The distance frustrates me sometimes. I desperately tried to get to the hospital where my father was admitted yet he was gone before I could say good-bye…my only consolation was that I made it to his funeral.
My father led a simple life. As the oldest of 8 children, he and my mother practically raised his two 20 and 22 years younger siblings even though they were newly-weds. He was a hard working man and frugal though he often loaned money generously without expecting repayment. Once when I was probably 8 years old he made me and my brothers sit squarely on a tatami mat and was ready to strike us with a yard stick for something we did wrong but he could not carry it out. That’s the only time that he showed his frustration that I can remember. He was glued to the television to watch sumo wrestling every season and pretended not to hear my cry of wanting to see some other channel. Oh how I missed cartoon shows during that time.
Family outings were rare while growing up but when we did, he always bought makunouchi (幕の内) bento at the train station to have it on the train ride. He hated to waste anything and ate every last bit of rice. This hand crafted bento box I bought at Senganen (仙巌園) in Kagoshima city where I took a lone trip after the funeral. I packed the bento with my father in mind…Japanese style omelet, boiled spinach, pumpkin tempura, chicken asparagus rolls and radish pickle…not quite makunouchi style but he would eat the whole thing I’m sure.
Ingredients and how to – This is modified version of Harumi Kurihara’s recipe
- Boneless and skinless chicken breast ( I made 4 rolls with 1/4 pound of meat).
- Asparagus 1-2 stalks. Peel and cut off the hard end of the stem.
- Soy sauce 1 Tablespoon
- Mirin 1 Tablespoon
- Sake 1 Tablespoon
- Seven spices
- Oil 1 Tablespoon
- Place asparagus in a shallow microwave safe dish with 1 tablespoon water and microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside.
- Remove the white sinew from the breast. If the thickness is more than inch, slice it in half. Sandwich meat between two sheets of plastic wrap.
- Pound meat with wooden roller to flatten.
- With the meat still between the plastic sheets, roll out the meat to thin it even further to about 1/4 inch thick.
- Put asparagus at the edge of approximately 5 inches length of meat and start rolling as tight as possible. Cut the asparagus sticks out from meat.
- Mix soy sauce, mirin and sake in small bowl. Heat oil in nonstick skillet at medium heat. Brown the meat all over. Pour the sauce in the skillet and coat meat with sauce. Note: soy sauce mixture burns quickly so pay attention here. Other flavor suggestion; tentsuyu, sweet chili sauce and teriyaki sauce are also good.
- Sprinkle seven spice chill powder over it if you like.
After the service and taking care of a few family matters, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my time in Japan. I decided to go to Kagoshima because of easy access now that the new bullet train can take us there from Fukuoka in about 2 hours. I wanted to be alone and needed time to think. Enormous Senganen was serene. I walked the compound aimlessly for three hours ignoring the arrows that marked the route. It took me an another 30 minutes just to hike up to the top of Senganen. The view of the active volcanic Sakurajima from there was worth the effort I must say. The road my father took was ordinary, even insignificant perhaps. I don’t think God loved him less however. He is now reunited with my mother in the next life, embracing his brothers and sisters who had gone before him. I truly believe that. The butterfly graced my head and rested at my feet for a second.Some area of the property was used for the shooting of NHK’s epic drama ’Atsuhime’Exhausted I took a break at tea house. The warabi mochi set was 500 yen but the kind waitress charged me 150 yen less because I declined green tea and brought me a glass of water instead. This photo is not focused but I wanted to include it. I thought it’s really neat. Shift in wind caused volcanic ashes to fall heavily at this point. Time to wear the mask which was provided at the gate.
I took cover in ‘Kiriko cut glass store’. Although they were intricate and beautiful, very expensive. A lady at the store explained the whole process of making Kiriko and its history. I started to feel sorry for her but who could afford a 300 dollar glass cup? Definitely not me. My legs are hurting by the time I got back to the hotel. I relaxed at the hotel’s hot spring. In fact, all of Kagoshima city has access to hot springs, it is possible to to go any hotel or inn to use their hot spring facility for anywhere from 300 yen to 3000 yen ($3 to $30).
After three days in Kagoshima, I headed back to Fukuoka. I started to get melancholy that my trip is ending. My cousin and her boyfriend picked me at the hotel near Hakata station and drove me to the Fukuoka International Airport after treating me to dinner (for the 3rd time) and shaved ice. It was actually better than Matsumoto. My cousin is a really good listener.
My husband’s birthday was yesterday. Still suffering from the jet lag, I didn’t feel up to the celebration for which I totally felt bad…luckily my good husband was very forgiving. Our neighbors baked cookies for him. Nice presentation!