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Fall art season kicked off in New York City, and over the next few weeks our blog will spotlight some of the most innovative and consequential shows featuring Japanese artists.
First, we’d like to report on Lumina, Ritsue Mishima’s first solo show in the city. Born in Kyota in 1962, Mishima moved to Venice, Italy in 1989 and now splits her time between the two cities. Her quest to find the perfect vase for a flower installation led her to Italy, where she began to experiment with glassblowing herself. Ritsue’s large, heavy vessels translate colorful Murano traditions into a contemporary and uniquely Japanese aesthetic that features bold, colorless glass objects.
Collaborating with Venetian master craftsmen, Ritsue weds thousand-year-old glassmaking techniques with a modern sensibility that emphasizes spontaneity. She does not plan or design her sculptures ahead of time. Instead, she creates clay models that are transformed into sculptures by Venetian craftsmen.
This collaboration results in intuitive, abstract, and energetic forms that allow her to trace the ephemeral interplay between light and glass. Her installations are carefully designed to showcase the interactions between her objects and the environments in which they are placed. More than anything else, Ritsue treasures her collaboration with the glassblowers. In her words, “I’ve learned the unpredictability about glass making from the craftsman, and I taught them to dare to take the creation to the extreme.”
Matcha bar in Brooklyn has been enjoying a lot of pub in the media lately, and newer Matcha cafes are popping up every month. We Manhattaners can also enjoy great authentic Matcha at places like Ippodo and at a new tea room opened by Satoko Souheki Mori in the great Japanese furniture store, Miya Shoji.
Matcha is a powdered green tea, so we are literally drinking the whole green tea leaves that contain health-giving antioxidants, and “anti-aging” catechins as well as providing Matcha’s “relaxing effect” due to the L-Theanine contained in the leaves.
Matcha does have caffeine, but it releases its effect slowly over time not like coffee that and other caffeinated drinks that hit you very quickly. So, we enjoy the calm alertness all day long with one or two cups of Matcha a day.
I have been taking Tea Ceremony classes, learning how to serve and enjoy Matcha properly in a more ceremonial manner, which is certainly different from grabbing Matcha latte at a cafe. However wherever you get your Matcha fix on, the core spirit of it is simply to enjoy the tea.
Now, if your neighborhood doesn’t have a Matcha cafe, can you make a cup of Matcha at home? Of course. We now offer Matcha whisks and scoops at our store. We particularly love the 100 tine whisk that makes creating the finest foam easy - even for a beginner. The subtle combination of the bitter taste with slight sweetness is sure to satisfy and make you happy.
Please let us know if you have any questions, we would love to share information about making and enjoying a great cup of Matcha…!
Infographics curtesy of © Epic Matcha
It still feels like summer out, but those days will soon be fleeting as fall makes it’s arrival. While we love and will miss summer, autumn has many charms that we embrace. The leaves change colors as nature weaves it beautiful magic, late season fruits and vegetables are in markets and stores — and being the sake lovers we are, it also makes us excited for the arrival of the Fall sakes, including one of our favorite kinds, Hiyaoroshi.
Sake brewing traditionally finishes in spring of each year, and a six month aging process helps smooth out the flavors, which is why the new batches of sake are usually released in the fall. Typically sake is pasteurized twice to ward off any unwanted enzymes that can spoil the taste. Remember, sake brewing goes back many centuries before the advent of refrigeration, so the extra measures to protect it were vital to a great brew. However, once it began to get cooler in the season, brewers would release a version that is only pasteurized once — this is known as Hiyaoroshi. Sake lovers eagerly awaited its arrival every fall. So do we!
In Japan, some prefectures like Nagano and Saga have set September 9 as their official day for releasing each year’s Hiyaoroshi.
Hiyaoroshi has a lively, clean flavor to it — very vibrant with wonderful aroma and a nice, smooth finish. We can’t wait to try some of this year’s versions and will be heading to one of our favorite sake stores in New York City — Sakaya in East Village — to enjoy some when they arrive in the U.S. next month. We're excited to find out what this year's winners will be.
We encourage and invite you to try this seasonal delight. But don’t wait too long. Hiyaoroshi is typically released in small batches, so the supply can go quickly. Kanpai!
Seasonal recommendation from Sakaya
Wakatake Onikoroshi Akino Ki-ippon Tokubetsu Junmai Namazume
若竹 秋の生一本 ひやおろし 特別純米生詰め
Uraksasumi Tokubetsu Junmai Namazume
浦霞 特別純米 ひやおろし 生詰め
Today is a special day all over Japan where people celebrate Tanabata, the Star Festival. Tanabata is celebrated to commemorate the romantic story of two lovers represented by the stars Vega and Altair who are only allowed to meet each other once a year as long as the skies are clear. It is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, which is July 7th in the modern calendar. Some places in Japan celebrate Tanabata on August 7th in accordance with the older Chinese calendar, which is where the legend originated. The most famous of all the Tanabata festivals is celebrated in Sendai on August 7th, but most of Japan recognizes Tanabata today (July 7th).
On Tanabata, people write wishes on small pieces of colored paper called tanzaku and hang them on bamboo trees. These become beautiful wish trees. On the following day, the decorated trees are floated on a river or in the ocean and burned as an offering. There are many celebrations all over Japan, which also include parades, food stalls, colorful decorations, and fireworks.
Tanabata originated from a Chinese legend called Qixi and was brought to Japan in the 8th century. This is the story of two lovers. Princess Orihime, the seamstress, wove beautiful clothes by the heavenly river, represented by the Milky Way. Because Orihime worked so hard weaving beautiful clothes, she became sad and despaired of ever finding love. Her father, who was a God of the heavens, loved her dearly and arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi, the cow herder who lived on the other side of the Milky Way. The two fell in love instantly and married. Their love and devotion was so deep that Orihime stopped weaving and Hikoboshi allowed his cows to wander the heavens.
Orihime’s father became angry and forbade the lovers to be together, but Orihime pleaded with him to allow them to stay. He loved his daughter, so he decreed that the two star-crossed lovers could meet once a year--on the 7th day of the 7th month if Orihime returned to her weaving. On the first day they were to be reunited, they found the river (Milky Way) to be too difficult to cross. Orihime became so despondent that a flock of magpies came and made a bridge for her. It is said that if it rains on Tanabata, the magpies will not come, and the two lovers must wait another year to be reunited, so Japanese always wish for good weather on Tanabata. There are many variations of this story, but this version is the most widely held.
We hope for clear skies on Tanabata so the lovers can always be reunited.