Category

Blog

Blog, Winter Food

Hachinohe Senbei-Jiru & Suiton

As we dive deeper into colder days the winter micro season on the 7th of December with Sora samuku fuyu to naru meaning “cold sets in winter begins” starts. This is a time to start thinking of cosy home cooked meals with seasonal ingredients to feed the soul and warm the body.
Have you heard of a dish called Senbei-Jiru? It’s a country-style rice cracker stew sometimes known as wafer soup, from the northern prefecture of Aomori in the city of Hachinohe.

This dish dating back to the Edo period uses something called Nambu-senbei crackers. They are made from wheat and salt and are formed  into thin round shapes before toasting.

They can be eaten on their own or as a snack or in this case they are dropped into a soup before serving. The soup varies but always has seasonal vegetables and mushrooms in either a soy sauce or miso broth. The wafers absorb the flavour and when In the soup take on a dumpling like texture. This is how the soup known as “Suiton” evolved from this to Senbei-Jiru, as the crackers can be stored dry for a long time.  Suiton is a soup commonly known as Hitsumi is an earthy vegetable soup with dumplings made from rice or wheat flour sometimes known as Hatto-Jiru or Dango-Jiru.

I decided to make one base miso vegetable soup and try it three ways.

The soup can be any seasonal vegetables with a kombu dashi, like potato, daikon,carrot and kabocha then mushrooms I used shiitake. The soup normally has some meat so I used strips of aburaage instead ( deep fried tofu ) I love this in broth as it soaks up all the lovely flavours. I then added some miso. I used a combination of organic Japanese brown rice miso and white miso paste by Clearspring.
For the Suiton you need dumplings 1/2 cup of all purpose flour mixed with 1/4 cup of water and a little salt. Mix into a dough and form into balls. Drop the balls into the cooked soup when they float to the top they are ready. Serve with some chopped green onions or chopped greens like komatsuna.

I was lucky enough to be sent some nambu-senbei from Japan so in my second dish I added these just before serving.

However like many of you who can’t get the authentic thing why not just try using wheat crackers the type you would use for cheese. I tried these ones.

The second part of the winter micro season starts on the 12th of December and is Kuma ana ni komoru meaning bears start hibernating in their dens.  Maybe that’s something we also do in away. We stay inside on cold dark days. It’s a time to cosy up under a blanket or in Japan something called a kotatsu which is a low level table draped with a thick blanket with a heater underneath. The perfect place to eat your nourishing soup which ever way you choose to prepare it.

Autumn Food, Blog, Winter Food

Japanese Thanksgiving & Kondate-Zukushi Meal

Niinamesai 新嘗祭 is a Shinto celebration held on the 23rd of November, nowadays it has been rebranded as Labour Thanksgiving Day. It is a very important day in Shinto religion as it is the annual day to give thanks for the newly harvested rice. This is known as the celebration of first taste.In Buddhist temples it is known as The Autumn Festival and is normally a ceremony of the gratitude for everything nature provides. It is also a time to pray for a prosperous and fruitful New Year.

I decided to make a temple style meal to celebrate doing something a little different. These days due to modern cultivation methods, vegetables are grown all year round and no one seams to know a vegetables true season. In temple cuisine it is believed to be important to follow the flow of nature and eat foods provided by the season. This makes sense as each season provides us with the nourishment we need, consider summer vegetables tomatoes, cucumber and melon all have a cooling effect on the body. Autumn and winter root vegetables give us warmth and nourishment to warm the body with soups and nabes.

I had just received a box of kabu from an organic Japanese vegetable farm. Robin & Ikuko run Nama Yasai farm in East Sussex.

Kabu かふis a type of Japanese turnip, it has an effective digestive aid and is rich in vitamin C, iron and fibre. The leaves are nutrient rich in vitamin A and Calcium.
As the whole part of the vegetable is good in so many dishes from soups and simmered dishes to salad and pickles, I decided to prepare a meal using two Japanese principles. The first is called Ichi Motsu Zen Shoku, which is the use of using a vegetable in it’s entirety. The second approach is called Kondate-Zukushi a culinary practice of making an entire meal from one single ingredient (in this case kabu).

This is my Teishoku meal

Kabu & Soymilk Soup

Chopped Kabu, simmered in vegetable stock until tender adding some greens at the last minute, then add a dash of soymilk and white miso before blending.

Gohan & Kabu greens

cooked Japanese rice with chopped Kabu greens mixed in after cooking.

Simmered whole Kabu with Yuzu miso

Miso roasted Kabu with sautéed greens and baked tofu

Finally what no Japanese meal should be without Tsukemono or pickles. This pickle is known as Asazuke or quick pickle.

Slice a medium Kabu and place in a ziplock bag, add to this some chopped greens, some sliced kombu kelp, 1/3 chopped red chilli a teaspoon of Yuzu zest and a teaspoon of Yuzu juice, a table spoon each of brown rice vinegar and mirin and a tablespoon of salt. Press the air out of the bag and seal it then massage the Kabu so all the flavours are immersed. Then leave in the fridge at least four hours or overnight.

I hope this can inspire you to make your own meal around the Kondate-Zukushi principle.

 

 

Autumn Food, Blog

Fukuyama Uzumi-Gohan うずみご飯

A traditional dish from Fukuyama is Uzumi cuisine.

Fukuyama is near the centre of Seto inland sea which has developed as a main port for the eastern area of Hiroshima prefecture, this dish began in the Edo period 1603-1868. It was created at this time due to frugal politics who’s government forbid luxury items. Uzumi means to bury, people used to hide luxury food items like rare mushrooms or fish under rice.
Now this dish is considered good fortune and people in Fukuyama even have an Uzumi festival to celebrate food from the mountains and sea.
I thought what a nice idea this was to have almost a surprise of food buried under rice . Also now people do not have to hide their food in fear of frugality and it made me feel lucky to have such choice in the foods we now consume. Why not try this meal for yourself using seasonal ingredients. Think of it as a reverse donburi instead of the rice being underneath it’s now on top.

I made two Uzumi the first was soboro style. Soboro is normally minced chicken  and egg ( you can see another post for this on my recipe pages. I made my vegan version and put the rice on top.


The second was a mixture of autumn Japanese mushrooms shimeji, shiitake, maitake and enoki. Sautéed in a teriyaki sauce then placed in the bottom of a bowl and topped with rice. It’s as simple as that .


You could make all kinds of your own variations. What joy to be given an Uzumi rice bowl, digging out delicious seasonal foods, not knowing what lies beneath the rice.

Autumn Food, Blog, Winter Food

Candied Sweet Potatoes Daigaku Imo 大学芋 with a Yuzu syrup

Have you heard the Japanese word Natsukashii ? It’s a word meaning a small thing that brings back fond memories of the past. When I posted my candied Japanese sweet potato on my Instagram account I had so many messages from either people from Japan now not living in Japan or people with memories of Japan. One japanese lady said it reminded her of her grandmother. How lovely I thought that these small things can bring back such sweet memories maybe of your childhood or a visit to a certain place.
I decided to make these when I was lucky enough to get hold of some Japanese sweet potato (Satsumaimo) さつまいも. These sweet potato are great for desserts as they are very sweet. Often used as an ingredient for kuri kinton part of a New Years Osechi Ryori.

When autumn rolls around in Japan you may hear the sound of the autumns equivalent to a summers ice cream truck it’s the Yaki-Imo truck. Baked satsumaimo warm the hands on a cold day. Tear them open to reveal the orange flesh.

Daigaku-imo actually means university potatoes, maybe because of the story of someone selling these to help pay for their university tuition or another story is there was a potato shop near Tokyo university which became a hit with the student’s.
These snacks are normally deep fried and then coated in a sweet caramelised syrup. I decided to make a snack that you could eat without frying but then afterwards I decided to sauté them and they were both delicious so you can decide to do it either way. Because they are so sweet Japanese people like to eat them as an accompaniment to green tea.

You will need a Japanese sweet potato I got a Miyazaki Beni which is the original brand type of Japanese sweet potato.


Purple on the outside and a cream flesh that turns orange when cooked. You don’t have to but I took off some of the outer skin to make it look interesting. Slice into rounds and put in a bowl of cold water for 15 mins to remove any starch.

Add to a pan one cup of water, two tablespoons of granulated sugar and two tablespoons of yuzu juice. The yuzu  juice is optional but it gives the syrup a lovely citrus flavour which I think goes well with the potatoes. Give it a stir then drain your potatoes and add them to your pan. Simmer on a low heat with a dropped lid or otoshibuta, if you don’t have one just use tin foil with a few holes pushed in and rest it on top. This will perfectly simmer your potatoes and stop them them breaking as you won’t need to stir them. Simmer for around 20 mins. Your syrup will start to thicken, test your potatoes are done with a toothpick and leave to cool in the syrup.


You can then eat them as they are or add the potatoes to a pan without the syrup with a little oil and sauté them until crispy on the outside.


Then serve them warm adding a drizzle of the syrup and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.


Either way I hope you will enjoy this traditional Japanese treat.

 

 

 

Autumn Food, Blog

Basque Style Cheese Cake

A dessert that’s very trendy in Japan at the moment is the basque style cheese cake. A crust less cheese cake with almost a burnt surface and a golden centre using eggs, milk and cream cheese. This is my vegan version. It tastes a cross between a cheese cake and an egg custard but no eggs or dairy !
What is my egg replacement ? Many people thought it was tofu but the wait is over I can reveal its Kabocha pumpkin !
There is a variation on the basque cheese cake called a Far Breton, many have prunes or raisins at the bottom so you could add this too to the recipe if you like. They are both perfect served warm with some soy cream. I have recipe tested this many times with different variations and I have found it best made in a lined loaf tin .
So for all of you that were waiting for this recipe here you are and I would love to see any of you that recreate this on Instagram. Remember to tag me in and I will repost.
You will need:

x1 carton or soft vegan cream cheese

this is the one I used.


200 ml of soy milk I recommend BonSoy as it’s nice and creamy

x1 and 1/2 heaped tablespoon of steamed and mashed Kabocha pumpkin

1/2 cup of granulated unrefined sugar

x3 tablespoons of plain flour

a tablespoon of maple syrup and a teaspoon of vanilla essence

And that’s it !

Slightly soften your cream cheese ( I added mine to the microwave for 30 sec) then add this to a food processor

Process everything together cream cheese, sugar, maple syrup, soy milk, vanilla, and pumpkin then add your flour last.  Then pour into a lined loaf pan.

Bake on a high preheated oven around 200 degrees for a fan oven  for 30-40 mins and then chill over night in the fridge before removing and cutting.

 

Blog

Autumn has arrived Aki Kinu

When the cicadas can be heard no more, the leaves start to turn and the temperatures cool, we know Aki Kinu ( Autumn has arrived in Japan ! ) This is known as Kigo a word or phrase that is used in Japanese poetry to associate with Japanese seasons.

In Japan people are very much in touch with the changing of the seasons. Aki 秋 is the word for autumn/fall in Japan and after the hot humid heat of the Japanese summer people look forward to the cooling breezes and clear blue skies that the new season brings.
During the heat of the summer people loose their appetites so when autumn comes people refer to it as   Shokuyoku no Aki ( Autumn the season of Appetites).
Autumn is the season of the rice harvest and there is an abundance of delicious produce to have at this time from, matsutake mushrooms, persimmons (kaki), chestnuts known as Kuri or marron when it is in a sweet or dessert and sweet potato.



Even the Starbucks gets on board with seasonal flavours and where we have a pumpkin spice latte the drink of the season at the moment maybe a sweet potato or chocolate marron flavour. Japan sometimes also refer to autumn also as Aki no Mikaku ( autumn the season of flavours ).
You may like to try making some simple rice dishes with mushrooms or chestnuts that are popular at this time.


Another thing that people anticipate with the changing seasons is Momiji, this refers to the Japanese maple tree. As well as viewing the cherry blossoms in spring people in Japan are also excited about the turning of the maple leaves from green to bright vivid red and orange, this is known as kouyou or autumn colours.

There is a word in Japanese Fuubutsushi this refers to the little things that signal a change in the seasons, the feelings, scents, images and sounds that might evoke memories or anticipation of the coming season. I think when we become more aware of this it helps us to centre ourselves and celebrate the passing of time.

As well as viewing the beautiful leaves and partaking in eating delicious food. Japan has other sayings for autumn.
Dokusho no Aki ( Fall the season of reading ) with the nights drawing in people find it easier to sit and read.

Also Koraku no Aki ( Fall the season of athletics, or activities outdoors). I guess this is why on the second Monday in October Japan have a national holiday known as sports day. This year it was brought forward to coincide with the Olympics 2020 and will be again next year in 2021.
Maybe it’s time to get out those winter blankets that you have put away over the summer, in Japan they have something called a kotatsu a table with a blanket and a heater underneath, doesn’t that sound cosy.
What ever way you choose to enjoy autumn I hope you all stay safe and well. Why not take some inspiration from my autumn recipe food section and cook up something to celebrate the season with what ever seasonal produce you can find.

 

 

Blog

Moon viewing and celebrating autumn

As the shades of autumn are becoming even more apparent now with fields turning as golden as the evening light. It is an important time in Japan for the rice harvest. The first of October is known as world sake day “Nihonshu no Hi” and is the New Year’s Day of  Sake. It marks the first day of the sake making season as it is a time when the rice is gathered from the fields to start the production into sake.
The morning sky is laced with the fish scale cirrocumulus clouds and I can understand why the Japanese call them Uroko gumo (uroko meaning scale)

There is a bountiful harvest of foods the most popular in Japan at this time being sweet potato, chestnut, mushrooms, pumpkin and edamame. Mixing some of these with rice is one way to enjoy both at the same time, also using seasonings like soy sauce and mirin.

As the evenings darken we draw our attention to the moon. One such event in Japan is known as Tsukimi or Jugoya  which is a moon viewing festival that dates back over a thousand years.

This year it falls on October 1st to coincide with the sake new year. It is custom to drink sake at tsukimi and eat the foods of the season. Another food that is popular to eat is Dango. Round rice dumplings in the shape of the full moon. Piled into a pyramid shape they are made as offerings at this time.

People may decorate their houses with susuki ススキ (pampas grass) . Pampas grass symbolises the coming of autumn and was once used to thatch roofs and feed animals.

Near the well known Heian shrine in Kyoto tucked away is the Shinto shrine Okazaki, dedicated to childbirth and conceiving, the symbol of the shrine is a rabbit and you will find many statues and images of rabbits there.

Another symbol of Tuskimi is the rabbit, this is because unlike some people who see a face in the moon the Japanese see an image of a rabbit in the moon pounding Mochi with a huge mallet.

You can find more information on previous posts I have made  by searching Otsukimi or microseason posts 15 or why not take a look at my autumn recipe section there you will find takikomi gohan a mixed rice dish, or lots of ways to enjoy Kabocha.

With many festivities cancelled this year this is one that you can definitely enjoy either on your own or with family.
Happy moon viewing.

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Crispy Aburaage Tofu Spring Rolls

These are my crispy aburaage fried tofu spring rolls, they are super delicious straight out of the oven but just as perfect for a bento . Why not try to make them for yourself.


First you will need to make your filling I used a mixture of julienned carrots finely sliced, finely sliced spring onion, red pepper,  hakusai ( Chinese cabbage ) and bean sprouts to that mix in some schichimi pepper and a dash of tamari or soy sauce and a little finely grated ginger. Sauté this in a pan in a little sesame oil until tender then  put aside.
Now prepare your aburaage, I used the kind you can find already made  frozen like these ones, defrost them and do not wash off the oil that they were fried in.

Take your aburaage and cut off three sides leaving one of the longer sides.
Then carefully pull apart to make a square sheet and tip sideways to make a diamond shape.

Get your Prepared filling and put a line of filling across your aburaage then fold in the sides and the bottom like an envelope and then roll.

After you have finished all three you can either put them in a pan with no oil ( there is enough oil already on the aburaage when it was fried this is why we didn’t wash it off )

Or what I like to do is put them in the oven until they are nice and crispy on the outside ( around 15-20 minutes)

Take out the oven and serve with something like a chilli dip or soy sauce.

Blog

How to season a new Donabe pot


I just recently bought a new Donabe pot. They are one of Japanese oldest cooking vessel’s. An earthenware pot glazed on the outside, and looks a bit like a casserole dish you would put in the oven. However the Japanese cook with them on a stove top. They are used for making many popular one pot dishes, or nabemono as they are known. Many regions in Japan have their own speciality nabe dish featuring their own regional ingredients from tofu to noodles and various meat and fish dishes. Hokkaido being known for its fish nabe, Akita prefecture for a rice dish called kiritanpo, Kyoto for yudofu,tofu simmered in a kombu dashi. You can find some recipes using Donabe on my recipe pages, like Tonyu & Miso nabe, Fermented cabbage nabe, Domako ( rice ball hot pot), and my winter favourite Oden.
Oden is a popular winter comforting meal which you will often see in convenience stores in Japan like Family Mart or 7-Eleven, simmering away, people choose what they want and make up their own meal to take home.  As a Japanese home cooked meal it’s various items that you simmer in a soy sauce dashi broth from an assortment of vegetables, tofu, konnyaku and non vegan items like fish cakes,hard boiled eggs. I definitely recommend trying to make this in the winter months and is even more delicious the next day.

The earthenware clay from Iga is porous, because of this when you first buy a new pot you must season it first, this process is called Medome. There are a few ways you can do this but the simplest way I’ve found is to simmer with rice water.

The first water that you wash your rice with is the one you use. Just wash your rice as you normally would, but do not throw away the water, just tip it 3/4 full into your pot and heat on a low heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. Let the water then cool to cold and then tip out the water. Rinse with clean water and air dry.

You are now ready to start cooking delicious one pot meals.

How to care for you new Donabe pot.

1: Make sure the bottom of your pot is dry before you start cooking.    2: Do not high heat when you first start to cook, gradually turn up the heat through the cooking process.
3: Do not heat when empty.
4: Do not wash or scrub your pot with soap only warm water and air dry if you need to get off anything stuck soak the pot.
5: If you see a small crack,season your pot again.

I’m really looking forward to cooking with my new pot and the day after I seasoned it I  made a delicious nabe served with rice, and as the weather had turned colder it was greatly received.

 

 

 

Blog

ichiju-sansai 一汁三菜 Japanese Healthy Meal

Why not experience a Washoku 和食 ( Japanese cuisine ) dining tradition in your own home?

Using Teishoku 定食 a set meal on a tray with the ichiju-sansai 一汁三菜 method of construction.

Ichiju-sansai is a Japanese balanced meal. Ichi meaning one ju meaning soup san meaning three and sai meaning dish. Put together to make a one soup and three dish meal. This set way allows for a healthy balanced way to create something delicious while regulating portion size. Rice a stable food and a big part of the Japanese diet is not counted neither are pickles used for digestion these are the foundations of the meal. Then comes the soup traditionally miso which is a fermented food but could also be any soup of choice. With the rice you get your carbohydrates plus hydration from the soup. Then the main meal portion known as Okazu could be a protein of some kind, with your two sides probably vegetables containing vitamins and minerals.

Japan has four very distinct seasons with this in mind choosing fresh flavourful seasonal ingredients in your creations is key using this home cooking style. Making these meals also helps you to become more mindful in your eating approach. If you follow this basic principle you can make a healthy homely meal.

Ichiju-Sansai 一汁三菜

A bowl of soup (shiru   which could be Miso or other soup of choice

A bowl of rice ( Gohanご飯 )

Pickles (tsukemono 漬物 ) or also known Kouno mono(香の物)

x3 dishes ( okazu おかず sometimes called sozai ) x1 main and x2 smaller side dishes

If you want to simplify this even further you can make Ichiju-Issai 一汁一菜 sometimes called Soshoku. Basically omitting the two side dishes and often eaten in zen temples.

It is a good idea to use different cooking methods in your preparations. Consider sautéing, steaming, baking. Make different sauces or marinades to enhance the flavour.

Another method of making meals is doing it in advance which is perfect not only for Ichiju-sansai but for preparing bento and is called tsukurioki.

Tsukurioki means pre-made or put aside. In old Japan it would refer to making preserved foods maybe by fermentation or pickling, something you would not be eating straight away. However now it refers more to people batch cooking and people leading a busy life who make food in advance to see them through a few days. Making a batch of different foods that can be stored in the fridge and combined to make bento lunches or put together with rice and soup to make a meal, is a perfect way to use tsukurioki.

Why not forward plan and try out this method. Set aside time to prepare food and this will free up time and help simplify your life later on.

Like with many Japanese meals, I start with planning what I’m going to make and how I’m going to combine them.

Think do you you have all the necessary ingredients or do you have to go and buy some fresh vegetables? Then when you have gathered together what you need set aside time to make your meals. When you are not rushed you can put love and care into mindfully preparing your food. Store in containers and bowls in the fridge. Then maybe you could plan your meal combinations so you get a variety of different meals with what you have created. When you show care in making a meal you can mindfully appreciate the food when you are eating it.

Here is a list of recipes on this website you could use to combine. I hope you can use them to create some peaceful meals at home.

Mains:

Yuzu & Blackpepper Tofu, Tofu Dengaku, Vegan Crabcakes, Umeboshi Sweet & Sour Tofu, Sweet Potato & Ginger Tofu Patties, Shiitake Brown Rice Miso Burgers, Baked Tomato’s With Spicy Soy Mince, Yuzu Battered Tofu, Agedashi Tofu, Chard Rolls, Tofu Baked With Kabocha & Miso, Kabocha & Chestnut Loaf, Lotusroot & Tofu Mushimanju.

Sides:

Kyuri Itame, Shiraae, Daikon Dengaku, Nasu Dengaku, Eggplant Agebitashi, Poached Tomato, Goma Dofu, Tofu Caprese Salad, Cauliflower Grilled Mochi Cheese, Potato Salad, Hiyayakko, Gomaae, Kabocha no Nimono, Chawanmushi.

Soups:

Spring Greens Soup,Broadbean Soup, Tsuyu Soup,Pumpkin & Chestnut Soup.

 

 

 

Autumn Food, Blog, Spring Food, Summer Food, Winter Food

Hambāgu Steki ハンバーグステーキ

I first came across Hambagu Steki at a vegan cafe in Tokyo, the steak came out sizzling on a platter served with potatoes and vegetables in a rich Demi glacé. Sadly the cafe is no longer trading, but I always wanted to try making it and when I saw some pea and rice plant based mince in my local super market I just knew I wanted to try and make them.


Hambagu Steki is normally made of ground meat, with some kind of sauce. With this one I decided to make a Mikan sauce with some delicious shiso delight juice I had got from the wasabi company ( link at the side of the page) the juice is made from mikan, shiso and ume plum. If you can’t get this I suggest maybe making a ponzu style sauce with Yuzu juice and tamari or soy sauce. You will need to make 1/2 cup a blend of tamari or soy sauce, juice and water.


Dice finely 1/2 an onion and sauté in a little oil in a pan until soft.

Then to a bowl add 1/4 cup of either Panko or like I did gluten free breadcrumbs. Add to the breadcrumbs x4 tablespoons of soy milk and mix together.
To a large bowl add the mince, sautéed onions and bread crumbs. Knead all together with clean hands. Flatten at the bottom of the bowl and divide into four equal portions. Take each portion and mould into thick oval ball shaped patties.

Add some oil to a pan and fry the patties on both sides until golden. Then add your ponzu sauce. Put on a lid and reduce for a few minutes.

Serve with a topping of grated daikon radish and chopped shiso leaves.



To grate the daikon finely use a Japanese style grater suitable for wasabi, like a ceramic Kyocera or Oroshigane  metal grater.

Blog

Japanese Micro Season 13 立秋 Risshū (Beginning of autumn)

立秋 Risshū (Beginning of autumn)
August 8–12 涼風至 Suzukaze itaru Cool winds blow

August 13–17 寒蝉鳴 Higurashi naku Evening cicadas sing

August 18–22 蒙霧升降 Fukaki kiri matō Thick fog descends

As the air turns cooler in the evening and in the mornings I can feel a shift in the seasons. The trees are starting to turn and the fields are golden. It’s getting towards the end of summer and the start of Autumn. In Japan they call this a micro season and there are actually 24  seasonal divisions in the calendar that break down further to 72. Autumn breaks down into six changing every few weeks.

Even though there is still blazing heat in Japan at the moment, a cool wind blows for the first time bringing with it fog in the mornings. The cicadas sing the last  songs of summer as their life span draws to a close.

On the 13th-15th of August is Obon, a Buddhist custom to honour the spirits of ones ancestors. It is a time of celebration as people feel they are reunited once more with loved ones who have passed away. People return to family homes to show respect by maybe visiting an ancestral grave and being with family.
Spirits are said to revisit their families being guided by lanterns out side their homes. When it is time to leave floating lanterns are sent off down rivers to guide the spirts back.

It is often a time when local communities may have a festival with music and dancing called Bon Odori, people may wear light cotton yukata to keep cool in the heat.

Have you heard of Shouryouma ? They are spirit horses that guide the spirts. They are made from cucumbers and eggplants with skewers added for legs to make them look like animals . Cucumbers are transformed into horses and eggplants into cows. They are said to be the vehicles on which ancestors return and leave our world. The horse is said to ward off evil and serve as fast travel to earth where as the cow is slower to travel back. These can be placed on family door steps maybe with some incense or on an altar with decorated offerings. On the last day of Obon the cow and horse will be left by the river bank. I first saw this on an NHK programme a few years back and thought I would share this incase you didn’t know of it.
In the UK we do not have such a tradition but I thought it might be nice to make Shouryouma and light some incense to remember my father who has passed away  and place them on my tokonoma, in my tearoom at home.

Blog

Micro Seasons Number 12 大暑 Taisho (Greater heat)

大暑 Taisho (Greater heat)
July 23–28 桐始結花 Kiri hajimete hana o musubu Paulownia trees produce seeds ( the blue flowers are the crest of the Japanese government)

July 29–August 2 土潤溽暑 Tsuchi uruōte mushi atsushi Earth is damp, air is humid ( you may see water scattered on stone paths in gardens or outside shops, to aid a cooling effect )

August 3–7 大雨時行 Taiu tokidoki furu Great rains sometimes fall (watch out for those sudden down pours ! )

We are now in the last micro season of summer. Schools out and temperatures start to rise. Teisho meaning great heat in itself tells you about this micro season. It is the season of edamame and watery tomato and melon to quench your thirst from the humidity.
Normally in Japan at this time there would be summer festivals and fireworks. As well as the huge explosions in the sky one  such fire work that is popular is called Senko hanabi, Senko meaning incense stick and hanabi meaning firework they are a sparkler that lights up the summer nights. They represent flowers and plants  of Japan peony, pine, willow and chrysanthemum that is said to evoke a flash of sadness when reminded on how brief life and beauty is. This is something much appreciated in Japan from the cherry blossoms in spring to the flowering lotus, and is called  mono no aware in Japanese.

Have you heard of Shochu-Mimai ?
You probably know how people in Japan send greetings cards at New Years but did you know there is a tradition of sending summer cards after the rainy season has finished.
People send cards with summer images depicting hanabi, summer flowers like morning glory, melon or fish, to family and friends. It is custom to enquire about the recipients health and add a personal update. I think more than any year this would be a lovely thing to do right now.
Japan make the most beautiful and elaborate cards. Here is one such Shochu-Mimai that I received some years ago from a friend in Japan, depicting a traditional Japanese house and garden on a hot summer evening . It even comes with lights and sounds when you press the button on the card, how wonderful!


It’s something I have kept for many years. Why not send a special summer greetings card to a friend to surprise and delight them. Even if your not in Japan I’m sure you could find a suitable card.