Friday, August 8, 2008

Sasa no Tsuyu

Day eighteen: Sasa no tsuyu / 笹の露

Hontakasagoya / 本高浅砂屋 at Meguro Atre, ¥140

We had an earthquake today, right as I was setting up to take this picture. I was sitting on the porch (my “studio”) in the blazing sun and suddenly a large invisible person tried to yank the deck chair out from under me. It wasn’t big and didn’t last, but it was the first quake I’ve felt in eight years, and it shook me up enough that I had to take twice as many photos as usual to get one in focus.

Then I sat on the porch with a cup of icecold barley tea (mugicha) and ate my “Bamboo Dew” very, very slowly. I picked it for its shocking pink tint, but the ume pulp didn’t seem to add much beyond color and a faint sourness. The outer layer of goo (I think it’s kuzu again) was wrapped around a fat glob of the velvetiest shiroan bean paste I have ever tasted. I let the bite sit in my mouth for a while and the shiroan just dissolved away without going watery first—sort of like when you’re standing on a beach and the sand under your feet goes out with the tide.

After my “lunch” I decided to get out for a while. I knew it was silly, but I felt a little nervous about getting on a train, so I decided to explore the area on the far side of the station. I found a map posted on the main road that seemed to advertise some kind of fountain-like tourist destination a short walk away down back streets. I passed a temple getting spruced up for the imminent Obon holiday, and one of the most beautifully carved small shrines I’ve ever seen. I found a canal and followed in to the water feature, a series of tiered pools that I suspect were an early stab at water sanitation.

On the map I had noticed one more attraction on a turning just past the pools. The path led up a hill and into a bamboo grove. Where the grove cleared I found it, a fully-fashioned miniature Shinto shrine. From the bottom step to the ridge of the copper roof was probably all of five feet. It was on the far side of a little pond, but accessible via a tiny humpbacked red lacquer bridge, with handrails that wouldn’t reach my knee. Or it was accessible at one time; these days the whole thing is fenced off, so I just watched it for a while, thinking about insubstantiality and the fact that bamboo groves were traditional places of refuge during earthquakes; apparently the roots are particularly good at knitting the earth together.

A long time ago one of my Japanese friends confessed that on some level she liked earthquakes, because they teach people not to take even very basic things like solidity for granted.

1 comment:

Bernard said...

That thing reminds me of a Jawa!