rice

Are no pants days really over for this year?

My interest in Shinto practice continues to deepen. I love a religion that brings the rice harvest to the city, and instructs men to go pants-less in public. Certainly there are many particularities I am still unfamiliar with.  The repetitive flute and metal percussion music puts me in a trance, and opens me to the possibility that these gods inhabit my neighborhood and are responsible for my daily meals. But ideas and concepts would be nothing without the flagrant masochism and exhibitionism central to the rituals.

It’s like the Catholic Easter passion, but better because of its multiplicity. There is more than one suffering man, and more than one god. If this is pagan, I am unable to resist. I will ask the gods this year to decontaminate the rice harvest.

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Why do Japanese love rainbows?

Japanese love rainbows! I made this rice bowl for the husband’s sister, and gave it the rainbow treatment because I heard she likes them.

Except perhaps for small town Christian children in the lost part of Amerika, every Amerikan associates rainbows with gays. Not in Japan. Just like men’s plucked eybrows, back-combed hair, outre fashion, and overall vanity, rainbows are not marked as other, different, or marginal.

Why do Japanese love rainbows?

Here’s the backside of the rice bowl.

This is one of my first pottery wheel ceramics. The only reason it looks mostly symmetrical is that my teacher/father-in-law helped me a lot!

Asashoryu triumphs!

Asashoryu triumphs!

I think I fell in love with Asashoryu today. This Mongolian sumo bad boy defeated my previous favorite, sweet Mongolian Hakuho. I even bought a Hakuho towel for my nephew in spring. But now I have fallen for Asashoryu, who is criticized for failing to practice all the time, and for slapping himself silly before matches. His stubble and fat face are somehow enchanting!

Asashoryu v Aminishiki

And last year he upset the Japan Sumo Association by calling for a 10% salary raise, the first since 2001, to cover the rising cost of food staples such as “bread, rice, cooking oil, mayonnaise and beer”.

Who is your favorite sumo wrestler?

Two meals: Japanese and “Western-style”

Sama fish at Hinaya Youshoku hamburger in Ginza

I don’t often post photos of food, but I liked the presentation of both these meals. And they are oddly different and alike. Above is sanma (さんま), a fish dish at Hinaya, our favorite izakaya in Nakano. Served whole, the fish was delicious with a simple lime and radish garnish. The fish is translated into English as “saury.”

At the bottom is a hamburger lunch at a Ginza restaurant that specializes in “Western-style” food, or youshoku (洋食). Youshoku are dishes that any post-war Japanese instantly associates with foreigners, yet they are so thoroughly Japan-icized so that they become simultaneously familiar and exotic to us foreigners.

Note that the hamburger is served without a bun, one perfect watercress garnishes the baked potato, the mustard has its own ceramic holder, and the whole meal is served on a cast iron pan. But the best part is the soy sauce in the white dish, which is meant to be combined with the grated radish and green onion as a dipping sauce.

I was also reminded of the difference between regular “rice”– called gohan (ご飯)– and “ra-i-su” (ライス).  The same substance but the former is in a bowl, while the latter is flattened out on a plate, and considered more Western-style.

Bizen Pottery Trip

Bizen Pottery Trip

Yesterday I returned from a four day Golden Week ceramic trip to Numazu in Shizuoka, near Mount Fuji and the Izu Peninsula. The in-law ceramics senseis organized this annual trip to use a wood-fired oven to make special bizen pottery.

For three days and nights, we heated a wood kiln until it reached 1200 degrees celsius, taking turns feeding it. It will take another three or four days for the kiln to cool down, so a return trip is necessary to take out the pottery.

Here are some photos that depict some of the process. Below are the 18 or 20 pieces I made: mostly flower vases with lattice tops, ten small round plates, and four rectangular plates.

Bizen flower vases with lattice tops, ten small round plates, and four rectangular plates

Read more and see more photos