a warming drink of Amazake (a hot, sweet wine and rice mixture)
offered to us by the wife of the priest who was chanting
inside, we moved onto a shrine. No bells here, but instead,
seven traditionally dressed drum and flute players. They
were adding to the great atmosphere created by the large
crowd of locals who were enjoying the fires, Sake (rice
wine), and general superb atmosphere of happiness, love
and celebration. That's how my Year of the Horse began,
and may it continue for everyone with the same feeling of
positivity and joy.
that day, Kae's mother had taken us for a "traditional
country style meal", which consisted of about fifteen
seperate dishes (each). Two of the most notable ingredients
were whole freshwater crabs and fried crickets (see above).
It was also my first time to eat raw fish and raw egg. I
must admit that I hesitated initially, but heah, you'll
never learn anything if you always shy away from the unknown.
The crabs, although small, still looked vicious, and I really
wasn't sure whether my teeth were strong enough to grind
their pincers sufficiently so that I could swallow them.
No problems on that score though, it turned out that they
were just like Pringles. The crickets, with their pin sized
legs sticking out were even more off putting, but once again
were quite delicious. To work off the weight we'd put on
during the feast, Kae and I decided to hike up the local
mountain by climbing 1,425 steps that date back to 708AD.
If anyone knows of a staircase anywhere in the world with
more impressive statistics do let me know! At regular intervals
were many little Buddhas wearing knitted hats (such as the
one below), which served to encourage us to continue our
marathon trek, as did the coke machine halfway up. One of
them even had a green Parker jacket; it quite suited his
moss-covered figure. On the way back it was time for the
long-awaited return of hitchhiking to my life. The freezing
temperatures (much of Japan is now covered in snow) ensured
that we were picked up after a mere 10 minites of trying.
I was delighted in that I understood the basics of much
of the small talk en-route.
Years Day breakfast took the form of "Mochi".
Perhaps Japan's most famous traditional food other than
Sushi, Mochi is a sticky rice mixture. The making of it
is quite a spectacle (click
here for photo), involving two people, a scooped
out log and a huge wooden mallet with a metre-long handle.
I have never come across any other food like it. It comes
in many flavours, both sweet and savoury, but always has
that unique cosistency. Unfortunately, it is responsible
for quite a few deaths every year, elderly people being
particularly at risk as if it is not broken down enough
in the mouth it can easily block the throat. The government
this year has publicly endorsed the use of vacuum cleaners
should a mochi-emergency case arise. Fortunately I survived
my encounter being well-aware of the dangers.
from the Japan
Today Website (4th January 2002)
20 treated at hospitals for choking
on rice cakes Friday, January 4, 2002 at 17:30 JST TOKYO
- Twenty people in Tokyo, mostly the elderly, received treatment
at hospitals from Sunday to Thursday after choking on Japanese
rice cakes, traditionally eaten during the New Year holiday
season, the Tokyo Fire Department said Friday. The fire
department called on the public to exercise caution in eating
rice cakes, which are made by pounding sweet rice and are
very dense and chewy. Fifteen of the 20 people hospitalized
are 65 years or older, the department said. (Kyodo News)
it's back to work for me now. I better prepare a big space
in the corner of the room for all my cards and presents
that I know will be arriving soon for my 24th birthday on
January 13th. (Januaryu 13th I said).
care wherever you are.