Shojin Ryori

I had a fancy meal.

shojin ryori

It was a 3 hour endeavor, and by the end I was so stuffed I couldn’t finish my strawberries. I begged my friends to eat them so I wouldn’t offend the chef.

This is shojin ryori, vegetarian Buddhist cuisine. No animals were harmed in the making of this meal, my friends. Unlike the multi course kaiseki ryori meals I have had in Kyoto, which are very rich from miso and fish, this meal was light and flavorful. Almost refreshing.

Starting at the top left: tea with brown sugar sweets; sesame greens, pickles, and sweet black beans; walnut tofu and soup with yuzu and something that looked like grass but didn’t taste like it. Second row: vegetables and tofu made with a rice batter that puffs when it is fried, dipped in salt rather than a sauce; shitake sashimi that were incredible and tasted like they could have been fish; more mountain greens, a fruit similar to an apricot, and the only konnyaku I have ever enjoyed. Last row: hand-cut soba served in a basket; rice, miso and mushroom soup, and more pickles; finally, strawberries for dessert. I missed snapping a photo of one course, a baked soup with vegetables and a ginko nut, probably because I was getting behind on my courses and was focused on eating everything before they took it away.

This dinner was pricey, but one of the best meals I have had in Japan and the casual yet elegant environment was perfect for a Sunday evening with friends. And who can put a price on that, really.

Itosho いと正 is located in Azabu juban. Check here for a map.

On the Move

And… I’m back!

Whoa. Time flies when you’re having fun studying your ass off and moving to a new apartment.

Last week was nuts. I have only myself to blame, and blame I will. Last Thursday I took my final exam for Japanese class and emerged from the black hole of kanji flash cards just in time to pack up my apartment. The weekend whirlwind of boxes, movers and new landlord knocking at my door (6 times!) had me wishing I had retained more of the previous week’s Japanese, but we stumbled through and got all of our belongings from point A to point B.

2 years ago, when I started this little blog, my apartment looked like this:

apartment living room

Very empty. I’m chuckling because I just realized I’m in the same place as I was 2 years ago — sitting on the floor of my empty apartment in Azabu juban, still a bit unsure of what I’m doing in Japan but slightly better at ordering from a menu. Though the scenery of my life is a bit different, the feeling is the same: nervous, excited, sore butt.

Yesterday morning things looked like this:

How did I acquire so much stuff? 26 boxes plus suitcases and a tool box (not my husband, a real tool box, geez). It took me about a day and a half to pack and the movers just about 2 hours to move it across town where this was waiting:

And this:

My new shower room is about the pinkest thing I’ve ever seen. To recap, this is what I left behind:

apartment bathroom shower room

Our new place is in Sangenjaya, just about 7 km west (4 1/4 miles) of Azabu juban. Not far, but it feels like a different world. Why the change? To be honest, because Azabu is expensive. It’s the land of expats and French bakeries and gourmet supermarkets, and while nice, a bit too fancy. Living in Sangenjaya will force me to read and speak Japanese, we’ll save on rent, it’s an exciting neighborhood to explore, and I’ll get to live in an adorable old lady apartment with pink walls. The choice was easy.

One final thought before the bottom half of me turns completely numb from sitting on the floor: Though I hate moving, every time I do it I get a little bit better at it. This time I learned the value of hiring movers, and I don’t think I can ever go back. 20 year old boys are much better at carrying things than I am.