The latest cultural trip I took was to Yanai, a city about an hour from base. I had been there before, to go to Mr. Max, the Japanese Wal-mart type place, but I had never been to the historic White Wall Street section of the city. Yanai is known for its Kanro soy sauce factory, a special striped cloth woven there called Yanaijima, and its traditional goldfish festival in August. Paper goldfish lanterns called kingyochochin are displayed in the city during the festival, and other celebratory times in the community. Akie, our cultural adaptation specialist and tour guide, said that the lanterns are on display right now to celebrate the grand opening for the new Iwakuni commercial airport.
Below is a view down the Street of White Walls. This is a historic district that was once the hub of the food and resource supply for the lords in the Iwakuni area.
They have some great man hole covers...
We went to a crafting warehouse to make our own goldfish lanterns, out of thin washi paper.
One of the other projects the crafting warehouse offered was to make place mats and coasters out of the yanaijima fabric on a loom. I hope to take Rodney and the boys to Yanai... maybe I can make a coaster then.
I have a new appreciation for soy sauce now. The traditional process takes about two years for regular soy sauce, but the Kanro soy sauce Yanai is famous for takes an additional year to ferment. Basically, you start with steamed soybeans and roasted wheat and add in kojikinn mold spores. Once the mixture is left for a few days, the mold breeds ans the results is called koji. A salt water solution is then added to the koji, making a new mixture called moromi, which will ferment in to soy sauce in large vats, like the ones below.
It is left in the vats for one to two years, stirred occasionally during the winter and daily during the hot summers, so that oxygen penetrates evenly to promote fermentation. Once the process is complete, the moromi is strained through cloth and the liquid is soy sauce. That is where most soy sauces are bottled and sold, However, Kanro soy sauce goes through the fermentation process a second time, more koji is added to the soy sauce and fermented for an additional year. I did buy a bottle of the Kanro soy sauce for about $3.
At the storehouse, there were some wooden barrels of koi and goldfish.
Some other interesting tidbits:
This was the Western-style toilet at the Yanai visitor's center. The tank fills up with this faucet on the back of the toilet. Add a soap dispenser and you're really saving Earth's resources!
You can't see it on the window, but this was a photography studio at one time. You can see I'm about 4 inches taller than the front door. And below, one of the very rare phone booths still functioning in Japan.
I also found out that I was quoted in the local Iwakuni newspaper about the lotus root cultural trip debacle I was able to enjoy last month. I have been told that it says something along the lines of: "Event participant Mrs. Jessica Guthrie said that when she first moved to Iwakuni and saw the lotus plants growing, she thought that they were harvested for their flowers, and was surprised to find it was the roots that were harvested. She plans to learn the recipes taught today and send copies to her family in the United States." It sounds like I was quoted correctly. ;)