37 sushi pink  Stones and sake please

              but will Calabria lure

              us with sun and wine?

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to blog – those good people at Maverick provided lots more fun scripts for me to write. But we’ve been pursuing Japanese life in London after hours. Two excellent lectures at the Japan Foundation have rekindled an interest in attending scholarly lectures – and drinking sake. The first was called Place, Memory and the Human Body and was given by Miyako Ishiuchi a fabulous photographer whose fragments of people, places and garments form her own quest for her past and produce memorable, occasionally disturbing images along the way. Her work is in Tate Modern – there’s an interview here – and she’s represented in London by the Michael Hoppen Gallery.

The second was by Allen S Weiss a New York University professor who has made a study of zen elements in Japanese gardens and ceramics. The talk was a launch for his new book and concentrated on the gardens side of things but the book is beautiful and will repay attentive reading in short bursts as the level of philosophical analysis made our brains hurt on a Thursday evening. It features Tofukuji that we visited in Kyoto as well as many others. I’ll never look at an arrangement of stones in quite the same way – fascinating, informative and fun. By an odd coincidence the writer was introduced and questioned by a Japanese gardens expert from Writtle College who was called Dr Jill Raggett. We exchanged cards and will look for the possible relationship which will be on her husband’s side. There seems to be a Hampshire connection so maybe we’re related somehow.

After socialising we went for okonomiyaki in Abeno, the original, having previously enjoyed a post theatre evening in sister restaurant Abeno Too. It was well up to standard with an autumn menu featuring a starter of kari kari renkon crispy, spicy lotus root that look like mini cartwheels, autumnal agedashi tofu and the main yamazatoyaki featuring burdock, bacon and mushrooms of many kinds – all delicious.

Two days later, 5 October, was Japan Matsuri London a festival of music, arts and crafts, martial arts and food which takes over Trafalgar Square in London for the day. The opening involved speeches from a number of luminaries – the highly inspiring Japanese ambassador, London’s deputy mayor – we were spared Boris – and a number of folk in costume representing the historic links between Japan and the UK. Much congratulating of London for inspiring Tokyo’s successful bid for Olympics and Paralympics 2020.

The ambassador speaks                                           The Choshu Five and William Adams

Matsuri ambassador 1  Matsuri Choshu 5

It was the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the first British trading post in Japan by William Adams a sailor from Gillingham so he was there. It was also the 150th anniversary of the first Japanese to come to study in London at University College. They were called the Choshu Five and they were there. They proved influential in the modernization of Japan and opening it to the west.

The event was launched by the smashing of a sake barrel – not quite as dramatic as it should have been because the planks on top had already been disturbed. However a campai from all on the platform drinking from the traditional wooden sake cups got everything off to a flying start.

Sake poured and …                                              Campai!

Matsuri barrel bash Matsuri campai

Matsuri imperial ladyWe wandered round the stalls, watched a kendo display with explanatory commentary, Matsuri imperial man 2met people in traditional Imperial costume and went to watch brilliant displays of drumming from students at the Japanese School in Acton and by the London Okinawa Sanshinkai. There were lots more performances but we needed to head home, pack and set off to Stansted to catch an early flight to Lamezia Terme in southern Italy.

Matsuri drummers 1 Matsuri Okinawa 7 

Arrival in Italy was fine. Flight on time to much applause from Ryanair crew, desultory from passengers. Car as described for once although a huge queue at Firefly rental desk – shared with Hertz who had no takers. Lesson about rates? TomTom installed and we set off for Zambrone where the villa we’ve rented is situated. We drive down a poor motorway with road works, two narrow lanes and fairly soon reach a turn off for Zambrone.

Zambrone signs Madama frazioneTrouble is like Gaul according to Caesar (Book 1 De bello gallico) Zambrone in tres partes divisa est. It may even be more as we came across the sign for Madama which is described as a fraction of Zambrone. The villa agent Beata was waiting to conduct us to the villa by Zambrone station but the SatNav took us to Zambrone Superiore. The station of course is in Zambrone Marina, It took us a while to sort out who was where but we did meet up and checked into our home for the next ten days.

It has a well equipped kitchen – always important for us – comfortable beds and a great pool with sun loungers aplenty. Looking good. One small problem though. We flew in through a thunderstorm and it’s pretty murky now. However the forecast is better with 28 and 30 promised for next weekend.

As it’s Sunday afternoon and we have no food and are unsure of  local restaurant hours (if any) we decide to go and do a big shop. We had seen signs along the road for Vibo Center with the magic appendage domenica aperto, open on Sundays.

Iperspar wide  iperspar WS

So we set TomTom for Vibo. On the way we pass a roadside fruit stall – excuse me Supermercato – where we stop and get some local rosato wine which later proves very palatable in its unlabelled litre bottle for 2 euros 50. We buy eggs, potatoes and onions and press on. As we approach we discover that again Vibo is multi-located. We find the Marina bit but there’s no sign of a Spar and we redirect to Vibo Valentia Centro. It’s miles away and what TomTom doesn’t know is that one of the roads is closed. Round and round in circles we go until finally we fetch up in Vibo Valentia where signs to the Spar are intermittent  but pop up just when you’ve despaired. By now it’s absolutely throwing the rain down and we scuttle into the covered parking and make our way into the mall with its avenue of boutiques and then a massive supermarket. We stock up and are attracted by the roast chicken spit against the far wall where we buy tonight’s dinner.

We set TomTom for its newly designated favourite location and are told it’ll be half an hour – not bad. Oh what a ride. Completely cross country, along tiny winding roads in the hastening dark.

P1030149Portions of the road were unmade and elicited cries of “mind the eggs” from my navigator – they were only in a bag not an egg box. We pass through Zambrone village which we’d seen before and at the side of a dark road in no man’s land are told “You have reached your destination”. It took us a while to find the road on which the villa is located but then we tucked into a herby and delicious chicken, good wine and cheese and felt a little more like we were on holiday not doing a team building orienteering course. On unpacking we found that five of the six eggs had survived.

One thought on “Japanitalia

  1. It’s difficult to find experienced people about this subject, however, you
    sound like you know what you’re talking about!

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