Friday, August 22, 2014

39. 蒙霧升降: "Thick Fog Descends"

(BGM: "Yogiri Yo Konya Mo Arigatou" by Ishihara Yujiro)

Shichijuni-kou (72 Seasons) Calendar Listing 
初秋, Shoshu: "Early Autumn"
Season No. 13: 立秋: Risshu
"The Start Of Autumn"

Moody morning fog after a late night's thunderstorm (Mt. Noro, Hiroshima Prefecture).
Climate No. 39: 蒙霧升降 
Fukaki Kiri Matou
"Thick Fog Descends"
(August 17 -August 22) 

More misty magic on a Mt. Noro bike trail (Kure, Hiroshima).
We've been having tremendous downpours and thunderstorms nearly every day this week. Ignoring the prefectural mudslide warnings, we headed out one morning to drive up our favorite extinct volcano and found ourselves enshrouded in dense, white fog flowing up and around us, so thick I could feel the tiny beads of water collecting on the fine hairs of my lower arms. There's a pleasant expression in these parts for being bathed in this kind of mist: "forest bath" (Jpn: 森林浴, shinrinyoku). Hubby said he felt like passing out, the air was so pure. I found myself getting buzzed on the cleansing, camphor-like fragrance oils of cedar and pine sap that were carried on the mist. The sensations were a hundred percent worth the risk of getting up there. Free aromatherapy!

Flower Of The Season: 木槿, Mukuge, Rose of Sharon (aka Rose Mallow)

A slightly faded Rose of Sharon after a noon rainfall (Takehara, Hiroshima).
I'll never forget the first time I asked about the Hibiscus syriacus, which are blooming everywhere around me, now. These tall, broad-leaved shrubs with bright, floppy flowers resemble hibiscus to a tee. They even have the Latin classification of hibiscus. But the average Japanese granny on the street will adamantly tell you that the mukuge is definitely not a hibiscus. According to Japanese taxonomy, the mukuge is classified as a type of hollyhock.

(Sigh). Here we go again. 

Last year, after it dawned on me that the folks around here don't really care for people who are sure of their knowledge enough to argue about beautiful things like flowers, I learned to simply push aside my need to be correct. It's much easier to learn to enjoy the differences in thought than to resist them. My Korean husband knew nothing of the mukuge's classification, but said he cherished it as his national flower and a symbol of eternity and abundance (Hangul: 무궁화, mugunghwa). I found his attitude of humility refreshing, though I was perplexed at how a plant with flowers that last only a day could symbolize eternity.

(I guess some tasks, like resisting the urge to ask questions, are easier said than done. My, aren't these flowers lovely?!)

Rose of Sharon blossoms permanently folding up after their one day in the sun.

 Taste Of The Season: 蛸, Tako, Octopus

Sweet, savory octopus samples at Nishiki Market in Kyoto (2002).
When I lived in Alaska over a decade ago, the only octopus anything we could enjoy commercially was either in nigirizushi (finger-pressed sushi) or small packages of boiled unborn octopus fried in Korean BBQ sauce from our local Asian market. Alaska is blessed with large populations of edible octopus in her oceans but culturally, octopus was one of those "iffy" foods reserved for the brave. You'd have to go directly to a fisherman to buy one of these heavy, writhing cephalopods, since they're mainly used by Alaskans as bait for catching halibut (a gigantic species of flatfish). Low demand ensured you could never find fresh octopus at supermarkets like Fred Meyer's or Safeway.

Tentacles of suitcase-sized, fresh-caught octopus (Jagalchi Market in Busan, South Korea, 2005)
When I arrived in Japan, I was dazzled by the myriad ways octopus was used in everyday cuisine: stewed, pickled, fresh in sashimi, boiled and chilled in salads, dried and sprinkled on top of piping hot rice -countless options! The springy, rubbery flesh and mild, salty taste of octopus in season goes perfectly with the bitterness of late summer cucumbers, their most common flavor companion.

The octopus is said to be one of the most intelligent creatures of the sea, able to figure its way out of all kinds of mazes, puzzles and traps. Long ago, however, the Japanese figured out the invertebrate's love of hiding in small spaces and devised a deceptively simple contraption for catching them: a baited cyllindrical clay pot lined with a mesh net and a trap door. These takostubo (蛸壺, octopus pots) can be found piled and stacked up against seawalls in cities all along the Seto Inland Sea, where octopus is part of the local daily diet. Just looking at these pots helps me to remember the warm seas of summer.

"Octopus traps
  Fleeting dreams
   Under summer's moon." 
                           Matsuo Basho

Octopus traps (Tomonoura Town in Fukuyama, Hiroshima).
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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