Friday, August 12, 2016


Hello everyone!

After having lived in Paris and San Francisco for the last several years, my husband and I moved back to Japan in this June.  We started our new life in Kyushu region, Itoshima city in Fukuoka prefecture, the most southern part of the Japanese main islands.  Japan is my country, but it is my first time to live in Kyushu and in the countryside.  I am so excited to writing more about the life, the art scene, and the craft culture here.

Itoshima is located in the west part of Fukuoka prefecture, facing to the Japan Sea.  It has beautiful beaches, holy mountains and rivers.  It is surrounded by abundant nature, yet it is located only 30 min away to Fukuoka city which is the main and biggest city in Kyushu region.

Northern part of Kyushu is said to be the doorway to Asia, as it is very close to Korea, Taiwan and China.  There has been active cultural exchange since old times in history.  Someone said to me that people here have the identity as an Asian, rather than Japanese and it is more open to foreigners and foreign culture.  Well, I will find more as I live...!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What is Matcha?

Matcha is getting more and more popular these days and you may have heard of it or tasted it.  Even if you haven't had Matcha tea, Matcha latte or Matcha ice cream are now quite common.  Matcha is a kind of green tea, but do you know what exactly Matcha is?   What is the difference between Matcha and other green teas?

Matcha is formally called 'Ten-cha'(碾茶).  It is the grained tea leaves made into powder texture.  If you go to a tea store, Matcha is normally the most expensive of all Japanese green teas.  It is because this Ten-cha is produced only for a few amount at one season.

Also, the Matcha tea leaves are better cared for during the growing process than most of the other leaves on the tree.

Tea harvest season is in May.  For about 20 days before that, the tea leaves for Matcha are covered by straw to protect them from the direct sun.  After another 10 days, more straw is added to provide even better protection from the sun.  By doing so, the tea leaves stay soft and stretch out very flat seeking the sun.  This increases the chlorophyll in the leaves and stores the amino acid which is the source of the Umami taste and rich flavor.  At the same time, this restrains the production of tannin, which causes a bitter taste, and so the taste becomes milder.  Good quality of Matcha has more sweetness and less bitterness.

In the middle of May, these soft, thin Matcha leaves are gently plucked up by hand without using a machine.  After much processing, at the end, the Matcha leaves are ground by millstone.  Millstone is still the best way to ground Matcha to get the finest particles and draw its best flavor.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

5 things that you should not do with chopsticks in Japan

In many Asian countries, people eat with chopsticks.  However, while in some of them, like China and Korea, people use other cutlery such as spoons, Japan is a unique in that people use chopsticks for eating almost all food from rice, meat, vegetables to soup.

Over many years, an etiquette around use of chopsticks has developed in Japan.  Many of them are not well known outside of the country, but they are considered the basic manners of Japanese cuisine.
Here is some of the taboos that you may want to avoid when you have meals with Japanese people.

5 things that you should not do in Japan when eating.

1. Stick the chopsticks in the middle of the bowl. (Tate-hashi or standing chopsticks)

In buddhist funeral, we place a bowl of rice with the chopsticks sticking in the middle as an offering to the dead.  It is thought not to be appropriate that you do this as it implies someone's death.

2.  Lick the chopsticks (Neburi-hashi)
Licking the chopsticks or putting them in your mouth unnecessarily is not proper.

3. Move a plate with using the chopsticks (Yose-hashi)

Also, dragging a plate on the table is thought to be bad.  When you want to move the plate, you take it up and place it without dragging.

4. Point out someone with the chopsticks. (Sashi-hashi, pointing chopsticks)

You are not supposed to use chopsticks to point people or things.

5. Give food from chopsticks to chopsticks (Hashi-watashi)

I used to do this when I was little and I was often scolded by my mom...  When you give food to your friend, you place it on the plate and a friend pick it up from it.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Japanese way of Valentine's Day

In Japan, the meaning of Valentine's Day is a little different from the one in North America and Europe.  It is a day when a girl gives chocolate to a boy she loves.  It is a big day of confession for a girl, but it is only a girl who makes action and not vice versa.

When I spent one year at the university in Canada many years ago, I was very surprised that I received flowers or little gifts from my friends of girls.  It never happens in Japan.  In Western countries, the meaning of Valentine includes gratitude for someone you care regardless of sex, but in Japan, it is solely about love and confession from a girl to a boy.

 You may think that it is unfair that only girls give presents to boys, but to compensate this, Japan has something called 'White Day' one month after Valentine's day which is on March 14.  In White Day, boys give gifts to girls in return regardless of whether it was from the girl he likes or not.  It is manner to give back something to a person who gave presents on Valentine's Day.  In return of chocolate, boys give something 'white' such as marshmallows or cookies.

There is also something called 'giri-choco', duty-chocolate often at work occasion.  Lady workers give her men colleagues and bosses chocolates out of their sense of social politeness.  Ladies think it 'nice' and 'pleasant' to give chocolates to men workers and this helps to make more smooth and harmonized work environment.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Chirashi Sushi Party with Magewappa Hangiri

Living abroad, New Years Day is the day that makes me feel most homesick, because it doesn't feel very special.  So, this year, I decided to have a party on that day, preparing a variety of Japanese foods and share them with my beloved friends!  These special foods involve a lot of detailed preparation like other special foods in any culture.  It took me almost whole day to prepare all the ingredients on New Years Eve, but the result was great!  Sharing time and a meal is always joyous and it was greater as it was the first day of the year.

Here is one of the dish I made called 'Chirashi-sushi'.

No fish nor seaweed nori?  That's right, but this Chirashi sushi is a common type of sushi we eat especially at festive occasions in Japan.  There is cooked rice mixed with various flavored vegetables underneath - shiitake mushrooms, kanpyo - a type of gourd, renkon - lotus root and fried tofu.  On top of the rice, there are sprinkled fried eggs - first made as a very thin, flat omelette and sliced, boiled sugar peas, boiled shrimp, and salmon roe to finish!  It is a good party dish to share.

To prepare this, Magewappa Hangiri is used.  It is important because it cools down sushi rice as it is mixed with vegetables and vinegar.  Since the Hangiri's surface is unfinished cedar wood without any vanishing, the wood breathes and balances the moisture content in the rice.  Hence the rice is preserved in a great condition after it is prepared.
Also, this Hankiri is a beautiful way of serving this dish!  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year's Day in Japan.

Happy 2016!  I wish you all the very best this year, a year full of joy and happiness.

In Japan, Jan 1 is the day in a year when people have the biggest celebration.  People decorate the front of a house with the special kind of wreath which is often made of straws of rice or hemp with a pine leaves and a kind of fruit.   By placing it on the front door, it is said to protect the house from evil.

People prepare special meals called 'Osechi' (御節) meal for the big day spending the last few days towards the end of the year.  It has many small dishes and each one has a special meaning, such as the prosperity of the family, becoming a dedicated person etc.

These foods are preserved for a few days, and the original idea was to give holidays to the house wives during 'Oshogatsu' (お正月) season.  It is also the time we eat 'Mochi' (餅), sticky pounded rice in a savory soup.

Families get together to have the Osechi feast.  Also, a lot people visit shrines on the New Year's Eve or the first days of the New Year to purify the mind facing to the higher existence and pray for the good year.  This season is called 'Oshogatsu' and most people have holidays for about a week before/after the day.  In the old times, January was called 'Mutsuki' (睦月) in Japanese.  'Mu' means intimate and 'tsuki' means month.  This month is supposed to be the time when people spend good time with all the family and deepen their relationship.