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Posts Tagged ‘Japanese’

I’ve always loved Japanese red maples.

Saw this photo the other day and it simply took my breath away.

Mount Fuji with Japanese red maples.

fuji-red-maple

So beautiful!

aa-kendo-kanji-red

 

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In response to my last blog about log houses, a Japanese friend of mine – Mustang.Koji – recently mentioned the wooden homes of Shirakawa-go, Japan.

minka-1

This was my introduction to the Minka wooden homes of Japan.

minka-2

The term Minka (民家 literally “house of the people”)  covers houses that traditionally accommodated a wide variety of people such as farmers, artisans, and merchants (i.e., the three non-samurai castes).

minka-3

My understanding is that these homes are traditionally made completely of wood. No nails used in construction!

minka-4(Gasshō style roof – farmhouse)

The Gasshō-zukuri (合掌造) style minka have vast roofs that are a large form of the sasu structural system. Their name derives from the similarity of the roof shape to two hands in prayer. They are frequently found in Gifu Prefecture.

minka-5(Honmune style house with birdlike decoration on the gable)

Honmune-zukuri (本棟造) literally means “true ridge”. The style has a nearly square plan with a gabled roof that is board covered. The gable end of the house is particularly impressive with its composition of beams, eaves and braces. The gable is topped by a birdlike ornament called a suzume-odori (雀踊り). Houses of this type can be found in Gunma, Nara, Yamaguchi and Kouchi prefectures.

Traditional-Hearth(Traditional Japanese hearth – irori [囲炉裏)])

These houses fascinate me!

minka-Ogimachi_Village(Gasshō-zukuri, Ogimachi Village)

Thanks to Mustang.Koji for bring this style of architecture to my attention… and to yours.

aa-kendo-kanji-red

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The cherry blossom is an iconic Japanese image.

Cherry Blossom Trees, Japan

The season is short so it must be fully appreciated when the blossoms are in bloom.

cherry-blossom-3

Small, delicate, beautiful…

cherry-blossoms-2

But seeing cherry trees on a large scale…

Trees-CherryBlossom-Sakura-Tokyo

Dozens, hundreds…

Fuji Temple

Thousands of cherry trees carpeting the landscape. My mind reels at the thought.

cherry-blossom-4

And yet when all is said and done, it comes down to each individual blossom, standing on its own.

blossoms

“The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.” [1]aa-kendo-kanji-red___________________________________________________________________________

[1] Lord Katsumoto (from the movie, ‘The Last Samurai‘)

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A very dear friend of mine, LFD, likes sushi.

LFD and I quite often work in the same courthouse.

There is a wonderful sushi restaurant around the corner from said courthouse.

Put the three above statements together and it was not long before LFD and I decided that steps of some sort ought to be taken.

OK, so there I am, across the table from a hungry, little (and I do mean LITTLE… LFD is about 4’11”, I believe) Irish girl who is trying to figure out how to eat with two sticks.

With a bit of coaching, her first attempt went fairly well.

The second attempt… not quite so well. One of the chopsticks flew out of her hand and landed at the next table.

The third attempt… well, not really so good either, with some sushimi ending up on the floor.

“Can I get you some cutlery?” I asked, watching her lean down to retrieve her chopsticks from under someone’s chair.

“No… no,” she said, gamely, accidentally catapulting some wasabi across the aisle and into a young lady’s Diet Coke. “I’m keen to learn new things.”

I suspect more food ended up in our nearby surroundings than in her mouth but she was unfazed and undaunted.

I’m afraid LFD and I became the restaurant’s cabaret entertainment that day. The owner wanted us to come back and do two shows each evening for the next two weeks. We gracefully declined.

I suppose it’s just a matter of time before she and I go back to that restaurant.

So if you should be sitting down ordering some nigiri or norimaki and two people walk in who look oddly like Santa Claus and one of his elves from the North Pole… that would be us.

Do not be disturbed or concerned. Sit back. Relax… and be prepared to be amazed.

Also, please do not try this at home. We are professionals.

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There was a point in my innocent yet not too distant past when I had dreams of tending bonsai trees in my home.

I saw myself as a kind of Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid, carefully pruning and bending, shaping and creating the tiny tree over time into a work of art.

I was a hopeless failure.

For those who have never attempted to take on the task of caring and feeding a bonsai tree, let me tell you it is the closest thing you’ll ever have to keeping a pet.

It requires attention but not too much attention, light but not too much light, water but not too much water, and the temperature must be mild… not too warm, not too cold. A breeze perhaps… but not too much of a breeze.

Piece of cake, I thought to myself as I bought my first bonsai trees (twigs, really)… tiny miniature things I picked up at the florist section of my local grocery store.

I displayed them proudly in my apartment.

They were all dead in three months.

Clearly, you get what you pay for, I reasoned, and headed off to a proper greenhouse and chose a proper bonsai tree… a juniper (Juniper Procumbens Nana)… the one recommended for beginners because they are easy to care for and quite hardy.

.

(Like the one I bought… minus the golf ball)

I studied. I read. I did everything I was supposed to do. Things went well for about three or four months.

By the sixth month, it was dead.

(Bonsai tree – deader than Elvis)

 I tried again. It, too, was dead within six months.

Over the course of about two years (I am nothing if not stubborn… or stupid), I managed to murder more than a few bonsai trees.

I finally came to the grim realization that, no matter how well-intentioned I was, no matter how much I loved the idea of bonsai trees and their connection to Japan and Japanese culture, no matter how much of a samurai spirit I had sparking within me, whatever it took to grow bonsai trees successfully, I didn’t have it.

(A stark yet elegant beauty in death)

 What I did have was a kind of bonsai graveyard… a bleak necropolis of brown and withered miniature trees.

At first, I kept them as an almost perverse testament to my failure as a gardener. But then, over time, they took on another personality.

The dead trees had a funereal loveliness all their own. In death, they created their own form of art… a sepulchral style far beyond anything I could have created on my own.

And so they stand to this day.

It might be that one day I will head on down to my local greenhouse to pick up a bonsai tree and give it another try… but if I do, there will be no sense of failure or loss if and when the tree dies.

It will simply be transforming itself from one form of beauty into another.

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Samurai Values:

CHŪGI

(Loyalty)

[Faithfulness. Devotion. Trustworthiness]

Lesson: Warriors are responsible for everything that they have done and everything that they have said, and all of the consequences that follow. They are immensely loyal to all of those in their care.

Meditation: To everyone for whom they are responsible, they remain fiercely true.

Musings: Loyalty is one of the most important qualities that a true Warrior possesses.  One must have unshakable fealty and trustworthiness to those one serves and owes allegiance. Warriors must also demonstrate steadfast faithfulness and devotion to those under their protection, regardless of their station in life. The single-minded faithfulness of a Warrior is unswerving and cannot ever be put in question. The Samurai were true even to the point of death and countless gave their lives zealously defending those to whom they pledged their loyalty.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

The text I use for the Lesson and Mediation comes from the Bushido Seven page on the website of the Traditional Karate Centre in Wilmette, IL, USA. They own the copyright. The rest of the essay is compiled from my own meagre musings on the subject.

On the first Friday of each month, I hope to post another Samurai Value. Traditionally, there are seven bushido virtues in all, so if everything goes as planned, this will take us from June to December.

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Hello, everyone…

I am presently in Toronto, taking the weekend off and staying with friends.

There will be no article today (November 25) or this coming Monday (November 28) but I will be back at it, hammer and tong, right after that.

Have a holy and spirit-filled Shabbes and a wonderful sushirrific weekend!

The Kosher Samurai

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