Let’s get traditional: Wagashi making class at Kanshudo!

Let’s get traditional: Wagashi making class at Kanshudo!

Learning to make local food is always a highlight for me when I travel. In Korea, I learned how to make dukbokki and not only ended up with a heap of delicious food, but with the satisfaction that I had learned about new ingredients and how to use them.

So when my friend came to visit me, we figured that trying some traditional Japanese food would be a great idea. The question was: sweet, or savory?

…Actually, I lied. That wasn’t a question at all. We both have huge sweet tooths.

Continue reading “Let’s get traditional: Wagashi making class at Kanshudo!”

An Afternoon with My Neighbor Totoro

An Afternoon with My Neighbor Totoro

A week or two ago, I was hosting a friend in Japan. It was her second time in Kyoto, so we decided to branch out on adventure.

“Where do you want to go? What do you want to see?” I asked her.

“Well, going to the Ghibli Museum would be nice,” she said.

We checked the website, but as we were looking a mere month in advance, all of the possible days we could go were fully booked.

“Where else do you want to go? What else do you want to see?” I asked her.

“Well, since that’s a wash, maybe going somewhere related to a Ghibli film would be nice. Like the moss woods from Princess Mononoke.”

We checked, but we couldn’t justify taking a flight all the way out to a small island in Kyushu just to see one forest.

“Anywhere else you want to go? Anything else you want to see?” I asked her.

“Well, is there anything Ghibli related we could do on short notice?”

We checked, and struck gold in the form of Mei and Satsuki’s House–famous from the movie My Neighbor Totoro–in Aichi, Japan.

Continue reading “An Afternoon with My Neighbor Totoro”

Kyoto Artisans: Gold Leaf Stamping Workshop

Kyoto Artisans: Gold Leaf Stamping Workshop

Back in March, I participated in a writing competition through Writers in Kyoto. While I didn’t win, I was invited to take part in a local cultural event of some sort. There were two options to choose from: paper lantern-making, and gold paperweight-making. After choosing the latter, I arranged to meet a woman I’ll call Ms. S from the Kyoto Convention and Visitors Bureau at JR Yamashina Station. From there, she would make sure I made it to the workshop and, if necessary, provide translations.

While it was meant to be a group outing, it turned out to be just the two of us on a search for the home of an うるしさん (Urushi-san, someone who works with lacquer/gilding). Urushi-san are the people responsible for things like the gold you can see on Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto; they affix things like very thinly sliced gold to various objects (whether it’s magnets, toy cars, or anything else you can imagine). Of course, they do many other jobs as well, but this was particularly pertinent because the workshop centered around gold leaf stamping.

This was both my and Ms. S’s first time heading into this particular neighborhood of Yamashina. While only ten minutes by taxi from the JR station, we were in a very residential area where the streets had no names listed and the house numbers were all out of order. After the taxi drove off, we had no idea where to go, and unfortunately, neither did the neighbors we asked for guidance. Fortunately, Ms. S had a phone number, and after calling it, my teacher for the day came bustling out of a building from the end of a dead-end street.

Continue reading “Kyoto Artisans: Gold Leaf Stamping Workshop”

Dream Clocks: A book review

Dream Clocks: A book review

I am one of those people who refuses to stop halfway through a book unless it is truly terrible. I’m talking about, “My English teacher assigned a list of really boring, really horrible old books to read during the summer in the name of ‘expanding our horizons'” type of terrible. So when I pick up a book and it merely ranks a “meh” on my interest levels, I will be determined to plow through it.

Even if it takes me six months.

Enter Karakuri Yumedokei (からくり夢時計), or “Dream Clocks” by Masayuki Kawaguchi.

Continue reading “Dream Clocks: A book review”

Why Obama? …Why Not?

Why Obama? …Why Not?

As I mentioned before, I went to multiple places during my Golden Week. Afterwards, I brought photos of my adventures back to work to share with coworkers and students alike. They tended to ooh over pictures of Kibune, aah over shots of Mt. Koya, then… tilt their heads in puzzled confusion.

“Who is that?” they would ask, pointing at a statue of a man giving a speech.

“Well, he was President of the US for eight years…” I’d reply.

They would, inevitably, go, “You went to Obama?! In Fukui? But why?”

Why not?

Continue reading “Why Obama? …Why Not?”