Saturday, July 31, 2010

Japanese Bunka

Bunka means culture in Japanese. And oh boy, they had butt-loads of bunka! When I think of Japanese culture, the first thing I think about is shrines and temples! The shrines and temples of Japan burst with history and nostalgia so we made our way to a popular shrine up near Harajuku - a 10 minute bus ride to Shibuya then a quick subway ride to Harajuku. The only reason I knew about Harajuku is because of that Gwen Stefani song, "Harajuku girls". The moment we got off the subway, I knew why Gwen wanted to sing a song about this place. The most popular shopping area is on Takeshita dori, which is the first thing you see when you leave Harajuku Station. There's a narrow little road that is bustling with people, vibrant colors, and LOTS of young people. It looks like the highschooler hang out. Steve and I didn't spend much time here other than walking down the little street.

It was about a five minute walk to the shrine although it took us about half an hour to get our bearings and realize that the shrine was on the other side of the subway station, right where we were!  Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his Empress Shoken. The entrance to the grounds is very impressive, with a large Torii (shrine archway) leading the way down a wide path surrounded by thousands of trees. The shrine is surrounded by 175 acres of forest with more than 170,000 trees!!

Before entering the shrine, it is proper etiquette to use the Temizuya. It is a small, covered building with a trough and running water. To pay respect to the deities, you must rinse your left hand with the water, rinse your right hand, pour water into your left hand, rinse your mouth, rinse your left hand again, rinse the dipper and allow the remaining water to run down the handle of the dipper.

I read about this before going to Japan, but completely forgot about it when we got there and didn't even see the Temizuya until our way out!! Yikes, bad karma?! But I did remember another ritual inside the shrine. At the main shrine building, you can pay respect by making an offering in an offertory box. So we walked up, put in a few Japanese pennies, bowed twice, clapped our hands twice, made a wish, and bowed again. Haha! How cool is that?! Sneaking a peek at the others inside the shrine, all we saw was bowing and all we heard was clapping. It was the coolest thing ever.

I think the best part about Meiji Jingu was the architecture and great attention to detail. There were so many beautifully handcrafted wooden carvings. Like the rest of Tokyo, everything was just so pretty, perfect, and clean.

There was a wedding starting when we were visiting the shrine. I tried to sneak a peak of the bride getting ready but I felt like was intruding on her special day, so I only got one shot of the couple as they were entering the shrine with the photographer. The bride wore a traditional Japanese wedding dress called a shiro-maku. It was beautiful! The guests were dressed in similar attire to American weddings, with the exception of some older women dressed in colorful kimonos.

On another day we decided to venture out around our hotel area through the neighborhoods. We came across a little garden next to a traditional looking Japanese building in the middle of a modern neighborhood. We realized it was a museum! The Okura Museium of Art features collections from a Buddhist named Kihachiro Okura who established the museum to hold and display his treasures. He was a weapons dealer in the mid 1800's and later founded the Tokyo University of Economics. He also developed a hotel chain and collected many Japanese paintings that he added to the museum. Although a small museum, the paintings and sculptures were gorgeous and really told a story. Once inside, we learned that we were in the "Art Triangle"  of Roppongi and we received a map with two other museums nearby to check out. It was like a scavenger hunt looking for them as we tried to interpret the Japanese map!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Just soaking up the rays, dude!

Saw this guy downtown SLO on my lunch break. He was just lounging in a chair at Mondeos without a shirt and his hair blowing in the breeze. Quite a site for boring old SLO. Then his girlfriend arrived and oh my, they have the same hair dresser!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A perk of being Kellie's daughter

Wine Club Members BBQ (thanks Mom!) at Edna Valley Winery. Good food, good wine, and one of my favorite places to be with my HUSBAND. :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tri-Tip Marinade

1 cup lemon juice
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 tbls garlic salt
1 tbls black pepper

Marinade a minimum of 6 hours in refrigerator (the longer the better)
Makes enough marinade for two 4-pound tri-tip roasts

Jaime's Taco Seasoning

Forget to pick up a packet of Lawry's taco seasoning for tonight's meal? Don't fear, just combine these simple ingredients and you will have taco seasoning that's even better than Lawry's.

1 tbls chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper

Combine in a bowl and add desired amount to your chicken or beef!

Tip: Make extra and save for next time!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Susanne's Aioli

  1. In the bottom of a beaker, crack a large egg and let it come to room temperature while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Prepare:
    • Mix together 2/3 cup canola oil and 1/3 cup olive oil
    • juice one lemon
    • 2/3 cup fresh italian parsley
    • 4 cloves of garlic (or to taste)
    • sea salt and white pepper to taste
  3. Put 2 tablespoons of oil in with the egg. Start blending with a Cuisinart hand blender. Slowly add some more oil, allowing it to emulsify before adding more. Keep drizzling in the oil.
  4. As the aioli thickens, add the oil more quickly. Stop halfway through and add the parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.
  5. Continue blending until all the oil is incorporated and the aioli is thick. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
  6. Spoon into a pretty serving bowl, cover and chill for at least a half hour before serving so the flavors can marry.
Serves 6
Recipe compliments of Susanne Woolley

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Peach Toffee Crisp

5 medium peaches peeled and sliced or 5 cups frozen (thawed) sliced peaches
2/3 cup quick cooking oats

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup original bisquick

1/4 cup english toffee bits
1/4 cup firm margarine or butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 375. Spread peaches in ungreased square pan 8 x 8 x 2 inches.
Mix remaining ingredients until crumbly, sprinkle over peaches.
Bake 35-40 minutes or until peaches are tender and topping is golden brown. Serve warm.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Japanese New Half Show

Our colleague from Japan invited us to a Japanese show after our Tempura meal. He said it was a "fashion and dance" show where "New Halfs" perform. We didn't quite understand what he meant by New Half, so he explained, "you know - part man, part woman. We call them New Half in Japan" Ooooh! So, we were on our way to see a Japanese drag show! Sweet! Our colleague and his wife found the whole thing hysterical and couldn't wait to share the fun with us.

We sat down at a table where a waiter greeted us and talked to our friend in Japanese for awhile and afterwards said that he asked the waiter to send out a New Half to talk with us before the show! A few minutes later, a gorgeous Japanese woman came over and sat down with us. As soon as she started speaking we knew SHE was really a HE. But, oh my gosh you would have never guessed if it weren't for the manly, deep voice! We told her we were from California and although she recognized "California", she asked our colleague if that was part of the United States! ha! She called herself a "She-Male" and talked about wanting to go to Las Vegas to perform there with other She-Males!

The show began and all of the "women" performers were actually men. There were also some real men who portrayed characters such as samurai and pimps. Mostly, the performers danced and acted out scenes through music, costumes, and props. All of the costumes were elaborate and beautiful and our New Half friend even showed off her womanly boobs by prancing around in a sequined tube top! My favorite part of the performance was their dance to Nsync's "Pop". They grooved to that song like it was the best music the've ever heard.

The show was based on "Yukaku" culture (licensed prostitution quarters) during the Edo Era (1603-1868). The fashion trends during this time were set by prostitutes rather than the towsnpeople. The women of the quarters were often major themes in drama and art, and artists presented brothels like theatres, depicting hero and heroine in carnal engagement. Popular music, language, fashion, cosmetics, hairstyles, and dance were all part of this Yukaku culture. The Yukaku neighborhoods matured into a highly structured urban system and became rich with tradition.

After the show, the performers gathered together on stage and all of a sudden the MC was calling, "Dwight! Honeymoon!" and we were ushered to the stage! Apparently our colleague told the waiter we were on our honeymoon so they made a special announcement and let us take a picture with the group! When we got up there, all of the performers kept saying, "Congrat-lation!! Congrat-lation!!" and bowing like crazy. Best night in Japan.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Japanese Gardens

We spent more time in Japanese gardens than we did anywhere else in Japan. Some people may find this rather dull, but gardens in Japan are exquisite and peaceful. We visited Tokyo Midtown Park, Shinjuku Central Park, Shinjuku National Gardens, and Kyoto Botanical Gardens.

Tokyo Midtown Garden

Kyoto Botanical Gardens

Bamboo Garden in the Kyoto Botanical Gardens

Shinjuku Central Park

Nappers at the Kyoto Botanical Garden. I love this shot.

Tokyo Government Building seen from Shinjuku Central Park

Bonsai Exhibit at the Kyoto Botanical Gardens

Conservatory at the Kyoto Botanical Garden

The biggest Begonias I've ever seen!

Inside the Conservatory.

Kyoto Botanical Garden

These purple flowers reminded me of Willy Wonka.

Amazing rose garden at the Kyoto Botanical Garden

Lily pads!

How the homeless dry their clothes at Shinjuku Central Park

Relaxing at Shinjuku National Gardens

Shinjuku National Garden

Traditional Japanese tea house at the Shinjuku National Gardens

View from the tea house
Homeless camp at Shinjuku Central Park. 

Waterfall at Shinjuku Central Park

Shinjuku National Gardens

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