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……It’s Pam’s birthday and that made it a very special day starting with seeing Toyonshima, the ‘shortest’ of the current sumo wrestlers.  He’s in the top 3 and thanks to Pam’s friend we learned how much fun it is to see a small guy defeat a giant by skill alone.  Acttive duty sumo wrestlers must wear the traditional styled hair (top knot) and Kimono when out in public.  We met Toyonshima outside the hotel as were about to start our day.

Our first stop was the home of Junko. 

We were greeted by Junko and her daughter Mai along with Michi E, a close friend and fellow member of  WAK (Women’s Association of Kyoto) Japan, an organization that provides overseas visitors chances to see daily life in Japan and to experience the traditional culture.
Shoes off!

While quite large by Japanese standards, the home had a small kitchen and it’s a wonder we didn’t burn the place down cooking!  We were given a recipe book covering the items to be cooked, starting with ‘Sumeshi’, or vinegar steamed ‘sticky’ rice.  When the rice came out of the rice cooker it was transferred to a ‘Hangiri’ or large wooden tub.  The rice had to be cooled with a hand held fan.

At this point, after much hand washing, we were all given aprons and took turns chopping, stirring and doing various tasks to get the sushi prepared. Pam demonstrated great skill in every task.

Miss Judith is certainly no novice in the kitchen and is quite the authority on Japanese knives.

This is a specially shaped pan to cook what is essentially an eggroll (omlet) and the technique was mastered by Pam!

The ‘special’ flour used for tempura….

I especially loved this copper pot….look at the measuring lines inside!
Capturing the moment!

When we got to actually making the ‘Rolled Sushi’ we were laughing so much it’s was a wonder anything got done!

Here is one sushi before it was ‘rolled’. We had to spread out the sticky rice and it’s not as easy as it sounds.  You have to continually dip your fingers into water to prevent it from sticking on your hands.

Next, cut the sushi into sections.  Again, the knife has to be wiped with a wet cloth after each slice to prevent the rice from sticking to it! That’s it Pam!!!

Beautiful…..and sooooo delicious!

We also had miso soup with tofu, tempura and yummy sesame spinach.

A special lunch for Pam’s special day!  Wilbur, you can’t keep the apron!

Next stop, a traditional wooden townhouse, a so called ‘Machiya’, characterized by black wooden slats in front, a narrow frontage, and a stone walkway leading back through the kitchen all the way to the rear garden.  Time for our Calligraphy class.  Called Shodo in Japan, the Chinese characters (known as kanji) are combined with the letters forming Japanese syllabary (known as kana).  The Chinese Buddist monks introduced Calligraphy to Japan in the 6th or 7th century.

Here’s Yoshie, our wonderful teacher.

Yoshie checks our work and then gives us the ‘stamp’ (seal) of approval!

O,K, students…lets see how you did…..

Well done…..lets see how our Ikebana skills are….Mieko, our teacher will do a demonstration first.

Busy, busy, busy!

Well done birthday girl!

Great job Wilbur!

Hi mom!

What a perfect day!

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