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Day 5: Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Photo by nobrinskii
On the 21st of each month is Kōbō-san 弘法さん, a temple market at Tō-ji. (Here's my travelogue entry from my previous trip, in 2007.) Like last time, most of the other people in my group were shopping for vintage kimono and obi to use as fabric, rather than to wear, but the other tea person in the group, Julia, had an eye out for kimono to wear for tea ceremony. She pointed me to a pretty lavender iromuji (single-color kimono suited to tea ceremony) in one seller's pile. I don't have any lavender or purple kimono, so it would've been a nice addition to my wardrobe, but just as I was about to buy it we noticed a stain around the outside-right-thigh area that would be especially prominent in a normal tearoom if one is the host. It's unusual to see an iromuji at a market like this, and apparently even more so to see one that isn't stained, which is why I've given up looking myself in that environment. So rather than look for kimono at these markets I look for tea ceremony utensils, souvenirs, crafts that catch my eye, and yummy "festival food".

Among the autumnal treats available were hot-off-the-hibachi roasted ginkgo nuts and chestnuts, the latter only spotted after I had a bag of the former. Only some of the roasted ginkgo nuts had cracked open; the others were really hard to get into. Maybe a nutcracker is in order next time. Somewhere along the way I got a skewer of chewy yomogi dango, and by early afternoon, chocolate-filled dorayaki, hot of the griddle, really hit the spot.

Ever since we had Okinawan black sugar one day earlier this year in tea ceremony class, I've been a fan of it, so I picked up some from a vendor here in loose and block forms. I decided I'd like to set up a tanzaku display in my house, and to that end I bought four embroidered tanzaku—momiji (red maple leaves), ume, fuji (wisteria), and ayame (iris). I bought a red coral necklace on a fabric cord that I just recently shortened to a length I prefer; I wondered at the abundance of red coral for sale there as jewelry and as loose pieces. I also wonder whether the harvesting of this coral destroyed a living reef habitat. I picked up a keychain with bells and bottle-gourd-shaped wooden beads; a dictionary suggests the motif might be called 千成り瓢箪. For equally aesthetic and practical purposes I bought this pocket watch. The kanji around the outside are numerals, some of them the less-common formal variants. The hiragana on the inside are a mystery to me, though.

tea ceremony stuff bought at Kōbō-sanHere's the tea ceremony stuff I bought, in the photo to the right. In the back are two secondhand kyō-yaki tea bowls, one with an ume design for early spring and the other with a kaede (green maple leaf) design for early autumn. At the same vendor I bought the red ceramic lid rest in front and the black lacquered natsume on the right, the gold design on which I don't recognize.

The most special piece, though, is the ceramic natsume with the vertical stripes that I bought new from the potter. I'm kicking myself for not catching the potter's name, though—he didn't have a business card—since provenance is pretty important when it comes to tea ceremony utensils, or at least nice ones that you'd like to use for special gatherings.

As an aside, there were a few vendors at the market who were surprisingly pushy, getting in my face and insisting that I buy their wares when I was only looking. One even grabbed my arm, a move that took me aback in a place like Kyoto. I don't know what to make of those experiences, which were new to me on my third time visiting Japan and at which the other group members were surprised when I recounted them. Maybe I was looking especially timid that day? Maybe the depressed economy has made a few vendors desperate for sales? I don't know.

some food on a stickWe wrapped up the day with a group dinner at Kushihachi, as on the last trip, and it was a blast. Here's a shot of their English menu. Fried food on a stick is a classic. Along with the popular items we tried a few of the seasonal ones: the chestnuts had a dessert-like sweetness, and the matsutake were good but probably best enjoyed with a subtler preparation. My favorites were shiitake and lotus root. We drank heartily and chuckled at the cryptic "pork tranklements" listed on the menu. I'd certainly recommend this place to any tourist visiting Kyoto.

This entry was originally posted at http://bokunenjin.dreamwidth.org/3533.html.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
hasufin
Jan. 6th, 2010 03:53 pm (UTC)
I had no idea that gingko nuts could be roasted!

Maybe we could try to find recipes for some of the sweets you liked, for the tea night on the 19th?
radhardened
Jan. 6th, 2010 09:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the roasted ginkgo nuts that I managed to open were good. I don't recall seeing ginkgo nuts for sale in the States, though.

The more I think about it, the more I doubt I'll have the time to make any Japanese sweets for the tea night, given how my schedule is filling up.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )