Photos by Thuy Nguyen, (Soka University of America) Student Correspondent CET Japan, Spring 2018 Before the first exam, my class went on a trip to Kyoto to learn how to make Wagashi, a traditional Japanese confectionery often served with tea. We went to a shop called Kanshundo, which has been making the traditional Wagashi since 1865. To our surprise, the shop still maintains the traditional methods of making Wagashi despite the prevalent manufacturing technologies. During the class, the instructor introduced us to four different types of Wagashi and taught us how to make them. Even though all the ingredients were prepared for us beforehand, making Wagashi was a complicated task. In the picture, my classmate was picking up all of the shredded ingredients to form the shape of a lotus nest using a pair of chopsticks. The task sounded easy, but it actually took us at least ten minutes to pick up all of the ingredients without changing their shape, since the ingredients were too delicate! After a while, we all understood how only skillful craftsmen could create such beautiful looking Wagashi. In the 1200s, as the tea drinking culture blossomed in Japan, Wagashi with its sweet and delicate taste was also developed as a complimentary to the bitterness of Japanese green tea. However, Wagashi is indeed an art. Wagashi has many different types, with shapes and ingredients changed according to seasons. During the class, we were taught to make four types of Wagashi usually eaten in the spring – two cherry blossom shaped (one type is not photographed), bird shaped and lotus shaped Wagashi. So why is the delicate looking Wagashi actually so complicated? Wagashi is not only a dessert, but actually a way for the Japanese people to express their appreciation for the beauty of nature and their affection for each season. In Kyoto, widely known as the ancient center of Japanese culture, there are just so many wonderful cultural activities. In the picture, my friends were learning how to make the traditional Japanese folding fan, or Sensu. In the Japanese culture, Sensu can be used for various means including in dance or purely for decoration. All of our designs were really different, as can be seen in the picture. We had a great time learning how to make Sensu, and for some people, holding the brush to paint again! Some of us went to the Monkey Park Iwatayama located in Arashiyama, Kyoto. The park boasts about 120 snow monkeys, which are native to Japan and are the types of monkeys frequently seen bathing at hot springs in winter. I myself frequently saw the pictures of those monkeys bathing at hot springs, so one of the goal I set up for myself before going to Japan was to see those monkeys directly. Unfortunately, my friends told me that to see those monkeys at hot springs I would have to go deep into the mountain, so going to this park was a perfect choice for me! All the monkeys are human-fed, and tourists all have a chance to feed them in the designated area. However, the monkeys are still wild and tourists are warned against staring and touching the monkeys. Nevertheless, the monkeys were so active! They would swing from one tree branch to the other one or run up the mountainside. Whenever we offered them nuts or apple chunks, they would grab food right out of our hands and run away. The experience was so much fun and some of us are thinking of going back another time! Near the monkey park is the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. In the Japanese history, bamboo has always appeared in myths and legends, implicating the strength of a man. This iconic bamboo forest is definitely one of the most photographed places in Kyoto, with graceful bamboo pillars stretching up to the sky. All of the CET members were able to visit Tenryu-ji temple, one of Kyoto’s most important cultural properties. Tenryu-ji temple was founded in 1339 and had been ravaged by eight major fires. However, thanks to the efforts through the late 19th century, Tenryu-ji was restored into the current form today. Recognized as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Tenryu-ji has so many things to offer. There are various halls for worshipping and also a pond garden. I took this picture at the Sogenchi Teien (Sogen Pond Garden) as I was so amazed by the picturesque surrounding nature. The vegetarian lunch at Tenryu-ji is definitely one of my most memorable meals in Japan up until now. There was only vegetable, but so many dishes were brought out. Even though I did not know what the majority of dishes were made of, I was so impressed at how delicious and beautiful-looking they all were. I particularly loved the tofu! I had always heard many good things about Kyoto’s tofu but never really tried it until this vegetarian meal. The texture and taste were nothing like any of the tofu I had tasted before. It was soft and a little bit sticky, and the taste was really rich! Mere words would not be able to describe the wonderful umami taste of the tofu, but I ate two servings that day, and could eat some more. You definitely have to try it yourself to know how incredible a simple tofu dish can turn into! All of the CET members gathered at Vivian, the largest apartments, to celebrate Setsubun, which marks the transition from winter to spring. Setsubun is not an official national holiday, but it is celebrated to drive away bad luck and bring in new, good luck. On the day of Setsubun, people participate in an event called mame maki, referring to the act of throwing beans around to ward off evil. After having fun throwing beans around, we made a special type of rolled sushi called ehoumaki, which is a big, long, uncut sushi roll. Ehoumaki must contain seven ingredients, since seven is a lucky number. And while eating, people have to remain silent and face the lucky direction, which changes every year. During the party, we all made our own delicious ehoumaki and faced the wall while eating. Everyone was trying to eat in silence, but the idea of facing the wall while eating was so funny that we could not refrain from laughing! One of my favorite CET events of February is to make Takoyaki with everyone else. As I mentioned in my last post, Takoyaki is one of the most famous street food in Osaka. Takoyaki is by all means delicious, and making it is even more fun! Instead of following the traditional recipe, we all threw in different ingredients that we liked, including cheese, kimchi, or sausage! We were able to learn how to make this traditional food from Osaka students, so I believe we all become more skillful in making this food now.