Saturday, April 9, 2011

Simple pleasures- doughnuts, kobito, & blossoms

New doughnut shop in Kamakura, Japan
I always thought skinny women ate things like salads and fat free yogurt which is not a diet I could tolerate for long. I used to live off of homemade chocolate chip cookies and glasses of milk and wonder how women did that whole diet food thing. There is a new doughnut shop in Kamakura. It serves doughnuts made from organic ingredients. The lines have been steady. I love that in Japan people are not afraid of carbohydrates and in fact skinny women regularly buy things like doughnuts for snacks. When I first came to Japan, I was enthralled with Mr. Donut. The doughnuts and cafe au lait (with free refills) are amongst my favorites. I noticed a number of women coming and going and eating a lot of doughnuts, and they weren't fat. It really is about balance at the end of the day- the amount you eat has to equal the amount of energy you expend. Here most everyone eats three meals and a snack a day. My discernment is that the meals are smaller, include less meat, and are full of carbs like white rice, noodles, vegetables, and fruit. Snacks are small, but beautiful and tasty. There is a love of food in Japan that I would equal to the French and Italians. Everyone seems to know a lot about food- where it is from, what is in season, what it does to your body- good for the stomach, the liver, etc. People take pictures of their restaurant meals, cups of coffee, and snacks. Food is prepared to look beautiful. Texture and taste are considered in preparing meals. A variety of cooking methods are employed in preparing foods in season so you might see the same item steamed, fried, and stewed.

Another aspect of life in Japan is walking. There is so much more walking in daily life- you walk to school, you walk to the train station for work, you walk up town or ride your bike to do your shopping. All the activity keeps your energy level up without even an exercise plan. Of course I need one of those exercise plans, hey I am over forty, but still, it is easier here. Having just returned from the States, despite swimming and frolicking in the Florida sun, my life here requires more activity, more walking. I don't have to take a walk here, I just walk everywhere. I can eat more doughnuts in Japan. In the States those sour cream cake doughnuts sat on my waistline whereas here it is all part of day- you have to walk twenty minutes to get the doughnut in the first place. For the love of fried dough, I will walk twenty minutes.

My children are currently enthralled with kobito which are some kind of gnome or garden fairies. We have two books in Japanese about them. The sensei at yochien first read them to my son's class. The pictures look kind of weird. I find it amazing that children like them. They are very popular. We are trying to trap some- see photo- the books provide some details about catching the kobito. The kobito live on animals, flowers, and plants. There is even one that makes gold and one that makes ice cream. I want to get one of the ice cream makers, but apparently you need cow dung. Trying to catch these critters is difficult. We need marigolds, peaches, honey, grass oil, and other sundries. I need to get some flower seeds.

Spring is about blossoms in Japan. First the ume plum blossoms and then the sakura cherry blossoms. Friday was really the best day for viewing the sakura cherry blossoms. I drove back from the base through a lovely canopy of pale pink blossoms. Such beauty, all of those craggily branches looking like gnarled fingers gracefully displaying the delicate flowers. Now the blossoms are beginning to fall. It has been a muted spring celebration here in Kamakura which in years past has been thronged with visitors for viewing sakura. Celebrations in Japan have been toned down out of respect for both saving energy and for the survivors coping up north. Last night my husband and I went out for a date. I noted a lone group of older folks sitting on plastic sheets spread on the sidewalks, the ground was damp from all the rain during the day, drinking beer, eating obentos, and taking in views of the blossoms. I thought: good for them.

Ah my thoughts for the day, clouded by those two glasses of red wine at dinner, are of doughnuts, fairies, and sakura viewing picnics or hanami.