I hope you all are doing well! Last week I took part in a rare kind of seminar and I am very excited to tell you all about it.
On Monday the 16th I acted as an interpreter for Mr. Fukahori Jouji, an atomic bomb survivor. Mr. Fukahori is 86 years old, so he was 14 when the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.
Nagasaki Prefecture puts on Atomic Bomb Survivor Talks (被爆体験講話 – hibaku taiken kouwa) several times a year with a small group of survivors that are willing to talk about their experience. Understandably, not many of the survivors are eager to share their account of that day. In fact, Mr. Fukahori didn’t start talking about his experience until 2009, some 64 years after the incident.
On Monday, he spoke to a group of about 40 exchange students in Kyushu University in Fukuoka Prefecture. The students were from all over the world including places like America, the UK, Germany, and China. He delivered his powerful message in Japanese and I did my best to convey his words and feelings in English to the audience.
I’ll spare you all the harrowing details of his experience, but I want you to know that he survived the attack because he was called in to work that day. At 14 years old, instead of going to school he was ordered to work in a factory that made boat propellers. The factory happened to be in the older part of Nagasaki that was shielded from the explosion by a mountain.
An enormous amount of bravery must be required to recount an experience like he had. His emotion peeked through occasionally during his talk but he did an admirable job of staying composed and delivering his message. I think I was shakier at times than he was, barely holding back my own emotions. As an interpreter, it’s impossible to completely separate yourself from the words and subject matter of your speaker. And if it was difficult for me to relay his descriptions of that day, how much more difficult must it have been for him, who lived through it, to conjure the images that he actually saw, the sounds he actually heard, the smells he actually smelled, to tell it to a group of strangers? I cannot begin to imagine.
I had planned to go to the gym and do some errands once I got back to Nagasaki but instead I curled up with Almas on the couch and watched TV for the rest of the evening. It was a heavy day to deal with. Nagasaki Prefecture and Hiroshima Prefecture are both actively engaged in promoting peace around the world and are some of the loudest proponents of nuclear disarmament. I’m quite proud to be able to help with that work.
I hope things are going well with you! This weekend ended the crazy-busy month of October and it was punctuated by the Nagasaki International Festival! The JET Programme of Nagasaki was given a whole floor to show off our international-ness and provide a way for ALTs to get involved with real grassroots internationalization. It was a big success I think! We had five culture booths, a stage area for lots of different games and activities from all over the world, and a “JET Cafe” area where people could sit and practice their English with our volunteers. Here are two of the culture booths:
On the top is the Australia booth where they had two grown men in Koala and Kangaroo pajamas with lots of other stuffed animals to take pictures with. Protip: Japanese guests love photo booths. The Hawaii Cultural Booth headed by Michael was a place for kids to make their own leis out of yarn and construction paper. Notice the kid with the mask on the right. People, even small children, wear masks when they’re sick to try to prevent spreading their germs. It’s not to keep from getting sick, but to keep your germs to yourself.
My role in our floor was the planning beforehand and making sure things went smoothly on the day of. That meant I got to involve myself where ever I wanted to ^^ You can see me below doing some juggling and banging a small Chinese drum in a Chinese version of musical chairs. Two years teaching in elementary school taught me that if there’s anything kids don’t like, it’s losing. Luckily, only one kid cried, haha.
The guy with me on the left is Matt, who also happens to be from Virginia! Almas ran the juggling portion with him and also helped out with the Hawaii booth.
Here’s a picture of a super cute high-five she got from a satisfied guest.
Grassroots internationalization. Boom.
Chinese Ink Painting Lecture, Workshop and Exhibition!
Ko Sensei from Nankin is a master painter and excited to share his art with the city of Omura. Come and see his works and practice your artistic skills!
Ko Sensei’s Discussion and Demonstration of Ink Painting
The teacher will speak about history and technique of Ink Painting.
You can also practice your own painting skills with him.
All will be conducted in Mandarin Chinese and Japanese.
Monday, September 19 (Holiday), 1:30pm – 3:00pm
Plaza Omura 2F Hall Omura-shi, Hon-machi 326-1
Ink Painting Exhibition at Machikado Community Gallery
This exhibition will display the works of two Chinese Ink Painting artists. The resident artist will all do some demonstrations during this time. (Demonstrations are unscheduled)
Paintings will be available for purchase.
Tuesday, September 20 – Monday, September 26
10:00am – 6:00pm (closes at 2:00pm on Sept. 26)
Machikado Community Gallery Omura-shi, Hon-machi 328-2
International Exchange Scroll Performance
Ko Sensei (Chinese artist) and Local Celebrity, Mr. Hosui will both do a large scroll writing performance!
Sunday, September 18, 11:00am – 12:00pm
Koremo Omura Event Hiroba Omura-shi, HigashiHon-machi 604
“Let’s Draw Autumn” Ink Painting and Calligraphy Lesson
Have a small group lesson with Ko Sensei and Hosui Sensei to create an autumn work of art. You will practice using ink to paint a picture and then practice kanji writing with Hosui to accompany the drawing.
Sunday, September 25, 1:00pm – 3:30pm
Mr. Hosui’s Classroom Omura-shi, Mizuhakari-machi 1121-2
2,000yen 10 people limit
To reserve, Call 0957-51-1048 or
Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or
Give me a Facebook message.
Any Questions, Please call, e-mail or FB message!
A brand new event to promote tourism in the Hizen area.
GURU GURU means “to go round and round” and Hizen is the former name for Hasami, Arita, Ureshino, and Takeo Areas
Thursday, September 22 to Sunday, September 25
10:00am ~ 17:00pm
Here is how it works
You have to get yourself to Hasami by car or train-and-bus.
If you go by car, you can park for free at the Yakimono Koen (Hasami Pottery Park).
Method 1. You buy a 500 yen “guide book” (Japanese only) from a local vendor or they are also available when you arrive in Hasami. Once you get to Hasami, your book is the ticket for a FREE shuttle bus between all four cities; Hasami, Arita, Ureshino and Takeo. Each city has different events during the 4-day period. You do not have to participate in the activities to use the shuttle bus, it can be an easy way to check out these four historic cities during Silver Week.
Method 2. You can go for one day and buy a one-day-shuttle-bus pass for 300 yen. With this one-day pass, you also get a free entrance to Yujiro Onsen in Ureshino!
Kyushu Nature time and beginner survival trainingWhile enjoying nature, we can spend time with our family and friends, learning about the great outdoors and survival skills. Kid’s mountain climbing experience, outdoor cooking, building a Native Peoples’ tent, and you can even camp! *the program may change daily depending on weather and number of people. You need to reserve and there is a fee. Please call 0955-42-2777 for more information. September 22-25, 10:00-17:00
Japanese Trades Workshop
Try your talents out on some Japanese crafts and traditional trades!
Japanese Washi Paper making
Senko Hanabi making (a Japanese sparkler, firework)
Japanese Wood Craft making
All require a fee ranging 500yen to 2,500yen for supplies.
September 22-15, 10:00-17:00
Various Markets and Food
Flea markets and hand-made crafts, about 7 different curry stands from all over the area, cafe, snack shops, Artist booth, etc…
September 22-25, 10:00-17:00
Kirin on Tap for your enjoyment and refreshment!
September 22-25 10am-5pm
On September 24, they have an ALL-DAY (10am-6pm) all-you-can-drink beer ticket for 3,000yen. This includes a Hasami Pottery Beer mug you can take home!
There are 6 bands to enjoy during the day.
OilWorks Presents, Kyushu Rockers, J-REXXX, CHOMORANMA, Sho, and Velocityut
September 24, 12:00-18:00
Sanma is the delicious autumn fish of Japan! The local young potters are taking the day off to grill over 400 of these fish and let the matsuri-goers have a free taste! There will also be different goods shops and if you purchase 2,000 yen or more, you can get a free 300 gram sample of YumeShizuku rice.
September 24 and 25, 9:00-17:00
Alice in Wonderland Tea Time and Pottery Treasure Hunting
Spend tea time in Wonderland; all languages welcome. Tea sets are all Arita Pottery, you can even rent a costume! There will also be a pottery-making experience available.
If you really LOVE Pottery, you can pay 5,000yen and raid a warehouse filling a box with all your favorites! No limits, apparently…
September 22-25, 11:00-15:00
MABOROSHI Festival by TaicoClub!
Come experience Japanese taiko drums mixed in with techno, electronica, post-rock, etc.
A live event with live performers and DJs.
September 25, 2pm-8pm
Takeo Lantern Exhibition by Team Labo
Take a stroll through extraordinary light shows by Team Labo that will be displayed all over the city.
September 25, 8pm-10pm
Learn about the heavens and enjoy the Takeo Planetarium.
September 24, 11am-10pm
Party with a Geiko; DJ style!
A DJ night of dancing with Geiko at the famous OmuraYa Ryokan.
September 23, 9pm~ 1,500yen with one drink
There are three terms that are associated with the foreign idea of Geisha…
Traditional Games with a Geiko
Practice your Japanese traditional games skill with Geiko! Free!
September 24, 8:30~
Funeral for the Ureshino Sex Museum…!
For those who do not know, there used to be a museum on the outskirts of Ureshino that housed many an artifact of the risqué… This funeral will be a show/performance to pay final respects to a museum that devoted itself to life, literally…
September 23, doors open 7pm, show starts at 8pm
2,500yen for advanced tickets/ 3,000yen at door.
Yukata and Slippers Ping-Pong Match
For those considering a stay in Ryokan at the end of the day, Wear your ryokan’s yukata and grab their slippers for an evening of friendly ping pong!
September 25, registration 8pm, games start at 9pm.
(For additional information, please contact the Maruhiro Group at 0955-42-2777. Events listed are not the only events. Please purchase the book or contact Maruhiro Group to get a full listing of activities.)
Have you ever woken up thinking, “I’m going to make some miso today…”? Of course not, and do you know why…? Because in Japan, you can buy miso anywhere, in any variety, and for a very reasonable cost! However, there is a certain sense of great accomplishment if you can make your very own, hand-made, year supply of miso!
I took a journey to the country side of Minami Shimabara to learn from a 79-year-old Japanese Obachan (aunt). Together, we went through this long, yet suprisingly easy process of making miso and I would like to share my experience with you… From barley and soy beans to that delicious salty Japanese condiment that has won the world over, here we go:
First, we woke up at about 5:30am to start boiling the soy beans (大豆daizu). Yes, 5:30 in the morning! I do not make a habit of waking up that early, especially for boiling beans, but I made an exception for Obachan (to be honest, she had the mouth of a sailor and could probably beat me up, so I didn’t want to make her angry).
The daizu were soaked in water over night until they swell almost double in size! In the morning, we started boiling them. It took roughly 3 hours and then simmered for another hour until soft. In the end, they should be able to be smooshed easily between two fingers (just two… 3 would be cheating and will result in less tasty miso… maybe; I didn’t argue).
While the daizu were in their hot water bath (I was a little jealous), it was time to prepare the barely for fermentation. For those who don’t know, barely is simply called mugi (麦) in Japanese. You often see it mixed in rice to make mugi-gohan (麦ごはん) or roasted and used for barley tea (麦茶mugi-cha). I am unsure whether the barley we used was pearl or hulled, but by its hardness, I think it was hulled. (I am barely a barley expert so if I am incorrect, pardon me.)
First, we soaked the mugi in tap water for about two hours. Then, we drained it and put it into pans called mushiki (蒸し器). They have small holes in the bottom to allow steam to pass through. The mushiki were lined with mushi-nuno (蒸し布), similar to cheese cloth. Obachan told me that using the cloth made it easier to dump out the mugi after it steamed. However, she forgot (she told me I forgot, but it was really her) to put cloth in one of the mushiki… and I didn’t really notice any difference when dumping out the mugi. Actually, with the cloth, it was oddly enough less easy. I did not tell her this.
All three pots were stacked onto a firewood stove (薪釜maki-gama) and began steamming. Obachan said that when steam rose from the top pot, the bottom pot was finished. I was not sure if this was an exact science, so I asked her about how long it would take. Her answer was, “It depends on how well you keep the fire burning.” Ok…..
Here’s the thing… she was right… You must keep the fire raging, otherwise steam will NOT come out of the top mushiki! For my fire-keeping skills, it took roughly 35-40 minutes… After we removed the bottom pan, the middle and top pots took an additional 10 minutes each. That was decided by Obachan intuition.
When the mugi was finished steaming, we dumped it into big pans and stirred it with shamoji (しゃもじ), a wooden spoon usually used to scoop cooked rice. Ok, Ok.. I used the shamoji… Obachan used her hands! I tried my hands… but it was like really HOT! When the mugi was cooled enough to touch without causing pain (about 35-40°C), we added the koji-culture (麹菌kouji-kin). If you add the culture when it is still hot, the bacteria will die. You must mix it very well using your hands attempting to coat each and every grain!
In order for the bacteria do it’s magic, we prepared the mugi to rest. And when I say rest, I mean a complete futon set! First, we set up modern day beer crates as a low table in a small work shed. On top of the crates, we put down an electric carpet set on high heat.
Then we lined 2,000-year-old wood boxes* called koji-buta (麹蓋) with fusuma-gami (ふすま紙), paper used in making Japanese sliding doors. We spread the mugi inside the boxes and put them on top of the beer crates creating a good yin-yang balance. We covered the mugi with fusuma-gami and started layering blankets.. and electric heating blankets… then a silver insulation mat… then a green tarp…. and finally one last silver insulation mat. Once the mugi were all snuggled into bed, we turned on the heating blankets and left them in peace.
*The boxes were not really 2,000 years old… they looked very old… However, while we were putting the mugi in them, Obachan told me that the man who made them had died recently. The immediate word out of my mouth was SUGOI!… probably not the correct term for the situation, but I didn’t really know what to say…
Back to the daizu… they were easily squashed between two fingers and ready to be pulverized. Little by little, we poured them into a large food processor and flipped the switch. By the looks of the food processor, it had been in the family for generations. I was a little worried about the rust around the edges, but Obachan said it added flavor. We did not grind the daizu into a perfect paste. It was a paste with a rich texture of whole, half and fine-chopped daizu. Technically, we could have used our hands, but that would have taken forever. Then we put the mash into supermarket plastic bags… again I was worried about this… but again, I was told, “added flavor!”
We put all the bags of daizu in the refrigerator, washed all the pans, bowls, and utinsils used and that was the end of day one! Obachan and I celebrated with a 6-pack of beer. She had four and I had two.
We started a little later today (11am)… a little extra sleep for me and a little extra time for the mugi to ferment. Obachan woke up around 5am just to show off, I’m sure.
We uncovered the mugi and my first reaction was, “I’m going to eat this?! Gross!” My next reaction was, “Wow, it smells like beer…!” And Obachan‘s reaction was, “Would you like a beer?” I said it was a little too early for beer and she said, “why?” I told her I didn’t know.. and I enjoyed a mid-moring beer while she washed out the giant mixing bowl.
Ok, back to the mugi and mold! The mugi grains were cocooned in a white mold called koji (麹). This is what gives miso its classic umami (旨味) taste. Umami is a Japanese term that is now used all over the world and roughly means “rich flavor.” Koji plays a very important role in Japanese cuisine.. for more information, do a google search. I asked Obachan about the health benefits of koji and miso. Her response, “I have eaten it everyday and I am not dead.” Fair answer.
At last, we enter the final stage of this process… Mixing! In a large metal pan, we put 10 heaping isshou-masu (一升枡) fulls of the mugi-koji. A masu ( 枡) is a wooden box traditionally used to measure rice or from which to drink Japanese sake (日本酒nihon-shu). Isshou (一升) refers to its size. There are 6 sizes of masu and isshou is the largest holding about 1.8 liters. Drinking Japanese sake from an isshou-masu is not recommended. With our hands, we broke up all clumps of mugi into individual grains. My hands smelled like beer for the rest of the day.
To the 10 masu of koji, we added one heaping masu of salt. Adding salt keeps the mixture from turning into alcohol. We used regular sea salt, a brand that can be found at any supermarket in Japan. By hand, we mixed the mugi-koji and salt until the salt was evenly dispersed. We then dumped in one plastic bag of daizu mash and started hand churning. This was not easy. In fact, it was quite a workout! When Obachan makes miso alone, she mixes only 5 masu at a time. I beat her at sometime! Yes! Finally I felt worthy (except I had muscle pain in my arms, neck, back, and chest for a few days)!
After the mugi-koji and daizu were completely and perfectly incorporated into each other, we scooped the mixture into a big bucket (樽taru) lined with a large, clear plastic bag. Each time we put in a layer, we pressed it down to get rid of air pockets.
When the taru was full, we folded the plastic bag over the top of the miso and set a wooden lid (押し蓋oshi-buta) on top. We put some very heavy weights (重石omoshi) on it that help keep the fermentation process balance throughout the taru. One was a nice white one.. and the other looked like it had been some device from a world war. I had reservations about touching it, but Obachan told me to hurry up. Without thinking, I picked up the 20kg hunk of metal and placed it on top.
That was the end of the two-day process. Obachan told me the miso would be ready in about 10 days. We cleaned all the pans and utensils, said Otsukaresama (a term meaning “good work today”) and she went inside to take a nap. Despite waking up at about 10:30am, I also took a nap.