Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Foxy Japan

Origami Inari Fox (from www.h5.dion.ne.jp)

A few weeks back I had a rather tasty style of rice for school lunch known as kitsunegohan. I pressed the name into my memory but gave no more thought to it (other than to enjoy it of course).

Some days later the weather was rather sporadic - sunny with sudden bursts of rain - and I heard a teacher refer to it as kitsunenoyomeiri. My brain, despite being rather cold and wrapped up in itself at the time, sparked at recognising kitsune and I asked what it referred to. I discovered that kitsune -狐- is Japanese for fox, kitsunegohan meaning "fox rice" and kitsunenoyomeiri -- meaning "the fox's wedding."

After some asking around and a little research I discovered that in Japanese culture the fox is perceived as a highly intelligent and magical creature, featuring heavily in folklore. In Shintoism, the god of rice - Inari* - uses foxes as his messengers. It is from here the name for the rice dish comes from. It is also believed that foxes marry eachother during rain showers, hence this type of weather referred to as "the fox's wedding." Foxes are also perceived as tricksters and deceivers, and it was once believed that any woman out on her own at night could be a fox in disguise. It is also believed that a fox has the ability to possess a human and control his actions for its own purposes.

*Inarizushi -稲荷寿司- is a type of sushi dish, consisting of rice stuffed into a layer of fried tofu. It's very delicious and tastes (obviously) very similar to fox rice.

An all that from a tasty bowl of rice.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

I eat suzumebachi for breakfast

A few weeks ago a couple of us headed down south to the deepest, darkest depths of Neba village where Matt had arranged for us to meet a few locals and partake in some delicacies. I think the photos below will explain all.

Our first job was to remove all the bees and pupae from the honeycomb.

Gently gently.

Oddly sweet once you get past the slimy bit.


Bees, half-bees and pupae.

Cooked bees, half-bees and pupae. Yum!

A quick forage in the woods turned up some delicious Shiitake mushrooms..

.. and some others ideal for miso soup.

Dessert was... er.. not what I was expecting. The Suzumebachi ("Sparrow Bee", also known as the Giant Asian Hornet or "Yak-killer") is probably one of the most frightening insects you are likely to meet in rural Japan. A sting from one of these things is rather nasty and kills dozens of people every year. Not only has the pain been described as "a hot nail being driven into the flesh", the poison itself melts your flesh. At the same time the hornet gives off a pheromone that tells all the others in the area to come and sting you. That's if you aren't dead from the first one, of course. Crunchy but sweet.

Autumn & Onsens

Woof! A long time since the last blog. I must be slacking. My excuse is I've been enthralled with the Japanese Autumn. That'll have to do.

This month the sun has still been lovely and warm but the mornings and nights have been rather cold. This in turn gives the prefect opportunity for onsens! The one in Takamori is one of my favourites and offers great views of the Shimoina area and the Minami Alps. The pics in this blog are a couple I'm taken there.