For the past three years, I have been taking an advanced kimono course to deepen my understanding of Japanese kimono culture. People always ask me why and what I learn there for so long. I’ve been asking myself the same question over and over, but the more I learn, the more curious I become, and the curiosity led me to where I am now.
The other day, I put my foot into an impossible mission – making a “Juban,” kimono’s undergarment by hand, on my own. I can’t even make a tiny bag for my little daughter without my mum’s help. Will I ever finish it…?
To start with, I needed to iron this 5m long cotton garment called “Sarashi“. It took almost two hours to iron the entire roll, and my super functional iron left quite a few golden brown spots…
After five hours of measuring, marking, cutting and sawing, this is how it look like now.
Looks like I am on the right track.
When I lived in Italy years ago for my post graduate studies, I had an opportunity to visit a couple of Italian families, one in Piemonte and another one in Puglia. My Italian was very bad (and still is), and I don’t know how I even communicated with them. Fortunately however, I do remember this amazingly tasty meals they served for me. From what I understood, at both families, they didn’t prepare anything special but something they would eat on a daily basis. Still, it blew my mind and made a strong impression on me. I loved watching the Italian mammas cooking at their cozy kitchens, infused in this delicious aroma from the food in the making. They tried to explain every little detail to me, who was vigorously taking pictures and taking notes, but I probably got less than half of what they tried to convey. Nevertheless, I remember the scenes very fondly and the warmth I felt. I often use the mamma’s recipes to this date, feeling grateful how incredibly lucky I was to have an experience like that.
Fast forward to the present Tokyo, my daughter and I were visiting our dear friends’ house for a play date one Sunday afternoon. The lovely host suggested that we make Gyōza, Japanese-adapted Chinese dumplings, together for early dinner. There was another family and a newly arrived au pair from England who was kind of forced into our cooking spree. While the kids were playing and minding their own business, we began to make the dumplings, each of us spontaneously taking a different task to work in a highly efficient manner. We enthusiastically chatted and laughed as we moved about, chopping cabbage in high speed and mixing ground meat with our bare hands. The room started to get filled with the complex aroma of garlic, shiitake mushrooms and freshly cooked rice, with the kitchen counter and floor covered in white flour. All of us gave Gyōza cooking tips to the humble, seemingly overwhelmed au pair, encouraging her to join us for the Japanese cooking routine.
After nearly two decades since my encounter with the sweet & lovely Italian mammas, I seem to have become one myself too, but the Japanese version of it. At that time in Italy I never knew, that being a “mamma” is such a special thing: being surrounded by the people you love, who appreciate the food you cook.
Photos by courtesy of A.C. & M.T.
Last month, our beloved ash plant, Toneriko, started to shed its leaves. Not just one or two but most of them. The plant has been with us since I first moved in with my husband thirteen years ago. It has been a very easy plant to look after. In fact, it’s the type of plants we see everywhere around our urban jungle neighborhood in Tokyo, requiring little maintenance. But strangely, something was different this year.
I was worried and tried to cut some branches and give this green plant liquid as I had always done every year. The pot size seemed fine, the amount of watering appeared to be adequate, but nothing seemed to work. Despite my efforts, its leaves kept turning yellow and eventually falling onto the floor.
For the past few days, however, there are a lot of these baby leaves started to emerge. I immediately looked up online, and apparently this is “generational change” and occurs when plants are ready to move on and have a fresh new start.
It seems like it signifies our life as well, with a few positive changes coming our way. It’s been a challenging few years for us, but maybe we can finally sit back and relax…?
My best friend was in town from Italy, and we went for lunch in one of my favorite venues in my neighborhood in Tokyo.
Sasha Kanetanaka 茶酒 金田中.
They are operated by the renowned, time-honoured Japanese dining establishment called Kanetanaka. Sasha offers Kanetanaka’s quality dishes in affordable pricing, in a sophisticated contemporary cafe-style space designed by photographer/architect, Hiroshi Sugimoto. Their use of refined materials is evident as soon as you walk in, greeted by Japanese style rock & moss garden with streamlined table setting. Whenever I go there, it makes me feel as if I am dreaming of walking into a serene temple in Kyoto, gently covered by the morning sun.
They offer seasonal Lunch course, always with this breathtaking, inspirational presentation.
It is the space I come to appreciate my Tokyo life, with their considered tableware, attention to detail, use of natural materials, focus on fresh ingredients, everything handled with great care.
For those who visit Tokyo anytime soon, here is the link to this sublime restaurant. Stop by, even for a brief tea break for an excellent, worthwhile dining experience.
Not sure if my recipe is authentic, but I love cooking bolognese sauce every once in a while. I enjoy the whole process, especially when the sauce starts to make this thick simmering, bubbling noise that makes you want to lick the wooden spoon just like one of the scenes in some rom-com film (a newly dating couple cooking together in one of their kitchens or something like that).
I usually make extra potion of bolognese sauce and freeze it. When I have time, I’ll turn it into my daughter’s favorite lasagna.
Shirasu-donburi (baby sardine with rice), made only in 5 minutes.
Rice (frozen – defrosted), Shirasu (baby sardine), chopped spring onion, egg (sunny side up), sliced Nori seaweed, dash of soy sauce
Made almost entirely by our 6 years old.