Sunday, October 21, 2012

OISHII is delicious!

                                  Sanbiki's Masa Roll looks delicious and it is!

If it's "OISHII" it's got to be good! Oishii translates as "delicious". Hopefully you won't hear "MAZUI" often. The opposite of yum, "mazui" means yuck/horrible!

Japanese also may use gestures to show their appreciation of a good meal. While uncommon outside Asia, slurping ones noodles is a signal to the Chef that they are being enjoyed. When they are served in hot soup, this also helps cools the noodles as they make their way down your throat.

                This ain't your white Momma's table...slurp up and enjoy!

Many Japanese believe in completely cleaning their bowl, reluctant to waste even a single grain of rice. Excessive or wasteful use of soy sauce is similarily frowned upon. Drowning your sushi in soy sauce in front of a Japanese sushi chef (ITAMAE) is a good way to offend him...

                            Just a little soy sauce on the edge of the fish is enough

A few more'sushi ettiquette" pointers...

The more time we spend in and around Japanese people and restaurants, the more phrases and expressions begin to sound familiar. Naturally we are curious to know who's saying what..  You'll probably be greeted with IRASSHAIMASU! Welcome!
Other phrases you'll hear include...


                       Beer, sake or wine; the battle cry is the same....KANPAI!

"Cheers" is sometimes heard as well. The Italian "Cin Cin" may elicit a giggle or a gasp depending on your Japanese table guests. Cin cin in Japanese slang refers to a male body that generally hangs below waist level, if you get my drift....

"ITADAKIMASU!" is said before the start of a meal. It means "I gratefully receive".

                                Even cartoon characters give thanks before a meal!

And after eating......"GO CHISO SAMA" ("It was a feast") You can say this in thanks to your Chef or hosts when you leave as well.

Next time we'll cover "sushi terms 101". Is "sake" something you eat or drink? Both! Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

MANEKINEKO: The Good Luck Cat

                                   Come in, come in!

MANEKINEKO is the "good luck cat" frequently seen near the entrances to Asian stores, businesses and homes. Often referred to as the "waving cat" outside of Japan, manekineko are actually believed to be beckoning people to come in. The gesture used to wave goodbye in many western countries is very similar to the way Asians gesture to call or summon someone.

The right or left paw may be raised. It's generally held that the higher the paw is raised the "luckier" the figure as more people are drawn from further away. Some say that a beckoning left paw brings customers; a right one brings happiness. Others believe a left paw brings money while a right one protects it. Some greedy little guys want it all.....

                                                  Both paws up...luck? Bring it!

Manekineko are popular throughout Asia, but originated in Japan. The figures may be seen in all colours, but traditionally a Japanese bobtail is depicted, and calico is believed to be the luckiest colour.

                             A calico Japanese bobtail. Black cats are also considered lucky

Feng shui is the ancient Chinese art of positioning structures in such a way that they attract good energy and luck and ward off "evil". Some solid colour manekineko are believed to unite the power of Japanese lucky cats with the principles of feng shui. A solid blue manekineko placed in the north of a house may bring good health and so on.

Could it be that kitty is not waving at you but she is washing instead? Some Japanese believe that when a cat washes her face with her paws guests (or customers?) will soon arrive. Some Chinese believe that cats bathe when they sense rain is coming. Rain on the streets is believed to send customers into the stores. Either way they're good for business!

Is bigger better? This cat has a whole bag of gold!

A "koban" is an oval gold coin that was in circulation in Edo era Japan. Many lucky cats are seen holding one.

Possibly the most common example of a manekineko

Several stories surround the good luck associated with cats in Japan. One tells of a swordsman who was visiting a lady friend. The woman's beloved cat began acting very strangely, violently clawing at her clothes. Believing the cat was possessed by a demon, the man chopped off the cat's head. The severed head flew towards the ceiling where a poisonous snake had been waiting to attack the woman. The cat's head snapped its jaws around the snake saving his owners life. The woman was inconsolable following the death of her heroic companion. Distraught that he had murdered the creature, the swordsman comissioned a famous sculptor to recreate the woman's cat.

                        A wooden Manekineko from the 19th century Edo period

Another legend tells of a poor monk who kept a cat named "Tama" at his temple in Tokyo. During a storm a wealthy nobleman had taken shelter under a tree when he noticed the cat was beckoning him into the temple. Curious, he went to the cat. Seconds later, lightening struck the tree under which he had been standing. The nobleman and the monk became friends and the temple prospered. When Tama died, figures were made in his honour. The tradition continues at the Goutokuji Temple in Tokyo today.

Goutokuji Temple in Tokyo houses hundreds of manekineko figurines

If you've got a kitty, we hope she/he brings you lots of luck! Ideas for new posts always welcome, have a great day...