Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kawasaki Museum, Kobe

The museum is located in Kobe Harbor Land, in the same building as the Kobe Maritime Museum, which I presented on 6 October. 

0-series Shinkansen, and visitors can have a seat in the driver's seat.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Japanese Proverb - Three Heads Are Better Than One

I noticed this street sign in Kobe Harborland.

It says migi wo mite, hidari wo mite kara, watarimashou - look right, look left, then cross the street. Though there are other three-headed characters as well, like the three-headed Daikoku deity called 三面大黒天 Sanmen Daikoku(ten) who protects the Three Buddhist Treasures, this three-headed girl reminds me of a Japanese proverb.

三人寄れば文殊の知恵 - さんにんよればもんじゅのちえ
Three heads are better than one.

It is interesting, they say "Two heads are better than one" in English. That goes in two's in the European languages, too. "Deux têtes valent mieux qu'une" in French. In Japan, tasks are managed in a group rather than individually. Japanese culture is group-oriented and people tend to work together. An extra "head" is always welcome.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Nago Pineapple Park, Okinawa

The park is located just outside Nago City, Motobu Peninsula, about 75 km from Naha. There are pineapple fields and a tropical garden, as well as a souvenir shop with various pineapple products, such as pineapple wine, juice, cakes, chocolate, pie, also fresh and dried pineapple. There is a presentation of the history of pineapple in Okinawa - seeds were brought to Ishigaki by a ship from Holland. It is a place to learn how to cut the pineapple, why pineapple is good for health, and anything one can think of related to this fruit. There is also a Shell Gallery, with beautiful exhibits.

Shells remind me of a Japanese film - "Coquille"/Kaigara, 1999. The title was inspired by a poem written by Jean Cocteau. "Mon oreille est un coquillage/Qui aime le bruit de la mer." - My ear is a sea shell that loves the sound of the sea. It has a good translation into Japanese:

As you may know, these are shisa dogs. Half dog, half lion, it is a traditional decoration in the Ryukyu culture. They appear on the rooftops or at the gates. The left one has the mouth closed, and the right one has the mouth open. The open mouth wards off the evil spirits, and the closed mouth keeps in the good spirits. The same meaning goes for the komainu placed at the entrance of the Shinto shrines throughout Japan.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chisuian, Special Soba Restaurant, Iwate

It is a very special place where they serve a special soba (蕎麦屋 soba-ya), usually only to 10 customers a day. The address is: Iwate-ken, Nishiiwai-gun, Hiraizumi-cho, Hiraizumi Kitome 1-3, a 20-minute walk from JR Tohoku Line Hiraizumi. It is open between 11:30am and 3pm, closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. Phone number: 0191-46-5484.

The graceful simplicity of the interior is impressive. An antique and refined look, everything made of wood and windows made of washi, the Japanese traditional paper.

The black maneki-neko (fortune cat figurine) wards off evil:

And "le plat de résistance" ^_^ The main course is made of soba noodles 2.5% thicker than usual. It is called koten soba 古典そば classic soba.

It looks like a work of art. And the hashi-oki/chopstick rest is cut from a branch of tree, so exquisite.

The salt is naturally pink, yellowish, bluish, peach, cerise - the colour depends on the composition of the rock. It is gan'en 岩塩 haline, different from kaien 海塩 sea salt.

Grilled miso 焼き味噌 yaki-miso, on cedar wood. It is a soba-ya classic.

Sobayu 蕎麦湯 is hot water in which the soba noodles were boiled. It is thick and has a creamy texture. It is considered good for the blood vessels. It is delicious.

The drawings represent moods after eating soba. "Soba made me enjoy, made me laugh, encouraged me, praised me, taught me." Soba ga sensei deshita. Soba was a teacher.

Japanese people appreciate the asymmetry of stone paths. The one here is made of wood.

I love it. This is a unique garden effect. It follows the guiding principles of Sen no Rikyu who, apart from being the tea ceremony master, recommended also how to arrange the stones in a garden in order to achieve a serene and purifying, wabi-sabi effect. You can read more about the Japanese gardens in a book by Christopher Thacker, called "The History of Gardens."

It is a special place. It may seem odd that only children aged 10+ can enter it. I think it is required some maturity indeed to step into and relish it.

A modest facade: