Jan 4, 2012

Looking back on 2011 (September to December)

Yes, I know, it's already 2012, but I must finish this post before writing something suitable for the New Year.


There is a small settlement in the Mine district in the Okutama area of Tokyo. This settlement is a so-called marginal settlement, suffering depopulation and aging of its residents. On one Sunday of September, three-lion dances were performed at Hanaire Shrine in this district.

My car drove along the north shore of Okutama Lake, tuned left halfway, went northward along the Minedani River, and then went up the narrow road on the slope on the left. This was a quite steep slope. Around 8:30, I got the Mine Seikatsu Kaizen Center (Life Improvement Center).
This place is at 760 meters above the sea level. There is a small field full of white buckwheat flowers. I saw red dragonflies flying here and there (this species is seen only on highlands in this season).

According to an old villager, there were only 15 households in this district, while one band of three-lion dance consists of 16 people. There were only few people, so it is very difficult to maintain this performing art. Actually, some performers are now living in other towns or cities and they return to this district on the performing day for the performance. However, there are not enough people for the performance and they do not have members who play bamboo fifes. So, they need to play back taped fife music when they perform dances.

These lion dances could successfully and uneventfully be performed this year, but how about next year? I am afraid that they are on the verge of discontinuation.



October 1 is the sake day, and I attended an event called "Tokyo Sake Train" on this day.
In this event, a monorail train on the Tama Monorail line was chartered and sake drinking party was held on this train. The train left at the northernmost terminal Kamikitadai, running southward to reach the Tama Center, the southernmost terminal, and then went backward to reach Tachikawa-Kita Station.

The Tama Monorail line is not a long line and the train ran just short distances in this event. If you take a train and ride on it along the same course as above, it takes only 55 minutes. So, first I was afraid that we could not drink very much because of short time. No problem! The train stopped at Tama Center Station for about an hour. During this stop, we could continue talking with people and enjoying drinking. In addition, President Ishikawa from Ishikawa Brewery in Fussa City played harmonica for us (he is a good harmonica player).

So, we could get friendly with fellow passengers and have a nice raucous drinking party.
Our sake train was approaching to the final destination of Tachikawa-Kita Station, and it was already after dark. Suddenly, the lights in the train went out, and the city lights in turn gained their luminosity. Viewing a nightscape from a running train in this way was a quite rare and fantastic experience.


I attended a soba (buckwheat noodles) making class held in Ome City.

The place of the class was facilities where visitors can enjoy a BBQ. So after the class, we had a BBQ party, of course with sake.

I brought a special sake gadget called kandouko (sake warmer using charcoal) and used it to prepare warmed sake. I used the kandouko also for grilling mushrooms and other foods. It was also interesting to warm a food can on the grill of the kandouko.

We tried a new way of eating grilled mushrooms; grill some mushrooms; warm a shellfish can; dip grilled mushrooms in the shellfish soup; and eat them. However the soup was too sweetish!


I went to the amusement park Yomiuriland, where an electric spectacular event called Jewellmination was being held. However, my purpose was not seeing these LED ornament but drinking. In this amusement park, they had set up temporary food stands, which were collectively named the Jewel Hot Dining, and one of the food stands was carrying sake, and other alcohol beverages. Actually, one of my drinking friends is a key person of the park and had been engaged in this food service since its planning stage. He seemed to have been exercising his power to realize his ideal izakaya in the park. There were five food stands and one carried a menu quite looking like that of an izakaya specialized in jizake (local sake). Besides sake, there were, draft beers, whiskies, wines, shochu, and others. Moreover, snacks and foods selected by him made good pairing with the drinks.