Keiro-no-Hi at Simpson UMC

Respect of the Aged Day, or Keiro-no-Hi, was established as a national holiday in Japan in 1966 to express respect for the elders in the community, to recognize and thank them for their contributions to society, to celebrate their long lives and offer special gifts to bring even more longevity to their lives.  It was initially held every September 15th but since 2003 it has been held on the 3rd Monday of every September.

At Simpson United Methodist Church we celebrate Keiro-no-Hi in the fall.  This year it was held on October 26th.  A celebration luncheon was provided for those in the Simpson community that were 80 years of age or older.  The ladies made baked salmon and an asian chicken salad and the congregation contributed special dishes to share.

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The special gift this year was Manju, a Japanese dessert. The outside is made from sweetened rice powder or sweetened pounded rice and inside is a delicious filling of anko red bean paste made from boiled azuki beans and sugar or other similar bean paste.  The children of the congregation and their Sunday School teacher folded many origami boxes and inside was placed a Manju and an individually wrapped green tea bag.

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imageThe congregation of Simpson UMC truly appreciate and respect their elders.  We are especially thankful for their establishing the Simpson community so many years ago.  All look forward to this celebration each year and we are grateful for the opportunity this particular mini festival allows in that all are able to reconnect and bond with each other on this special day.

 

Kasuzuke Pickles

imageKasuzuke are pickles preserved in a mixture of sake lees (a yeast mash by-product that is left over after making sake), salt, sugar and sake or sweet cooking wine (mirin). They are allowed to cure for anywhere from several days to several years, and the resulting pickles may be slightly alcoholic with flavors that vary from sweet and mild to strong and pungent depending on how long they were cured for.

These are some jars of pickles I bought at a recent Arts & Crafts fair.  The elderly gentlemen selling these pickles proudly told me that it took him two years to make them.

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He said to just take out of the jar what I wanted to eat and wash it thoroughly in water.

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Which I did and these were some of the best pickles I have had in a long time, very savory or umami.  The flavor of these pickles exactly explains the word umami or the  “fifth taste” after salt, sweet, sour and bitter.

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Kasuzuke is made with cucumbers, eggplants, uri (a cucumber-like gourd), daikon (radishes) and pickling melons. Carrots, eggplants, watermelon rind, and ginger can also be pickled in this way. It was made as a way to preserve vegetables for a wintertime food.

There is also a fish kasuzuke, where the sugar is sometimes omitted, and sake, shoyu (soy sauce), pepper and/or ginger may be added. Typical fish include cod, salmon, butterfish, and tai snapper.  (This may be the fermented fish that I remember from my dads pickling refrigerator http://wp.me/P4KYq6-b  from the Recipe page)

Small cucumbers or other vegetables equivalent to 6 or 8 small cucumbers

  • 3 cups of sake lees
  • 3 tbsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • Splash of sake or mirin

Salt vegetables with 2 tbsp of the salt. Place in a container with a weight on the mix overnight.  The weight can be a small plate with a jar of water or some other weight.

In a separate bowl combine sake lees, 1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp sugar. Mix well. If you are using dry (it will be crumbly) add the sake or mirin to moisten.  It should be the consistency of a thick paste now.

Use two identical shallow containers.  Spread part of the sake lees mixture on the bottom of the first (small bowl or crock or similar) container.  Layer the vegetables that you have squeezed and drained the water from next and then alternate layers of sake lees with the rest the vegetables.  The vegetables should be completely covered.  Top with second container and a weight on top of that the desired length of time.

Some of the recipes I read said you could use the paste up to three times so scrape off the paste and save to reuse in the next batch!  You will have to be patient as these two year pickles were worth the wait!

Kishibojin Oeshiki – Zoshigaya This Weekend

Want to go to Japan for a festival?

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If you are in Tokyo this weekend and not interested in the massive Kawagoe festival taking place in Saitama Prefecture just north of Tokyo I recommend visiting the far smaller but almost as crowded Oeshiki ceremony at Kishibojin in Zoshigaya, a 10 minute walk south of Ikebukuro station. Kishibojin temple is one of those religious mysteries of which there are so many in Japan. Even the name is unclear as it changes from different maps and signs, and it is a hybrid Shrine/Temple celebrating Oeshiki which is a distinctly buddhist ceremony a week later than all the other Oeshiki ceremonies, it is officially called a shrine but it has no torii gate but a small Inarijinja. I have visited dozens of times but I still haven’t unravelled this one. More studies needed!

Yesterday when I took these photos was the first evening of the three night event. Tonight and tomorrow…

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Ikebukuro Matsuri – Biggest Festival in Toshima Ward

An amazing story from Tokyobling!!

Tokyobling's Blog

Two weekends ago I visited the annual Ikebukuro Matsuri, which is the biggest festival in Toshima Ward, one of the biggest of the 23 central Tokyo special wards. At one time Ikebukuro was famous for being the spot in the world with more square feet department store than anywhere else, but the recent death of department stores have lead to there being of these. The number of visitors to the festival keeps increasing however, with this year’s festival the busiest ever. I arrived very late to the West exit area of Ikebukuro but saw my favorite omikoshi in Tokyo – the death defying balls of steel no fear omikoshi (as I call it). They stop regularly on their route and tip the omikoshi violently and rapidly back and forth, urging each other to go deeper and deeper. I can not imagine anything that would bring me more mortal fear than…

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Noisy Offering – Children of Simpson UMC

The children of Simpson UMC collect the loose offering from the congregation once a month for a special mission.

Here they are receiving buckets from their Sunday School teacher Brenda.  The coins are very loud when tossed into these buckets, the children love it!

The most recent mission was sending money to an orphanage in Japan after the devastating tsunami.

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Shichi-Go-San, Blessing of the Children

Shichi-Go-San “Seven-Five-Three” is a traditional festival day in Japan celebrated to mark the growth of children as they turn three, five and seven years of age.  In Japan this festival occurs annually on November 15 or on the nearest weekend.  Parents take their children to a shrine where they pray for the good health and well-being of their children.

At Simpson UMC Shichi-Go-San was celebrated this year on October 5th.  We also call the day “Blessing of the Children”.  We bless all children of the congregation and other children who wish to attend, we thank God for their presence in our lives and for their health and happiness.

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In Japan the children may wear their traditional dress, kimonos for girls and haori jackets and hakama trousers for boys.

At Simpson the girls wore kimonos and the boys happi jackets.  Ann Henderson presided over a blessing for the children.  Ann truly joined in the spirit of the day and wore a kimono provide by Jane Fujioka.

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Rice fields of Japan

This was received in an email.  I don’t know where the email was started but this is amazing!

Rice fields of Japan Incredible !!!

Looks ordinary  enough……. but watch as  the rice  grows!!!!!! 

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Stunning crop art  has sprung up across rice fields in  Japan , but this is no  alien creation. The designs have been  cleverly PLANTED!  

Farmers creating the huge displays use  no ink or  dye.   Instead, different  colour  rice plants have been precisely and strategically  arranged and  grown in the paddy fields.   As summer progresses
and the plants shoot up, the detailed artwork begins to   emerge.

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A Sengoku warrior on  horseback has been created  from  hundreds of thousands of rice plants.   The colours  are  created by using different varieties of rice plants,  whose  leaves grow in certain colours.   This photo  was taken  in Inakadate , Japan

Napoleon on  horseback can be seen from the  skies.   This was created by  precision planting and  months of planning by villagers and  farmers located in  Inkadate , Japan .

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Fictional warrior  Naoe Kanetsugu and his wife, Osen, whose  lives are  featured on the television series   ‘Tenchijin’,  appear in fields in  the town of  Yonezawa in the Yamagata prefecture

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This  year,  various artwork has popped up in other   rice-farming areas of Japan ,  including designs of deer  dancers.   Smaller works of  ‘crop-art’ can be seen  in other rice-farming areas of  Japan such as this image of Doraemon and deer dancers.
The farmers create the murals by planting little  purple and yellow-leafed Kodaimai  rice along with their  local green-leafed Tsugaru,
a Roman  variety,   to create the  coloured patterns in the  time between  planting and harvesting in September.
The  murals in  Inakadate cover 15,000 square metres of paddy   fields.

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From  ground  level, the designs are invisible, and viewers have  to  climb the mock castle tower of the village office to get  a  glimpse of the  work.

Closer to the  image,  the careful placement of the thousands of rice plants  in  the paddy fields can be seen.   Rice-paddy art  was  started there in 1993 as a local revitalization  project, an idea that grew  from meetings of the village  committees.   The different  varieties of rice plants  grow alongside each other to  create the masterpieces. In the  first nine  years, the village office workers and local   farmers grew a simple design  of Mount Iwaki every year   but their ideas grew more complicated  and attracted more  attention.   In 2005, agreements  between landowners  allowed the creation  of enormous rice paddy art. A year  later,  organizers used computers to precisely plot the  planting  of four differently colored rice varieties that bring  the  images to life!   TRULY A WORK OF   ART!!