Saturday, February 15, 2014

3. 魚上氷, "Fish Swim Up Through The Ice"

(BGM: "Let It Snow" by Bing Crosby)

Shichijuni-kou (72 Seasons) Calendar Listing
初春, Shoshun,  Early Spring
Season No. 1:立春, Risshun: "The Beginning of Spring" 

Koi in Frozen Pond in Toride, Ibaraki (December, 2009)

Climate No. 3: 魚上氷, Uo Kohri Wo Izuru: 
"Fish Swim Up Through The Ice" (February 14-18)

As the name implies, warmer spring air supposedly flows over the archipelago, causing lake and river ice to melt, enticing fish resting in the depths to venture up towards the surface.

But the only fish I've been seeing around here are koi  (carp, pictured above) and these poor goldfish in a cooking pot I saw in front of an Onomichi gift shop:

Needs More Soy Sauce! (Onomichi, Hiroshima)

"Well then, 
  Let's go snow-viewing
   Till we all fall down."  -Matsuo Basho

"Snow-Viewing" in Hikone, Shiga (February, 2012).
Japan always gets snow in February, but 2014 sure has been one for the history books! The skies seem to be broken this year, dumping more snow than people can keep up with, costing lives and livelihoods as shipping lines, electric grids and other forms of infrastructure fail.

As much as we feel for our snowbound brothers in colder climes, here in southern Hiroshima, many of us are actually enjoying  the snow, stopping to take pictures of the fleeting fairyland before it melts in the noontime sun. There's nothing like the joy of getting a heads-up email from an excited friend down the street, telling me to look at the magic outside my window. It makes me feel like an 8-year old kid, again.

This Auntie's got it right! "When life brings you snow, make a snowman!" :-)

There's a humidity now that lingers in the air, making any cold breeze chill straight through the skin into the bone. Day temperatures push close to 10C more frequently, signalling that the season is preparing to shift. Doubt changes into excitement. Yet the heart feels a tinge of melancholy, knowing the season of snow is on its way out.

Takehara City's Mount Asahi with Powdered Sugar On Top (February 2014)

Bird of the Season: 目白, Mejiro, Japanese White-eye 

White-eye in a flowering plum tree (Houkoen Park, Nagahama City, Shiga)

Perhaps the most endearing of Japan's passerine birds, the mejiro (Zosterops japonicus), can be seen all over Japan flitting about in groups of three or more, scouring small trees and bushes for food. Their white-rimmed eyes and tapered olive green bodies give them an animated, almost comical appearance. The locals often lure them closer to their windowsills by impaling a sliced half of mikan (tangerine) onto a nearby twig or setting out a bird bath. They're often confused with the uguisu  (Japanese warbler) due to their similar size and coloring. But the elitist uguisu are upper-canopy birds with no habit of intermingling with the world on the ground.

The mejiro are out in full force this time of year, drinking the sweet juice from overripe citrus fruits that drop off their branches. My heart skips a beat whenever I see these darling little babies of spring.

Taste of the Season: 小松菜, Komatsuna, Japanese Mustard Spinach
Fresh Komatsuna From Fukuoka!
Often mistaken for spinach in size and leaf shape, komatsuna (Brassica rapa var. perviridis) is slightly bitter and more fibrous in texture than its creamy, sweet cousin. High in plant-based calcium, it lends itself perfectly to steamed and stir-fried dishes, but it's also delicious raw in a salad.

Below is my favorite way of enjoying this beautiful brassica:

Gen's Krazy-Kantan (simple) K-Style Komatsuna Namul
You Will Need:
1 bunch of washed komatsuna, cut into 2-inch (5 cm) lengths, stems removed
salt (any salt will do. I prefer bamboo salt)
fragrant sesame oil (Korean, Chinese or Japanese)
pan-toasted white sesame seeds 

How To Prepare:

1) Fill a pot with water and heat to a rolling boil. Add the komatsuna and boil for 2 minutes, or until the color changes to a vibrant, deep green. 
2) Remove komatsuna from the heat, drain immediately and rinse in cold running water. Strain.
3) Squeeze as much water as possible from the komatsuna with your bare hands, four or five times (the point is to get the excess water out, not to squish it into mush). Place it in a mixing bowl. Fluff with your fingers if necessary.
4) Add sesame oil to taste (usually half a teaspoonful is enough).
5) Add a pinch of salt to taste ("less is more" in this case).
6) Gently mix the komatsuna with your hand to coat all the vegetable with the other ingredients. (The sesame oil is excellent for your cuticles!)
7) Serve with a tiny sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

Gen's Krazy-Kantan K-Style Komatsu Namul

Tastes awesome with a bowl of piping-hot rice and a side dish of kimchi! Enjoy! :-)   

Copyright 2014 Genkilee, Gen. All rights reserved. No part of this blog (written or photo content) may be reproduced or reprinted without the expressed permission of the author.

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