I’d been meaning to buy a new cutting board for months, but I couldn’t find a simple one with a right size and colour. Last weekend when we visited my uncle & aunt’s place in Gunma, my carpenter uncle casually asked me if I wanted a cutting board. I said yes, and he picked up a piece from the wood stack placed on their living room floor, and quickly sanded the rough edges for me in what seemed like a fraction of a second.
And voila, my new cutting board. At the moment, the kitchen is infused with a fresh woody scent of the mountains.
During this year’s so-called Golden Week holiday, we visited my family and relatives in Gunma prefecture, 150km north of Tokyo. Growing up, all I wanted was to get out of the suburban city where we lived, but going back there with the new perspective through my daughter’s eyes, everything looks different. Thanks to her, I’ve rediscovered what I had missed and failed to see all these years ago.
For the past few years in every May, we visit my aunt & uncle who live in the mountains for Takenoko diggings. After climbing up the ladder on their retaining wall to get to the bamboo grove behind their beautiful wooden house, we avidly started searching for the little shoots peeking out of the fertile soil. It is my daughter’s third time this year, and she appeared to be confident and know exactly what to do with the large spade.
We dug more than 20 of them and brought all of them home, many of which we shared with our neighbors back in Tokyo. I cooked a few of them (need to boil them for an hour as a preparation), from Takenoko rice, Takenoko curry and the most popular Takenoko Tempura (fritter). I served the tempura on the bamboo plate handmade by my auntie, as a side dish to the Udon noodles also from my hometown of Gunma.
During the weekend, we went to visit my relatives who live in the mountains in Gunma prefecture, 150km north of Tokyo. It’s a secluded place completely opposite of our crazy urban life, away from capitalism with hardly any tourism.
In the private field in front of their beautiful Japanese wooden house, they grow blueberries along with potatoes and buckwheat without using any pesticides. Our daughter and I had a privilege of handpicking their lush, fresh blueberries covered in the morning dew, and putting some of them directly into our mouths. There was no one else in the field but us, with only the sound of bird singing in the background. The field where the blueberry bushes were grown was surrounded by a white net (to protect them from birds), making it seem like we were immersed in a dreamlike land covered in clouds.
We brought most of the blueberries we picked back with us, which is a true luxury in Tokyo where they are sold very expensively (usually over ¥500 for only 15 pieces or so). Now our freezer is full of these beautiful, dark, purple, blue, plump berries, so we won’t have to buy them for quite some time.
For the next few days, I packed the fresh ones in our daughter’s bento for dessert, hoping she would bask in the exquisite memory of her time in great nature.