Bullet train operating between Tokyo and Akita is conveniently named 'Komachi', after a renowned 9th century poet of unparalleled beauty born in the region and considered to be one of 'Akita bijin' (beauties of Akita). White (fair) skin, round face and a small nose were the yardstick. Due to face mask coverage, I could not really see for myself. The shinkansen which I rode didn't reflect the female beauty standard, nonetheless it featured another one of Akita's symbols - the rice. With its mustard color seats and rice stalks on the floor it embodies the importance rice has for this region. How one sort of Japanese rice is different to another, I am yet to learn to differentiate, but if you ask my husband, it's no silly question. (The difference between Japanese and subpar non Japanese rice is obvious according to the aforementioned, duh!) Endless rice paddies can be seen while looking out the window; green ones where the rice has already been harvested and the golden ones heavy with grains still swinging in the wind. This sight inspired me to design a pair of earrings which would represent this beautiful region.
My first association with the northern prefecture Akita was naturally the dog. However, I saw more of them in Tokyo than I did during the trip to their homeland. The elusive dog appeared in all sorts of souvenirs and the most impressive one was a big plush dog at the Akita train station.
Kiritanpo was one desirable way (sake would be the other) to enjoy the famous rice - Akita's pride dish of pounded rice on a skewer toasted over hearth and, in our case, served in a hotpot with meat and vegetables at a traditional restaurant.
Kiritanpo in the making
So traditional that it had racoon and other unidentified mammals' tails hanging off the walls. The other traditional thing was the tiny eggs floating in the hotpot which I innocently assumed were quail eggs. Be still my stomach, for they were unhatched eggs found inside freshly slaughtered chicken, served along with the chicken part they were found in (anatomy anyone?). I died a little. Other than that, kiritanpo was a satisfying meal of tightly packed carbs, enjoyed over a cup of sake and local music.
If you ever wondered what they did to lazy people in the cold north of Japan stay tuned for the next post.
Rice paddies along the road
"Life in Japan" blog Written By Andrea Ohnishi