The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

This is a sweet novella by one of Japan’s contemporary poets.

The story exists in a small, close environment of a couple, their home and the life of the cat they name Chibi.

It is told simply, yet with great detail. A picture of a world in a walled garden and house unfolds beautifully over the seasons  as the visiting cat comes and goes.

It’s just one hundred and forty pages, but is truly delightful. For cat lovers, for everyone who has loved and lost and learned to love again.

I have  respect and many thanks to give to those who take the time to translate from Japanese to English, that I may enjoy stories from a place I have loved for decades but never been to.

Domo arigato, Takashi and Eric.

guestcat

 

 

Fig and Walnut Biscotti

It’s the end of January at last. A month where we make lots of resolutions and then, well, put them off. It’s been a snowy month so far, an icy blast from the north has turned my face all ruddy after a walk around the woods.

It’s been a while since I made biscotti, so today’s a good day for it. This recipe will make a good amount which can be stored in jars or tins. Dip in your coffee or eat with cheese and port.

I got this from Bertolli:

400g plain flour, plus extra for dusting – I used half white, half wholemeal

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

150g olive spread

50g walnut pieces, roughly chopped

75g dried figs, roughly chopped

100ml milk

2 medium eggs, beaten

Freshly ground black pepper

Rub the spread in to the bowl of flour, baking powder and salt.

Then add the chopped walnuts and figs.

Beaten eggs and milk thereafter and make in to a soft dough.

Turn it out on to a baking tray covered in grease-proof paper in to a flat sausage shape.

Season it with the pepper!figs

Bake in the oven at 180C for half an hour

Take out and allow to cool for 10 minutes

Then cut in to thin slices and place them back in the oven at 150C for around 15 minutes.

Cool, store and eat.

Holocaust Memorial Day

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Seventy years.

Over the decades the stories and memories become deeper.

The first German lesson. Did anyone know any. Yes, I said:

Nichts rauchen

Nichts essen

Nichts wasser

How did I know?

They were in camps in the war.

We bend, but we do not break.

We live to sing and dance

We live with libraries in our souls.

You are as big on the inside as the universe is on the outside.

Make a library in your heart for everyone.

Work does not make free. It enslaves us. Love makes us free.

Expression makes us free. The wind makes us free.

Always and forever we will sing and dance.

Be humble for you are made of earth

Be noble for you are made of stars

 

The Man Who Sang To Ghosts

Epic tales, I love them. The ghost, love and war tales of Japan, among others across the world.

Ghosts are prominent  as we move in to a new year. Lyrics from Japan’s song run round my mind at the moment.

The man who sang to ghosts – a Japanese epic poem in which a blind bard  meets the ghostly heroes of his own songs is a great story. Also known as The Tale of the Hoichi and The Battle of Dan Na Ura, it’s about the rise and fall of the Hoichi dynasty in medieval Japan. It is the Iliad to Japanese people, written in the 1200’s and still performed now.

There are no boundaries between past, present and future. We are made of the stars and are  evolving  like the universe. In space there is no yesterday, today, tomorrow. There is no new year, old year.

When we have learned to let go of time, then we will simply be.

Happy new year? Happy eternal universe of storytelling.

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Masaki Koboyashi’s KWaidan (Ghost Story) (Film)

I first heard of Zen when I was twelve. My interest in Japan grew thereafter  – a journey of the mind, philosophy and the space in-between the things we think we know. A connection between tradition and modernity.