8.27.2015

Waning Days of Summer



Sayonara my singer:  You delight us with your many pitches and tones.  You are the splendour of summer.   Without you summer would have no song, you are truly a wonderful creation.


Singer of my summer

Sayonara my night promenade:  The beaches glow at night here in Zushi City.  We love  night walks along the ebb & flow of cool summer tides.   Walking along the shoreline barefoot in the blue lit water.  Need I say more?



Sayonara my elixir of love: Cod-neck bottles with marbles placed in them are used to seal this carbonated drink.  Ramune is carbonated lemonade that's been around for ages and the Japanese love it.  The elixir part is made famous by a cocktail called "Tokyo Mojito" but with a few substitutes added: sake instead of rum, and ramune instead of club soda!

Recipe:
150 ml sake
600 ml ramune (3 bottles)*
60 ml fresh lime juice
15-20 mint leaves
In a pitcher, muddle the mint leaves with the lime juice. If you don’t have a muddler, make sure you tear the mint leaves to release their mint flavour. Add the sake and ramune to the pitcher and stir well. Add ice and enjoy!




Sayonara my onsen.  Your summer green is captivating.  Love the delicate balance between stone, wood, and earth.  You are the perfect amphitheather for the mind and soul.  You breath forth an orchestral symphony of cicada sounds that cleanses our auras.



("Hope you tearfully enjoyed your sweaty summer wherever you are  in the world, I enjoyed mine.   I can still taste the stifling heat on my tongue; I can quite literally lick the green essence of it").

I try to pace myself when soaking in hot water.  Not too fast, not too slow, not too long.  Take plenty of breaks.  I don't make much eye contact with folks.   You just need to pace yourself in and out of hot water and relaxing the whole time.   When I finish up I don't towel dry, I air dry my whole body under a tree while lying on a tatami.   The Cicada orchestra was really singing loudly then, and I could really get a sense of summer in its  full splendour.   And in typical fashion, after I have properly hydrated myself with water, I have a Sapporo Super Dry.


And from that point in time, as the first waves of intoxication warm my body, everything comes together for me....And here's why.......



At times I am drawn away, and looking back down at  earth from my imaginary bubble from space, and I can sense the utter futility of my struggle against micro-gravity(life).   As I float there uncontrollably totally naked, yet gently, I can  hear my own breath  respirating on oxygen.  I can even see the finite beauty of my own temporality as the sun's glow radiate from the earth's pole  and warming my iridescent  bubble, I am at peace.


Through the void of space the womb of matter I am embraced.  The time of our joy is limited.  The womb of the Jukujo is also warmly and embracing, and humid.  This too is limited, as time has no forgiveness.   It never forgives the beauty as it slowly  turns to decrepitude.  We are stardust.   As our planet and planetary bodies begin to shift according to the seasons we are enamoured in the loveliness of our own temporality.  Time is limited, so we must embrace it.   I want to make one thing perfectly clear.   Summer is a season and it must be enjoyed immensely, there may not be another summer for YOU.    



Part 2



The Waning Days of Summer Part 2


Around this time last summer I was admiring the smell of pit.   Niigata pit is far better smelling than anything out there.   I'm a real pit master.  Closing on this theme, a few more points have to be made. No summer anywhere in the world is complete without sun, skin, and sandy ass goodness along the Shonan Coast. ( my original without watermark)



The term Shonan boy and Shonan girl is a popular name given to young people who live along the Shonan Coast.    Or, better would be Kanagawa Prefectural beaches and shores.   Surfer types and windsurfers paradise tackle waves and glide across them so easily.    The Land of Kamakura, a showpiece town with a great cultural lineage dating back centuries.   Home of the Shonan Cookie!


If you don't surf, well that's alright.  Taking in the nice views is just as fun and exciting.   There is something for everybody to do and enjoy.   As the final weeks of summer close out, we welcome autumn, especially those of us who prefer the cold.   



1.06.2015

Drink Menu: Nagano Nihonshu


Good drinks selection for Nihonshu.

1) Eichi ( Special sake made without added alcohol) by Shinano no uni supine

A little dry taste sake which you can enjoy the taste of "Ginjo."

2) Karakuchi Junmai ( Dry pure rice sake) 

Dry, thick and flavoursome.  A bit gamey.

3) Umakara Honjo 

High quality , tasteful and dry sake which you do not get tired of drinking.

4) Maboroshi no Blue by Suien

Thick and flavoursome  sake with rice notes, but also clear and clean.

5) Ginjo Nigori by Suien

Turbidity sake with sweet and clear taste.

6) Kura Genshu by Suien

Home brewer sake which is carefully aged with low temperature.  Thick taste, yet easy to drink.

Kurand original sake

7) Dosukoi ( sumo) sparkling sake.

8) Sake of waxy rice ( rare sake)

[end) 

All of these sake are definitely worth trying if you cannot decide where to start.

Sake Brewing Process




Sake is a brewed alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice but few people know how it is actually made.  Fermentation is a process where yeast converts sugar into alcohol.   Since rice does not contain any sugar, it cannot be fermented as is.  It has to first be converted into sugar with the help of enzymes found in a particular mold called koji-kin.   The resulting koji is then added to yeast known as kobo and left to ferment.    From this labor intensive process we get sake.


Step 1

Polishing hulled rice, the main ingredient.   As it passes through specialised polisher, the proteins and bran that can produce off flavours in sake are removed.

Step 2

Washing, steeping and steaming.   The polished rice is washed in water to remove the bran and is left to steep in water.   When the grain has absorbed 30% of its weight in water it is steamed.  One batch of steamed rice may be used to make koji, yeast starter, and to feed the moromi mash.


1. Koji 2. Shubo 3. Moromi

Making Koji

Spores of the aspergillus oryzae mold ( koji-kin) are added to the steamed rice, which is then incubated to produce koji.   the koji is added to the yeast starter and the moroni mash to help convert the rice to starch into glucose.


Preparing Shubo

This is made by mixing steamed rice, water, koji, and yeast.   It contains large amounts of yeast, which promotes the moromi fermentation process.


Preparing the moroni

Koji, steamed rice, and water are added to the shut and then left to ferment.  [ Sandan Shikomi]. Here ( during the moroni preparation stage), a process unique to Japanese sake brewing takes place.  It is a three-step fermentation process known as sandman shikomi.   On the first day, koji, steamed rice, and water are added to the yeast starter ( this addition is called hatsuzoe).   the mixture is left to stand on the following day to allow the yeast to slowly multiply( this step is called odori).   On the third day, the second batch of koji, steamed rice, and water is added to the mixture( this addition is called nakazoe).   Then finally on the fourth day, the third batch is added to the mixture( this addition is called tomezoe) to complete the three-part process.

[ Multiple parallel fermentation] From this point, the koji will convert the starch in the rice into glucose, which the yeast will then use to create alcohol and carbon dioxide.   The conversion of starch to sugar and sugar to alcohol takes place in parallel all in the same tank.   This is known as "multiple parallel fermentation," and is a process that is entirely unique to sake.


Pressing

Once the moroni is completely fermented, it is passed through a press to separate out the sake lees.   the sake is then filtered, pasteurised, and played in cold storage where it matures before being bottled.

12.10.2014

Central Park in Tokyo



Hama-Rikyu Gardens

Just go there and see the beauty of both urban and natural landscapes.    Witness migratory birds and ducks move through the air and water.  Watch as nature unfolds its beauty.  Contemplate on the quiet pond and behold the clear blue sky in its reflection.

If ever there were parks that exemplified the beautiful dynamic between modernity and tradition, then there are only a few great Japanese garden parks in Japan.  In Japan, you have garden parks that are often called gardens which are actually just beautifully maintained parks, whereas in North America the garden is a place replete with beautiful flowers and fauna, a place to go where you want to study the botanical  bounty of  a city or a town.  


The Japanese garden park is much more dynamic and aesthetically pleasing to the senses when you understand the history.   Sometimes a Japanese garden could be in the form of a stone garden, sometimes called a dry rock garden.  It could also be in the form of a wide open space with beautiful spatial dynamics that conjure up imagery of the distant past.  Or, it could be a humble little garden park with some seasonal flowers sprinkled hither and thither along a path, with some patches of bamboo and shrubs nestled away somewhere near a thicket, or even a bubbling brook.  


I love Tokyo.


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9.15.2014

Temple of the Floating Buddhas

No blog on Japan would be complete without writing about a certain aspect of Japan.   The Japanese temple is one of the most ubiquitous symbols of Japanese culture in the world.   There are thousands of temples in this country, far too many for one soul to visit  in a lifetime.   A life of searching and growing, yet as impermanent as we are as human beings, timelessness never ceases to escape our dreams, wishes, and fantasies.     We remember timelessness through impermanence, through the finite lens of our own mind, so in essence nothing truly dies if it lives on in our own minds.   


In my essays I have extolled the beauty of impermanence through my exposition of Jukujo, onsen, and analects.   Here in Japan the term for such temporal beauty is called “Wabi-sabi” a sort of timeless ephemerality through natural decomposition, a natural order of life and death.   Though the Jukujo ages she maintains an air of righteous dignity.   Her hair may lose its luster, but it shines on in grey.  Her step may lose its bounce, but she walks with a sense purpose.   That old Japanese sake cup, as small as it is, may have the scars of time smitten  over its surface, yet it imbues the mastery of its craftsman.    Temporality and eternity.    


In Kyoto, a place I have been to numerous times, and back again just recently, I knew exactly where I wanted to go this time round.   Uji City, the land of the Tale of Genji and the home of Byodoin Temple.    The temple of Fujiwara no Yorimichi, the pure land heaven of the floating buddhas and the great Phoenix Hall.    Typically in my essays I do not go into a great deal on the temple’s history because that information can  easily be sourced through Wikipedia.   I am merely relaying my personal observations and opinions.    

national treasure



The significance for me visiting this temple was to first see the garden and the general layout of the temple.   First, Byodoin is rare for me because the garden, as simple as it is, is designed according to how Lord Yorimichi envisioned  heaven would be in the after-life.   Wide open space with very simple parameters that flow and create a simple bucolic setting along a mote with a red temple in the backdrop.  Above that temple is a gold phoenix which represents  rebirth, makes me sort of wonder what Osamu Tazuka was thinking when he used a similar theme in some of his works.     


Another reason  for visiting is because it is the only temple in the world where you can see floating buddhas on clouds.    In the museum  you will be pleasantly amazed at the number of beautifully hand-crafted buddhas.   All of them are floating on clouds and are exquisitely beautiful.    They are all in their original form, aged and well cared for.  The natural decay of metal is what gives them a timeless beauty.   According to Lord Fujiwara, when you die, you are pleasantly awoken by the floating buddhas of Amida’s Heaven.   Some buddhas float on clouds shaped in the form of a lotus.   There is a sense of peace and serenity that is evoked instantly as you walk through the main hall area of the museum.   The ten yen coin seen on Japanese currency has an image of Byodoin printed on one side.


I have been to many great temples all over the world, but for me, Byodoin was the most heavenly inspiring and otherworldly.    I was no longer afraid to transition to the other side of this world.    In the Judeo-Christian world you awaken to be judged by a cold and unforgiving god who sends you straight to hell.  Buddhist concepts of heaven and hell vary quite differently from Western religions.   In Buddhist, both hell and heaven are temporary.  In hell you experience more suffering and in heaven you experience more pleasure.   You can move beyond  hell in Buddhism through educating yourself.   And then there’s hell that already exists in our daily life.  


Byodoin takes you on a journey through the physical realm and the spiritual realm in just 30 minutes.   You can really get a sense of the spiritual maturity of Lord Yorimichi and the people of that time.   Japan embellishes the charms of the after-life.  A country that has created a world unto itself.

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