Saturday, July 9, 2022

Like a Lotus flower

I feel cool breeze wafting from the window by my side as I write this post.
I also hear the thunder rolling after raining cats and dogs.
Only rain can soften the heat.

As season progresses into mid-summer, Hydrangeas are withering while Lotuses have come into bloom.
Lotuses grow in muddy water, stretch straight to the sunlight, and bloom graceful untainted by the mud.
In some Buddhist schools, it is thought that each stage of growth of Lotus symbolizes 
each step to enlightenment. 

In late June, we suffered the record swealtering heat wave for June since 1875.
Some of you would have suffered from heat wave, but people living in less humid places
 wouldn't know how unberable and deadly the heat wave with high humidity can be.
Sweats don't dissipate and there's no escape except for air conditioning.
We were advised to use it despite calls for energy saving due to looming power shortage.

Toshodai-ji Temple

As you might know, our ex-PM Abe was shot to death during the election campaign yesterday.
It happeded right at the place I often walk by.
In my country, owing gun is extremely difficult and gun crime is very rare.  
A man killed Abe with homemade gun not from political belief but personal grudge against a relitious cult.
 To another NGO organization of it, Abe once sent a supporting video message.
which could have caused misunderstanding about his relation to it. (Added on July 13th)
I didn't agree with Abe for everything, but his dedication to the country and the world 
for peace keeping is sorely missed (tears).

In the rain

Nothing remanis the same.
The terrible heat wave doesn't last so long, but the frequency and intensity have increased.
There are appauling absurdity with no prospect of end.
I'll keep my fingers crossed; merky situation in all the different kinds and degrees end soon 
through cooperation toward the light of the sun and no one lose humanity.
 "An eye to an eye makes the whole world blind." (Mahatma Gandhi)

It's been raining on and off like usual early July and I could catch my breath
before tackling again with our usual notorious scorching and muggy midsummer.
It's time for me to slow down to enjoy the idleness of the season apart from this laptop.
See you in September, Friends!

More details about Lotus flowers, The life of  the Sacred Lotus flowers 

Linked to Mosaic Monday

Sunday, June 26, 2022

紫陽花 Ajisai walk, joy of rainy season

梅雨 Apricot Rains, the rainy season, set in June 14th in my part of Japan.
Usually I prefer this muggy but relatively cool season to the sizzling, scorching midsummer.
This year, however, I'm alrealy tired of swealtering heat with the temperature 
topnotching 35C for June so far in Nara.

Nontheless, walking through Ajisai, or Hydrangeas, is the joy of this season.
Ajisai is the floral symbol of Japan's rainy season.

June 22nd

In the precinct of Hannyaji Temple, "Ajisai Bowls" displaed artistically
bring out the sense of coolness.
The low-angle image above shows floating Ajisai upper sphere and 
green reflection lower sphere.
I think Wagashi (Japanese sweets) craftsman would be inspired to their works.

I named the Ajisai bowl below "Ajisai Planet".

Ajisai Bowls are offered to stone Buddha statues....,

.... and are displayed here and there in the precinct.

The origin of the word Ajisai was 集真藍 "azu sa ai" meaning "gathering 
(indigo) blue colors".
According to Japanese botanist Tomitaro MAKINO, Ajisai native to mountanious
 area of Japan would have been blue colors and is thought to be 
lace cap Ajisai with indigo blue amphoteric flower surrounded by ornamental flower (sepals).

Ajisai is written in the two poems in Manyoshu Anthology compiled during 
the Nara Period (710-784).
you'll learn about Ajisai species native to Japan.
They were brought into Europe by a German Dr. Philip Franz von Siebold 
(1796-1866) and were introduced in his Flora Japonica.
In 20th century, Ajisai hybridized in various colors with bigger flower heads returned home. 

When I walked through Ajisai at Nagai Botanical Garden, most of Ajisai were 
pale colors at their early stage of bloom.
Under the threatening skies, Ajisai were blooming quietly.

June 14th

Colored Ajisai is whitish color at first and gradually turn into deep color.
Each sepal of the Ajisai below were in the process of truning to clear blue.

Blue is my favorite color; the color of the sky and the ocean.
I've loved the clear blue Ajisai due to granite at the Rokko Mountain Range
 in my home town Kobe.
Your blues of any kind or rainy blues would be consoled by the Ajisai blues.

 One day Ajisai were vibrant in the wet garden of mine.

I've been missing the rainy days since then. 
Hot, sunny days are forecasted for the entire week and the rainy season 
will end soon before we have enough rain for the dry midsummer.

Linked to Mosaic Monday

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Craftmanship and beauty in 和菓子 Japanese confectioneries

"Wagashi" are traditional Japanese confectioneries that are typically enjoyed 
with a cup of green tea.
Among all kinds of wagashi, "namagashi" (meaning "fresh confectionary") 
are artistically and carefully shaped by hand to reflect the nature in season. 

春爛漫, Spring in full bloom

Namagashi is the one served at Tea Ceremony with bitter powdered green tea.
It must be eaten in a day because it is so fresh but perishable.
They contain more than 30 percent water and are made of rice flour,
sweet red, white, or green bean paste filling in general
and sometimes fruit jelly filling.

朧月夜, A hazy moon of spring

Each single ingredient is chosen carefully regarding texture, colors, shapes and so on.
In hot season, transparent kanten/agar is used to create coolnes like the "summer pond."
It is a namagashi served chilled in hot season.

Summer pond

Hydrangea, with iced green tea

Other namagashi; Crane, Peony, Chrythunthemum 
and Unfurling nature of spring, clockwise.

Unfurling nature of spring

Apart from namagashi, there are many more casually eaten wagashi.
Many Japanese people feel like eating Sakura-mochi and/or 
Uguisu/Japanese bush warbler-mochi through February to March
when people can hardly wait for the arrival of spring.
Sakura-mochi is warpped with slightly salted sakura leaf.
Uguisu-mochi is coated with bean flour.
(About Japanese bush warbler and uguisu-mochi, here.)

In Sakura season, various sweets suggestive of Sakura and spring are sold.
Red bean paste wrapped in "gyuhi", kind of soft rice cake,
 is wrapped in pancake-like patty.

Kuri/chestnut is a dlicacy of autumn.
This Kuri manjyu is a bun stuffed with boiled-smashed-chesnut paste,
small pieces of chestnut and white bean jam.

"Daifuku" are made of soft rice cake and sweet white bean paste or other fillings. 
They are covered with a light dusting of katakuri-root starch to keep them from sticking together. 
(Lower right in the mosaic)
Daifuku should be eaten quickly as they become hard if left exposed to air.

Blueberry and tangerine daifukus.

"Monaka" consists of a wafer shell filled with sweet bean paste. 
The wafer shells come in different shapes and sizes from simple, round shells 
to more intricately designed ones.
The monaka below are specilaty of an established shop in my hometown, Kobe.
雪月花, snow, moon and flowers, is one of the basic concepts in traditional Japanese aesthetics.

Western sweets, which are mostly made of animal ingredients such as eggs, 
butter, gelatine and milk, are high in fat.
On the other hand, Japanese sweets, of which ingredients are mainly vegetable
products such as rice, wheat, beans, fruits, agar and water, are low in fat
but tend to be high in sugar.
I like both Western and Japanese sweets and eat them with low GI black coffee.
Wagashi taste nice with not only green tea but also black coffee.

Linked to Mosaic Monday