Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Belt Of Sorrowful Green

The mist appears
as if woven with all the woods
against the cold mountains
stretching into a belt
of sorrowful green.

Li Bai 李白 (701-762) of Tang Dynasty 唐朝
Image: Alberta, Canada

Li Bai was one of the greatest poets of the Tang period. Even after 1300 years he is still remembered and held in high regard and his works continue to influence even today.

Tang 唐朝 and Song 宋朝 periods are the high points of Chinese culture when arts, crafts and trade flourished. It is said that after Tang and Song there is no more good poetry because all the good poems have already been written.

Tea culture not only took root but also took off during Tang and Song. It was in the Tang period that the customs and techniques of tea started to take shape. Tea was given great importance as tea drinking was popular in the Imperial Court. Poems and books on tea were written during this period. Lu Yu 陆羽 (733–804) wrote the first definitive work on tea in his book, "The Classic of Tea" 茶经 (Cha-jing), while Lu Tong 盧仝 (790–835) a poet devoted his life to the study of tea culture and wrote the famous poem, Seven Bowls of Tea.

Song period is famous for its vibrant social life and tea houses became popular. People not only relaxed in tea houses but there were even tea clubs and tea ceremony competitions. Tea techniques were further refined: agricultural practices became more scientific and exact; and ceramic industry benefited greatly by the spread of tea culture. This in turn refined tea culture even more creating a virtuous cycle.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hills Tangled In Mist & Snow

Let me try to describe
to you a scene
of the journey, and you will see
what has informed my heart
since our parting:
the sun setting,
few stragglers trudging,
hills tangled deep
in the wind and snow.

Kong Pingzhong 孔平仲 (1044 - 1111) of Song Dynasty
Image: Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fruit Of The Sea & Land

Invariably I get to eat sashimi and sushi at Sushiya Tachibana in Nippori/Yanaka/Sendagi. I can never figure out where it is because it is usually dark by the time I am taken there by my friends /customers.

After dinner I always end up taking the Chiyoda Line from Sendagi metro station 千駄木駅 which is almost directly opposite Tachibana. However I always arrive at Nippori 日暮里駅 by train and walk past Yanaka 谷中 neighbourhood to reach Sushiya Tachibana.

Even in the darkness it is clear that Yanaka has retained the traditional charm and warmth of the past with many small traditional buildings. Next time I am going to take time off to visit this area to experience a bit of the vibrancy of the Edo period that made Edo the greatest city in the world for good many years.

Image: master chef at Sushiya Tachibana expertly rolls rice and seafood into one delectable sushi.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reaching For The Sky

Sitting here at Haneda Airport business lounge one can truly appreciate how tall Tokyo Sky Tree really is. It literally towers over the already tall skyscrapers of Tokyo.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Climbing To The Top

A giant beetle clambers up a building in Kappabashi ( 合羽橋 ) which is a well known district consisting of shops supplying every conceivable hardware that the food and beverage trade requires. At the back between two buildings, Tokyo Sky Tree ( 東京スカイツリー ) looms. At 634 metres it is the tallest tower in the world. So it will be sometime before this bloke reaches the top of Tokyo Sky Tree.

At the ground level I could not believe that normal fairly good quality ceramic tea pots (probably made in China) were cheaper than the much inferior quality ceramic tea pots (also probably made in China) available here in Nepal. Not everything in Japan is expensive!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Men In White (MIW)

In Asian countries rice is the most important food. For example in Japan the noun for each meal is suffixed by rice. So breakfast, "asa gohan" ( 朝ごはん ), is morning rice and dinner is evening rice and so on. Rice in some form is actually eaten during these meals be it sushi ( 寿司) , onigiri (おにぎり ) or okayu ( お粥 ).

Rice is similarly respected in Nepal. For example when I was young I remember all the adults of the family eating rice only after dressing in "rice eating clothes". Without dressing into special clothes they were not allowed to eat rice! Sadly this tradition has died out during my lifetime but on special occasions we still dress into these clothes just to eat rice. And I must say it is such a beautiful feeling to eat rice this way.

Image: Men In White waiting for rice. November 2011.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Undressed in Shibuya

I love tofu not only because it is healthy but because of its pure, ascetical taste and soft texture. When something so spartan and elementary is presented so simply yet exquisitely and invitingly, as in these photographs, it arouses the taste buds and heightens expectation. Undressing this tofu in izakaya Nana, Shibuya revealed a delectable, creamy white tofu that soon melted in one's oral cavity ensuing in a climax of Epicurean delight.

Image: Tofu at Nana (菜な ?), Shibuya.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Zebra on Aoyama Dori 青山通り

I have walked past this building often. On this occasion it was quite early in the morning before the crowds arrived. As the sun struck the glass, prism effect created a nice zebra on the pavement and I was able to capture it with my camera. I guess it is the early bird that catches the worm. Or maybe it should be, "Early bird catches the zebra".

Image: Along Aoyama Dori 青山通り.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

あの頃へ To That Time

雪が降る 遠いふるさと
なつかしい 涙になれ
Home so far away where the snow falls
Becomes the tears of memory
春を待つ 想いは誰を
幸せに できるだろう
The waiting for spring
Would make anyone happy
あの空は あの風は
いまも胸に 限りなく
That sky, that wind
Everlasting in my heart
あたたかい あの頃へ
君をいつか つれて行けたら
That warm feeling back then
How I wish I could take you there some day

Anzen Chitai 安全地帯 / Koji Tamaki 玉置 浩二 "Ano Koro-e" ca. 1985

This beautiful song has that special and deep sensitivity that is the essence of Japanese culture. "Mono no aware" 物の哀れ is the awareness of impermanence of love, life things and time; and the gentle sadness at their passing. It is this awareness of transience that makes something more beautiful.

Image: Dawn and 2012 breaks over the Himalaya in east Nepal evoking wonderful memories of the life, love and times gone by. How I wish I could take you there some day. あたたかい あの頃へ君をいつか つれて行けたら

街の灯が 瞳に灯る
神様の 願いを見た
Town light lit in your eyes
I saw the wish of God
夢だけで 終わらないこと
あといくつ あるのだろう
How many things are left
That doesn't end in just a dream
あの星は あの雲は
いつも愛を 見つめてた
That star, that cloud
Always gazing at love
美しい あの頃へ
君をいつか つれて行けたら
Beautiful days back then
How I wish I could take you there some day
To that time....

やさしさも さみしさも
いつも愛を 知っていた
As for tenderness and as for loneliness
I always knew love
あたたかい あの頃へ
君をいつか つれて行きたい
When there was warmth
I want to take you there some day
To that time .....