Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Winding Down

The new year will be here soon and my kanji dreams really hit a dead end half way through. I had made so much progress too. It was really the death of my computer that led to that or so I'm thinking. Maybe I'll jump back on track next year. But we aren't short of being lazy in these parts. No, at least not all the time.

I recently dug back into my bread book and decided to try hearth baked bread again. That just refers to baking at high temps with steam for the most part. It's hard with my oven but I've continued to surprise myself by what I can get out of it. 2 weeks ago I made a wet dough that sat overnight in the refrigerator. The following day it was left to warm up and double in size. This overnight rest helps develop the flavors that a 2 hour normal rise wouldn't bring out.

Pain a l'Ancienne

The baguettes were pretty tasty. My oven doesn't cook exactly as I prefer so the end result isn't as I wish. It's close enough though.

Then the past Saturday I made dough for Nepoletana pizza which was a first. I didn't want to make it before because of the lack of a super hot oven to bake it. I decided to try the grill with my pizza stone. The dough was very soft and stretchy. This isn't dough for tossing. It only needs some gentle stretching. The first pizza started to burn on the bottom before the top could cook properly.

1st Pizza Napoletana

There was good flavor but the crust was underdone. It did have some great rise to it which is what I hoped for. The second pizza was moved to the traditional oven and the taste changed considerably. Not to mention the dough didn't bake well enough and was still wet inside. So for the third pizza it went back outside on the grill. I put some foil on the grate to protect the stone from overheating which helped a lot.

3rd Pizza Napoletana

You can see the crust cooked up much better and the bottom didn't burn. The taste of the crust was wonderful in addition to the sauce and cheese. I'm currently brainstorming how I might modify the grill lid to make it hold heat. I might use some clay or a system to hold some rock in the lid. If I can pull that off then some spectacular pies will be coming. This makes me want to build an oven even more. It's amazing how much the baking method can affect taste.

Maybe this will all have something do with my future job. Time will tell.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Farewell to Fall and Finding so Much More

The road hit a dead end and no sign could be found to lead me in the right direction. The man I asked seemed to point over yonder and before I could leave ran back over to relay one more bit of information. The only thing I really understood was to find a water tank and take a left somewhere. There seemed to be little other indication of where the mountain path lay. I drove back to the split in the road and found myself on a rarely used cell tower maintenance road. I suppose I shouldn't have been very surprised to receive a message on my phone let alone have a conversation with someone in that odd location. Acknowledging my obvious mistake, I parked the car in a wide clearing and trudged up the road to track down the route.

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There was a path that was sandwiched between old houses. One lived in, the other lying dormant. This was the case all around. The signs of people were there but it felt like most were gone in spirit. Old village paths can lead toward interesting things. It almost feels rude to be on them. Truly an outsider to whoever calls the soil their home.

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The paths are merely sidewalks though. There is no crime in using them. The only crime committed is by those who might look down on me for it. They have reason to think it. I found the water tank and on past it I stepped through an old grove of sugi trees fantastically out of place only to me. An old lady was hacking away at grass plants. She looked at me and smiled. I yelled a "sumimasen" in her direction to break the surprise of a bearded foreigner meandering in the neighborhood. I wasn't apologizing for my presence

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In her thick country accent full of chus and vowel endings I found out that when I came to a wooden bench it was best to go take the left path. I'm thankful I asked. After some chit chat and me complaining of the lack of a sign she seemed beyond having a conversation. She said, "I'm going to start my weed eater now and won't be able to hear you anymore." That's one way to end a conversation.

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The small plots of vegetables surrounded by sheet metal walls and blue-green netting reminded me of the sly monkeys that like to come out of the forest and steal. Is there any point to contemplate the shirt hanging on the wall? Its starched surface from the sun and moldy stains from wet weather explained exactly why it was there.

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The path become more pronounced and slid into the tall trees. Several dilapidated houses of wood and metal were being overtaken by the forest undergrowth. These were nothing special to speak of. They were lost to the forest far too long ago. I could only imagine the individuals who scraped out their living here. The peaceful forest had little to say but you could feel something else writhing within it.

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There was no mistake about that.

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Yes. Generations worth.

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I didn't feel inclined to stay around and find out just how many so I carried on.  The mountain forest can make you feel overwhelmed. Yet sometimes its great to feel lost in something. I don't find it necessary to be known. I just want to exist. Existing in the miniscule spaces no one looks.

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Because that is where special things truly exist.

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Somebody might see it. I might miss it. We all might miss it.

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It's always the matter of how you look at it. But isn't this view good enough?

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The path should only make you press on harder but it doesn't distract you from all the importance around it. I found myself on the ridge line staring down this column of trees. Not too long ago it was probably entirely forested up here. A lone tori stood in the distance demarcating the existence of a shrine somewhere up ahead. Shrines feel peaceful but why the question remains why here?

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I passed by the dogs and saw a sheet metal covered building standing in a clearing. On first look it was somewhat disappointing to see such an out of place structure on the ridge. There is rarely anything interesting in the immediate entry of a rural shrine other than old tatami mats, benches, and spare junk. I almost didn't look. But as with all my adventures it never hurts to take that look you didn't think was worth it.

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While not extremely old, these Meiji period paintings on wood lit up my eyes as I peered in through the wooden slats of the sliding door. Thankfully the shrine wasn't locked, like some are. I was able to go inside and enjoy these nice pieces of art. There seems to be a lot related to the local inhabitants down in the village. This is some great local history and hardly anyone knows it exists. That is for the better though. Nobody needs to know it's up there.

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After making amends with the local kami for looking at the inner part of the shrine I finished the final leg of the route up the mountain. I was greeted with wonderful views of trees around me on all sides. Somewhat of a let down but when compared to with everything I saw prior to that point there was no reason for complaining. This was merely physical triumph over the mountain and that was enough to be happy for. I sat for a few minutes wiping the sweat from my brow and warmed my cold skin from the shadowed forest. I took off down the mountain to explore some paths back in the village.

When I was most of the way back down I was startled by a man roaming around in the forest. I yelled hello and he came stumbling out of the forest clad in blaze orange vest and hat. He had been looking for wild pigs because the season had just started. He asked me to accompany him on the path back down. He had a lot to say about the old days of the area. He was quite the fan of American movies and didn't seem to mind my presence. I actually had missed a turn in the path and he took me back the original way I had come. He thought that my foot prints were wild pigs though when he had seen them earlier. We laughed together about it.

I made it clear I loved wild game and many foods. I made it clear I wanted some spare ribs from a wild pig. Not even my charisma was enough to get him to invite me over for a cup of tea. But what did it matter? The day was already mine.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


There is a lot of moss in Japan. I like it.

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It's like a close up of someone popping blackheads on their nose.

Fear not.

The fading days of fall will visit at least once more before the gloom of winter takes over in this blog. But I've got some plans to make the winter work with me.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Falling Into Happy Melancholy

Strolling over fallen leaves. The fall is at once so happy and then so melancholy. The undulating tone of life.

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None of this is so bad. Right? Right? I'm not sure who will answer back on that one.

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I sure end up in valleys quite often. Escaping the valleys carved in my mind by going to valleys. They continue to be barraged with earthly debris. The process hasn't ceased. My own valleys carry on the same.

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How can anyone be happy with fall colors? This never occurred to me before. You just don't notice them and fix the problem.

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What a shame I only get to see the curling refuse of maple leaves. Which is better, green or brown?

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That poor tree in his quest for life grew himself into an inevitable corner of death. The longer he grows, the heavier he becomes. It all seemed worth the expense of photosynthesis. We all end up at a point where we can only heavily reflect and then fall.

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Nobody is tending this roof. Do I prefer it that way?

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There are always plenty of dark paths to wander into. Never forget it's half the fun just to light them up though. You don't have to settle in the dark and remember you might be happier to not be a bat. Then again does flying trump the ability of sight?

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At least this bridge will never be one of the top three let downs in Japan. For that I'm feeling a bit happier.

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Think typical autumn colors and you have hit success on this clever line.

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We can't enjoy the crab soba if we keep being too melancholy.

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Then we remember how the crabs were smashed and boiled to extract the brown meat floating on top.

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Are ya melancholy again? I'm not. My stomach is full.

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At once so happy and again so melancholy. Don't let the plants force you to believe it though.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Prime But Not Always Exact

There are many places we have been before.

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There are many places that a million others have taken the same picture in.

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There are many similar places we have looked at from far away.

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Sometimes we can't decide what we are really looking at.

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Then we recompose and see it a little different.

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That was better.

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I'll be back home as if I was never here.

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It's hard to keep things aligned when they all reverberate inside of you.

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There it is again.

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Then it escapes you once more.

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Get me a roller for this hot asphalt dumping between my thoughts.

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It smooths out paths to somewhere, sometimes familiar.

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But haven't I crossed this bridge once, twice, maybe three times already?

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Yes but I'm going places I've never been before.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hangers or Hangars?

I freed myself from school early and fled from the hills as quickly as possible on Friday. It was all for the cause of finding new hiking/walking shoes. What a let down, right? Yes, if you consider the fact I didn't make much progress in finding some new footwear. That's not such a necessity right now anyway. While I was in the vicinity of the local airport I went to check out some old hangars. A random acquaintance told me about them back in September and I had been interested to check them out for myself. I couldn't find the Japanese word for hangar because I was typing the English in as hanger. That was a good spelling lesson for myself, albeit a shameful one.

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In 1944 nine covered hangars and 32 uncovered plane storage areas were constructed for use by the air force. After the war the airport became the prefectural airport and the surrounding land returned to farming.  Today 7 of the 9 hangars still remain in rather good condition. 

The flight unit was named the White Chrysanthemum and originally did pilot training. But the planes were also used for suicide attacks, better known in English as kamikaze which means God Wind or sometimes Divine Wind. 26 planes were sent to southern Japan to a base in Kagoshima and subsequently fought in the battle of Okinawa. 56 individuals lost their lives.

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This is the biggest hangar of the lot. According to the Japanese on the webpage I used to find the history of the hangars, there are about 60 bullet holes from being strafed by American machine gun fire. I didn't think they had been attacked so I didn't look very close. I might have to give it another look when I'm in the area sometime.

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Almost every hangar has some form of agriculture equipment or garbage inside of it now. They are quasi storage sheds for the local farmers.

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The other hangars are much smaller. The interesting thing is that their positions seem to be placed very randomly. I think they all face varying directions. I apparently missed the sign that explains the hangars. One exists somewhere in the area. I'll have to track that down.

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The sun was beginning to sink in the sky and it cast heavy shadows on the hangars.

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I'll follow up with some more information after I have read through the Japanese on the history a little more.

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There was one more hangar I didn't make it over to. It has a road going through it. I guess a second trip will be worthwhile after all.