Friday, May 31, 2013

Are tea people taciturn?

This is the entrance towards my tea school (shown on the picture). What I found there was a trace that someone intentionally watered the pathway. Can you guess why? I think that my teacher sprinkled water over the path before the class started. I’m not the first student coming to the class so the path was not completely wet when I came. Anyway, the wet pathway is the sign for “I've been expecting you. Please come in.” The host sweeps and cleans the entrance before the guests come. Then, she sprinkles water. If you see the wet entrance, you can tell that the host is ready for the ceremony and you can get in. The sprinkled water is called “mukaemizu” which literally means welcome water.

In Sado (The Way of Tea), we highly value wordless actions and there are some rules for the non-verbal communication. The same rule similar to first given sample is keeping the door slightly open. It is the sign from the host that it’s ready and you can enter this way.

Tomeishi-stone or Sekimoriishi-stone also leads you to the correct trail in the tea garden. The stone is the sign for“do not go any farther than here”. If you see the stone, you have to go the other way. Without a map or instruction, you can still reach the destination where the host wants you to come. (Past entry about Tomeishi >>>

There is a rule also for the guests to tell the host their intention. When guests enjoy the kaiseki cuisine, the host is not in the same room; he/she is waiting in the next room. So, when the guests finish eating, they drop the chopsticks on the tray and make a sound all together. It is the sign for they are done. Then, the host comes into the room and clears away the dishes.

These rules can cut off idle words and make the ceremony smart and simple. I found it very interesting; tea people try to eliminate not only unnecessary objects from the tea room but also words.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Form of ash

From this month, a brazier is used in the tea lessons instead of a sunken hearth.  It’s the common style for summer.

The charcoals are placed on ash inside of the brazier.  The tea people even care about the form of the ash.  You paddle the ash to create a beautiful figure like a landscape using spatulas before the guests come.  There are different styles of the form.  I have not learned about it yet.  I can imagine that it will take time to create it neatly.  You put your mind and effort to the thing that doesn’t last; the flower arrangement in the tea room as well.  You pursue the short-lived beauty and that’s why the tea gathering becomes so precious.  It may be one of the secrets that the tea ceremony attracts people.

My teacher prepared the ash before the class started.  She said that she was not satisfied with her ash work that day.  Well, Sado, The Way of Tea is so profound and I still have many things to learn. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Confusion between your sense of taste and sight

I was so astonished when I saw a California roll for the first time!  Rice and seaweed are inside out and it has avocado inside.  It was a way extraordinary idea from mine or Japanese common sense.  But, it’s actually quite good!   Nowadays, sushi is popular all around the world.  There seems to be gorgeous creative rolls and wraps enjoyed in other countries.  What type of sushi can you have at sushi restaurants in your country? Can you have those many innovated sushi or Japanese traditional ones?
I appreciate those new types but I also love our classic sushi.  I think that sushi is made simply to enjoy the taste of the ingredients.  There are various types of fish and shellfish used.  Can you name those different kinds?  I personally love hirame(bastard halibut), akagai(ark shell) and uni(sea urchin).   Akagai and uni taste differently depending on price or restaurant.  Cheap uni can be bitter or has chemical flavor while good uni is sweet.  What sushi do you like? 


Today, I did not intend to talk about sushi.  I saw these sushi on TV the other day and I took pictures of them.  Don’t you notice something weird?  They are not real sushi.  They are all made of wagashi, Japanese confectionery.  Can you believe that?  They look so real but it is actually very sweet if you eat them!  Of course, they are special and you can’t buy them everywhere.  I don’t want to see them in a tea ceremony.  My brain will be confused with the difference between its taste and appearance, hahaha.  Wagashi often depicts a flower, scenery of the nature or a seasonal object.  The beauty of formative design is in the realm of art.  The technique and ideas to create an admiring wagashi is superb!  They can even make sushi out of it!!


What  is he making?

Red bean paste into a container

Coating the surface with rice flour

Pour more of the bean past on top of it

Repeating those steps and Forming layers with the red past and rice flour

Slicing it like sasimi

Ta-dah!  Tuna sushi!!

Friday, May 10, 2013

モーニングサービス at local cafes

There is a unique service at cafes in our area, Aichi.  It is called “モーニングサービス” or “morning service” but it means breakfast special.  We often call it Morning.  You can have the service usually at kissaten, cafes with waiters/waitresses, not at self-service cafes.  We don’t have the custom of tipping in Japan, so you don’t have to worry about it.  The breakfast special is that if you order a cup of drink burring the certain hours in the morning, it comes with snacks or light meal such as a piece of toasted bread and a boiled egg.  You can have a light breakfast just with the price of one drink.  Isn’t it a great deal?!  
It seems café culture is well developed in our area.  The rate of café among the entire eating and drinking establishments is quite high.  (National average: 24%,  Tokyo: 18%,  Our prefecture, Aichi: 42%!! –Wikipedia)  This type of breakfast special got popular and it has been so common here that until recently I’ve never thought that this is a unique culture of our region.   Now the breakfast special seems getting popular nationwide and evolving its services.  It used to be simple, like a cup of coffee with toast and egg.  But now, some café offer a better meal, some offer for a longer hours and some even offer it in buffet style.  The more popular it become the better the services we get.
This is the Morning Service I had the other day.  They have a regular breakfast special (drink+bread+egg), but also you can add mini-salad, yogurt and a piece of bacon as an option if you pay additional 120yen.  A regular breakfast special is not totally satisfying as a breakfast for me.  I quite like this option system. 
You may not see many cafes that offer this type of breakfast special in Tokyo.  If you have a chance to come to Aichi, go to a kissaten and save your money and enjoy your morning!!