Monday, December 26, 2011

Win Some, Lose Some

Now the hours and the minutes
Just fly away.
You win some and you lose some,
You gotta get it right
Or I'll be saying
Bye bye bye bye ...
-Bryan Adams

Image: Tokyo lights up for year end festivities anticipating a better 2012.

2011 has been a tumultuous year with all manner of things happening around the world and to me too. Like all things in life, some of it has been good and some not so good.

As for me, I am just happy to be happy! Some really nice things happened to me but some very sad and regrettable things came to pass too. Win some, lose some.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Empty Nest

End of the tea season and the end of the bee hive like atmosphere in the factory. As he walks back home for a well earned rest, the manager cuts a lonely figure in the vast cavernous factory floor of Ilam Chiyabari. Till next spring when the excitement renews itself.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

San San Kudo 三々九度

An astounding number of "Delicious Tea Shops" certified by Japan Tea Association are located in Owariasahi, Aichi. Second only to Osaka in numbers, but the highest per capita in Japan. It is a rare and precious gift to the tea drinking public in that country.

Liyn-an is one of those certified tea shops selling delicious teas. It is owned and operated by the Hotta family. A valuable heirloom of the Hotta family sits on the table top of his tea house. Was it used for San San Kudo 三々九度 ceremony during his grand father's time? Or was it for Iwaizen 祝膳? I do not know and Hotta san is not sure. Possibly both.

San San Kudo is one of the oldest continuous traditional Japanese wedding customs where sake is shared. The couple takes three sips from each cup at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony. Both families drink a cup of sake to signify the union of the bride and the groom and the two families. Perhaps at a deeper level it is a union of ideas and thoughts. This beautiful Japanese wedding custom is called San San Ku-Do, which means "three (sets of) three (sips) equals nine".

Now this beautifully lacquered set with the Hotta family crest sits in Nepal at my tea corner but I probably will not be doing any San San Kudo anytime soon. It is indeed a rare and precious gift from a generous and gracious couple.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tea on the Rocks

Beautiful Peyto Lake in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. Somewhere near here, on the hiking trail ending at Lake Agnes (2135 m) you can find Jun Chiyabari tea at Lake Agnes Teahouse. Lake Agnes Teahouse has been serving fine loose teas since 1905!

"Heavenly delight." That is the description of Jun Chiyabari's tea in their menu. And I can say the same of the scenery in and around Banff.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Tamar is the eastern most river of the seven river that make up Sapta Koshi or Koshi as it is commonly called. Tamar really defines the tea growing areas of Nepal as it flows through the most important tea growing districts viz. Dhankuta, Panchthar, Ilam and Taplejung.

Tamar's watershed in the Kanchenjunga region is separated from Teesta river by the Singalila ridge which also forms the border between Nepal and Sikkim. This photograph shows the river just before it joins the others of the Koshi river system and exits the hills by forming one of the biggest alluvial fans in the world: the 150,000 square kilometre Koshi megafan.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Long and Winding Road

......Many times I've been alone
And many times I've cried,

Anyway you'll never know

The many ways I've tried.

And still they lead me back

To the long, winding road

You left me standing here

-The Long and Winding Road
The Beatles (Lennon–McCartney) 1969-1970

Image: A small and beautiful green valley in the tea growing region of east Nepal some kilometers from the Tamar River.

Ashiya 芦屋市 Autumn

Autumn comes to Ashiya (芦屋市).

Ashiya City in Hyogo which has the highest per capita income in Japan is the only municipality that prohibits gambling facilities, pachinko and small factories. Its identity is maintained through such rules. As a result of its character a number of celebrities including Haruki Murakami live here.

Images of autumn colours some 10 minute drive from Ashiya City centre.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tea Tasting v2.0

Is it brandy or wine or is it tea? Which wine glass brings out the best of Jun Chiyabari tea? At a tea tasting event in Tokyo. The tea(s) was brewed the night before and left at room temperature and decanted into different types of wine glasses.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mastering Tea

It is no easy task mastering anything. Tea is no different.

Here in Nagoya's L'o-vu tea house a special weekend lesson on tea from China is conducted by tea master Sensei Iwasaki. He not only teaches how to brew the different types of tea but also the history behind that particular tea and so on. Attention to detail is typical of Japan. As is the culture of learning and utmost respect for the teacher.

Each student practises each step many times; keeps notes of the colour, aroma, flavour and so on of the brew; learns how to place the tea bowl and pour the water and decant the brew and so on and so forth. There are no shortcuts to achieve perfection even in the most mundane thing as making a bowl of tea. Ah! Correction. Nothing is mundane. Ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会) after all. Each step is one chance in a lifetime.

The entire experience leaves me shaking my head in wonder. Can we duplicate this sort of dedication? Ever?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nabe at Hakusan 白山

There are many small lanes and interesting places in Tokyo off the main tourist areas. Close to the Hakusan Metro station 白山駅 a small lane suddenly opens up into a modest courtyard: a courtyard with all the old world charm of the Edo period.

In the center of a small room a warm charcoal brazier welcomes you. Soon the chilly day outside is forgotten and tasty nabe fills one's stomach.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tea Time In Nagoya

It was the most pleasant experience sipping one's own tea in a tea shop in a far away land. Of course I had also tried other teas here but......

In this very pleasing and relaxed cafe, Ji. Coo in Kakuozan, Nagoya, one did notice that female tea drinkers outnumbered the men.