Monday, June 30, 2008
My limited Japanese combined with my koto no sensei's (Koto teacher) limited English has brought me to this conclusion; on Sunday evening in Yokohama they are celebrating the 150th anniversary of something, my koto no sensei is giving a concert and she has asked me to play a duet with her. Of course, I could be delusional.
This week we attended a Kaiseki dinner hosted at the Tadodai House by the Admirals from the Japanese Maritime Defense force. This was a sobetsukai (farewell party) for Mike and Kathy Krentz. Kaiseki is a multi course meal of small dishes that is the ultimate in Japanese dining. The term "kaiseki" means hot stone in a kimono fold, the term "kai" means a fold in a kimono and "seki" means stone. Probably derived from Zen monks putting hot stones in their kimono next to their stomachs to allay hunger.
A typical Kaiseki meal:
"shiizakana" (appetizers served with Japanese sake)
"mukouzuke" (sashimi - slices of raw fish)
"kuchitori" (a small side dish)
"suimono" (a soup)
"nimono" (simmered vegetables)
"aemono" (food dressed with sauce)
"kounomono" (Japanese pickles)
"sunomono" (food marinated in vinegar)
"yakimono" (grilled fish)
"mushimono" (steamed food)
"nabemono" (Japanese hot pot)
Even more remarkable was the house; the Tadodai House was built in 1913 and was the official residence of the Japanese Imperial Navy (what is now the Yokosuka base was the largest JIN base). As I sat in the dining room across the table from the elegant Japanese Admirals it occurred to me that Pearl Harbor had most likely been discussed in this room, if I squinted my eyes I could pretend I was a fly on the wall in November 1941.
The first resident of the house was Vice Admiral Prince Higashifushimi Yorihito in 1913. Vice Admiral Hirata Noboru lived there from Oct 1941 until November 1942. From May 1945- August 1945 Vice Admiral Totsuka Michitaro lived there and then the next resident was Captain Benny Decker in 1946. I live at 6 Edwina Hill, Mrs. Decker was named Edwina and was pivotal in making this base a "little America" and forging a relationship with the Japanese community.
Friday, June 27, 2008
A Sumo Stable is comparable to a monastery. Young men enter right after high school and renounce the modern world. A stable is run by a former Sumo wrestler and his wife, they become the young men's parents and consider themselves a family. In order to become a Sumo you must have a sponsor, you are not evaluated on your size or strength but on your spirit and mind. There are no weight classifications in Sumo and I was assured that size doesn't matter. Mike and I got to experience a little in the daily life of a Sumo. We went to a stable run by a man and his wife, they have nine wrestlers living there. Despite the sand ring on the first floor the house was immaculate. A Sumo cannot wear western clothes again until he retires, when out in public they wear kimono. Daily practice runs from 7-11 AM, then they eat a delicious stew called chunko nabe and many bowls of rice, they eat only twice a day and sleep right after eating. Young men want to be Sumo but their parents often object because of the unusual and demanding lifestyle. Lately there have been several foreign Sumo, from Mongolia and Bulgaria, this has Japanese Sumo fans concerned about the focus of the sport as Sumo is the National Japanese sport and is supposed to be more spiritual than athletic I think. Sumo retire in their early to mid thirties and go on to open chunko nabe restaurants or run their own stable.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
That is the name of this instrument which is made of mulberry wood. This particular instrument has been handed down from teacher to student for 150 years. There are four kinds of Biwa, this is the 'blind monk' kind. The Biwa came to Japan from Persia along the silk road, it's a dying art. This sensei played some Santana on it to demonstrate how nicely it lends itself to modern music. Then a bunch of very proper middle aged Japanese women jumped up and yelled "Freebird". OK, maybe it was just, "Thank you most sincerely, national treasure- san".
After the performance I ate yet another meal that looked back at me.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Q: What's the difference between an Ikebana sensei and a 1960's Irish nun?
A: There isn't any.
I had my second Ikebana class today. I have read stories about how demanding these people are. I survived grade 4 with Mother Columba so I am thinking I can survive this. Today's lesson was about angles but most importantly creating and framing empty space.
This is my finished arrangement from today. Sensei said 'good for a second class' and she is encouraged by the fact that I am not afraid to prune. New students usually leave too many leaves on the Shin and Soe.
I had a Koto lesson tonight too. My koto teacher is delightful, she says I am sugoii!! A natural! Today we played duets and it was music to my ears.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
This weekend the Blue Ridge, Mike's office, had a Family Day Cruise. I took along my Japanese Gang. The photo of the ship with Mt. Fuji in the background was taken by one of the helicopters on the ship. My friends and I traveled by train to Shimizu, about three hours south of Tokyo where we spent the night. Mike met us for dinner and we had an authentic Japanese evening of food, sake and Karaoke. We sang Beatles, Elvis and Elton John songs. Painful.