My favorite memories are of Tamagawa at Oka-san's house. Her house was a typical Japanese style structure, with a little wooden walk way around the outside - giving you a place to sit to remove your shoes, as they were not allowed on the tatami mats.
There were wooden sliding shoji panels or doors that opened up the entire house if they were slid back, you could control the amount of air that you wanted to enter the house that way. The main room ( would be similiar to our living room) was used for a variety of events. In the center of the room Oka-san had a hole dug through the foundation, finished with wood on the inside..it was deep enough that you could sit on the floor and dangle your legs in it and be comfortable. So, of course, she had a little table (imagine a mini card table shrunken) that she placed over this and the whole set up became her little dinning table. Looking back, she was cool before there was cool. Then she found neat little fold up seats with backs that sat directly on the floor. It was a very comfortable arrangement. In the winter she put a small heating device in the leg well under the table, lifted the top off the table placed a warm blanket which draped over everyone's lap, put the top back on and we were good to go. I loved that table, so when we were transfered back to the States, she gave me a table like the one she had. That table went through every move we made from Chicago to New York...somehow, it lasted for years...I lovingly packed it to come here to Florida and of all things to be "missing" when my things were delivered, it had to be that.
Oh some other "stuff" was missing too, a salt & pepper collection, an antique key collection - but the table missing hurt. My kids had grown up with that table, we had eaten so many meals on it and for some reason the food prepared Japanese style always tasted better served on that table. Damm movers anyway.
If you look at the pictures up above those were Oka-san's gardens. It's a shame that I don't have any of them in full bloom but those huge mounds are Azaleas - they are tremendously large andabsolutely beautiful. To reference size, my son Kenji, is 6' tall...her plants were very impressive.
The room that I was speaking about earlier also doubled as a guest bedroom. The room had deep wall closets that held floor futons that were so comfortable. I swear I've not slept in a bed anywhere that was as comfortable as those futons. It is kind of ingenious the way that the Japanese utilize space...they don't waste space...you eat, you put it away, you sleep, it goes back into the closet...and something else can take place in that space.
Now the one thing that I did not like at all was the kitchen. Oka-san's kitchen was not modern or bright. It reminded me of the old style cooking by a fireplace. It made me nervous, I like to see what I'm doing especially with food preparation. So as much as I wanted to learn about cooking from her I shied away from it at her house...but whenever she visited me I tried to get her to teach me more and more. Which she did.
For some reason, everytime I had to try some new type of food...all the Japanese around me would giggle. I don't know if my face was giving my thoughts away or what. In the space of one month I had tried the following totally out of my league foods...Marinated Eel (does not taste just like chicken) Genhgis Khan Beef on Brasior (hot, hot, hot) Large Orange Fish Eggs (Yuck)A Soup (made by Oka-san) Miso? but she added little fish dried with BIG eyes (double yuck)and last but not least..Wild Boar, again marinated...did not taste like chicken either. Rather bold and gamey.
I think back to the food episodes and I just have to laugh....hahahahhahah