Saturday, August 19, 2017

Breakfast, stamps and flowers ...


Tazawako breakfast
OK, more about food. Japanese breakfast to be specific. Which consists of many small plates of things - usually some fish (often smoked or dried, like kippers), always soup and rice, some vegetables or even salad, maybe a little fruit, and definitely pickles. Maybe omelette (which is sweet), or an ‘onsen egg’ (poached in warm water so it is just slightly cooked), or even raw egg. The thing is - it’s basically lean protein (fish, egg) with vegetables, so very healthy, and a great start to the day. We have had some really lovely breakfasts, some a bit ordinary, I love them all, Chris is not so keen on the salad for breakfast, or the dried fish. The only dish I can’t quite love is ‘natto’, a fermented bean dish that’s unbelievable slimy (and apparently amazingly good for you). The best breakfast? Maybe Tazawako, where it was so fresh and lovely, with steamed vegetables, prawn and scallop, onsen egg, salad, yoghurt with berries. But I also loved Dormy Inn, where it was a buffet with so many options, I got to try lots of things, such as octopus fritters, and nori-wrapped apricots, and pickled plums. If I could have just one Japanese meal a day I think it would be breakfast.
(Disclaimer - I am really slack at photographing food! A hopeless foodie really).


Stamps! Hirosaki and Yamagata
It’s an old fashioned kind of thing, but collecting stamps (that is, inked designs that are pressed onto a book, or commemorative sheet of paper) is huge in Japan. The idea is to have sets of stamps for a particular region, or season, but mine are quite ad hoc, just collected wherever I happen to see a stamp and pad. Often at train stations, sometimes museums, or at particular tourist sites, they are quaint, and a bit cheesy and I love them. Unless the inkpad has dried out! Grrr.


Japanese lacecap hydrangea
So we have missed the blossom season, and the autumn leaves are yet to come. The rainy season in June washes away many of the spring blossoms, but summer has some floral pleasures of its own. Hydrangeas are ubiquitous, and flower copiously, even growing wild. There is a particular Japanese ‘lacecap’ variant that is particularly pretty. Large scented lilies are also seen everywhere, and also grow in profusion in the wild, although a display near Mt Fuji was particularly stunning. Iris are very frequently planted in and around water in huge beds in traditional gardens, but we are at the end of the season and the flowers are now a little sparse. Lotus is often a feature of temple gardens, growing so large I feel as if I have been shrunk in size. Amazing large lakes full in Ueno Park (Tokyo). Japanese, though living in an urbanised environment, adore nature and will visit parks and gardens, as well as cultivate their own gardens, assiduously. In the northern parts, where snow covers the ground for a large part of the year, summer water is plentiful, and great vegetable garden areas are cultivated between buildings even in built up areas. And even rice fields!

Lilies at Oishi Park (Mt Fuji)
Rice paddy - somewhere between Fuji and Tokyo

Vegetable garden - as above

Lake of lotus - Ueno Park, Tokyo

Wild lilies

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