Monthly Archives: May 2011

escape

for the past weekend, due to my husband’s work, i had a chance to go along with him to shimoda, the southernmost point of izu peninsula in shizuoka prefecture, south west of tokyo. his (and his partner’s) architectural office has been commissioned to work on a resort development project down there by the shore. after a 3-hour train ride from tokyo main terminal, we arrived in the small town of shimoda, where all the chaos we encounter in our everyday urban life seems to be nonexistent.

while they went for a walk-through on the site with the client, i went alone to an almost deserted beach nearby. at the off-season beach, there was hardly anyone except for a few surfers, despite the lovely weather with amazing sunshine and gentle sea breeze. it was literally a paradise and a perfect get-away to me.

sitting alone on the white sand, looking at the waves, feeling the breeze softly touching my cheeks and hearing the sound of ripple in the back of my head, i started remembering how much i had craved for being where i was that day.

i grew up in a small inland city of japan where the city/prefecture boarder did not touch any ocean. the city is surrounded by the mountains, which creates a quite protective mentality in its inhabitants. naturally people are very conservative, and they don’t seem to know that you can have different views. mostly because of it, i always felt captured and oppressed, wanting so much to escape to somewhere out there, with more potential in life, with more exposure to the outside world. in some place yet to be seen, i used to think, there must be a perfect location where i completely fit in. by being close to the sea or a river or a metropolitan city, i believed that i could get out anytime, to anywhere i wanted to go. by the time i hit my adolescent period, the feeling got stronger and i often dreamed of putting myself to a bigger scale of the world, hoping that such place would exist, where i would feel fully satisfied at last.

with a twist of fate i left my suburban city shortly after that, and from then on i moved around the world. in america i lived by the atlantic ocean, and in australia i lived next to the tasman sea. in the u.k. i lived in london which is considered to be one of the biggest cities in the whole world. in italy i was in milan, where i had an easy access to travel freely to anywhere in europe. in theory i had a perfect environment, but i am not sure if i can truly admit that i was entirely happy and that my life turned out to be the one i had always wanted. because wherever i went, wherever i traveled, i always, without any failure, started missing my family and longed for intimacy. what i had thought was an escape became a torture, and every time that happened i resigned to my emotional craving and came back to my comfort zone.

my mind drifted back to the deserted beach when i heard my husband’s footsteps, and i realised what a pleasure it could be to have a place to escape, when you knew for sure that there was a place you could go back to, to something real and truly genuine. after all it is not a physical location which makes you feel fulfilled. i can say it now that it is more of an emotional well-being which dictates the level of your fulfillment.

a vast landscape of the ocean extends in front of me, but i don’t have any desire to escape now – i love my life now, and i know it for sure.

fried rice with salmon é®­ãƒãƒ£ãƒ¼ãƒãƒ³

in the japanese kitchen, there are many dishes which are influenced by cuisines from other countries. curry & rice, one of the earlier japanese dishes i posted for example, is influenced by (obviously) the indian.

last night, i made 鮭チャーハン “sake cha-han“, fried rice with salmon. in japan, we eat many kinds of fried rice dishes, which are variations from the chinese kitchen. with our impeccable talent to recreate and enhance, a series of modern japanese dishes with foreign origins were born, just like this salmon cha-han:

fried rice with salmon

– 1 fillet of salmon (lightly salted, grilled and broken into rough pieces before frying)
– 2 eggs, beaten
– 2+ cups of cooked rice
– 12cm of japanese leek, chopped
– 4 table spoons of salad oil
– 1+ table spoon of japanese sake
– salt & pepper to taste
– if available, a pinch of konbu (kelp) dashi powder, but can do without
– sprinkle of chopped spring onion or chives

1. in a frying pan or a wak, pour in the oil and heat it up well (really well), and add the eggs
2. quickly scramble the eggs with a spatula and when they are still half cooked, add the rice and quickly mix it with the eggs
3. once mixed, add the leek and the salmon and further stir-fry quickly
4. from the rim of the pan, add the sake (the alcohol will remove the fishy smell of the salmon) and the konbu powder (if available) and further stir-fry quickly
5. at the end, add salt & pepper to taste and quickly stir-fry
6. when serving, sprinkle the spring onion/chives over the fried rice.

the entire steps from 1 – 5 only takes about 5 minutes or so (or even less). do every step very quickly, in order to avoid the rice from getting soggy and sticky.

this time, i served the fried rice with vegetable soup (in chicken broth) and cucumber salad.

召し上がれ meshiagare (bon appetite)!

my soul food 故郷の味 (& recipe for spinach goma-ae)

our dinner last night – a few, very typical, japanese dishes:

– アジの干物 “aji no himono“, grilled horse mackerel (seasoned & dried)
– かぼちゃと鶏挽肉の煮物 “kabocha to tori-hikiniku no nimono“, simmered pumpkin and minsed chicken
– ほうれん草のごま和え “hourenso no goma-ae“, boiled spinach in sesame sauce
– 冷や奴 “hiyayakko“, fresh tofu with seasoning (spring onion, ground ginger, bonito fish flakes and soy sauce)
– わかめご飯 ”wakame gohan“, salty wakame seaweed mixed in freshly cooked rice
– 葱のみそ汁 “negi no miso-shiru“, spring onion miso soup

today, out of these dishes, i would like to share a recipe for “hourenso no goma-ae“, boiled spinach in japanese sesame sauce. it is a nutritious, healthy, totally vegan side dish. the iron taste of spinach matches perfectly with the mild yet strong flavour of sesame, which is nicely combined with the soy sauce.

for short, let’s call it “spinach goma-ae”

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“spinach goma-ae”

1 batch of fresh spinach
3+ table spoons of ground sesame seeds (i always grind them right before i use – nice & fresh!)
1 table spoon of brown sugar
1 table spoon of soy sauce

1, in a big & deep cooking pan, bring water (to 3/4 to the top) to boil, and add the spinach. boil it until the water just turns to light green (2 minutes or so)
2. take out the spinach, rinse it in cold water until it is nice and cool
3. gently squeeze the water out of the spinach by hands
4. cut the spinach into 4 – 5cm length
5. make the sauce: mix the ingredients above (sesame, sugar and soy sauce)
6. add the spinach into the sauce and mix it thoroughly

that’s it – so easy and tasty.

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not to mention, my stomach was fully satisfied at the end of the meal. there is no place, like home.

being japanese

2 months have past since the Tohoku/Kanto earthquake on 11th of march 2011. the terrain seems to have calmed down finally (at least in Tokyo), and our life is almost back to normal. i still get a bit sensitive from time to time, whenever our furniture makes some squeaky sound or the apartment gets vibrated slightly from a truck passing by our street. when that happens i get tense for a second, but resume my daily life right after. most of the time i spend a day without thinking about the threat from the ground, which is a great relief.

given the impact of the disaster, the earthquake and the incidents occurred around it have been and are still, quite naturally, the main topics at the dinner table. for the past couple of months, i have noticed cultural or maybe personal differences in a variety of occasions. it is not about right or wrong, but just different. there are too many examples to tell, but these things can be summed up to the very basic ideas of human behaviour as follows:

– a virtue of perseverance vs. a spirit of survival
– compassion towards the problems, or discrimination against the problems
– surrender vs. confrontation
– acceptance vs. denial
– conformity vs. individualism

under the extreme circumstances of the disaster, i have witnessed these fundamental differences in people’s mindset, and realised how much influence we are prone to get depending on where you grow up, how you are brought up, and whom you grow up with.

as mentioned earlier, i believe there is no right or wrong in whichever you react. it’s just the differences in mentality and values which are built on years and years of history around the world. one thing i can say is, being a native of a mono-cultural society, we are expected, by our fellow country people, to act in certain ways to conform to what the society believes in. in such environment, sometimes it can be hard to have differences in opinion, especially when you are exposed to a multitude of ideas and are surrounded by a diversified group of people.

being among different cultures, ethics and ideologies, sometimes it gets pretty confusing in regards to what i should or want to have faith in. of course i am proud to be japanese and love our culture dearly, but on the other hand there are certain ideas that i do not agree to, but i find it hard to voice it. i am afraid of not being accepted, and am scared of being regarded as a traitor. perhaps this characteristic itself is the most japanese quality that i possess and try so hard to disguise.

i don’t know how to finish this essay, as i guess there is no relevant answer to what i am questioning. ok, i sign off here, will let it lie and observe…