Thursday, January 26, 2012

Japanese Chopsticks Part Four

These chopsticks are called Hibashi.  Hi 火 means fire, and bashi, chopsticks.  Hashi (chopsticks) changes to bashi when it comes after hi.   I look up my dictionary, and it says a pair of tongs, but I googled tongs and see different shapes.  Hibashi is used to handle hot bincho charcoal.  Bincho is high quality charcoal, and there are many different kinds, size, and colors.

This is not used for handling hot bincho charcoal, but used as an ornament and support a bamboo ladle in a standing vase in one style of performances.  This is my favorite, and I only use this.  I think these heads are ducks, but I could be wrong.

Blue and White Ceramic

These are most common hibashi.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Japanese Chopsticks Part Three

Japanese boxwood, tsuge.  These chopsticks are very thin and used for picking up sweets.

Two sets of thin bamboo chopsticks, lacquered.   I think the dark spots were made by burning.  The bottom tip of those chopsticks are very sharp, so when I store them, I wrap the tips with tissue papaers.   Ocha utensils often come in washi paper.

Bamboo, Green lacquered

Bamboo, Red lacquered and Reversible

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Japanese Chopsticks Part Two

Japanese cedar.  These chopsticks are used for a meal during ochaji. 

 I found this site reasonable for those readers not familiar with Ocha or Ochaji.

We can use both sides.  

The left is an used gift envelope that contained a new set if chopsticks.  These are shorter compared to the standard size on the left.  They are probably used in the least formal occasion.  In Ocha, we have formal, semi-formal, and the least formal presentations.  There is no casual although these terms are relative.

Bamboo.  Hosts usually buy or make new sets of green bamboo chopsticks for an Ochaji.
These are old.

Top two are made of black bamboo, I believe.  They are longer and hard to handle.  It's all about entertaining guests even though Ocha teachers would say, "Ocha is simplicity, economy of movement and..."  Today, we don't have many skillful craft workers, so the price of all these items either shot up or replaced by machine made in foreign countries.  I haven't researched about it lately.


Japanese Chopsticks Part One

Carved and lacquered in red

 Japanese boxwood, lacquered

Carved and lacquered.  The design must be from the north east because it looks a bit like Tsugaru design.  It is very common design among Japanese chopsticks, but I don't know the name.  

My family chopsticks with Chinese Zodiac signs.  From top, monkey, tiger, and snake.  My mother and daughter are monkey, and my father and son are snake.  They are all good signs, so these are good luck charms. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Death of a Goldfish

Through email, a friend of mine wrote that the weather in Japan has been very cold and dry for a month, and he has lost one of his goldfish in the beginning of this month. Since then, he has added some medicine and heater for the fish, and the rest of them have been recovering.  He has raised these fish from babies. I think their bodies are about 20 cm or so if I remember correctly.  This blog is my tribute to his goldfish that moved on to heaven.  I happened to take this photo last December.  The fish were much more beautiful than this picture.

Words Mistranslated

Friday afternoon, I listen to an American haiku and say to a poet friend of mine,
“In Japan, we call that a senryu, not haiku.”
“After I finish reading this book,” she says lifting a book, “I’ll give it to you.  Tell me what you think?”  The title of the book was something like “How to Write a Haiku.”
“Haiku must include a season,” I say although I’m not an expert, “Takahama Kyosi wrote a very good book on haiku.  He elevated the traditional art.  I don’t know why some people don’t honor that.”  Some Japanese also call senryu, haiku.
“Is it translated?” she says.
“I don’t know, but it should be.”

Earlier in the morning, on the same Friday, I wrote a quick Japanese note and left a bag of kumquat at the door of my Taiwanese friend’s house.  She and her daughter’s family together had treated me a Chinese dinner last Christmas.  It was a feast.  I wish I had something better than kumquat.  Many thoughts passed through my mind.  A lot happened to the family last year.  I hopped on my bike and delivered the bag thinking whether I should have added the comparable “too” word in Japanese to the sentence, “Please give this to your daughter.”
              Tuesday, over a phone, the Taiwanese friend says,
“My daughter happened to look at your note and spotted a Chinese character.  Daughter in Japanese kanji is mother in Chinese character.”
“What?” I say.
“What you wrote was mother in Chinese.”
“Wow!” I say, and we burst into laughter. 
I think many Chinese characters were mistranslated into the Japanese language and also many were created separately in Japan.  Some of those Japanese created kanji were exported back to China.  So it’s hard to tell what happened to each word or character.   But here are a few samples.  Run (走る) in Japanese means walk in Chinese.  Japanese “letters 手紙” is toilet papers in Chinese.  Like the toilet-papers example, some are disastrous but hilarious.  

Today is Wednesday.  This afternoon, I asked another friend of mine while grocery shopping if there were English words that came from her mother tongue that have different meaning.  She said no.  “But,” she said later, “At our last year festival, someone was complaining that a banner on a festival car displayed a wrong English word.”
“What was the word?”I say.
“I don’t remember the word, but the word isn’t important.  What they said was important.  Why should we complain?  This is the US, not our home country.” 
I don’t agree or disagree.  Most of us would let it go even if we agreed with complainers.  Besides, the word, complainers, is judgmental.  There is no harm in discussing about words.  It’s actually more desirable to argue about words than fighting in war.  We should iron out all the words, so we will be too tired to fight.

One word I haven’t given up is the ceremony of “tea ceremony.”  I dislike it because the traditional Japanese art is not ceremony.  I’ve explained this many times.  In fact, every chance I get I would explain which I am doing it now.  That Japanese traditional art is ocha.  Can you say it, Ocha?  Yes, it is ocha.

Next is “Pint.”  It’s a bit different, but for the theme of different meaning, it is the same.  I follow the blog by a Canadian blogger.  North of 49.  From her recent blog, I’ve learned from one of the comments that American pint and British pint are different.  Have you known that?  I didn’t know.  This reminded me of the complaints we used to receive when I had worked for a small Japanese trading company in Los Angeles in 70s. 
The complaints were related to the measurement for making rice using Panasonic rice cookers.  Our manager put a small ad in Sunset magazine.  The problem came from the fact that the Japanese measuring cup is smaller than the American cup.  At first, we were confused of those complaints, but we became used to it.  Now I think about it, the customers must have been really confused by that, but they, too, got used to it, I guess.  The product became a hit.

Oh, about ocha, I wrote essays, short stories, and a play.  I’ve blogged about it time to time, and I even wrote a first draft of a screen play about it.  Since 1996 after my mother died, I’ve been trying to complete my memoir about her, and her life was all about ocha. She was an Ocha teacher.  You are right.  The art looks ceremonious in communal events, and most people only see the art in such events.  I’m not against communal events for their cost effectiveness and democratic way, but experienced ocha practitioners prefer a small intimate party among themselves. And I’m certain they have no such ceremony idea in their heads, otherwise it would ruin their art.

Next word is very serious.  The word is “holocaust.”  Last month, I bought a book titled “The Arabs and the Holocaust” by Gilbert Achcar to learn more about Middle East.  In the page 6 of the introduction, there was fascinating discussion on the word.  
“It is derived from a Greek word, holokaustos, which means “entirely consumed by fire.”  More precisely, it comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 1:3) and has entered the Western language by way of Church Latin.  The word refers to the ancient Israelites’s practice of burning sacrificed animals as an expiatory offering.”   
              I don’t think the first group of people who started to use the word “holocaust” as the way we are using today knew the last sentence.  What do you think?  The book goes into more detail about the word and other words such as Shoah and Nakba.  I read that the people who speak the Hebrew use “Shoah” instead.  Also Nakba is an Arabic word.  The title of the chapter is “Introduction: Words Laden with Pain.”  

Leaving the serious word and going back to ocha again, did someone say, “What’s ocha?”  Thank you for asking.  O is honorific, cha means tea.  Tea in many languages is cha or close to that.  A British writer just told me that in Cockney London, people say a cup of cha.  They probably don’t know how aristocratic their word has become.  So please remember it. 
              One more thing.  We put “o” on many words to show our honor and appreciation to the word and the receiver of the word.  We most often refer to the art, “ocha,” in our conversation.  Sado and chanoyu are also used to describe ocha, but they are used mainly in writing.  So please learn this word, Ocha, ocha. Ocha!  You don’t need to ask anymore question.  Just say Ocha!

I think many words in the dictionary are mistranslated at first, and we hardly take time thinking and researching their meaning.  We just use it.  For ease of communication, we need words, and as soon as they spread, the majority wins.  And once it goes into a dictionary, it’s hard to fight back. Just to promote one word, ocha, I feel like an activist.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Guess Who I Voted

Thursday, January 5th, 2012   
Coffee House Writers's Group
Taco Factory in San Dimas

The first meeting of the year, and Christine's first day after her BRAIN surgery.  Guess who had the surgery.  


Friday January 6th, 2012
Caltech Red Door Poetry Club
The Red Room Cafe at the campus

I haven't confirmed with Kathabela, the head of the club, but I'm sure she had attended a yoga class at three p.m. before our meeting at 4:30.  This photo was taken at Rick and Kathabela Wilson's home after the meeting.  I'm also sure she went to her belly dance class the following morning.  She said she made her pink leggings she had on by cutting up one of her pants.  She's also been a Jewelry artist, and I don't know what else she does, but in other words, she is a super woman like Christine above.

Saturday, Jan. 7th, 2012
Coffee House  Writers' Group
Taco Factory in San Dimas

On this day, I tried to take more than a few photos of Christine, but my camera was acting up.  With this camera, I never know how my pictures will turn out.  The above photo was one of only two I managed successfully to click.  But I was glad for this coincidence that Janis happened to be sitting close to me, wearing red sweater.  

I'd like to dedicate this blog to Janis.  She has been steadily, calmly, offering her editorial and other precious comments to all including me.  Some comments I go home and apply on my story, others, I do not, but keep them in mind.  I appreciate Janis's and others' comments equally, but on this day, my appreciation to her has skyrocketed.  During this photo taking, her comment session became a bit overheated.  Most Americans or British people might not call it an argument, but I'm Japanese.  I call it argument.  

I admire the way Janis handle the argument. She did not stop.  I wanted to say to the writer who was receiving her comments, "She is only trying to help you!"   I was chicken.  

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year Day

My son and grandson made a brief visit this afternoon. And to my surprise, my old friend Kazuko delivered her foods for me with our mutual friend Masako. We were already eating when I decided to take photos of the foods.

Above Japanese new year food, osechi, Kazuko made all from scratch except black beans and kamaboko (fish cakes). The shaping of carrots, she said it took two hours to make twelve of them because she didn't have a flower cutter. I think I have one somewhere, but I didn't tell her. Hers were much better shape. And I ate all up!

Chapter One

Happy New Year!

"Important Questions" is the title of the chapter one of my memoir. It has been published in Contemporary Literary Horizon as above. It is translated into Rumanian! I'm very excited. Daniel had promised me that he would have it translated it and publish, but I didn't know until today. Thank you, Daniel.

Also, below is my press card from the magazine. It has been expired. I would like to have one for this year. I hope to do interviews. Last year, I couldn't use it effectively, but I think I would be better at it this year. This is a hint to Daniel.