Dokkōdō (獨行道)

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Dokkōdō

Miyamoto Musashi, Japan’s greatest samurai’s 21 Rules to Live by:

1. Accept everything just the way it is.
2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.
3. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.
4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
5. Be detached from desire your whole life long.
6. Do not regret what you have done.
7. Never be jealous.
8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.
9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor others.
10. Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love.
11. In all things have no preferences.
12. Be indifferent to where you live.
13. Do not pursue the taste of good food.
14. Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need.
15. Do not act following customary beliefs.
16. Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful.
17. Do not fear death.
18. Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age.
19. Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.
20. You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honour.
21. Never stray from the Way.”
~ Miyamoto Musashi

Japanese Culture Profile: Shōkadō bentō (松花堂弁当) 

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Japanese Culture Profile:

Shōkadō bentō (松花堂弁当) —>The traditional lunch box covered with a lid, that originates from the Early Edo Period. It is named after Shōkadō Shōjō (松花堂昭乗, 1584-1639), a monk, calligrapher, tea ceremony master and poet. He used divided boxes to carry and organize materials needed for calligraphy, and eventually also used them to carry his lunch. This style of a black or red lacquered wooden or plastic box is now commonly used to present bento meals in restaurants. These lunchboxes were originally made for storing tobacco and paints.

Japanese Tea Ceremony

What is the tea ceremony?

The tea ceremony involves preparing powdered tea for guests according to custom and enjoying its austere taste quietly and serenely. Influenced by Zen Buddhism, the tea ceremony seeks to purify the mind and attain oneness with nature.

The ceremonial serving of tea used to be exclusively practiced by nobles and priests who gave it its original form around the middle of the fourteenth century. Its popularity gradually spread to wealthy merchants, warlords during the era of civil warfare (in the 15th and 16th centuries), and their retainers.

The tea ceremony has been modified in many ways over the years. Until the end of the Edo period (1603-1867) it was practiced almost entirely by men; women joined in only after the beginning of the Meiji era (1868-1912).

There are many schools of tea ceremony, including the three Senke schools of Ura, Omote, and Mushanokoji. They all uphold the spirit of the ceremony while observing their own distinctive styles of preparing and serving tea.

#JapaneseCulture #TeaCeremony #ZenBuddhism

Chigusa and the Art of Tea

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Written originally in 2014:

Yesterday (Sunday) I decided to jump on the metro and head into Washington DC and go to a museum.  It is one of my favorite activities when I have the time after all.  I am so lucky to be living in an area with so many high-caliber museums and even luckier that the vast majority of them are free.  Having just moved to the area it is definitely something I am not used to and have been taking advantage of whenever I’ve had the opportunity.  I glanced on the internet to check what temporary exhibitions were going on and my choice was simple as I settled upon the Freer / Sackler Museums of Asian art.  After my morning coffee, a short walk, forty-five minutes of Zazen and a blueberry-banana smoothie I was ready to go.

I grabbed my copy of The Three Pillars of Zen that I have been re-reading and headed to the metro.  I was rather excited to get to the museums as there were several exhibits that were ending today.  Sorry folks if you are interested in them you won’t be able to see them.  Among those exhibitions was one “Chigusa and the Art of Tea,” I was particularly interested in.  If you are wondering what Chigusa is then join the club because I had no clue.  Turned out it was, “a utilitarian piece, a large stoneware jar made in southern China in the 13th or 14th century and exported to Japan for use as a commercial container” (Smithsonian Institution).

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My interest was piqued for sure and I grabbed my seat on the metro and heading into town.   I have for a long time had an interest in asia and their affinity and significance they hold in tea with the Japanese Tea Ceremony in particular.  This exhibit would have Japanese, Chinese and Korean tea artifacts as well as Chigusa of course.

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I wouldn’t say the exhibition disappointed, but it was a lot smaller than I expected.  I learned some interesting and valuable information such as “This mill for grinding tea leaves into fine powder is made of black granite from the Kamo River, which flows through Kyoto. The leaves are added from the opening in the top, and the powder emerges from between the stones, accumulating in the trough. It takes about an hour to grind enough tea for a bowl of “thick tea,” which is shared by all the guests, typically two or three people” (Smithsonian Institution).

Truth be known I don’t usually get all that excited about pottery or ceramics.  I appreciate them and their historical significance, but usually my interest begins to mane after about half an hour.  I spent a good hour examining the artifacts in this collection as other people at the museum came and went.  I found the a tea caddy named Ueda Bunrin especially beautiful.

Chigusa

 

Yosedofu (寄せ豆腐): Easy Japanese Soft Tofu

2 teaspoons liquid nigari *
3 cups Tezukuri Tonyu (Homemade Soy Milk)

Thin the nigari with 1 teaspoon water. Heat the soy milk in a double boiler over high heat until the soy milk reaches 167 degrees. Remove the pot holding the soy milk, insert a flat wooden spoon in the milk, and immediately pour the nigari against the spoon. Slowly stir the soy milk, making 3 wide revolutions and only 3 revolutions, and pull the wooden spoon straight up out of the coagulating soy milk. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.

Scoop the tofu into small bowls and serve drizzled with a little soy sauce or sprinkled with sea salt. If you are looking for a bit more enhanced flavor and presentation, garnish soy sauce–flavored tofu with finely chopped chives and a dab of grated ginger or salt-flavored with a smidge of freshly grated wasabi.

* Nigari —> Concentrated solution of salts (esp. magnesium chloride) left over after the crystallization of seawater or brine.  Can be bought at any Asian Grocer or online,

Tezukuri Tonyu (豆乳): Homemade Soy Milk

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⅓ pound small, flavorful dried soybeans

Soak the soybeans in 3 times their amount of fresh spring or well water (2½ cups) for 9 to 15 hours depending upon the ambient temperature.

Scoop one-third of the soybeans and soaking water into a blender, process on high for 2 minutes, and pour into a large mixing bowl. Repeat until all the beans have been processed. Bring 2¾ cups spring or well water to a boil over high heat in a medium well-insulated pot. Add the soybean mixture and bring almost to a boil, stirring constantly, to ensure it does not scorch.  This is important!

Remove from the heat source and let the foam subside for about 15 minutes. Heat again slowly over low heat for 10 minutes.

While the soybean mixture is heating, set a fine-mesh strainer over a large mixing bowl. Line the strainer with a clean muslin cheesecloth.  After 8 to 10 minutes have elapsed, pour the hot soybean mixture through the cheesecloth.

Twist up the free ends to squeeze out the excess liquid, but let it cool for about 10 or 15 minutes before squeezing the bundle to get the last drops of liquid out of the solids. In the bowl you will have fresh soy milk ready to use for drinking or making Soft Tofu.

In the cheesecloth, you will have okara (soybean pulp). Use okara immediately in many recipes or store in the fridge for up to 2 days. After that, freeze it.

“School” Vocabulary

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The challenges and difficulties of learning a new language are many and with Japanese even more so with its three separate sets of characters (hiragana, katakana and kanji), but I find it absolutely fascinating and look forward to my study time each day. This was my vocabulary list I worked on this week:

人 【ひと】 – person
アメリカ人 【アメリカ・じん】 – American (person)
フランス人 【フランス・じん】 – French (person)
日本 【に・ほん】 – Japan
本 【ほん】 – book
学生 【がく・せい】 – student
先生 【せん・せい】 – teacher
高い 【たか・い】 – tall; expensive
学校 【がっ・こう】 – school
高校 【こう・こう】 – high school
小さい 【ちい・さい】 – small
大きい 【おお・きい】 – big
小学校 【しょう・がっ・こう】 – elementary school
中学校 【ちゅう・がっ・こう】 – middle school
大学 【だい・がく】 – college; university
中学生 【ちゅう・がく・せい】 – middle school student
大学生 【だい・がく・せい】 – college; university student
国 【くに】 – country
中国 【ちゅう・ごく】 – China
中国人 【ちゅう・ごく・じん】 – Chinese (person)
日本語 【に・ほん・ご】 – Japanese language
中国語 【ちゅう・ごく・ご】 – Chinese language
英語 【えい・ご】 – English
フランス語 【フランス・ご】 – French
スペイン語 【スペイン・ご】 – Spanish
大学生 【だい・がく・せい】 – college student
社会人 【しゃ・かい・じん】 – working adult
中国 【ちゅう・ごく】 – China
韓国 【かん・こく】 – South Korea
カナダ – Canada
イギリス – England
オーストラリア – Australia
フランス – France
スペイン – Spain
ブラジル – Brazil
メキシコ – Mexico

Hiragana: An Introduction

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Hiragana is the main phonetic writing system in Japanese used to represent every distinct sound.

The table represents the entire Hiragana characters organized by the consonant and vowel sounds. Most sounds in Japanese are easily represented by a vowel or consonant-vowel, “chi,” “shi,” “fu,” and “tsu” are the only exceptions as shown in the chart.  There is also one consonant-only sound: “ん”. The above chart also shows the stroke order for Hiragana.

A simplified chart without stroke order is shown below:

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Here are a few sample words in Hiragana:

あう —> to meet

いえ —> house

おい —> nephew

うえ —> above

いう —> to say

Practice writing the hiragana characters to help commit them to memory. You can do this on a blank sheet of paper or here are some easy practice sheets you can print out below.  Make sure you practice the proper stroke order.  It will be helpful to get in the practice before moving on to the more complex Kanji.

Practice sheets: http://japanese-lesson.com/characters/hiragana/hiragana_writing.html

Chanko-Nabe (ちゃんこ鍋): Pot Meal for Sumo Wrestlers

Chanko-nabe – Pot Meal for Sumo Wrestlers

Sumo wrestlers eat chanko-nabe every day to build up strength. Nabe means “Pot” (or a meal simmered in a pot); chanko is the meal eaten by sumo wrestlers. At the sumo stable—the place where wrestlers live and train—there is no hard-and-fast rule about what goes into the pot. Common ingredients are chicken, tofu, and vegetables like Welsh onions and Chinese cabbage, all cooked in a seasoned soup stock.

Japanese cuisine offers a variety of one-pot meals served with rice. Soup stock is heated in a pot at the dining table. Previously cut ingredients, generally vegetables, fish and/or meat, are simmered and eaten around the table. The Japanese enjoy the camaraderie that comes from gathering around a nabe with family members or good friends, especially when it is cold outside.

Sumo wrestlers start their day with a long training session. After grappling, colliding and throwing each other around, expending plenty of energy, they are ready for a hearty meal that is both breakfast and lunch. One job of a sumo wrestler is to eat a lot and gain extra strength. They eat lots of rice, and chanko-nabe, which has plenty of liquid, goes down well with the rice. The vegetables, fish and meat, plus the rice, offer a nutritional balance that is easy to digest. And the meal is easy to make and serve, because one big pot holds enough for the many wrestlers eating together. This explains how chanko-nabe became an essential part of the world of sumo…

#ChankoNabe #JapaneseCulture #CulinaryJapan

Chadō (茶道): The Way Of Tea

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The Japanese tea ceremony, also called the Way of Tea, is a Japanese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha (抹茶), powdered green tea.

In Japanese, it is called chanoyu (茶の湯) or sadō, chadō (茶道), while the manner in which it is performed, or the art of its performance, is called (o)temae ([お]手前; [お]点前).  Zen Buddhism was a primary influence in the development of the Japanese tea ceremony. Much less commonly, Japanese tea practice uses leaf tea, primarily sencha, in which case it is known in Japanese as senchadō (煎茶道, the way of sencha) as opposed to chanoyu or chadō.