Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fine Dining

By day, a taped up cart. By night, a noodle restaurant complete with milk cart seating. Shot in Tokyo.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bento Art

And to think, my poor kids will just be getting sent to school with a Vegemite sandwich and a piece of fruit...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer Comes To Me

I have to confess something. I've boycotted summer this year. That's right, I'm not having anything to do with it, I'm pretending it doesn't exist. I do have an excuse though, with the health stuff that's going on at the moment, a few hours in the heat leaves me wiped out and in bed for days. I'm far happier (and healthier) if I stay inside air conditioning.

It does mean however that I'm missing out on all the fun summer festivals. Tonight I would have gone to the Seki Fireworks Display and tomorrow to a Bon Odori dance.

Luckily, I have been to both before, so I don't feel like I'm missing out too much.

Today, in I was on my computer in air conditioned comfort when I heard a funny little noise. A cicada had come to visit and remind me of the summer outside. It serenaded me for a while, before it flew away to partake in the summer fun on my behalf.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Legend of the Cowfrog

When I first came to Japan I was teaching in a few different schools for the same company. Every Tuesday, I would catch the train for an hour to get to the head office for classes there. I finished at 9.30pm and would walk home in the dark to the train station.

Just before the station was a small river. Often at night, I would hear a sound like that of a cow moo-ing. I found this quite strange as during the day I never saw any cows or any places a cow might be nearby, but yet the sound was very much like a cow.

That year I had a student who was a special ed. teacher. She was telling me a story of how she'd taken her students out to catch tadpoles. These weren't your normal size tadpoles, but actually rather large. She told me that they were the babies of an "ushi kaeru". Ushi kaeru she told me made a sound much like a cow.

Wow! I thought as I translated the animal name "ushi" = cow "kaeru" = frog. In Japan they have an amphibian called a "cowfrog". That's what I'd been hearing on these dark nights.

For about a year, whenever I heard the sound as I crossed over the river I thought of this mythical like creature, the "cowfrog". I imagined it the size of a cat, with tadpoles the size of mice. What an amazing country this is to have a "cowfrog".

Fast forward to a night much later at a karaoki bar to me singing the Three Dog Night song "Joy to the World".

"Jeremiah was a bullfrog..."

Hang on a second - "ushi" = cow, "ushi" also = bull....

In Japan, they have BULLFROGS!

Ahh... I much preferred my cowfrog image.

No wonder I'm feeling the heat - I forgot to eat eel!

This year, I missed the Japanese national eel eating day, doyo ushinohi うなぎ土用丑の日. Every year, in the middle of summer, there is a traditional day to eat eel. It is believed to help people who suffer from summer fatigue. This year, doyo ushinohi fell on July 24th.

It's interesting how this tradition came about. An owner of an eel restaurant was complaining to his doctor friend about slow business. The friend suggested that he tell people that eating eel in summer helps you fight the heat. The marketing ploy worked and so the tradition was born.

Eel is one of my favourite Japanese dishes. The city I first lived in when I came to Japan is quite famous for their delicious eel and there it is cooked a little differently I'm told (it seems a little crunchier than other places). The small city has something like seven eel restaurants, and that's all they serve - eel on rice, the same dish but in different sizes.

The dish of eel comes with pickles and a clear soup called o-suimono. This soup is also one of my favourites, lovely and refreshing in summer. One time I was drinking the soup at the eel restaurant and found a mushroom at the bottom. Being a lover of mushrooms, I snatched it up and started chewing. "Mmm... that's a funny tasting mushroom" I remarked to my friend. She laughed and refused to tell me why until I'd finished eating it. It was actually eel liver.

So I missed the official eel eating day this year, but I think this week, I'm going to have to get me some.

Photo by Conveyor Belt Sushi

Friday, August 01, 2008

Another Japanese Sound

I love the sound of pre-dusk on a sunny day. The sound of futons being beaten. The way the sound bounces off buildings and echoes. The way a number of women will be beating futons at the same time, it sounds like some sort of percussion jamming session.

Sitting at home and hearing that, I know it's been a lovely sunny day.