Sashimi sides: field-guide to raw fish garnishes


In my upcoming article in The Japan Times, I write about what a reader described as the “the stringy piles of daikon radish” that come with sashimi.  (I’ll add the link when it’s published on Nov. 29; if you subscribe, look for the column in your Sunday paper.) As I explained in the article, the daikon is called “tsuma,” written with this character: 褄.

It used to be that learning to prepare these super-skinny strips was a rite of passage for everyone aspiring to the job of sushi chef. First, you’d have to learn how to use a knife to turn out a paper-thin, continuous roll of radish.  This way of cutting is called “katsura muki” and requires hours of diligent practice.

If you managed to master that, next you’d have to be able to do this:

Alas, things aren’t what they used to be. Now there are machines that can handle the job in seconds. This one brags that it can turn out daikon for 100 in just five minutes:

Unless you’re dining upscale, chances are your daikon strings will have come out of a machine, or a bag from a food-processing factory. But daikon isn’t the only garnish for sashimi. All sorts of vegetables, flowers and seaweeds can be used to pretty up raw fish, and all are referred to as tsuma. It’s a generic term.

First, let’s look at the veggies. Carrots are popular — they’re cheap, colorful and hold up well.


Less familiar are murame ムラメ, the sprouts of the red shiso plant.


And here they are in situ — they’re the purple and green leaves, up front on the right.


I’m very fond of myoga, the buds of the ginger plant. They have a crisp texture and unique taste, quite different from ginger root.


Here you have a nicely chopped pile of myoga, tucked attractively under leaf of green shiso (beefsteak plant, Perilla frutescens).


Not all garnishes are vegetables, of course. Chrysanthemum flowers (kiku 菊) are a perennial favorite. Yuk, yuk.


Another flower that often turns up often is kasui  花穂 (spicata),  a member of the spearmint family.


And then there are the seaweeds. First up, tosaka トサカ (Meristotheca papulosa).


Next, wakame ワカメ (Undaria pinnatifida).


This one’s called ogo オゴ (Gracilaria vermiculophylla). If it’s got a common name in English, I couldn’t find it. Despite that nice green color, it’s a red algae. Go figure. And it’s listed in the Global Invasive Species Database.


One last weed — igisu イギス (Ceramium kondoi).


I’ll add more as time allows. Put a bookmark in your phone for handy-dandy reference while dining! Bon appetit!

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Discover Another Kanagawa: Join Me in the Tanzawa Mountains Nov. 28-29

2012写真コン 推薦 三ノ塔

Need a get-away into real nature? I’ve got just the trip for you! Come with me on an easy overnight excursion — fully guided in English — to the nearby Tanzawa mountains. We’ll learn about the area’s fascinating natural history while enjoying fall colors, Fuji views and hiking — and, of course, traditional culture and food.  Thanks to a government subsidy, we can offer all this at half the actual cost (25,000 yen per person; 21,000 yen if you can share a small room and bed with a loved one).

The Tanzawa mountains covers most of northwestern Kanagawa Prefecture, and borders Shizuoka to the west and Yamanashi to the north. The highest peak is Mt. Hiru, which stands at 1,673 metres (5,489 ft). Sacred Mt. Oyama, which some of you visited on an earlier trip in this series, is also part of the Tanzawa range.  Much of the Tanzawa area is now protected as a nature park, and is popular year-round with hikers for its easy access as well as spectacular Fuji views.


Our group, which is limited to 20 people, will meet at 9:15 am  on Saturday Nov. 28 at Hadano station on the Odakyu Odawara Line. (Train information below.) Hadano was once famous for tobacco and peanuts; tobacco’s now a lost industry, and peanut growing is on the decline, but I have to say that Hadano peanuts are some of the best I’ve tasted. There are lots of interesting peanut confections in the station stores, too.


We’ll begin our adventure in the foothills, at a visitor center with lots of useful exhibits about the natural history of the area.  A scale model of the mountains will give us a quick overview, and we’ll learn how the Tanzawa mountain range was formed — and why they are full of fossils of sea animals! (I don’t want to give away the whole story, but all of the Tanzawa mountains were once islands that got shoved against Honshu by shifts in the earth’s plates.  Even today, the plates are still exerting pressure on the mountains, pushing them up a little higher every year. ) The tectonics of Tanzawa are complex; the ground under this part of Kanagawa is one of the few places in the world where three of the earth’s plates converge.


Next we’ll head on our private bus up into the mountains towards the Yabistu pass. On the way, we’ll stop for at the Nanohanadai View Point for a bento lunch break. If the weather is clear, we’ll have a good view of Mt. Fuji. There’s a wooden tower to put us well above the treeline; that climb will be a nice warm-up for hiking, and the structure itself makes for a nice picture. See what I mean?


Now, what’s a trip into the mountain without a little hiking? (One of the luxuries of having our own bus is that we’re not constrained by the limited schedules and crowded conditions of the public buses!) Our first afternoon is set aside for a guided hike along a portion of the Omote-Ohne trail, walking from the Gomayashiki natural spring (elevation 725 m) up to the Ninoto peak (elevation 1,185 m) and then on to the Sannoto  peak (elevation 1,250), where we can get an unobstructed 360-degree view over the entire area.  If it’s clear, we’ll be able to see most of the Kanto plain, including the island of Enoshima, the Boso coastline, and of course Mt. Fuji! (For those who have been on my previous trips, we should also be able to see Mt. Oyama and the Manazuru peninsula — a great way to knit all the trips together.)


Total distance is about 4.4 kilometers with a significant elevation gain; most of the way up, we’ll be climbing on stairs built with logs.  We can take our time, taking advantage of the local guides who will accompany us to learn about the plants we’ll see along the way. They can tell us about changes in the mountains caused by the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake as well as efforts to control damage from deer overpopulation — a big problem throughout Japan as humans encroach on the deer’s natural habitat, forcing them higher into the mountains. At the same time, their natural enemies, notably wolves, have disappeared, meaning there are more deer competing for scarcer food.


Now, for  our overnight lodging, I decided to opt for privacy over traditional charm, on the theory that most of us prefer not to sleep with strangers. (In Japanese-style inns, groups are usually put all together in large rooms, with everyone sleeping on the floor lined up to one other.) The Manyo no Yu hotel is in town, but offers the right combination of lots of single rooms (everyone gets their own small Western-style room with private bath and toilet)– AND Japanese-style amenities: a tatami banquet room for our dinner and lots of onsen baths to enjoy nearly any hour of the day and night.  (If you’re joining the tour with a loved one and don’t mind sharing a small double bed in tight space, we can offer you both a reduced rate. )

Dinner and breakfast are included in our stay; we’ll have a Japanese dinner together, including free drinks (both alcoholic and soft). Breakfast you can take on your own anytime from 7 am, with a choice of either a Japanese “teishoku” tray or a semi-Western breakfast of eggs, meat, juice and rice. (Don’t ask me why, but the hotel says they can’t manage bread). In either case, there’s coffee, my personal requirement for a happy morning.


On our second day, we’ll start with a walking tour to Hadano’s many springs. The whole Tanzawa area is full of water; in fact, there’s half again as much water underground as in Hakone’s famous Ashinoko lake, and it seems to bubble up all over in not just the mountains but in town as well.  In fact, the waters are listed among the “100 Notable Springs of Japan” and certified by the environment ministry. People come from all over to take home the water, and there are interesting legends associated with the springs. One spring supposedly burst forth, like a miracle, when the legendary priest Kobo Daishi knocked his staff on the ground.


Our quest for water will take us to two fabulous but very different Shinto shrines: first, the Izumo Taishi Sagami Bunshi, a branch of the famous Izumo Taisha shrine in Shimane Prefecture that was established in the Meiji period. Check out the jumbo “shimenawa” rope over the entrance there.


This is a famous place to pray for better luck in love, and there are even heart-shaped places to tie your wish. No wonder this has become known as one of the more powerful “power spots” in all of Kanto, drawing lots of young, female tourists.


As something special, we have arranged for our group to view a special performance of “kagura” shrine dance. This is not something you get to see everyday.


After the first shrine visit, we’ll go to a lovely farm-like setting, with a water wheel and local produce for sale, where we’ll get a lesson in how to make soba noodles.  Soba is an important food in mountainous areas where it’s difficult to grow rice, and making good soba requires good, tasty water –something we’ll know by now that Tanzawa has plenty of.


We’ll mix and roll and cut and work up an appetite for our lunch of soba noodles and vegetable tempura. They’ll even send us home with a recipe in English so we can make soba again for our friends and family.


The last stop of the day will be the Shirasasa Inari Shrine, one of the the three most important inari (fox) shrines in the Kanto area.  Of particular interest here is their lovely new ceiling, painted recently by an artist as an act of faith and using all sorts of ancient symbolism. We can try to puzzle out together what all the panels mean. There is also a very curious custom here involving spearing strips of fried tofu, as a form of prayer, and they have very cute “randoseru” (school backpack) charms for just 500 yen each.


We should be back at the station around 4:30 pm on Sunday. For those who want to pick up some local produce or presents before heading home, there are some shops at the station.

This fully guided tour in English is organized in cooperation with Kanagawa Prefecture and Hadano City, and with a grant from the national government that makes it possible to offer it half the actual cost. The fee of 24,000 yen per person (21,000 yen if sharing a room) includes our private bus and driver for transportation within Tanzawa, lunch, dinner and drinks on the first day, hotel (with as many baths as you want), and breakfast and lunch on the second day. It also includes donations to the shrines, the fee for the kagura shrine dance and soba-making lesson, and fees for any exhibits we visit. Please pay your own train fare to and from Hadano station.


Train information: To travel in comfort from Tokyo, I recommend the Odakyu Odawara Line’s limited express “Romance Car” with reserved seating that departs Shinjuku station at 8:10 and arrives in Hadano at 9:07 (train name Sagami #59, 57 minutes, 670 yen fare + 620 yen for the express ticket; total 1,289 yen one way). You can buy your seat ticket in advance at any Odakyu station and use your Suica or Pasmo for the basic fare.  Or, you can take a regular express train on the same line, departing from Shinjuku at 7:51 (1 hr, 12 minutes, 670 yen).  From Yokohama, there is a special express on the Sotetsu Line dep. 8:00 bound for Ebina station; arrive at Ebina at 8:26 and change to the Odakyu Odawara line, dep. 8:42 and arriving Hadano at 9:03. (1 hr, 3 mins, 590 yen). The group will return to Hadano station on Sunday at approximately 16:20.)


A word on the level of strenuousness: we’ve set aside four hours on the first afternoon for hiking.  Anyone with a reasonable level of fitness should be able to do the climb we’ve planned, but keep in mind that it’s real hiking and will involve some exertion.  I did it with huffing and puffing but no problems or muscle soreness afterwards. And I was passed on the trail by climbers who were at least in their seventies, and families with young children. If necessary, we can divide into two groups, each with guides, with one group taking an alternate, easier hike. I’ve even planned a “chicken out” point along the way, so you can sample the incline along the main route for 15 minutes, and if at that point you think it’s too much, you can still opt for the easier hike with less climbing.  The main route I’ve planned goes up and down the same path, so it’s also possible to stop at any point and head back to the bus or wait on a bench for the group to finish and return.  If you have any doubts about your hiking ability, send me a message through the contact form on this blog and we can talk about it. Also, please contact me if you’re a vegetarian or have a food allergy, and we’ll discuss how we can accommodate you. For sure let me know if you have a peanut allergy!

This tour is limited to 20 people and should fill up quickly. If you’re interested please sign up as soon as possible.  You’ve got two options: Tabee Japan, which is all in English, sort of, but is finicky. Start by clicking on the circle on Nov. 28.  Alternately, if you can read enough Japanese to sign up for things online, you can try Kanagawa Chikatabi. The text about the tour is in English but the instructions are in Japanese. When you enter your name, do it all in capital letters, which I’ve heard works better. If you have any trouble, please let me know and I’ll get you signed up.

One final note: We’re also organizing a day-trip in early February (probably Saturday Feb. 6) to Gotanda, near Mt. Fuji, to explore the connection between sake and Shinto. We will be visiting shrines and sake breweries, but you don’t have to be drinker to enjoy this tour.

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Discover Another Kanagawa: Join Me in Oyama, Oct. 31

Praying for Hits in the Waterfall of Answered Prayers (1863), Utagawa Kunisada I (Toyokuni III)

This trip is now full; it booked up less than a week after registration opened. Let me know if you’d like to be on the waiting list in case of cancellations, and please consider joining our upcoming trips to Tanzawa (Sat-Sunday, Nov. 28-28) and Gotemba (Sat. Feb. 6). Details to follow.

What’s more fun than tattooed men frolicking in a waterfall? Our next “Discover Another Kanagawa” excursion! This time we’re planning a day trip to fascinating Mt. Oyama. The date is Saturday October 31 and you’re invited to join us. Highlights include a ride on the latest in cable cars, a 2-star Michelin view over the Kanto plain, and special access to see how a 1,100-year-old temple gets restored.


Mt. Oyama is a beautiful, pyramid-shaped peak located pretty much in the center of Kanagawa Prefecture.  It may have been a schlep to get there 150 years ago when Tokyo was Edo, but it’s easy now via the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku.

Afuri Shrine at Mt. Oyama, 1858. By Utagawa (Gountei) Sadahide.

Afuri Shrine at Mt. Oyama, 1858. By Utagawa (Gountei) Sadahide.

Mt. Oyama has long been an object of worship, but during the Edo period, when common people first gained the means and freedom to travel, Oyama became a popular pilgrimage site. It would  attract as many 20,000 pilgrims in the space of a few weeks during the summer — that’s a tenth of Edo’s entire population. People would organize by neighborhood or occupation into groups and travel together on foot.

Detail from

Detail from “Praying for Hits in the Waterfall of Answered Prayers” (1863) Utagawa Kunisada I (Toyokuni III)

See the figure in the middle holding a board? That’s actually a famous Kabuki actor and the object he’s holding is a kidachi 木太刀, or large wooden sword. Pilgrims would carry these swords all the way from Edo as an offering at Oyama’s Afuri Shrine. They were often elaborately carved, several meters long and HEAVY! Can you imagine what a spectacle it would have been to see a band of men identically dressed in matching pilgrim’s clothes, probably drunk and carrying a giant sword on their shoulders?  Yes, for while the Oyama pilgrimage was ostensibly a spiritual journey, the pilgrims had a lot of fun and drink along the way: the mountain was a center of Noh theater and comic rakugo performance. Oyama was Edo’s Disneyland!

Oyama's ultra-modern cable cars debut on Oct. 1. A must for transportation fans.

Oyama’s ultra-modern cable cars debut on Oct. 1. A must for transportation fans.

Oyama_cablecar1Our group, which is limited to 20 people, will meet at Isehara station on the Odakyu Odawara Line at 8:10 am. (Train information below.) We’ll ride on Oyama’s brand-new cable cars to the Oyama Afuri Shrine, where we’ll take in the fabulous view over the Kanto plain and ocean. (The Michelin Guide justifiably gives this view two stars, because on a clear day you can see Enoshima and all the way to the Boso Peninsula.) The young priest of the shrine, 27th generation in a hereditary line, will be our guide us, telling us about the surprising and often colorful history of the Oyama pilgrimage. Be sure to bring a water bottle so you can fill up with the shrine’s auspicious fresh spring water.

After, we’ll head back down the mountain to visit with one of the last craftsmen still making Oyama’s famous wooden “koma” (spinning tops), Suzuki Yuji. He’ll show us how he makes the tops and demonstrate his skilled hand at spinning them, too.


Oyama is also famous for tofu, so well have a fancy tofu lunch served at an old inn that once served only groups of pilgrims. The owner will tell about the inn’s history, and perform for us the Shinto ceremony that protected generations of pilgrims when they left the inn for their climb up the mountain.

This sumptuous tofu lunch is included.

Afterward, we’ll go to Oyama’s unusual Noh theater, which is built over water, for a special back-stage and on-stage tour. We’ll get a brief demonstration and have a chance to try on a real Noh mask, too. It’s interesting to experience how little the actors can actually see when they are wearing a mask.

Finally, we’ll head up another side of the mountain to Hinata Yakushi, said to have been founded by the Buddhist priest Gyoki in 716. One of Japan’s three great Yakushi temples and an Important Cultural Property, the wooden main building is currently undergoing a 7-year renovation.


We have been granted special access into the actual construction site, where we will learn about the restoration process and traditional building techniques.

We will also have a chance to see, up-close and in good light, the temple’s 25 Buddhist images, including the main images of Yakushi Nyorai and its guardians Nikko and Gakko.  If you have even the slightest interest in Buddhist imagery, this is a chance not to be missed.


This fully guided tour in English is organized in cooperation with Kanagawa Prefecture and Isehara City, and with a grant from the national government that makes it possible to offer it half the actual cost. The fee of 8,000 yen per person includes lunch, all transportation within Oyama, a donation to the shrine, the Noh demonstration and the admission fee to see the Buddhist images. Please pay your own train fare to and from Isehara station.

(Train information: From Shinjuku station, there is an express train on the Odakyu Odawara line departing at 7:11 am, arriving Isehara at 8:10 am. (59 mins, 590 yen). This train can also be boarded at Yoyogi Uehara at 7:16 (54 mins, 540 yen). From Yokohama, there is an express on the Sotetsu Line dep. 7:21 bound for Ebina station; arrive at Ebina at 7:54 and change to the Odakyu Odawara line, dep. 8:00 arriving Isehara at 8:10. (49 mins, 530 yen). The group will return to Isehara station at the end of the tour, at approximately 5:20 pm.)

A word on the level of strenuousness: Oyama is very popular for casual mountain climbing, but we won’t be actually hiking. However, there are a lot of steps involved, getting up and down to the cable station. And we’ll be climbing construction stairs at the temple restoration site. Please wear comfortable, closed shoes and loose clothing.

The group is limited to 20 people and should fill up quickly. If you’re interested please sign up as soon as possible. I have to apologize because the online reservation system  is not as user-friendly for foreigners as it should be. You’ve got two options: Tabee Japan, which is all in English, sort of, but is finicky. Start by clicking on the circle on Oct. 31.  Alternately, if you can read enough Japanese to sign up for things online, you can try Kanagawa Chikatabi. The text about the tour is in English but the instructions are in Japanese. When you enter your name, do it all in capital letters, which I’ve heard works better. If you have any trouble, please let me know through the contact page on this blog and I’ll get you signed up.

One final note: We’re also planning an overnight trekking trip in Tanzawa in November (fall colors! probably the weekend of Nov. 28-29) and a tour of sake breweries around Gotanda in February.

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Power-saving Taps 節湯水栓


If you live in Japan, or have visited Japan, chances are you’ve run into tap trouble. Is it up for on? Down for on? It’s so hard to get your moves right!  In my Sept. 27 column in The Japan Times, I fielded a question from a woman who wants to know why the heck her kitchen tap lifts to start when her bathroom tap works the other way around. For an explanation of the ups and downs of Japanese faucets, please read the column.

I also addressed an oft-heard story that this confusion has something to do with earthquakes. I’ll send you to the paper’s site for that, too, but you might find your ideas a little shaken up.  I did promise to blog about energy-saving faucets, and that, I can tell you right here, is very much about earthquakes.

Those of you who were in Japan in 2011, the year of the terrible earthquake and tsunami, will remember the resulting energy crisis. In response, the government challenged  industry to find ways to cut back on energy consumption. One target, believe it or not, was home hot-water use. (Japan’s a nation of clean freaks, and it takes energy to heat all the water we use in tidying and bathing!)

Manufacturers responded with a variety of new products, including faucets that cut down on hot-water use, which are called setsu-yu suisen 節湯水栓. Such faucets reduce hot-water use in a variety of ways, including mixing the water with air so it feels like you’re getting more water than you’re actually using, but I’ll focus on a smart little feature that encourage consumers to interrupt the flow when they don’t really need it on. In Japanese, this is expressed as komame ni o-yu o tomeru こまめにお湯をとめる (turn off the hot water frequently). It’s easily done with the faucet below: just tap the tap, and off it goes! (The sound effect in red is “pon!” ポン!)


There’s a version for showers, too. Keep in mind that most showers in Japan are hand-held, and installed in a room that also has a soaking tub.


Many newer shower-heads now come with a one-touch on/off button right on the shower head. No fiddling with the controls; just pop the button while you lather, and again when you’re ready to rinse. You don’t even have to open your eyes. This feature, whether on kitchen taps, shower heads or bathroom taps, is usually called a  tacchi suicchi タッチスイッチ(touch switch).


Here’s a video from Toto that shows off the advantages of one of its faucets with a one-touch on/off feature and aerated spray (which they  call “air-in shower”). The explanatory text is in Japanese but the pictures make it pretty clear what’s happening:

Please visit a showroom for more information, and do ask about the government incentive program, Sho-Ene Jutaku Points, which offers the possibility of rebates or gifts. Terms apply, including the age of your home.

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Tour in English! Art Deco at the Teien Museum

honkan_teienDid you know there’s a gem of Art Deco architecture right in the center of Tokyo? And that it’s open to the public and easily visited? This charming building is the Prince Asaka residence, built in 1933 for a member of the Imperial family, and now part of the  Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. It’s near Shirokanedai and Meguro stations, in a beautiful, park-like setting.


On Sept. 4 at 3 pm, I’ll be giving a guided tour in English. To help publicize the event, which is free with regular museum admission (800 yen), I’m giving away four tickets that will get you in the museum free, too. (Update: All tickets have now been spoken for, and are on their way to V.C., T.G. and N.K.)

Look up! My previous gallery talk at the Teien Museum. The lights are by Lalique.

Look up! The lights are by Lalique. My previous gallery talk at the Teien Museum.

During the tour, which will last about an hour, I’ll guide visitors through the residence, sharing its fascinating history while pointing out important points of design and materials.

Salon, former Prince Asaka Residence

Salon, former Prince Asaka Residence

The current exhibition, on through Sept. 23,  features Art Deco furniture on loan from the collection of Hikonobu Ise. This is a very good chance to experience what the interior may have felt like when it was still a residence, while enjoying fabulous period furnishings from key artists in the Art Deco movement, including Austrian architect and designer Josef Hoffman (1870-1956) and French architect and furniture designer Pierre Chareau (1883-1950).

Chairs in mahogany and fabric by Pierre Chaureau, c. 1920; table by Edgar Brandt. Ise Foundation.

Chairs in mahogany and fabric by Pierre Chaureau, c. 1920; table by Edgar Brandt. Ise Foundation.

Detail of firescreen in wrought iron by Edgar Brandt, 1920. Ise Foundation.

Detail of firescreen in wrought iron by Edgar Brandt, 1920. Ise Foundation.

There are also works by Austrians Koloman Moser (1898-1962) and Josef Maria Olbrich (1867-1908)  and of course French glass artist René  Lalique (1860-1945), whose works are part of the permanent fittings of the Prince Asaka Residence.

Coffee set by Anne-Marie Fontaine, 1921. Sèvres porcelain.

I deeply covet this coffee set by Anne-Marie Fontaine, 1921. Sèvres porcelain.

After touring the residence, we’ll move on to the new wing of the museum, which is currently showing classic Art Deco posters collected by the late clothing designer Ruki Matsumoto. Believing that posters are “mirrors on their times,” Matsumoto amassed a collection of more than 20,000 before his death in 2012.

Two versions of a poster for furniture store Au Bucheron designed by A.M. Cassandres, 1925 and 1926

Posters designed for furniture store Au Bucheron by A.M. Cassandres, 1925 and 1926

Finally, there is a whole room of stupendous pieces in glass by René Lalique, all collected by Japanese egg magnate Seiichirō Omura and his son Yoshiro. Interestingly, there are also several works by Lalique’s daughter, Suzanne, who was an artist in her own right

Athletes, by Rene Lalique, c. 1912. Ohmura Art Museum, Akita, Japan

Athletes, by Lalique, c. 1912. Omura Art Museum, Akita, Japan

Figures in glass by Lalique. Omura Art Museum, Akita.

Figures in glass by Lalique. Omura Art Museum, Akita.

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Discover Another Kanagawa: Meet me in Manazuru, Oct. 3

Manazuru (真鶴) means

Manazuru (真鶴) means “true crane.” The peninsula got its name because it supposedly looks like a crane with its wings outspread. Maybe if you squint?

Yokohama. Check.  Hakone. Check. Kamakura. Check, check.  Well, folks, there’s a lot more to Kanagawa than its three most famous places.  Why not join me this fall and winter on a journey of discovery to lesser known but highly deserving destinations around the prefecture? First up: the beautiful Manazuru peninsula, on Saturday Oct. 3.

The green on the right is the O-Hayashi (

All that green at the right is the O-Hayashi (“Great Woods”), a forest that has remained undisturbed since the Edo period. That’s rare in Japan, where so many forests were burned for fuel during the war.

Manazuru is a very old town, traditionally centered on fishing and stone cutting. It is most famous for its Kibune Matsuri festival, held every July, and komatsu-ishi 小松石, a local stone used in constructing Edo Castle and many traditional Japanese gardens.  (This stone was also used for the exterior walls of the Western-style house in the Kyu-Furukawa Garden in Tokyo, not to mention the outdoor tables at Roku Roku sushi restaurant in the Hyatt in Roppongi. How’s that for trivia?)

A cool beauty in Roppongi. The stone tables are made of komatsu-ishi from Manazuru.

Cool beauty. These outdoor stone tables are made of komatsu-ishi from Manazuru.

Today, Manazuru is known in city-planning circles for its emphasis on preserving local beauty and nature. In particular, it is noted for the O-Hayashi お林(“Great Woods”), a forest on the end of the peninsula that has been undisturbed since the Edo Period.

We’ll start our tour of Manazuru with a ride on a sightseeing boat to get an overview of the peninsula from the water, passing rock quarries and commercial fishing sites with nets in the water. And we’ll get a great view of the O-Hayashi as well as the famous Mitsui Ishi (三ツ石) “Three Rocks”). 

The Mitsu-Ishi (

The Mitsu-Ishi (“Three Rocks”) shrine at the tip of the peninsula. It’s possible to tip-toe out to it at low tide.

Having a woods so close to the ocean creates a unique eco-system because nutrients from the leaves dropped by the trees are carried by rain into the ocean, providing food for a wide range of fish.  That’s why it’s also called the “uo-tsuki hayashi” 魚付き林 (“woods with fish”).

Wait, isn’t that the kanji for “fish?” Yup.The sign reads “uotsuki hoanrin” (protected forest with fish).

We’ll go into the woods in the company of the gūji 宮司 (priest) of Kibune Shrine 貴船神社  to an little branch shrine deep among the trees, where he’ll explain and demonstrate for us the Shinto rite that is performed there every year to protect the local fishermen and ensure good catches.

Called the

Locals call this the “Yama no jinja” 山の神社 — shall we translate that as “shrine on the mount?” The atmosphere is amazing.   Definitely a “power spot.”

We’ll have a chance to experience that bounty for ourselves, through a very leisurely barbecue lunch at an organic lemon farm overlooking the sea.

Lunch on the ocean-view terrace of an organic lemon farm.

The view from the terrace is spectacular. Let’s hope for a beautiful sunny fall day.

Local fish and seafood, handmade local sausages, organic veggies and steak.

A feast including local fish and seafood, handmade sausages, organic veggies and steak.

And we get to cook ourselves, barbecue style.

And we get to do the cooking ourselves. Our hosts will show us how.

Provided we can still move after lunch, we’ll visit the Nakagawa Kazumasa Museum at the edge of the O-Hayashi. Nakagawa was a painter who worked in oils and Western style, making Manazuru his base for over 50 years as he painted local views again and again. The museum building won some important prizes for its architect, Yanagisawa Takahiko 柳澤孝彦, who also designed Tokyo Opera City in Tokyo, and features local stone for its floors.

The floors are made of local komatsu-ishi stone.

The floors on the ground floor of the museum are made of local komatsu-ishi stone.

Nakagawa practiced the tea ceremony, so he asked for a tea room when they built the museum. It’s never, ever been done before, but we’ve received special permission to host a mini tea ceremony, demonstrated for us by local volunteers, in this beautiful tea room overlooking the lush green of the O-Hayashi.

That's Nakagawa's calligraphy at the front of the room.

Tearoom with a view. That’s Nakagawa’s calligraphy in the alcove.

Finally, we’ll visit the Endo Shell Museum at the tip of the cape, where we can learn about the ocean eco-system, and see a rare shell –only three known examples in the world!

Endo Shell Museum

I’ve built in some free time after, in which you can stay longer in the shell museum, take a coffee at a seaside café, explore the woods or go to the rocky shore to walk and hunt for starfish and crabs. The view from the tip of the cape over the Sagami Bay towards Atami and Izu is really nice. If anyone wants to be run back to the station for an early departure (around 4 pm) the bus can make a round trip during this period. Otherwise, we will all return to the station around 5 pm, timed for  return trains.

The cost is 10,000 yen per person, including the boat ride, a donation to the shrine, lunch, both museum admissions and a charter bus to get us from place to place within Manazuru. I realize that sounds expensive for a day trip, but there’s a lot packed in there and the lunch is way better than average. And this is actually half what it would normally cost to do this tour, thanks to a government subsidy (your tax yen at work) to promote tourism in Kanagawa.

The group will be limited to 20 people and I do think this is going to fill up quickly. If you’re interested please sign up as soon as possible. I have to apologize in advance because the online reservation system  is not yet as user-friendly for foreigners.

You’ve got two options, neither of which go as smoothly as they should (we’ll be working on this, I promise). First,  Tabee Japan This page is kindly all in English, sort of, but is finicky. Start by clicking on the circle on Oct. 3.  Alternately, if you can read enough Japanese to sign up for things online, you can try Kanagawa Chikatabi. The text about the tour is in English but the instructions are in Japanese. When you enter your name, do it all in capital letters. I’ve heard that works better.

If you have any trouble, please contact me through the contact page on this blog and I’ll get you signed up.

One final note: the next trip, to Oyama on Oct. 31 will be a knock-out. We’ll do an overnight trekking trip in Tanzawa in November (fall colors!) and a tour of sake breweries around Gotanda in February.

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Nihonshū Overpour: How to drink when your cup runneth over


If you’ve enjoyed Japanese sake in Japan, chances are you’ve been served at least once in the way shown above: poured until it overflows glass and spills into something strategically placed below. As I explained in my July 26 column in The Japan Times, this is called sosogi-koboshi 注ぎ溢し and presents various challenges. How do you pick up such a full glass? Are you supposed to drink the overflow? And if so, first or last?

Often the overflow goes into a wooden cup called a

The wooden cup is a “masu.”

Very often, the receptacle below is a wooden square called a masu 升, which makes things even harder. (It’s  not easy to wrap your lips around straight edges and pointy corners.) Actually, a masu the traditional measure for rice and other grains and is not meant to be drunk from.

Except, of course — and there are always exceptions — at certain types of celebrations when a barrel of sake is broken open . At these occasions, everyone is passed a new masu, usually branded with a mark for the company, organization or individuals being feted. You accept a portion of the sake in your masu, and then take the empty cup home as a souvenir.

The right time to drink from a

Really, the only “right time” to drink from these wooden cups  is when a new barrel of sake is broken open at a celebration.

Check out the column for a sake expert’s advice on what do do if you’re served this way, and an explanation about why not everyone likes such a generous pour.

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