Monday, September 29, 2008

Kyoto Day 7: Cooking and Wandering

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

As today was the Autumnal Equinox, it was a Japanese national holiday. Officially unofficially to celebrate ohigan. On both equinoxes, the Japanese care for their ancestral grave sites in accordance with Buddhist traditions. Officially the Japanese government can't recognize one religion over the others, so ohigan isn't the "legal" reason for the holiday. (Or so Mr. Hirooka explained to us on his tour.)

In other words, it was extremely busy on the buses and streets because of the holiday. Alice and I had reservations to attend a mini-lesson at the Uzuki Cookery. Held in her home, Emiko—not to be confused with the Emiko we'd been out with on Sunday night—teaches Japanese cooking classes in English.

Emiko's English is very good and she's a competent cook able to explain ingredients and procedures. Sometimes she refers to English-language books explaining Japanese food or spices to help expand. Normally classes involve four dishes to create a complete meal and take three hours, but we had a mini-lesson which only involved two basic dishes.

Kyoto-style Japanese food involves subtle flavors with particular accents. It's not a lot of strong spices or sauces like Tokyo-style food. These subtle flavors create refreshing, crisp dishes. We had a lot of fun! So if you're in Kyoto and interested in cooking, I'd recommend you contact her to arrange for a class. She's also got a blog.

Aemono salad: made of spinach, grilled mushrooms and Japanese sesame dressing.

Goma-ae salad: cooked spinach with sesame dressing.

Ohitashi salad: cucumbers with sesame paste dressing and a ginger garnish.

Dashimaki-tamago: an omlete-like roll.

The meal of three salads and dashi-maki tamago with rice.

After the cooking lesson, Alice had to go to work. I decided to visit the Kyoto International Manga Museum, as it was only a stop away from Shijou on the subway. The museum is interesting, but not as large or comprehensive as I would have liked. There's an exhibit about the origins of manga. Anime, after all, largely owes its origins to Disney and the American occupation of Japan after WWII. Manga, however, existed long before anime. Comics began in Japan during the late 1800s as political satire and evolved into narratives much the same way that American comics did. There was also an exhibit of the Japanese and Korean entries into an Asian comic contest with the prompt of "Toast."

If you're able to read and comprehend Japanese, there's a massive archive of manga in the museum that works like a library. You're welcome to pick a book off the shelve and read it, you just can't remove it from the museum. While it makes for a nice break from the temples, the museum is very small and can be gone through quickly.

I was left with the better part of the afternoon to find something to do, so I walked through Nishiki Market again then made my way to the Starbucks. With an orange-mango frapaccino in hand, I sat outside and proceeded to write my postcards. Unfortunately, Japan is a smoker's paradise and outside Starbucks smells a bit like the inside of ventilated bar. A woman sat at my table and lit up, but I didn't have the heart to ask her to move because it was the first time all day that someone Japanese had given me the impression I was approachable. I'd had an incident of culture shock the night before, so feeling approachable was more important than avoiding the smell of cigarettes.


JohnEvans said...

The Goma-ae salad and Ohitashi salad look great! Do you have recipes? ;)

I'm glad you're enjoying the trip so much!

Christina said...

lol. For a second I thought I was on Jim's blog with all those pictures of food. Love Jim, but he always makes me so hungry and a little sad that I'm not a better cook.

I got my postcard! I love it. Thanks for thinking of me. Ja mata!

KT said...

the aemono salad looks and sounds delicious. I want some. Those bowls are really cute too.

Rachel said...

I got your postcard a few days ago. Meant to tell you I had received it but forgot.

That sounds like it was a good day.