and went with a gentle flow of time there.  There'll be another time.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice

Yuzu Japanese citrus
The Winter Solstice falls on December 22nd this year.It is marked by the shortest day and the longest night of the year.

In ancient times, people had difficulty finding enough food in cold winter because most plants died and many animals hibernated. And with shorter days, they could not fully enjoy the blessing of the sun, causing them to worry about their well-being. As a result, they began to perform rituals to encourage prosperity, which is the origin of the modern Midwinter traditions.

pumpkin cooked with soysauce, sugar and sake
At this time, many Japanese people take yuzu bath in an effort to stay healthy during the cold winter. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus rich in refreshing aroma. We put some yuzu in the bathtub and soak in hot water filled with rich aroma. I'd like to add one more thing. We have pumpkin dish on this day because it has vitamin A and carotene to protect against cold and cerebral problem. This is the Japanese custom on the Winter Solstice.

I'll bring this cooked pumpkin to the Cristmas party today.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Decorations

These are Christmas decorations I found today. Although most Japanese are not Christians ( only 1 % ), we love Christmas.  We hear Christmas songs in the shopping streets and see many Christmas decorations here and there.
 As for my mother who goes to the local nursery care center once a week for day service, she's also looking forward to the Christmas party held in there on Christmas Eve.

In Japan the most popular Christmas food today is not turkey (We have no turkey in the shop),but Kentucky Fried Chicken. And the unique custom is eating Christmas cake decorated gorgeously with Santa Claus. Gifts are given to children. Happy time for many people, especially for kids.

I'll go to my friend's home for Christmas party tomorrow. We'll enjoy Christmas dinner (probably special hotpot) and exchange presents each other.

Soon after Christmas, Japanese change the mood to prepare for the New Year. The busiest time of the year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Today's Shots

These are today's shots. I enjoyed walking along Okawa River and Yodo River.
I wonder what these sea gulls are watching.

I used the sepia color for the first time. How is it?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Japan is a new country?

sasanqua camellia
 Today's finding
I could say Japan is rather a new country. Today I heard a very interesting story about Japan.
That is...

lotus pond in rest
Japan had a national isolation policy during the Edo Period (1603~1867) when the Tokukgawa military government controlled the country. And in 1867, when the last 15th shogun, Yoshinobu Tokugawa returned the sovereign to the Emperor, Japan opened to the world dramatically and struggled to modernize in a rapid speed in order to follow other industrialized countries.

But until then, people hadn't had the idea as a country because Japan had consisted of over 200 different feudal domains called "han" under the Tokugawa government. Each "han" was independent and had a typical characteristic and specialties based on its climate and topography, etc. People served for their feudal lords, not for the Tokugawa shogun.

So the new government tried to create a new vision that Japan is a united country. Japanese-style room, Japanese food, Japanese hairstyle....These expressions were created at that time to compare with Western-style.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Heijokyo Palace Site

the Daigokuden Audience Hall

Today I went to see the ancient palace site in Nara, which is called Heijokyo Palace Site. It is now a vast national park good for jogging, walking, cycling and picnic.
You may know that Kyoto was the ancient capital of Japan for a long time, but Nara was the other capital of Japan prior to Kyoto.
Heijo Capital was modeled on Chang'an, the ancient Chinese capital during the Tang Dynasty, and it prospered as the capital for about 70 years.

Inside the Audience Hall
Flowers on the ceiling
Situated at the center of the capital was the gigantic Heijo-kyo palace that extended 1.3km east to west and 1km north to south. The capital’s main gate, the “Suzakumon”, the “Toin Teien” garden  and the main building, the “Daigokuden” were reconstructed beautifully. The Daigokuden was used as an audience hall where national ceremonies and ceremonies for welcoming foreign delegates took place.
Sacred gems

 Last year, 2010 was the 1300th anniversary of the opening of Heijo Capital and various memorial events were held through the year. And a lot of people visited this site from all over Japan. But today I was able to see the architecture, decorations and displays as long as I wanted, as there were few visitors in a cold day.

This place is one of my recommendations, if you like to experience an ancient Japanese atomosphere in peace.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sarubobo Doll

Have you ever seen this figure? This is called "Sarubobo". Saru means "monkey" and bobo means "baby" in Hida area, which is surrounded by steep mountains located in the northern part of Gifu Prefecture.

  Sarubobo is a red human-shaped doll with  no facial feature in a black hood. It is a typical souvenior of Hida area. In the past , sarubobos are made by grandmothers for their grandchildren as dolls, and for their daughters as a charm for good marriage, good children and to ensure a well-rounded couple, by using left-over clothes.

Sarubobo may be a famous Japanese figure appeared in some guidebook about Japan. I remember a nice American woman I met in Kyoto a few years ago. When I finished showing her around some famous tourist spots,  she said to me, "I've wanted to buy a red and black doll with a round face. Where can I buy one?" I didn't know what she meant. After a while I realized she was talking of "Sarubobo." She had wanted to get one as a charm for her sister. We visited and visited many shops and department stores in Kyoto but we couldnt't find one. I got a call to some tourist organization asking where to buy one and found that we can buy these dolls mainly in the typical area of Hida such as Takayama, not in Kyoto.
 But I think today she can get one using shopping services on the Internet.

Yesterday I bought this doll during my trip, but you can make it by yourself.  This website will help you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tsumago, Authentic Post Town

the main street of Tsumago post town

Yesterday I had a wonderful time in the beautiful day. I made a one-day trip to Tsumago old post town in Nagano Prefecture. Tsumago is about 270km away from Osaka in the east and it took about four hours by bus.

the entrance of Wakihonjin

Tsumago was a post town on the Nakasendo route between Kyoto and Edo (present-day Tokyo). It is known today as one of the best preserved post towns in Japan. The town and its residents go to great lengths to recreate the ambiance of the Edo Period(1603-1867). Cars are prohibited on the main street in the day and phone lines and power cables are kept concealed, allowing visitors to imagine they have slipped back to an earlier time.
Tsumago was first designated as a "protected area for the preservation of traditional buildings" by the Japanese Government in 1976. The authentic scenery is being maintained by continuing preservation projects.

natural light's beauty
 hanging white raddishs and persimons

Tsumago also recreates the post town atmosphere by maintaining its Honjin and Wakihonjin. In all post towns, the Honjin was the principal inn and served government officials who were traveling through. When more lodging was required, the Wakihonjin served to accommodate the travelers of lower status. Tsumago also maintains the office where laborers and horses were rented to aid in travel.

serene atmosphere

living room with the hearth

I felt like I turned back to samurai world 300 years ago. Good place to visit. I'd like to come again in white winter.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Kanji of the year

December 12th is the day of kanji Chinese character in Japan and every year on this day, the kanji of the year is relieased at Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto.
People vote one kanji character which reflects the year most exactly and the largest votes' kanji is designated as the kanji of the year. Each character reflects the social situation.

Today, "絆 kizuna," was written on a large piece of paper by the head priest of Kiyomizu Temple. "絆” means "bond" in Japanese. We feel again the strong ties between our family, friends and community during the Great East Japan Earthquake in March and other disasters happened domestic and abroad. People have felt the importance of human ties  more and more.
The second is "災 sai" (disaster) and the third "震 shin" (quake). We  know how strongly the quake have affected  people in Japan. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kobe Luminarie Festival

Yesterday I went to Kobe to see "Kobe Luminarie" with my husband,  which is now a seasonal light festival held in Sannomiya, Kobe city. I have long wanted to see it with my own eyes. I have known this event only by TV news . Although I had to line up from JR Motomachi Station to the entrance gates for 40 minutes, it was worth waiting.
This above pic is the entrance gates. The next three shots are of the main plaza in Higashi Park south of Kobe City Hall.

Kobe Luminarie is a light festival held in Kobe every December since 1995 to commemorate the Great Hanshin Earthquake.
On January 17th of the year, a devastating earthquake hit Kobe in the early morning. Over 6,000 precious lives were lost and the vast area of Kobe city were burned down and destroyed.
Kobe Luminarie started to console the spirits of the victims and symbolize the strong passion of Kobe people to recover from it. It was a bright message of hope.

 Every year over three to five million people flock to the center of Kobe city to see the fabulous light displays.
This year from December 1st to 12th (today is the finale), the festival has been held from the sunset to 9:00 pm. This year's theme is "Luci di speranza" or "Rays of Hope". About 200.000 electric bulbs are used this year and I hear each light is individually hand-painted. Major streets in the vicinity are closed to auto traffic during these hours to allow pedestrians to fill the streets and enjoy the lights. The basic format has remained mostly the same with the entrance gates, the main plaza in the park and a number of displays next to Flower Road.

This gaslight is called "1.17 Light of Hope" which has been lit since five years after the quake.
The next blue display is in the fountain plaza. These bulbs are LED ones to save electricity. I love the reflection in the fountain water.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Simon's Cat in 'Santa Claws'

Today a winter cold wind is blowing but  some beautiful leaves still stick to the branch. To make your heart warm  I want to share this funny youtube clip with you. I found it when I was browsing some blogs I follow. It's Simon's Cat in 'Santa Claws'.  I don't have a cat but I can easily  imagine how fun but at the same time troublesome my life could be with such a cat.  Please enjoy it.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Bad with Computer

It's a shame to say...This is a true story.

My laptop made a strange noise "giiieeeee" at moments and I thought it would break down sometime soon. So I made up my mind to buy a new computer. I bought a brand-new desktop computer NEC VALUESTAR a week ago. I was soooooooo happy.
Then I tried to move the old laptop data to the new desktop by using a software of moving data. I downloaded the software through Internet and prepared to move the data by connecting a cable into both computers. But something wrong. I did my best to find the answer by calling a customer service center but I failed. I was at a loss.
Yesterday my daughter came to my house with her family. I talked about this story to my son-in-law who is good at computers and he came to see my two computers connected by a cable. At first glance, he said "Well, this is not a right cable but for a telephone..." hahaha.  I know I am bad with machines!
Finally I moved the data into my new computer. BUT now I don't know in which place the old data exist!!
 I am at a loss again.

This is a picture of my daughter and grandson Rintaro (7-month-old).


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tomorrow Never Comes

Every two weeks I meet my friends to have a self-directed English study session in Ikoma city, Nara Prefecture. Yesterday five people attended and enjoyed reading an article, listening to CNN news ... In the session, we make a presentation voluntarily. We can choose the topic freely and yesterday's topic varied from "IMF" to "Toji Temple".
 One of the members made a presentation about the nun of "Chuguji Imperial Convent". The nun had a very unique career of living a cosmopolitan life in Singapore in her childhood and working for a pharmaceutical company for several years. In the end of the presentation, she cited "Tomorrow Never Comes" by Norma Cornett Marek.
 I was so impressed with the poem. I've never thought about that. If I knew it would be the last day, what do I want to do?

Tomorrow Never Comes
  Norma Cornett Marek

If I knew it would be the last time that I'd see you fall asleep,
I would tuck you in more tightly, and pray the Lord your soul to keep.
If I knew it would be the last time that I'd see you walk out the door,
I would give you a hug and kiss, and call you back for just one more. 

If I knew it would be the last time I'd hear your voice lifted up in praise,
I would tape each word and action, and play them back throughout my days.
If I knew it would be the last time, I would spare an extra minute or two,
To stop and say "I love you," instead of assuming you know I do.

So just in case tomorrow never comes, and today is all I get,
I'd like to say how much I love you, and I hope we never will forget.
Tomorrow is not promised to anyone, young or old alike.
And today may be the last chance you get to hold your loved one tight.

So if you're waiting for tomorrow, why not do it today?
For if tomorrow never comes, you'll surely regret the day
That you didn't take that extra time for a smile, a hug, or a kiss,
And you were too busy to grant someone, what turned out to be their one
last wish.

So hold your loved ones close today and whisper in their ear
That you love them very much, and you'll always hold them dear.
Take time to say "I'm sorry,"... "Please forgive me,"..."thank you" or "it's okay".
And if tomorrow never comes, you'll have no regrets about today.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Priests' Running Month (December)

In old Japanese language, December was called "Shiwasu."
The original meaning is "It's as busy as even high Zen priests (=師) run (=走)". New Year's Day is the most important day to start with a pure condition. So Japanese don't want to carry jobs or issues over to a new year so we get busy in December to finish them. That's why even high Zen priests, who are usually calm, run in this month.

 Japanese people have a custom of doing a general year-end cleaning to greet the New Year.  I feel busy for planning to do a big (not so big, bigger than usual) house cleaning and to prepare for New Year's Cards.
In addition, although only 1 % of Japanese people are Christians, we enjoy Christmas activities in order to feel the romantic atmosphere by exchanging Christmas presents, having a party and decorating streets with illuminations.

December is super-busy for most Japanese people like in the old times.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Last Beauty

 This is an amazing view from my friend M's condo which stands on the mountain in Ibaraki city. There's nothing to interrupt our sight.  The small pond belongs to the golf course.

 This is M's pet dog Moh. He is a very adorable one-year-old French bull. He always welcomes me with running and jumping around me when I visit.

I took a lot of pictures to record this beauty, but it was impossible to replicate it through my pictures.
So I tried to remember this breathtaking beauty with my heart.