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Showing posts from March, 2017

Cherry Blossom Viewing Advice

Cherry blossoms last April. It is, once again, time to pull out the party sheets and head to the nearest sakura (cherry tree) to sit under the pink haze that signals an official beginning of Spring in Japan. I wrote this article last year to help folks discover some of the best hanami (blossom viewing) spots in the city and thought it would be handy again this year. Enjoy!

Thursday Snapshot: Kaitenmabushi at Omoikawa Weaving House

As one of the last places still making yuki tsumugi  - an entirely handmade silk fabric - Omoigawa Weaving House is full of stories. One that caught my eye were these rotating boxes for the cocoons. According to Naoyuki Akaishi, the silkworms always wanted to travel upwards, which could be problematic. By rotating these boxes each day until the worms settled down to cocoon manufacturing, it satisfied the worms urge and kept things orderly for the farmers. Read my articles about Omoikawa and yuki tsumugi at GaijinPo t and SavvyTokyo .

My articles on Tochigi's Traditional Handmade Silk

Shizuko Irie, one of the weavers with Sudo Nobuko in Tochigi. In early February, I had the pleasure of visiting a place in Tochigi Prefecture where silk is still made entirely by hand. Yuki tsumugi is one of the loveliest fabrics I've ever encountered, and for this series of stories I got to visit weaving houses, wholesalers, museums, and even try my hand at the weaving process itself. It was fascinating. My favorite fact? That it was originally crafted by farmers who didn't want to waste the cocoons that couldn't be used for regular silk. Leave it to farmer ingenuity to give the world something beautifully crafted that lasts for generations. I should also mention that the incredible photos that accompany the articles were taken by the amazingly talented Lori Ono . As a fiber artist herself, she was able to truly capture the beauty of this traditional art form. You can read all about our trip and experience here at GaijinPot and over at SavvyTokyo , and then pl

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, March 18th and Sunday, March 19th

St. Paul Farmers Market Outside the window here where I'm staying in the US a fine snow is falling even as the robins sing. Crocuses and daffodils sprout here and there, and farmers and gardeners all around gaze longingly at their seedlings and seed catalogs waiting for the weather to turn. Back home in Japan, though, I know the temperatures may be cold, but potatoes and other hearty spring vegetables are already busy literally getting down to the business of growing. Head on out to one of these great markets to meet a few of the earliest ones and get a taste of the season! Kichijoji Harmonica Yokocho Asaichi Sunday, March 19th Early birds on Tokyo's west side should count themselves lucky to find  this little market  in the warren of shops just north of the station. While fruits and veg are a bit lacking, the market is big on craftsmen and women doing interesting work, excellent baked goods, miso, rice, and other tasty treats. It's worth noting that a number of

Thursday Snapshot: Skunk Cabbage Seedlings

Skunk cabbage seedlings in early March. These little lovelies were spotted while out doing some restoration work on family land in Michigan. My aunt spotted these baby skunk cabbage, and since I hadn't seen them for some time it seemed a good opportunity to take a photo. I know skunk cabbage best as a leafy summer plant , so these little hooded flowers were a surprise. A wee bit of research shows that skunk cabbage prefer to live in wetlands, and that they are some of the earliest flowers to bloom. They are one of the few plants to practice thermogenesis, meaning that they heat the air around and above them. This serves to melt snow and attract their pollinators - flies and other creatures attracted to things that smell like decay.

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, March 11th and Sunday, March 12th

Lucky's Sauces at the St. Paul Winter Farmers Market. Here at home in the Midwest, March is coming in like a lion. Snow and thunderstorms and tornadoes have already passed through leaving everyone in amazement. The first few robins, though, are here, and I'm still waiting to catch the throaty call of the Sandhill Cranes. Here and in Japan snow is melting in fields and greenhouses are filling with seedlings galore. Summer is not so very far away, so don't waste the chance to head to one of these great markets in Tokyo and Yokohama to find some of the best winter vegetables around! Market of the Sun Saturday, March 11th and Sunday, March 12th The newest of Tokyo's farmers markets at two years old,  Market of the Sun (a.k.a. Taiyo Marche) , professes to be one of the largest. A short walk from Tsukiji Market and its wonderful surrounds, this market is worth a visit for its lovely selection of foodly and crafty items that rivals the goodies found at the UNU Market.

Thursday Snapshot: Feeding Minnesota Bears

Only feed wooden bears... Good friends moved up to the Twin Cities recently, and so we took it as an opportunity to visit them, their new home, and their three cats. While out for a walk, I picked up a bag of Minnesota-made licorice. (It's hard to get good stuff in Japan.)  I met this cute little fellow and his parents along Grand Avenue and thought he might like to try a bite.

My article on Kanagawa Prefecture at ACCJ Journal

A heron (look closely!) wandering the rice fields near Izumibashi Sake Brewery. It has been a busy time of traveling here at home as well as in Japan. Thankfully, I often get to write about what I discover. My latest adventure in Japan took me not too far from home to a few special spots in Kanagawa Prefecture. Read the whole article and find out what fun there is to be had!

March Farmers Markets in Tokyo and Yokohama

Eichten's Cheese has been at St. Paul's Farmers Market for four generations. (Try the Tilsit!) Whether in like a lamb or a lion, March is a swing month in terms of weather and crops. The potatoes here are long since in and the onions are coming into the own. The garlic, too, is not exactly bursting at the seams, but those stems are thick and fat. Farmers minds are turning to planting and the busy season ahead even as they come to market with a selection of winter vegetables. It's a good month, then, to think about growing and changing, talking to fellow gardeners and your neighborhood farmer about what's on the agenda for the months to come. Head on out to one of these great markets, and get that conversation started! Earth Day Market Sunday, March 5th I could wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming and global food security. However, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what

Thursday Snapshot: Handmade Lantern at Ryokan

Kumiko-zaiku crafted lamps at Jinya. On a recent trip for an article about Kanagawa Prefecture, I visited Jinya , a traditional ryokan in Tsurumaki Onsen. Operating since roughly the Kamakura Period (1185 - 1333 A.D.), Jinya's buildings and gardens are works of art. One of the more fascinating items, though, were these wooden lamp shades made using kumiko-zaiku , a kind of woodworking that puzzles together various pieces of wood in differing patterns for a decorative effect. The detail is often incredible and the precision required mind-boggling. These two lamp shades were the work of local artist, Takeo Sato, and were one of many extraordinary things to be seen at Jinya. Truly inspiring.