Saturday, June 16, 2012

Umeshu 梅酒

In March, we see the beautiful ume (Japanese plum) blossoms.  In May, the small, firm fruits start to appear in grocery stores.

The ume are typically packaged in measurements of 2 kilograms.  They are also surrounded by bags of rock salt, large glass containers, and clear liquor.

These, my friends, are the essential ingredients of umeshu-Japanese plum wine.

The basic recipe calls for:

1 kg green ume

300-500 g white rock sugar

1800-2000 ml white liquor

Wash the plums well and pick out the tiny stems.  Dry the plums and layer them with the rock sugar in the jar.  Lastly, pour in your alcohol.  Most people wait at least six months to start drinking their umeshu.

Some people say to prick the plums before putting them in the jar.  Some people also say to swirl the jars once a week.  Some people say that is all busy work and not necessary.  You decide.  I pricked the plums of one batch-an experiment to see if it makes a difference.  

We made one with vodka, one with gin, and one with a generic Japanese white liquor.  But there are many other popular varieties out there as well: black sugar, honey, brandy, etc. 

Umeshu is an immensely popular drink in Japan.  I usually drink mine on the rocks, but it is also popularly mixed with club soda.  Both varieties are delicious.  Sometimes, the drink will even be served with an alcohol soaked plum floating amidst the ice.  I eat them.  They are delicious!

Our three jars are sitting peacefully in a closet on the floor...awaiting winter.

I can't wait to try them!
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hiroshima Eats

There is one thing you must be sure to eat when visiting Hiroshima:  Okonomiyaki.

Translated literally into English, it means “as you like it, fried.”  Or something like that. 

You can get a wide variety of types of okonomiyaki, but we stuck to the basic formula.  This consists of eggs, cabbage, pork, noodles, and a special sauce. 

After trying the famous Hiroshima okonomiyaki, we opted for some non-Japanese cuisine during the rest of our time visiting. 

One place we found was called Totide.  It was an Italian restaurant and wine bar.  It was-in short-some of the best Italian food I have ever had.  The service was also fantastic. 

We started with an appetizer from our server (an Italian man who has been living in Japan for sometime and also speaks perfect English)-a fried flat bread served with a fresh soft cheese and extra virgin olive oil. 

Our pasta dishes were exceptional.  The pasta had all been handmade that morning.  The lasagna was at least twenty layers of delicious sauce, cheese, and thin beautiful lasagna noodles.

A white wine smoothie our amazing server let us sample.  It was delightful!
 It was heaven.

On our second day, we found a great Indian restaurant.  And ate waaaaaaaay too much for comfort.  It was incredibly delicious.  

Delicious plate of Indian food-samosas, tandoori chicken, kebab, and chicken tikka.  SO yummy.
One of my all-time favorite Indian foods-saag paneer.
Cheese naan=delicious!

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Hiroshima Peace Museum: Part 2

...and after.
The images portrayed at Hiroshima Peace Museum are a lot to process.  Some of the images depicted, I could not bring myself to document.  They were extremely graphic.  The people who put together the museum did not gloss over any detail of the what happened in 1946.  

I was extremely impressed by how unbiased the information  presented was.  I particularly appreciated the exhibit that recognized the atrocities that the Japanese inflicted during the war. 

“Internationalization must begin by speaking the truth about the role each country played in the war.  We must find a way to make out mutual pain a positive gift for the future.”

Actual size of the bomb.
A three year old boy was riding his tricycle when the bomb was dropped.  He died that evening.

War creates mutual pain that is felt acutely by all those involved.   Even though what happened in Hiroshima was one of the most atrocious acts of war-the primary message sent by Hiroshima Museum and Peace Park is focused on remembering what happened to everyone during the war and how we can help each other in creating a peace filled world. 

For all generations to come. 
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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hiroshima Peace Museum: Part 1

The museum at night, the eternal peace flame in the foreground.
Weekend trips to the art museum-one of my favorite childhood memories.  The Minneapolis Institute of arts had-and still has-“treasure hunt” pamphlets to help gets children interested in art.  I loved it.

And I still love museums.  I have seen and experienced some of the best in the world: the Vatican Museums, the Chicago Field Museum, Tokyo National Museum.  All fabulous.

During our visit to Hiroshima, we explored the Museum dedicated solely to the history surrounding the atomic bomb. 

I was extremely impressed.

More to come!
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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hiroshima Flower Festival

View of the park from inside the museum.
 Food.  Music.  Dancing.

Paper crane lanterns being paraded to the park.
These are three things you will always find at Japanese festivals-and probably any festival anywhere, come to think of it. 

Fire and Flowers
We were fortunate enough to happen upon one of Hiroshima’s biggest festivals during our visit-the Flower Festival.  Peace Park and the surrounding streets were brimming with bustling activities, delicious food, and lively music and dancing. 

The iconic arch-the eternal flame which will never go out until world peace is achieved.
It was a fantastic juxtaposition of the otherwise somber feeling of the park. 

People entering the park.
The festival was full of unity, beauty, and life.    

A tree that had been exposed to the atomic bomb.

We spent the greater part of the day at Peace Park, exploring every corner.  We also spent several hours taking in the very well done museum-there is a whole post (or two) coming soon on that.

Because we spent so much time there, we were able to experience the sunset and see how beautiful the park was by candle light.  It was beautiful. 

Gorgeous evening.

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