Somen: Slippery summer noodles worthy of slurping

Japanese love their noodles!  From steaming bowls of ramen or udon, to mounds of yakisoba fresh off the griddle and dripping with tangy sauce, to bamboo trays of buckwheat soba noodles for dipping into a salty soy sauce-based soup, noodles are a dietary staple here.  Not as common or well-known is somen--long, thin, wheat-based noodles, … Continue reading Somen: Slippery summer noodles worthy of slurping

Haneda Festival: traditional fishermen’s prayers in the shadow of jets

One of the best things about being in Japan in the summer is the various neighborhood festivals.  Depending on the neighborhood and its guardian shrine, the festival can take place any time of the year, but summer seems to be the most popular season. Historically, Haneda, the neighborhood just north of the mouth of the … Continue reading Haneda Festival: traditional fishermen’s prayers in the shadow of jets

Gion Matsuri – centuries-old purification rites (and a great summertime party)

It all started in the middle of the 9th century.  Summer was always the season for increased disasters:  illness, floods, and devastating fires.  So the emperor ordered people to offer prayers for relief at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto's Gion district. Before long, the prayers were being offered with such regularity that the people made an … Continue reading Gion Matsuri – centuries-old purification rites (and a great summertime party)