Friday, March 11, 2005

Ume time

It's been a quick week here. Already Friday? And I haven't written up last weekend yet?

It was a nice weekend. The weather has been getting warmer, and the ume (variously translated as plum and Japanese apricot) blossoms are in their full glory. There was even some light snow to highlight them. They're not as popular as cherry blossoms, but there are still many trees to be found. I have a sprig with five dark pink blossoms blooming on my bedroom table. The perfume coming off of them is also quite nice, noticeable outdoors only around several trees in full bloom.

I saw another fascinating movie last Friday: The Last Picture Show. Minako always picks good movies. This was a black and white small-town flick from 1971, apparently the first film appearance of Cybill Shepherd. I recommend it. I wanted to see it a second time but was unable to before I had to return it.

On Saturday Minako and I went to a large park, a short bus ride away. The Kawaguchi "Green Center" ($3 to enter) is probably no more than five acres, but it feels absolutely huge in cramped Japan. The ume trees and the camellia blossoms were the big seasonal draw. Quite nice.

The next day we finally made it to the Mucha exhibit at the Ueno National Museum. There was some stuff I hadn't seen at the Mucha Museum in Prague, but dang was it crowded! I was reminded how much I enjoy the poster of Medea. Minako pointed out the elements drawn from Japanese ukiyo-e in that image. Not just the lack of depth, which is present in most of Mucha's work, but also the distinctly Japanese representation of the clouds in back of her, and the red "chop"-like shapes on the left edge. The main figure in the original is life-size, which adds to the power, I think. They were selling original Mucha pieces for several thousands of dollars (small ones), but I didn't have that kind of money to spend. Alas, I had to settle for a postcard.

After that we went and enjoyed a nice meal of kushi-yaki at a fancy place called Hantei over in Yanaka. I haven't had a bad kushi-yaki meal yet, but it's always pricey. Hopefully I'll be able to take David & Wai-Ye here when they visit, as it's also in a great old building. You don't see many three story wooden buildings at all. This place also had great ume-shu. Generally I'm not a fan, as it tends to be very sweet, but this stuff was perfectly balanced between sweet and sour. Apparently they special order it from out-of-state. This actually got me interested in making ume-shu for the first time. Normally people make it with cheapo potato-alcohol or barley-alcohol, but this brand was made with sake. Maybe that's part of the secret.

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