mochi

Ceramic studio’s new website

My in-laws have been teaching ceramics in Tokyo for over 30 years. I recently helped them relaunch the website for their Shiho ceramic school in Suginami. Please have a look. The website is in Japanese, but very visual. The classes attract an interesting mix of first timers and serious hobbyists, Japanese and foreigners.

Several students have developed their skills over five years or more and have solo shows. Everyone participates in an annual student show, as well as special events like climbing Mount Fuji in the summer, bizen pottery in Numazu (wood fired ovens), bowling parties, and mochi-making parties.

For me, pottery has been a way to experience Japan’s famous soil, and to create dozens of flower pots for my balcony garden. In addition to the pottery wheel, you can make pottery through hand forming and shaving, or through forming slabs and using molds. Pottery is fun and connects students with each other and the earth.

The website illustrations are by Kuge Shu.

Mochi making parties

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.

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City people connecting with the people growing their food

The last post about Big Globe reminded me of two recent dinners I attended in Tokyo and Kanagawa which featured food with visible and interactive connections to the farmers who produced them.

The first was a mochi party at the ceramic studio where I am a student. Their annual mochi party used special rice grown by Niigata farmers. The teachers found them online last year, and this year along with the huge bag of rice, they included the above image showing the family that creates the rice. I like how they also include a QR code.

The other event was a lavish dinner hosted by a Japanese architect friend that featured Kyushu pork fed a persimmon diet. The dinner included seven courses all of which included pork and persimmon, including an amazing sweet-and-sour and a tonkatsu with cream cheese and persimmon inside the batter. Both at the party and in the email invitation, we learned about the River Wild Ham store, and how it used fallen organic persimmons from Kakinoya farm as feed. The taste was astounding.

Given the discussion of technology in the previous post, it is interesting how these rural farmers are connecting with city people with online stores, blogs, QR codes, and Flickr accounts. I do not fully understand the “21st century rock and roll heart” branding, but clearly the pork store wants to be contemporary and relevant to today’s buyers.

Lastly, I realize that more and more vegetables in Tokyo now include images of the farmer. Well, given how industrial most farming is, I wonder how accurate some of these images are. Still, I think it is part of a broader interest by city people to know where their food comes from, how it is made, and who is making it.