fall foliage forecast for 2023 (Japanese version only)

This year's fall foliage is late

Daisetsuzan National Park Sounkyo Visitor Center(Hokkaido): (Japanese version only)

when and where to see fall foliage (almost Japanese version): (English version)

Monday, January 30, 2012

oyster and pufferfish

The kabuki actor Bando Mitsugoro VIII(八代目 坂東 三津五郎) died at age 68 due to poisoning from tiger puffer fish liver on January 16th in 1975. A chef served the liver at his earnest request.

Chefs have to be especially licensed to prepare puffer fish. It is prohibited to serve internal organs of puffer fish at restaurants. However, tiger puffer fish liver was widely known to gourmets including Mitsugoro as a mouth-watering ingredient.

It is required by law to keep toxic parts of puffer fishes under lock and key and to ask specialized waste disposers to deal with the parts. It is prohibited to sell puffer fishes without removing toxic parts of them to ordinary customers.

Puffer fish has been regarded as a delicacy in the old days. Ancient people risked their lives to eat the fish.

五十にて 鰒の味を 知る夜かな   
I-so-ji-ni-te  fu-gu-no-a-ji-wo  shi-ru-yo-ka-na
"At the age of 50, I ate puffer fish for the first time in my life, I never knew how delicious it was," by Kobayashi Issa(小林一茶, 1763-1828)

ふぐ食わぬ奴にはみせな 富士の山 
Fu-gu-ku-wa-nu  ya-tsu-ni-wa-mi-se-na  fu-ji-no-ya-ma
"A person without the courage to eat puffer fish is not qualified to see Mt. Fuji." by Kobayashi Issa

河豚汁や 鯛もあるのに 無分別  
Fu-gu-ji-ru-ya ta-i-mo-a-ru-no-ni mu-fu-n-be-tsu
"Sea breams are safe to eat and delicious. So why some people risk thier lives to eat puffer fishes?"  by Matsuo Basho(松尾芭蕉, 1644-1694)

あら何ともなや きのふは過ぎて ふくと汁 
A-ra-na-n-to-mo-na-ya ki-no-u-wa-su-gi-te fu-ku-to-ji-ru
"I had a pufferfish pot dish yesterday. I was afraid of what would happen, but I'm very much alive. " by Matsuo Basho

Puffer fishes are in season from November to February.
Shimonoseki is famous for its puffer fishes. The first puffer fish auction of the year is held in Shimonoseki on January 4th. They use a unique bidding process. Bidders make a bid by signalling a bid price with fingers to an auctioneer in a tube-shaped cloth like kimono sleeve.
Some of cultured puffer fishes are nonpoisonous.

Oysters are also in season.
Hiroshima Prefecture ranks first in oyster production in Japan, and Miyagi Prefecture ranked second. Miyagi ranked first in seed oyster production. Because of the tsunami, the number of cultured oysters in Miyagi was down about 90% from the previous year. I haven't seen oysters from Miyagi at shops this season.

A oyster grower stewed a few hundred of oysters that he could not ship due to the tsunami. He was eating strongly flavored stewed oysters for two weeks. In spite of food shortage, he searched for missing persons and wiped away the rubble.

Ironically, it is said that oysters grow more rapidly after the tsunami. On January 19th, 160 kilograms of cultured oysters were shipped from Kesennuma in Miyagi. The shipment of the oysters had originally been scheduled for this autumn.

Mulot company, PlanetFinance, business operators related to the oyster farming industry and government agencies in France are currently promoting a joint project "France-Okaeshi Project" to revive Japanese oyster farming. "France-Okaeshi" means "France returning a present".
LOUIS VUITTON is also supporting oyster growers.

The Pacific oyster, Japanese oyster or Miyagi oyster (Crassostrea gigas), was introduced from Japan to France in the 1970s and 1990 because a virus has decimated oysters in France. About 90% of cultured oysters in France are descended from Miyagi's oysters.

However, a herpes virus was first detected in 2008 among breeding Pacific oysters in France and the virus spread.  In March in 2011, 5000 Japanese seed oysters were expected to be introduced on a trial basis to Ifremer(French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea.) The quake and tsunami occurred a few days before the scheduled shipping. The introduction of Japanese seed oysters was shelved.

The joint project provides financial and material support to oyster producers in tsunami-hit areas. However, Japanese way of oyster farming is completely different from French. It was difficult to get materials for Japanese oyster farming in France.

In Japan, a fisheries entrepreneur found ways to cultivate oysters and started large-scale cultivation in 1927. Incidentally, his daughter is a famous journalist who specializes in cooking and was one of the judges on the original Iron Chef television program.

We appreciate that French oyster farmers facing tough times are helping to revive Japanese oyster farming.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Story of the Futon of Tottori

We got our first snow later than usual in Tokyo and Yokohama on January 20 and had some snowy days. There has been more snow than usual in many areas this winter.

I was pretty sure Daikan(大寒) was the coldest day in the year. I had the meaning of it wrong. Daikan is the coldest period in the year. It started on January 21st and will continue until February 3rd this year.

The Story of the Futon of Tottori is included in Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan(1894) written by Patrick Lafcadio Hearn(1850-1904) whose Japanese name is Koizumi Yakumo (小泉 八雲.)

A merchant stayed at a new hotel in Tottori. He was the first guest at the hotel. He was woken up in the middle of the night by small children's voices from futon(Japanese-style bedding.)
"Ani-san(elder brother), you must be feeling cold. "
"Nay, you must be feeling cold."
After that, the hotel had racked up enough complaints from guests to get the hotel's owner involved.  He got information about that troubling futon from a bedding supplier.

The original owner of the futon was a poor family with two little boys living in a rent house. The chidren earned a living by selling household goods after their parents died. The futon was the only thing left from the goods. On the beginning day of Daikan, the children wrapped themselves in futon. A cruel landlord took their futon away from them as a substitute for their rent and kicked them out of their house. They were buried in a cemetery after being found dead.
The hotel's owner felt pity for them. He brought the futon to a temple and held a service for them. Since then, the futon has kept silent.

掻い巻き布団と這い子人形 デザイン:内藤乃武子
"Kaimaki-futon and crawling infant doll" designed by Nobuko Naitou

Nobuko Naitou, Chirimen Nuno-asobi (Tokyo:MACAW publishing,2004),P.21.

Kaimaki(掻巻) is a traditional kimono-shaped comforter wadded with cotton. The comforter retains heat because shoulders are encased in it. Now kaimaki-type blankets, down quilts are also available.

drawstring bag in the shape of crawling infant

This picture is nearly as large as life.
The top of this bag is on the doll's back.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

the lunar New Year

January 23rd is Chinese New Year's Day(the lunar New Year), Chun Jie(春節), this year. New Year celebrations are also held in chinatowns in Japan. Japanese people also celebrated the New Year in the lunar calendar before the Meiji Era.

A festival called Shunsetsusai(春節祭) is being held from January 22nd to 29th at Nankinmachi(南京町) in Kobe.

photo by 神戸観光壁紙写真集

Yokohama China Town in 2006

The New Year celebration at Yokohama China Town is being held from January 23rd to February 6th.

It features parades, dragon and lion dances, Face-Changing(變臉, Bian Lian), firecrackers, Chinese acrobatics and Chinese lanterns.

February 6th is the 15th day of the 1st month in the lunar calendar.

photo by 無料写真素材提供サイト ~ぶらり東京探訪~

The Nagasaki Lantern Festival is being held from January 23rd to February 6th. The festival developed out of the Chinese New Year celebration in Nagasaki's Chinatown.

Nagasaki Lantern Festival in 2004


Monkey King (Sun Wu Kong, 孫悟空, 斉天大聖)

Thunder God


photo by 高画質壁紙写真集無料壁紙

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Japanese daffodils

Echizen Suisen Land(越前水仙ランド)
in Fukui Prefecture on January 5 in 2005
 Narcissus tazetta var. chinensis(a kind of Tazetta daffodils) is called Nihon Suisen(日本水仙, Japanese daffodil) in Japan. The daffodil came from the Mediterranean region to Japan through China before the Muromachi Period(1333-1573) and was naturalized in Japan.
We associate daffodil with this species.

Suisen no Sato Kyonan(水仙の里きょなん)
in Chiba Prefecture on January 10 in 2005
Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture, the Echizen Seashore in Fukui Prefecture and Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture are famous as daffodil colonies.

photo by 日本列島お国自慢

Awaji Tachikawa Narcissus Farmland
Awaji Tachikawa Narcissus Farmland(立川水仙郷) in Awaji Island is famous for a daffodil colony. After Narcissus 'Gallil' started to bloom in mid-December late blooming, Japanese daffodils and wild daffodils bloom.

Awaji Tachikawa Narcissus Farmland
Awaji Tachikawa Narcissus Farmland

Japanese daffodils are now at their peak at Nadakuroiwa Suisenkyo(灘黒岩水仙郷) in Nadakuroiwa, Awaji Island. Early blooming daffodils start to bloom in late December, and late blooming ones and wild daffodils bloom until late February.

Nadakuroiwa Suisenkyo

Nadakuroiwa Suisenkyo

photo by 高画質壁紙写真集無料壁紙

Nadakuroiwa Suisenkyo


Nadakuroiwa Suisenkyo
photo by 神戸観光壁紙写真集

The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake caused a great deal of damage to the north of Awaji Island. Nojima Fault that caused the earthquake is preserved in the island and you can visit "Nojima Fault Preservation Museum."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

the 17th anniversary of the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake

Seventeen years have passed since the Great Hanshin Awaji earthquake occurred on January 17 in 1995.

Soome people had sensed a crisis in the fact that the memory of the earthquake had been fading as time passed until the quake and tsunami hit Tohoku area on March 11th in 2011.
The nature of Japan does not allow us to forget to be under the constant threat of the earthquake.

Earthquake occurrence is nobody's fault, so many of the quake victims were blaming themselves for not having been able to protect their family members. A mother who lost her little child committed herself never to enjoy again.  They got on with life 5 or 6 years after the quake. At the same time, they got depressed after seeing keepsakes from their family members and sealed off their painful experiences.  As more years passed, they finally could came to face their experiences.  Some of them have had emotional ups and downs for 17 years.

The quake and tsunami on march 11 brought back their painful memories.
Some of the quake victims became mentally unbalanced again, but many of them have provided support to the victims in Tohoku.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Winter peonies

The Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden
(旧芝離宮恩賜庭園) in Tokyo
on January 3rd in 2012
Winter peonies including Kan-botan(寒牡丹) and Fuyu-botan(冬牡丹) are now at their peak at many gardens in Japan.

The Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden 
on January 3rd in 2012
 Generally, Kan-botan(寒牡丹) is a kind of peonies that blooms both in spring and autumn. Gardeners make peony flowers bloom from late October to January by nipping buds in spring and leaving buds in autumn.

Hamarikyu Gardens
(浜離宮恩賜庭園, Hama-rikyu Onshi Teien) in Tokyo
on January 10th in 2011
 In the Edo Period, gardeners developed a winter-blooming variety of peonies. Kan-botan flowers are sensitive to meteorological conditions, so the rate of flower set is up to 20%. This species is difficult to cultivate. Few gardens have this species.
The Jindai Botanical Garden
(神代植物公園, Jindai shokubutsu koen) in Chofu City, Tokyo
on January 8th in 2011
Fuyu-botan(冬牡丹)  is a spring-blooming peony that is forced to grow faster in a glasshouse.

Kan-botan flower is smaller than spring-blooming one, but Fuyu-botan flower is about the same size as spring-blooming one. Kan-botan tree is almost bare and Fuyu-botan tree has green leaves in winter.

Ueno Toshogu Shrine on January 10th in 2004
Ueno Toshogu Shrine on January 10th in 2004

The Botan Park(ぼたん苑) at Ueno Toshogu Shrine(上野東照宮) in Tokyo is open from January 1st to February 19th. The period can vary with meteorological conditions. The park has many Fuyu-botan trees and few Kan-botan trees.

Each tree has a straw cover for frost protection.

photo by 季節の花 300

The Shin-en Peony Garden(神苑ぼたん庭園) in the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine(鶴岡八幡宮) is open from January 1st to late February. The period can vary with meteorological conditions. It seems that this garden has Fuyu-botan trees.

At Shakko-ji Temple(石光寺) in Nara Prefecture, Kan-botan flowers are at their peak from early December to early January. This temple has 300 Kan-botan trees of 36 different kinds.

Yotaku-ji Temple
Yotaku-ji Temple(永澤寺) in Hyogo Prefecture is famous for Hanashobu(iris). Its Fuyu-botan peonies are also beautiful.

Each tree has a straw cover for snow protection.

Yotaku-ji Temple

photo by 神戸観光壁紙写真集

peonies at Yotaku-ji on January 25 in 2008

A shiba dog is waiting for its owner who is taking pictures.
The shiba dog(柴犬, Shiba Inu) is the smallest of the six original Japanese dog breeds which have been designated as a national natural treasure in Japan. DNA analysis suggests that endemic East Asian dog breeds including shiba are the oldest ones in the world.
Many people are keeping shiba dogs in Japan. I also like the shiba. Its curled tail is cute!

 snow-covered  Yotaku-ji

photo by  高画質壁紙写真集無料壁紙

kadomatsu at Nishinomiya Shrine
photo by 神戸観光壁紙写真集
Ornamental cabbages(葉牡丹, habotan) have been used as a ground cover plant forNew Year's decorations since the middle of the Edo Period. Habotan means "leaves like a peony."

photo by 季節の花 300

Ornamental Cabbage / edenpictures

In recent years, miniature ornamental cabbages are very popular as a cut flower or a plant suited to group plantings. A bouquet made of the cabbages looks like a rose bouquet.