|Water Reeds Coming Up at Okubiwako Sports Park (Nagahama, Shiga)|
Shichijuni-kou (72 Seasons) Calendar Listing
晩春 Banshun: "Late Spring"
Season No. 6: 穀雨, Koku:
The phrase "grain rain" comes from an old Chinese legend of how grain fell from the sky "like rain" the moment Cangjie invented the first kanji characters. (Kanji is the primary writing system used throughout China and Japan, with limited use in Korea). In the West, we have a similar expression: "April showers bring May flowers." Both describe the phenomenon of late spring rains that improve the fertility of the land. Rice farmers take these brief, fleeting rains as a cue from Mother Nature to turn the soil, the first step in preparation for planting.
|A field of rotated soil, ready for flooding (Kojinyama Park, Hikone, Shiga).|
Ashi Hajimete Shouzu:
"Water Reeds Come Up"
(April 20 -April 24)
Lining portions of the southeastern shores of Lake Biwa and the many rivers that feed into her, water reeds (葭 ashi, yoshi), sway and rustle with the slightest breeze in a gentle percussion like horse hair brushes on a cymbal. This stately species of grass is still plentiful here, where for centuries, it has provided thatch roofing material, protection from bank erosion and shelter for many species of fish, birds and insects unique to the region.
|Rushing Past the Rushes of Lake Biwa (Ohmi Hachiman, Shiga)|
|Suigo Meguri cruise boats resting in a canal littered with sakura blossoms (Ohmi Hachiman, Shiga).|
|Ashi Udon Noodles with Red Konnyaku and Miso Pickles (Suigo District, Ohmi Hachiman City, Shiga)|
|Hojicha Tea From Ibigawa, Gifu|
I was a tea lover long before I arrived in Japan. My first exposure to whole-leaf, unsweetened green tea was via the Republic Of Tea company based out of Novato, California. In the corner of our favorite bookstore in Anchorage (no longer in existence), was a tiny "tea bar" that sold paper cups of scalding-hot Republic teas at ghastly prices. But sipping your way through a cup of hojicha or sencha somehow made life in Alaska less unsophisticated, and thus, my friend and I became instant addicts. Back when the Internet was just a baby, he and I spent hundreds of bucks on our first online shipping purchase: a crate full of fine tea blends. Being an owner of these fine teas was one of the major highlights of my Alaskan life. But little did I know that only a decade later, I'd have the chance to stroll around one of the world's most prominent green tea capitals: Uji, Kyoto.
|A green banner advertises shincha for sale in Uji, Kyoto.|
|An inviting little tea grotto (Uji, Kyoto)|
|A gorgeous antique hojicha roaster in Uji, Kyoto.|
The far moon in a continuing dream
Steam of roasting tea." -Matsuo Basho
|Kids watching a tea roaster at work (Bikan District, Kurashiki City, Okayama)|
|Ready for drinking! Kurashiki Hojicha Tea (Bikan District, Kurashiki, Okayama)|
How To Make Fresh-Roasted Hojicha At Home:
You Will Need:
*A cup full of plain, unroasted sencha tea leaves
*A frying pan
*A dry plate or ungreased cookie sheet for cooling
Warm the frying pan on medium heat. When the pan is nice and hot, pour in enough sencha tea leaves to cover the bottom of the pan and dry-fry it, flipping constantly, until the rich, nutty roasted aroma fills the air. As it starts to turn brownish, empty it onto your plate or cookie sheet to cool, being extra careful not to burn or blacken the tea.
Once the roasted tea is cool, boil some water and brew your homemade hojicha tea according to taste.
Store unused hojicha tea leaves in an air-tight jar, metal can with a tight-fitting lid or a plastic tea caddy (sold at finer Asian grocery stores).
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.