日本での一年間

May 17, 2011

Sanouji, a Japan top 100 Terraced-Rice Field

I apologize for the delay in new posts, but I am back from my travels and have many more pictures to post in the coming weeks. I went to Hong Kong and Thailand during my 2 week trip. But I have yet to sort through those photos, so for now I will keep posting some pictures taken in Japan before my trip.

Not too far from the Japan top 100 pond from my previous post, is another Japan top 100, a top 100 terraced-rice field (棚田日本100選). When I visited, it was still barely spring and the lush green that I could probably see in the summer time was still a lazy brown. But it was still very…terraced. I can see why it’s in the top 100!

Several levels of the terraced rice field

These rice field levels are all smushed together

This tree was blooming by the rice fields.

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March 31, 2011

Making Mochi Rice Cakes (Mochi tsuki)

Filed under: Cuisine, Events, Food, Interesting — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 7:58 am

It is hard to imagine Japan without Mochi, Japanese rice cakes. Anytime time of the year, but especially around new years, it is popular in many communities and families around Japan to pound rice and make mochi, a kind of rice cake. (I don’t particularly like defining mochi as rice cakes because rice cake can refer to many, many things, but I don’t know of a better definition.) Around new years, I was visiting an elementary school and explaining what new years in like in the states to them. While in Japan, there are particular children’s and games and food associated with New Years, a lot of the new years fun in the states is much more fun for adults, so I had difficulty conveying new years to them in an interesting way. When asked if there was special food for new years, I drew a blank. One kid asked me if we have mochi in the states and when I said no, he said, “good thing I was born in Japan.”

In the states, most people who know mochi probably know it in the form of mochi ice cream. Mochi ice cream was the first kind of mochi that I ever ate. In recent years, I’ve also seen small bite-sized pieces of mochi offered as toppings at some frozen yogurt chains.

To make mochi, glutinous rice is pounded down using a wooden pestle called a kine (pronounced key-neigh) and a mortar called an usu. As the rice is pounded, the individual grains cease to exist and it all becomes one sticky mass of rice. It is then shaped and eaten as is or put into a kind of soup. It can also be filled with red bean paste or sometimes with strawberries. For the lazy ones among us, there are now machines that pound the mochi for you, including ones small enough to have at home.

mochi tsuki

Preparing to strike.

mochi tsuki

Bam!

in the mortar

In the mochi mortar. The mochi really sticks to the kine hammer.

yomogi

In addition to plain, white mochi, we also pounded out some green mochi and pink mochi. This is yomogi (Japanese mugwort), the plant used to make the mochi turn green.

preparation

Preparing soem green mochi. We filled a lot of then with anko (red adzuki bean pastes). The anko is what you see on the left on the circular plate.

February 13, 2011

World’s Largest Rice Paddle

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic, Trips — Tags: , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 11:59 pm

I’m a little bit skeptical of anything claiming to be the world’s first or biggest or fastest. And in Japan, I’ve grown skeptical of anything claiming to have the top spot in Japan alone. (They claim Japan’s oldest shrine is somewhere around here, but googling in English and Japanese has lead to mixed results and no mention of the old shrine around here. Although, I guess there are many definitions of oldest… But I digress…) Whether or not things are as old as they say they are or larger than any other, they are least quite old or quite large and this is no exception.

Miyajima is said to be the place where rice paddles were invented and rice paddles are available as souvenirs all over the island. They can be bought at the shrine and the shops alike and come in various sizes. But the largest rice paddle is not for sale. It is on display on the main street of the town, just a short walk from the port.

Largest rice paddle

World's largest rice paddle! (or at least a rice paddle labeled as such.)

Largest shakushi

A view of the rice paddle from the side. See those people on the left? Even on its side, the rice paddle is taller than them. That is pretty darn big. But no one could ever use this rice paddle!

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