Oku Izumo

July 30, 2009
Shivering on the bridge near Miinohara

Shivering on the bridge near Miinohara

I think that one of the best meals I’ve ever had  was some simple noodles in a little town in Japan.

One chilly, gray day last fall, while  visiting the San’in region, Mas and I took a JR sightseeing train into the mountains of “inner Izumo”  to view the  fall colors.  We had seen a soba restaurant advertised in the JR pamphlet, so on the way back down we got off in Miinohara for lunch.   We found ourselves in a little unmanned station, more like a bus stop than anything else, with  nothing around but farmhouses.  It was raining and cold, we were  incredibly hungry, and the next train wouldn’t leave for another couple of hours.  We thought maybe we’d just made a huge mistake!

But we walked down the road and around the corner and there was the restaurant – Okuizumo Gen-an (奥出雲玄庵).  It was warm inside, and the waitress was welcoming.  The people who run the restaurant make the day’s noodles each morning from buckwheat they grow on their farm.  The menu offers only two choices – we had the “tororo soba” (buckwheat noodles served with a kind of grated  yam)  followed by a  nourishing bowl of sobayu, the water in which the noodles were cooked.

We were warmed by the good food and simple hospitality.

Okuizumo Genan in Miinohara

Okuizumo Gen-an in Miinohara

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Gomangoku Bonsai Show

February 20, 2009

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This old five-needle pine carries my imagination up into the high mountains.

Last fall, Mas and I went to the Gomangoku Bonsai show (五万石盆栽展) in Okazaki, near Nagoya.

Daiju-en (大樹園), which puts on this exhibit, stands at the head of a group of bonsai nurseries run by some of the finest professional bonsai artists in Japan.  The proprietor is Tohru Suzuki, the grandson of the founer, Saichi Suzuki. My bonsai teacher, Boon Manakitivipart, is part of this lineage.  His teacher (or oyakata 親方), Kihachiro Kamiya, apprenticed with Tohru’s father, Toshinori.

One of the things that sets Japanese bonsai apart from our American bonsai  is the age and development of the trees.  You can see this especially when you look at the ancient bark on the pines.  In time our trees will also show the beauty and dignity of age.

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Gomangoku has a large, high-quality, sales area.

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