hello everyone. some of you could’ve been thinking where on earth i was. i am still here, but i’ve been engaged in another project. plus, my daughter stayed with me for a while so i was pretty busy being a good mother. she returned to tokyo yesterday and i started catching up on my own things as well as tidying up rooms to get ready for this weekend’s arrival of my son and his wife, yes, my daughter-in-law! phew.
at least, my mother and I will be having a quiet christmas day together. i should be cooking a christmas lunch for her, though. i hope everyone is enjoying this holiday season, too.
time flies, indeed. we have only one month to go before the new year, which is our biggest family event of year (christmas for you from christian countries?). in any case, everyone will be compelled to feel pressed more and more towards the year end.
but, we should relax and take it easy. there’s no use in hustling or worrying too much? take a walk? it’s beautiful outside. i’ve been actually carried away with vibrantly-coloured 紅葉 momiji (japanese maple), the queen of autumn foliage, for a while.
so here. at the end of 霜月 shimotsuki (old name of november) i want to share these autumn colours with you and make my post “紅葉づくし momiji–zukushi (exclusive)” to mark this year’s season, which is nearly over. no words are needed, perhaps?
my last week’s tokyo trip had some fun occasions other than attending the wedding: a reunion with my old tokyo friends and an update on what my daughter was up to, thanks to jason, who had offered me and masaco, my girlfriend, his guest room for our new york trip last year. he is now working for the american embassy in tokyo so that i could stay with him and his partner, ivo. the huge compound for american diplomats is located in a quiet residential neighbourhood, 赤坂 akasaka. it’s within walking distance from trendy 六本木 roppongi where narrow streets are crammed with night clubs and various eateries.
my friends and i gathered over “cantonese peking duck” (!!) at a “szechuan restaurant” on monday evening in 六本木 roppongi. actually, 六本木 roppongi had never been my haunt when i lived in tokyo. but this time, i liked it there for the first time ever because of jason’s place and tokyo midtown, a redevelopment area with a new commercial complex and new art museums. i visited there with masaco and jun-chan on tuesday. here are snapshots of shops and architecture in the area.
to begin with, i’d like to show you 21_21 design site designed by 安藤忠雄 tadao ando. it was raining cats and dogs. besides, it was closed. so i went back there the next day with shion, my daughter, and managed to take a pic beneath the fleckless blue sky as above.
i hated the rain, but still loved viewing the superb contrast of concrete and autumn leaves of shrubbery in the rain. i took my hat off to “the wizard of concrete” (i personally call 安藤 ando so) for that. i think the best part of tokyo midtown is lovely gardens laid out in the site.
国立新美術館 nact (the national art centre tokyo) is a stone’s throw from the complex. it was also closed. so i revisited there too the next day. back in tokyo midtown, i enjoyed browsing through the mall with fewer shoppers than other bustling areas like 渋谷 shibuya.
i got jealous of tokyoites, because the displays of muji shop in galleria were far more exquisite than my local muji shops. i’ve been a muji user since its launch in 1980 and written articles about london muji shops for exclusive muji magazines. i could not but feel tempted to buy something.
christmas decorations are seen here and there in tokyo midtown! i found snow flakes made of 美濃和紙 mino-washi (japanese paper) at 虎屋 toraya quite pretty. the confectionery holds at times a small exhibition within the shop, featuring japanese paper crafts this time.
虎屋 toraya is famous for its quality, artisanry and aesthetic. for sure, it doesn’t come cheap, though you can find its branches overseas, like we have a branch of dean & deluca across the aisle from 虎屋 toraya. the white paper decoration in the atrium is also made of 美濃和紙 mino-washi.
lastly, i should not forget about the tokyo tower, the most popular landmark of tokyo. well, it was supposed to be a fantastical cityscape of my tokyo rainy night. unfortunately, it turned out to be a total blur. i didn’t realise something was wrong with my camera. shame.
it was the most beautiful sunny day i’ve ever had in my life. i could find no single cloud in the blue sky. my beautiful boy and his beautiful fiancée tied the knot at 明治神宮 meiji jingu in tokyo on sunday. everything was gorgeous.
before the ceremony, families and friends all waited and chatted in a small room. then, when the young pair in traditional kimono arrived we (you may guess where i am in the picture below) had our first photo opportunity just like a press conference. (b & w photos taken by mr piano-man)
the couple signed their 誓詞 seishi (oath) in person. afterwards, louie, my son got a little bit nervous about ritualized form of shinto wedding procedure. so he rehearsed how to offer a 玉串 tamagushi, a sacred wand of 榊 sakaki tree with 紙垂 shide paper, to the gods. everything looked so divine.
with a red parasol open for the couple, we walked in a double line and moved onto the main shrine while hordes of tourists trying to capture a traditional wedding scene. unfortunately, the mother couldn’t be a photographer for the ceremony including a traditional music performance and dance and an exchange of rings, too.
meanwhile at 明治記念館 meiji-kinenkan, the reception venue with a spacious lawn garden, a traditional lion-dancer led the newlyweds to the reception hall of the historical “east-meets-west” styled retro décor where the guests and the parents of the couple awaited.
everything but the cuisine (it was french) was traditionally japanese. a ceremony of 鏡開き kagami-biraki (opening the lid of sake barrel) took place instead of cake-cutting. we shared the sake in 桝 masu (wooden cup) prepared on the table.
the bride changed her 白無垢 shiromuku (pure white kimono) into a colourful kimono in the middle of the reception. she took off a heavy wig as well. we all congratulated the two again and they became a blessed married couple now. the party was not that big but was very heart-warming. most of us wept for joy, naturally. as a mother, i was no doubt the happiest ever i could be in life.
today is my son's birthday... many happy returns, louie!!
a mother of the groom -- i am going to be. i am going up to tokyo for my son’s wedding this weekend. he and his girlfriend have been living together for almost five years now and at last, this sunday, they are tying the knot at the imperial shrine, meiji jingo. we have a wedding reception afterwards. mr piano-man (my ex-husband, he will be playing his tune on the piano) and i will be the parents of the groom. wonderful. the thing is, i still have no idea what a mother of the groom really should wear.
in japan, most mothers would be in a traditional garment, kimono, for the children's wedding. in my case, no. i’m not good at conventional things. i had my son when i was just twenty-one and i cannot be a mothering type for ever. i still go on in the same old dr martens or cowboy boots. but yet, it’d be nice for me to be feminine once in a long while. i wish i was like carine roitfeld this sunday, though i usually wish i was like angela merkel … i’m just kidding and besides, i am even (but only a little bit) younger than them.
i don’t know the dress rules. i’m not good at sticking to them either, even if i knew any. anyway, i’ve chosen to wear this grey sheath dress. i didn’t buy its matched bolero because the design was not my cup of tea. instead, my pink pashmina shawl would be a match, but not for the wedding? and i’d better hide my arms? so, i’ve decided to wear my purple silk chiffon blouse over this twinkling grey number. in that case, my shawl and clutch should be black to glam up like this? -- i hope my “mother of the groom gear” will be all right.
i pretty much always sound like i cry for the moon. for foods in particular. i am envious of foreign countries where there are so many varieties of produce, while we have only several over here in japan. i miss english cox and granny smith very much. as for green apples, we have just two different kinds as far as i know. besides, they look almost the same and their tastes are not so different from one another. so i ask myself: do i have anything i can’t get easily over there? absolutely yes. i should stop complaining about my country then.
梨 nashi (japanese pears) for example, our pears are not in “pear shape”, they are all round like a full moon. and sizes are quite big. even though we have no stylish farmers’ markets, we have a long history of making direct-from-the-farm arrangements. it is often used as a seasonal gift and there must be someone kind enough to do so in the circle of families and friends. in fact, my mother received it from her sister-in-law. the gift arrived in a box and each pear was exquisitely wrapped. never mind english cox. i love local stuff, too.
i shouldn’t forget “proper” persimmons, 柿 kaki. they have crunchy firm texture unlike soft ones i had in london. recently, i tried my old recipe of autumn salad with persimmon and 大根 daikon (japanese radish) for the first time in a long while. also, we have “real” sweet potatoes and purple ones are fashionable. i relish cooked sweet potatoes with apple and raisins or prunes, which is my stable. i like having it with mayonnaise and its surface browned. no sugar is needed when boiled. it’s naturally sweet.
meanwhile, 蓮根 renkon (lotus roots/rhizomes) sprang to my mind when i was reading a thick book about nelumbo nucifera, the sacred lotus. then, fancying hot lotus root tempura made my mouth watering. but this time, i wanted to try an old recipe, which was also among my long-forgotten japanese tastes. that’s how 金平蓮根 kinpira-renkon made a comeback on my table this season.
pic 1 japanese pears: when delivered they are tightly protected just like “being wrapped in cotton wool”? also, wrappers are normally pretty. it’s hard for me to throw them away. Pic 2 did you know that we japanese always peel round fruits like this? pic 3 a typical fruit bowl on my autumn table. by the way, we have only one western variety of pear, ラフランス la france. our infamous “chow-chow language” coined the name. pic 4 this is 王林 orin: one of the two green apples in japan. another one is トキ toki, a new comer, which i am going to taste it. the two look too much alike, though. pic 5 富有柿 fuyu-gaki: seedless ones are popular and common now. we have quite many different varieties of persimmon in comparison with other countries. pic 6 kaki & daikon salad: my kind of autumnal fruit salad. slice radish and persimmon as thinly as possible. i added some grated onion to my soy-sauce-base vinaigrette. pic 7 chunky sweet potato casserole: cut sweet potatoes and apples into bite-size chunks. add raisins or prunes and boil them together in water with a pinch of salt. squeeze mayonnaise (every ready-made mayo comes in a tube in japan) onto the boiled sweet potatoes and put under the grill to brown. if i liked it rich, i’d add butter, cream, cheese and even sugar to this. but rather, i prefer to cook this way so that i can taste the natural flavour and sweetness of sweet potato and apple. pic 8 金平蓮根 kinpira renkon: slice lotus roots as thinly as possible. sauté them in sesame oil. add sugar, soy-sauce and 味醂 mirin. 胡麻 goma (sesame seeds) are pretty essential for a better flavour. i like sprinkle 鷹の爪 takano-tsume (chilli pepper) over it to spice up.