The すいじ of sushi

A man`s love for his

work in preparing sushi

should inspire many

Well into his eighties and he still never tires of the art of making sushi (the art of cooking is what すいじ means).    Jiro dreams of Sushi (2011) is a lovely documentary where they spoke with most of the people involved in the business, directly or indirectly – a food critic, the tuna dealer at the hectic Tsukiji market, the rice dealer, his staff including his elder son who will take over one day (his younger son has his own sushi shop but also trained as an apprentice under his father) and of course the man himself, Jiro Ono, who has been making sushi since the age of 10.   It would be amazing to eat in his shop, despite the intimidating atmosphere that some of the people mentioned, stating that his son`s shop was more relaxed.   I would have liked to hear if he ever had any problems with customers or if he ever refused anyone.    People who have the money to eat there may not necessarily be the most well-mannered.  I was pleased to hear his views on tuna fishing stating, if I remember correctly, that there is a serious case of overfishing and there is less good fish available as a result. No whales were mentioned so I wonder how he felt about that.  Really good documentary overall and I don`t think I have ever seen anyone so happy with their line of work.

Hearing about Tsukuji market again made me want to look up more about it, as I never really thought of going there when I visited Tokyo (I was only there a couple of days and was with a friend who took me to other places).    I read that the bulk of the market was to be moved between 2013 and 2014 out of this area of Tokyo and into the Koto area (which already houses a related section of the market along with another one in Kanda).   Most of the retail stalls are going to stay in the Tsukiji area and I think the dealership area will move.  Has that happened yet anyone?    It would be a shame to miss the opportunity to get to the original Tsukuji market in its entirety while it`s still there (well as much of its entirety as people are allowed to explore) but 2014 is almost over and I don`t see myself getting there this year.

Understandably, the large number of  tourists visiting has caused a bit of a fuss in recent years and I can kind of understand that.  It may be an amazing treasure trove to foodie tourists but it is a regular place for all the people who work there (or who go to buy their fish for their restaurants) and have to get on with their work.   I hope this comment does not go against me some day!!    Tourists are now only allowed to go in certain numbers (120 people max per day, or  should I say morning as it is mostly closed by 11am) and on a first come first served basis.   And they`re still not allowed into the fish dealership area (if they ever were, I can`t remember).   Fair enough as it is just more fish really and the documentary gives you a good idea of what happens there anyway.  That said, how do you tell the difference between a tourist and a gaijin who happens to live in Tokyo and has only just got around to coming to visit it?

Speaking of fish markets, there`s a pretty impressive one in Hakodate as well (nowhere near the scale of Tsukuji which is the largest in the world).  I remember going there.  They`re big into squid (いか) in Hakodate which I have to admit I didn`t really take to.  Below is a picture of the entrance to the market.




More, and not so pleasant, information on the Ainu

The Ainu were to

the Shogunate  something to

be gotten rid of.

I decided yesterday to have another read of The Roads to Sata, mentioned in my literature page (literature II).   It`s been a good while since I read it (a few years at least) and so I realised today while reading it that there is a lot of information in it about the Ainu which I had totally forgotten about.     I had no idea for example that the word Shogun is an abbreviation for Seiitai-shogun, which translates as “Great Barbarian-subduing General”, the barbarians at the time being the Ainu (and not the European Christians who came much later).  The Shogunate (basically something of a military dictatorship which ruled Japan in the name of the Emperor) as early as the 8th/9th centuries actually waged genocidal campaigns against the Ainu which is what forced them from their homelands around Japan, and up towards Hokkaido, then known as Ezo.   Good thing I started reading that book again – that will fill a few more holes in my knowledge!!  The name Ezo I actually knew of through my encounter with Matsuo Bashõ, mentioned in another post about the recovering Tohoku region, but I had totally forgotten all this information.  Thank you Mr Booth.

Wow, I think I`ll have to stay away from history for a while and make my next post a light one!!


Ainu culture – some lingo – payeanro よ。。

Paye-anro, let`s go

to learn some of what makes the

Ainu people proud

Payeanro = let`s go
I have taken this from a brochure for the Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture (published in March, 2007).  That`s a mouthful of a name so let`s just call it the FRPAC in future, shall we?
I`m wording what it tells us in my own way, to avoid any difficulties later on.
This list applies mostly to place-names in Hokkaido where there are a number of place names derived from the Ainu language, which in many cases are expressed using Chinese characters, making some of them the most difficult place names to correctly read.   Hikers will loooove that.   Just kidding.  This article might be of interest to hikers or anyone else travelling around Hokkaido.
These are the ainu words for the following geographical features:
beach – ota
land – ya
sea – atuy
off-shore – rep
island – pon-mosir
estuary – pet-put
stream – pon-pet
river – pet, evident in the Japanese suffix -betsu (or nay, river and stream, in the Japanese suffix -nai)
shore – sirar
lake – to
harbour – tomari
forest – nitay
waterfall- so
cliff – pira, evident in the Japanese suffix -hira
mountain – nupuri
Other placenames include references to plant gathering, hunting, traffic routes and religion in the Ainu language.

Place names in Hokkaido and their Ainu equivalent:
Sapporo (札幌) – Sate-poro-pet

Hakodate (函館) – Ushor-Kesh

Asahikawa (旭川) – Chiu-pet

Of course Hokkaido – 北海道 – itself is Ainu-moshir ( アイヌモシリ)which if you refer to the list above seems to mean (Ainu) Waterfall (mo) Island (pon-shir without the pon) which is kinda nice.  Correct me if I`m wrong by the way but I`ll insert a little map here that I picked up while in Hokkaido, so you can see the wide range of placenames for yourselves.  You can click on the map to see more of it.

By the way, the trinket with the owl I mentioned in the last post was for dangling from your mobile phone.  What do you call those things?  It wasn`t a key-ring holder anyway.   They really like their phone trinkets in Japan, just to individualize their phones as much as possible.