Wednesday, August 6, 2014

36. 大雨時行: "Occasional Hard Rain"

(BGM: "Sun & Moon" by Above & Beyond feat. Richard Bedford, Paul Hills Sunset 2 Moonrise Mix)

Shichijuni-kou (72 Seasons) Calendar Listing 
晩夏, Banka: "Late Summer"
Season No. 12: 大暑: Taisho
"Major Heat" 

"Izumo Downpour" (c) 2014 Genkilee, Gen. All Rights Reserved.
 Climate No. 36: 大雨時行
Taiu Tokidoki Ni Furu
"Occasional Hard Rain"
(August 2 -August 6) 

 "It's raining, it's pouring..."

Typhoon Halong is poised to hit us head-on. Naturally I mourn any casualties, but I usually look forward to typhoons because of all the excitement that comes along with them. Days before, prompted by the worried tones of weather analysts, we all scramble to secure our bicycles, put in our plants and batten down the hatches before the winds come. Even though Halong's eye is a few days off, we've been getting brief, violent thunderstorms as the typhoon triggers our East Asian Monsoon. Makes for some fun photo practice!

"Twisted Pink" (c) 2014 Genkilee, Gen. All Rights Reserved.
I guess the best way to face your fears is to take pictures of them.

"Voltage" (c) 2014 Genkilee, Gen. All Rights Reserved.

Flower Of The Season: キキョウ, Kikyou, Balloonflower

Platycodon grandiflorus (Japanese bellflower aka "balloon flower."

"I have had busy days
  Coming home in full bloom 
   Of balloon flowers
     And leaving chrysanthemums." 
                     -Matsuo Basho

I love seeing these curiously-shaped bell-like flowers smiling at me when I walk down a rainy street. Their inflated buds look exactly like paper origami balloons that children used to play with. What a cheerful sight to behold in such a gloomy season!

Taste Of The Season:, うなぎ, Unagi, Freshwater Eel

Unagi chef hard at work near Narita-san temple in Chiba Prefecture. (2002)
Around this time of the year falls "the Day of the Ox," where people traditionally eat freshwater eel to keep up their energy during this season of extreme heat. From what I've been told, the eel is a particularly genki (energetic) fish because it's nothing but one big, long muscle. Others say it's because of unagi's high nutritional value. (I'll take door number 2). In Japan, it seems like there's at least ten different explanations for everything, and part of the fun of living here is trying to figure out what's really true. (Learn about the connection between unagi and the Day of the Ox here!)

Main street to Narita-san Temple lined with many unagi specialty shops (2002).
The majority of unagi (Anguilla japonica) you see nowadays in Japanese sushi restaurants and supermarkets is now farmed in neighboring China. Despite unagi's recent listing as an endangered species, Japan still has quite a few districts that specialize in wild, unfarmed unagi cuisine, and one of them is easily accessible from Narita Airport. Walking down the road to Narita-san Temple is an exercise in restraint, for the mouth waters all too easily with every waft of smoke flying from sizzling, juicy charcoal-broiled unagi brushed with sweet soy sauce. The temptation is almost too painful to endure when the smoke comes at you from all angles!

My first ever taste of unagi at Asabaya in Kamakura (Kanagawa Prefecture, 2002).
Of course you can still enjoy Japanese unagi in many locations across Japan, but due to its increasing rarity of authenticity, it will always cost you a pretty yen, starting at 1,500 yen or higher for unagi-don (a bowl of rice topped with a few spoons of chopped or crumbled grilled eel. (The unajun boxed set pictured above starts at 2,500 yen at most places). You can easily taste the difference, though. Store-bought, imported unagi has a strong, earthy aftertaste (like the smell of loamy potting soil) that just doesn't exist in fresh, wild unagi. If grilled properly, wild freshwater eel flesh is creamy, oily and clear with no complicated aftertaste.

If the taste doesn't energize you, the idea of eating something that might not be around fifty years from now probably will. (I'll just let you guess the reason why my one photo here of wild freshwater eel is over 12 years old. I like to do my part for the environment. ;-)

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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