Friday, November 30, 2012

Ginkgo & Icho-giri In Japan, Autumn Leaves, Haiku

The traditional cutting techniques in the Japanese cuisine are tanzaku-giri in thin strips and icho-giri in quarter rounds – cutting into ginkgo leaf shape. The latter is used for the cylindrical root vegetables. Since the end of autumn meant lots of ginkgo leaves fallen on the ground in Japan, I thought about mentioning this cutting technique in the kitchen. Ginkgo biloba is also called maidenhair tree. It is a fossil tree, unique in the nature. Some trees are female and others are male. The leaves have the shape of a fan.  
Ichou 銀杏 ginkgo means “silver apricot.” Its seed is called ginnan ぎんなん in Japanese and it is used in dishes such as chawanmushi – see the post on 12 October.

tsuki mo mite
ware wa kono yo wo
kashiku kana
"I have seen the moon as well, farewell to this world."
Ware is a very formal “I” used in literary style. It is an autumn haiku by Chiyojo. Her last haiku, dictated on 8 September 1775. So appropriate for the beginning of autumn, when the Japanese people enjoy Otsukimi - viewing the moon.
Though winter started in Japan on 7 November, I am saying good bye to this year's autumn tonight. For most of us the winter months are December, January and February. In Japan, winter is between 7 November and 3 February, and spring starts on 4 February.

Autumn pattern - maple leaves - on uchiwa fans, presented on 15 June.

The kanji below is bun, probably a school nearby.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sentai Jizo - 1,000 Jizo, Hyogo

Sentai Jizou 千体地蔵 means "1,000 jizo statues." I have written earlier, in the post about Noda City Museum on 28 August, about the value of 1,000 in Japan. It may be "a large number" instead of exactly 1,000. Jizo is a protector of the travellers, placed along the roads. And also a protector of children. They take care of the souls of unborn children and children who died at a young age. The souls of these children go to a place called sai no kawara, where they must pile stones. The stone towers are destroyed by demons every night, so they have to start again the work on the next day, as in the myth of Sisyphus. Even sai no kawara 賽の河原 means futile effort. Sweets, toys and flowers are offerings placed near the jizo statues. Women pray to jizo even for each childbirth and fertility. Some jizo wear clothes, and a red cap that used to be worn by children in the past. 

Jizo is a Buddhist monk, a bodhisattva, called Kshitigarbha - the Earth Womb/Treasury - in Sanskrit.

These are Sentai Jizo on the bank of Otani river.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Painted Stone Cats, Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture

Onomichi is a quiet port city. It is famous for its many temples, and also for the Cat Alley - Neko no Hosomichi - with painted cat stones.