ECOBAG EXHIBIT THANK YOU !

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The response to our ECOBAG exhibit has been enthusiastic and in thanks Blue & White prepared a small wooden sewing box for all the things that participants will need for their next project.  Scissors, blue threads, white threads, a pin cushion, needles and pins with a tenugui to wipe their brow when it’s hot.  Which it certainly is!  All in a lidded hinoki box.

Thank you one and all for putting needle and thread to tenugui to come up with some wonderfully original ideas.  We hope to keep a line of handmade ECOBAGS in the shop at all times to encourage everyone to give up the insidious plastic shopping bag habit, and give color and character to our shopping bags.

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What made us happiest of all was the number of people who responded to our invitation and joined in and went to great troubles to enter the ECOBAG exhibit.  The array of new ideas for shapes and sizes and uses was inspiring.  People all put their heads to making useful new designs for shopping bags they could keep with them at all times and say no thank you when offered yet another plastic bag at the supermarket.

Have a look at a few of the bags we received.

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An inviting line up of new shapes made with tenugui we had in the shop sewn by our industrious and imaginative Sayoko Hayasawa

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Asako Sangai used her own silk screen designs to make her ECO BAG.  She is a Blue & White graduate and is inspired by the children she now works with.

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Noriko Mitsuya is intrigued with the infinite variety of tenugui designs she keeps discovering, and makes different shaped bags to match them.

She was eager to find new tenugui and designed bags for all uses that you can see behind her.  The smashing one she is holding will be her next ECOBAG.

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A happy match.  This customer came in and immediately spotted a strong graphic ECOBAG that worked well with her fresh Liberty print dress.

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These embroidered whales on a black on black spotted tenugui was a favorite.
ECOBAGS are FOREVER.
No end of shapes or patterns or sizes.
They brighten our lives and make shopping fun while  helping us do our small part to Save the Seas.

Every time we use an EcoBag we put 3 or 4 plastic bags out of business!
Join the Blue & White EcoBag campaign and make one for each day.  What a smart thing to do !

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Wild geese on a hand sewn shopping bag for small things.

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A TREE MOVES IN MINATO-KU

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It’s a matter of priorities.  Minato Ward has its right! Unbeknownst to me, the powers that are in Tokyo’s Minato ward, where many Embassies are located, and many international residents of Tokyo live, decided that the venerable camphor tree in the historic Arisugawa Park needed to be moved.  By chance or no, I happened by on moving day and was astonished by the large group of helmets assembled around the mammoth tree which had been shorn of its foliage, its roots wrapped in straw bunting, as I drove by.

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Not unlike many traditional festival machinations that I have witnessed over the years, moving the giant Mikoshi for Kyoto’s Gion festival and Chichibu’s night festival outside of Tokyo, the tree had been hoisted and tethered and set on stout horizontal wooden beams with rollers on wooden tracks to guide its movement 10 meters back into the park.  There were even traditional words for the front rollers – Kanzashi – and the back rollers Okagura!

A tall square mound of earth had been carefully prepared to be its new home.  Workers diligently swept away any stray stones or dirt that could impede the forward movement.
Ancient engineering which, though used infrequently, still has professionals who guard the secret.  10 or 15 had been assembled for the great move, along with 60 or so other gardeners, engineers and technicians who helped.

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I rushed by later to see what was happening and found that the tree was moving.

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A sign had been posted to inform the neighborhood of moving day, yesterday, July 26 at 10 am.  The 70 ton tree was to be moved 10 meters.  By chance I had driven by the great assembly and the straw wrapped tree, so I walked back later just in time for the move.  I had lived in Azabu for 35 years, and feel a particular love for the neighborhood and the park and its trees where I have walked many dogs many days and many nights.
The retention of ancient wisdom, the reverence for ancient trees, the respect for nature, the persistence of ancient values rang out in the claps of the 70 workers who rejoiced at their success in moving the old tree and the joy of by standers who had watched the slow process, which had started months earlier.

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And the tears that fell from my eyes as I watched yesterday and today as I tell the story of the tree that moved, are all a part of why I love Japan.

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NATSU MIKAN A SWEET TALE

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Fumiko Kikuchi, the soon to be 97 year old Mother of my dear friend, Yuri, has been making delicious marmalade from the fruitful natsu mikan tree in her magical Tokyo garden for years.  It was what Yuichi, my sweets-loving husband, lived for each year. (She should open a shop in Paris and sell it, he always told her!) We planted our own natsu mikan tree at home, which grew quickly and bore fruit generously. But I never dreamed of trying to emulate Kikuchi san’s natsu mikan marmalade.
Instead, I opted for candied peels that I never tire of cutting and simmering, because I adore them myself, and am proud to give to friends something I have made myself.  I too often rely on giving what others have made!
This year, we didn’t have enough natsu mikan, so I foolishly asked my friend whose tree had borne 100 fruits last year, if she had any extras.  Sadly she said that there were only 30 on her tree this year, so I forgot about my request.  But she didn’t and last week, true to her thoughtful ways, she arrived in Blue & White with a huge shopping bag so heavy she could barely lift it.  And herein lies the tale.

Yuri had felt badly that she couldn’t spare any fruit, so she mustered up her courage and went to an adjoining and unknown neighbor’s house whose tree was large and laden with fruit.  Her heart pounding, she rang his door bell and a very old man with a slightly grumpy look on his face, appeared and asked her what she wanted. In all those years of living next door to each other, they had never met.  She explained that her friend wanted to make natsu mikan peels and she wondered if he was going to use his fruit.  She had waited til late in the season to make sure that he wasn’t.  The garden was a jungle and clearly hadn’t been touched for years!
He said help yourself.  And just come in to the garden freely.  You don’t need to ring the bell, he said as he teetered unsteadily on his wooden geta to show her the tree.

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She waited to go until Sunday when her husband could help her, and give courage.  He carried the ladder.  She climbed it!  And like monkeys, she said – not such young ones at that! – they picked every mikan they could reach !  There were many more than 20 big fat natsu mikan in the  heavy bag she brought.

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When I heard the story and the dangers my friend and her husband had subjected themselves to for love of a friend and love of natsu mikan, the fruit tasted that much sweeter, and the old old friendship that much deeper.

 

RECIPE FOR CANDIED NATSU MIKAN PEELS

4 or 5 Natsu Mikan
2 ½ cups sugar

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Cut the natsu mikan peels into thin slivers with a sharp knife.
Place in a thick pan filled with cold water.
Bring to a boil over high heat and blanch for 5 minutes.

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Drain the water, cool and repeat three times.

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Save the fruit inside for jelly or marmalade
In the same pan, combine 1½ cups of sugar and 1 cup water
Bring to a boil over high heat.  Let it become slightly syrupy then add the peels.
Simmer very gently until peels become translucent and they have absorbed the syrup. Stir frequently to keep from burning.
Drain the peels, and let them cool.

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When cool roll them in the remaining cup of sugar – you may need more  – on a flattish plate – and spread them to dry on a rack with parchment paper underneath

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Let them dry for 4 or 5 hours, or overnight.
Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place.
It works for yuzu, grapefruit or other thick skinned citrus fruit.
But there is no recipe for a friendship like that.
Just great good fortune!

Above is the recipe for these golden peels.

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