Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The SUN, Cooking Classes and Street Dancing

We had one freak day of incredible sun and warmth a week ago and so we headed to the sea. This was actually the day of of the Chilean and Okinawan earthquake so Japan was on the lookout for つなみ (tsunami). The police came and told us to clear the beach but Japanese people are so cautious and there there so many other people around that we figured it was fine to stick around. That probably is how people get wiped away by tsunami but luckily (and anti-climactically as we wanted to see some kind of wave) there was no tsunami.
Oh, to have the sun on your bare skin after months of going about in layers and layers and layers!

But alas, we are now back to ten degree weather and rain, rain, rain.

Recently, Justin and I have been taking traditional Japanese cooking classes at a cooking studio. The menu has been really interesting... here we sliced our first なまこ(sea cucumber). I really don't recommend it! Really bitter tasting and too much to chew for too long.

Our teacher shows us the proper way to clean ぶり (yellow tail) before stewing it with 大根 (daikon, a Japanese raddish).

Cleaning the blood out of big pieces of the yellowtail.

Slicing the sea cucumber. This is the first live thing I have put a knife too and even though a sea cucumber is just a blob I felt a bit squeemish about cutting it open while it was still moving.

Justin makes fresh  さつま揚げ (Satsuma age) a kind of fried sweetened fish paste mixed with vegetables. Satsuma age is hard to describe (though it is made out of fish paste it doesn't taste at all like fish) and often isn't the most delicious of Kagoshima specialiaties, but when made fresh it was so tasty!

Serving up the yellowtail raddish stew. Mmmmm so good!

A clear clam soup with なのはな (canola flowers).

Our teacher shows us the proper way to make sushi rice.

Last weekend we went to the 初午祭 (Hatsu-Uma Sai) First Horse Day Festival at a famous temple in the northern part of Kagoshima. By "went to" I mean, we danced for hours in the festival with a group of various international folks living in Kagoshima.

Japanese festivals are a lot of fun! Everyone dances a traditional dance that everyone in Japan seems to know and the street is lined with festival foods (grilled squid on a stick anyone?). Festivals are the one time that usual public behavior rules (no eating or drinking in public! No sitting on the ground!) fade away and everyone gets real dressed up and dances.

This festival features horses and ponies decorated and made to "dance."

Though the dance we were doing was incredibly simple, I kept forgetting it (too many things to watch around me? Too many old ladies cheering me on?) but luckily there was a troupe of stockinged older ladies in front of us that knew their business. When you don't know the right moves at a festival in Japan, always look to the spunky older ladies!

One of my favorite festival foods - mochi filled with cheese that has been fried! Mmmmm!

Dancers dancing!

We danced straight up to the shrine and then right in front of it, stopping of course to wash ourselves before entering temple grounds.

I really liked these hats, and I love how the traditinal music at these festivals.