At some point, my desk gained a bowl of air plants and small collection of foraged Tokyo nuts, seeds and a
persimmon (pomegranate). Even in a small space, it’s nice to have nature near the computer.
This beautiful, new year bonsai made by a friend matches an evergreen tree with a pot re-made from shards.
I received this gorgeous new year bonsai gift from Matthew Puntigam, a friend and research fellow colleague at the Tokyo University of Agriculture’s Landscape Architecture Science department (農大). It’s a perfect new year gift: the woody bark tree retains its leaves in winter, the beautiful bowl re-created to show its cracks, lush moss and stones from a recent trip to Mie.
The tree is called アセビ (Asebi in Japanese, and Pieris japonica in Latin). My childhood home in the mid-Atlantic United States had a pair of these flowering broad-leaf evergreens by the front door. This specimen is simultaneously showing new growth and flower buds.
The method of putting broken ceramics back together is called 金継ぎ (kintsugi). This pot is one of Matt’s first, which he learned at the Suginami ceramic studio Shiho (史火) where I also make flowerpots and vases. Often gold is used, but I think silver goes very well with the black ceramic and winter bonsai.
Mochi making parties are a winter community event. Above, a huge mochi party took place on Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day) on January 11 outside Nakano’s JR station. The event took place on the asphalt connecting the station with Sun Mall and normally occupied by smokers, taxis, buses, and pedestrians.
There were young girls playing taiko drums, men pounding rice, and women forming the rice into mochi balls. Did you know that a modern Japanese tradition for mochi eating is to keep a vaccuum cleaner nearby, in case the mochi gets stuck in elderly people’s throats?
Just before New Year, the ceramic studio where I practice pottery hosted a mochi making party for students, friends and relatives. Nearly thirty people attended, with many pounding the 18 kilos (40 lbs) of Niigata rice in the backyard, forming the sticky rice into balls, adding toppings, and sitting down to a huge feast. In fact, so much mochi was made that all the guests took some home for later.
Some more photos after the jump of what the finished mochi looks like with many different toppings, the huge lunch feast, and the beautiful hand-written menu.