Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan

It's great to be home. I left Japan a day before the massive earthquake and tsunami. I thought this posting would be a fun account of my food adventures in the land of the rising sun.

But as I hear the news reports about the mounting destruction, my heart aches for the growing number of victims. I am stunned by the images of devastation and what lies ahead for the Japanese people.

I prefer to remember the Japan that I visited only a week ago. Its awe-inspiring beauty and spirituality. The respect and hospitality of the people. Every one of our hosts, tour guides and shopkeepers bowed low to show their utmost respect to us.


 Their indigenous religion is Shintoism; the belief that every living thing has a spirit and that every aspect of nature is sacred.


Shibui is a Japanese word which describes a subtle, unobtrusive and deeply moving beauty. Shibui aptly describes the Japanese aesthetic. From the landscape, to the architecture, to the reverence of the people, everything I witnessed was shibui, even Japanese cuisine, in which the purity and freshness of the ingredients are paramount.


I was told that Osaka is the food capital of the country. There, street food is gourmet. You can slurp up fresh oysters on a street corner.
Fresh oysters 

I savoured takoyashi, warm balls of seasoned rice flour stuffed with fresh squid.

Takoyashi, squid balls 

Manju is a traditional cookie sandwich. Two spongey cookies are glued together with vanilla or chocolate cream or sweet bean paste. On the stunning island of Miyajima, you can enjoy momiji manju, or maple leaf cookies. They are famous throughout the country. I sampled a chocolate momiji manju fresh off the assembly line.

Manju assembly line
Miyajima is a sacred island for the Japanese. Our tour guide told us that the word Miyajima literally means "island of shrines."  The most prominent landmark on the island is the O-torii Gate, a world heritage site. During high tide, the O-torii Gate appears to float on the water.
O-torii Gate

My photos of a peaceful and perfect Japan are a stark contrast to the bleak images of unimaginable loss. It will take decades to rebuild.

If you wish to lend your support to the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, I urge you to contact the Red Cross.

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