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Pauline's Japan Musings

Pauline Chakmakjian
Pauline Chakmakjian

Pauline founded The Japan Room to revive the salon atmosphere of eighteenth-century Europe from which speculative Freemasonry originated in combination with her friendship with Japan. She has many hobbies and interests. Pauline spends 2-3 months in Kyoto every year, usually during the spring and autumn. She is a volunteer for the Kyoto City International Foundation/Kyoto International Community House. Pauline is a Trustee of The Japan Society. www.japansociety.org.uk

WEBサイト: The Japan Room

Bamboozled – Pauline Chakmakjian, MA

2013.10.02 | カテゴリー : 未分類 | 投稿者名 :

 

Along with the orchid, plum blossom and chrysanthemum, the bamboo is one of the ‘four gentlemen’
representing the spirit of summer among the four seasons in Chinese culture.  Traditionally, the bamboo
serves as a natural display of many of the ideal characteristics suitable for one to be considered a strong
and virtuous gentlemen; uprightness, elegance, humility (hollowness), flexibility and simplicity.  A bamboo
forest that supposedly acts as a mystical barrier against evil can sometimes be seen surrounding many
religious buildings and spiritual centres in Japan.  Ink paintings of this sturdy yet charming plant form part
of the rich cultural heritage of several countries in Asia.

 

 

Even experienced visitors to Kyoto can be unaware of the existence of some of the more elusive
attractions to be discovered in the old capital of Japan.  A good example of this is the Rakusai Bamboo
Park located close to the Katsura Imperial Villa just slightly to the west of central Kyoto.  This park is
in a relatively secluded spot away from major tourist areas where one can wander around to observe
and learn about the various types of bamboo both within its grounds as well as its neatly presented,
bilingual museum.There are a well over one thousand species of bamboo in the world, and the museum
highlights not only the many uses for its material but also the cultural significance of this botanical wonder.
Perhaps its proudest display is the one of Thomas Edison having used a carbonised bamboo filament for
his light bulb.

 

 

One curious-looking variety to be viewed in the park is the bulbous bamboo (kikku-chiku).  Bamboo is
technically classified as a type of fast-growing, woody grass.  Along with its many uses within the field of construction such as for buildings, weapons and the creation of a variety of ornamental objects like musical instruments, bamboo shoots are a seasonal, culinary treat enjoyed by the Japanese in the springtime.
Being a wonderful source of healthy plant fibre, the bamboo is served in the spring months, the most
pleasantly surprising of which is in kaiseki form.

 

 

Kaiseki or Kyoto haute cuisine is a meal of several, delightful courses using flavours, colours and
accompanying presentation specific to a particular time of the year and/or a specific ingredient,
creating an aesthetically sensuous experience.  In addition to standard kaiseki combinations of fish, tofu,
seasonal vegetables and rice, there are rather more unusual or exotic kaiseki options such as those served
only using yuba (‘bean curd sheet’), creatively prepared in several different ways.  In the latter autumn as
well as winter months, there is the option of indulging in a fugu kaiseki meal during which the infamously
dangerous puffer fish will be sliced up by a specially licensed chef in order to avoid any poisonous mishaps
involved with self-preparation.  Of course, in the spring, specialist restaurants will serve the bamboo shoots (takenoko) in elegant and delicious ways that are pleasing to both the eyes and the palette.

 

 

 


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