Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tempura is best when hot, The Amazing Day Part 3

For dinner Monday night we went to a tempura restaurant called Oozawa (おおざわ) in Gion with Oya-san courtesy of my parents. I was great because we got to have a real good Japanese meal, and otherwise we would not have had the opportunity. To start, we had tea and beer and a small daikon and carrot salad. The tempura came next served three pieces at a time including: shrimp cake*, quail egg*, ginkgo nut*, squid in a parrilla leaf*, butterbur scape*, shitake mushroom with shrimp, lightning bug squid*, lotus root*, shrimp*, fish, corn, and asparagus. All of the *ed items were firsts for me, I felt very adventuresome. It was all delicious. The lightning bug squid were the hardest to swallow, though, since they were whole two inch squid and Oya-san told me they were called lightning bug because they are phosphorescent. At least they were battered and fried so I couldn't really see what was going on! The best one was the butterbur scape; it had a nice spring fresh flavor. The tempura was followed by tendon, a mixed tempura over rice in a small bowl. After that came a bowl of miso soup and a dish of Japanese pickles. It took a very long time to eat as they would bring out one dish every 7 - 10 minute, so while we arrived at 7:00PM we did not leave until they closed at 10:00PM. For dessert we got tempura green tea ice cream, not quite as crispy as Mexican fried ice cream, but still delicious. It was all so nice.

Oya-san showed us his urushi brushes, told us how to take care of them, and gave us more information about getting into the Kyoto City University of Art's urushi program as research students. Unfortunately they will not be accepting foreign students for at least two years since one of their four urushi professors was promoted to school minister.

We talked about the Kami, spirit, in everything, even a tea cup. Kami are the basis of Shinto, the old religion of Japan, something I still want to learn more about. Oya-san said Buddhism was still very new in Japan, only 1000 years old! And how Buddha, even Jesus, were considered just more Kami.

We also talked about individuality and cleanliness. Oya-san said Japanese people like things to be clean. They sweep the streets in front of their shops and homes because it makes them happy, and maybe it will make passers-by happy, too. We said in America we pay taxes so someone else should sweep the streets, it is city property after all, not private property. This is also why in America some people can have immaculate lawns, but still throw trash on the side walks; it is not their space, they don't care. It also has to do with the communal vs. individual ideology.
As an example, in chess, a Western game, the king is the most important piece. If you lose the king you lose the game, so I'd always rather have a king than any other piece. After the king all the pieces have a rank making some more valuable than others. This puts a lot of emphasis on the individual pieces, as does the fact that they are all unique and move in different ways. In igo, an Eastern game, no piece is better than any other. They are all the same, I wouldn't rather have one over another. Alone, each piece is weak, but in groups they become powerful and can claim territory. This puts a focus on community and shared labor.

Saying goodbye to Oya-san was very hard, and our experiences with him and Saori-san made us want to return to Japan even sooner. I don't even want to leave, you can get stuck here. I have so many ideas now, I wish I had a residency lined up for when I got back so I could spend time working on them with out focusing too much on staying alive.

Tonight was our last Klexon meeting and again we had to say goodbye to many of our new friends. It was so sad. Hopefully we will be able to keep in touch via email and skype until we return again for some urushi goodness.


Anonymous said...

Leavings are so hard but you have so many wonderful memories to carry in your heart with you and so much to be grateful for - an experience of a lifetime. The dinner sounds very exotic - how brave of you to try all of those. Can't wait to see what the next chapter brings - Bonnie