Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Walking Looking Up

明けましておめでとうございます (Happy New Year!)

新春を迎え皆様の御健康と御多幸をお祈り申し上げます (Praying for everyone’s health and happiness as we welcome the coming Spring)

It’s Wednesday, not Friday, but today is the day I feel like writing. It’s been awhile; I’ve been lazing about in the kotatsu following Christmas craziness, and the last couple of days I’ve been making Osechi. I’ll probably post pictures later of all of that stuff.

It’s already New Year’s Day in Japan. As I was looking out the window this morning at a beautiful sunrise, thinking about my hopes for the new year, I remembered the first line of a song I like: 上を向いて歩こう(Ue o muite arukou—I’ll walk looking up). In the context of the song, “looking up” is intended to hide one’s tears and act strong, but for me, “walking looking up” would mean something more like not getting buried in my own fears and stress but rather keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus. Maybe at first I’ll be trying to hide my tears, but there’s no need to act strong, since Jesus is the source of my strength. There’s lots of things I’m hoping for the new year, but I think that one is the most important.

Off I go to pack things into Osechi boxes. I got too tired last night.

... and done!

Top layer: 黒豆 (black beans), 栗きんとん (mashed sweet potato with chestnuts), かまぼこ (fish cake), 岩石卵 ("rock" eggs), だて巻き (spiral eggs), 田作り (stewed tiny fish)

Middle layer: ごぼうの肉巻き (Burdock root wrapped in beef), なます (pickled daikon and carrot--from our garden!), 鶏の松かさ焼き (chicken dumplings), ぶりの若葉焼き (Grilled buri fish with daikon greens), あけぼのりんごかん (Apple jelly), 菊花かぶ (Chrysanthemum turnips)

Bottom layer: 昆布巻き (salmon wrapped in kombu seaweed), 煮物 (stewed vegetables, tofu, and konnyaku)

Friday, December 13, 2013

On choosing music for concerts

Today’s coffees: Kona, Ethiopia (Tokumitsu is busy today!)

It seems the snow is finally going to stay. Maybe. Warmer temperatures predicted for next week, though. I’m getting a little tired of all the snowing and melting but Keith doesn’t mind; less snow shoveling for him.

I’ve been doing a lot of concert planning recently. Shino and I have a concert December 22 at my church for which planning is more or less complete, and a couple of concerts in January that we’ve just started to think about. I also planned my first worship service in Japanese: the youth group will be having a very informal Lessons and Carols service as part of their Christmas party on Sunday night. I will also be leading the service—I’m hoping to say anything I need to say off the cuff from notes. Hopefully there won’t be too much to say, just a few comments about the flow of the readings and carols to help everyone follow the overall flow of the story.

Playing in Abashiri with Shino
All of this brings to mind some things I wrestled with as I studied at Regent and wrote my arts thesis: how to balance elements of practicality and aesthetics and welcoming newcomers and glorifying God when planning a concert or worship service. I have a sneaking suspicion I’ve taken a turn for the practical as I left Regent and started working.

Shino and I send a questionnaire to churches who request concerts; we give the church the option to request a short devotion or testimony as well as to request specific pieces of music. As we read through the questionnaire for our January concerts, surprise! We looked at each other and laughed. The same two hymns we played at our last concert were requested. Well, really it’s not a surprise. We get the same requests for almost every concert: Amazing Grace, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, The Swan, Bach’s 1st unaccompanied cello suite, and Fauré’s Après un rêve (After a Dream). If it’s Christmas, add Joy to the World and Silent Night.

Most of the pieces I’ve listed here are also popular in the US, but I really can’t figure out Après un rêve. It’s a beautiful piece, but not all that well known in the US, I think. As for the hymns: most Japanese have very little exposure to Christianity, but most will recognize those four hymns. I suppose it would be easy to just play concert after concert with the same repertoire, and the audience would love it. There’s comfort in the familiar; hearing favourite pieces can be very moving, especially for those hearing them live for the first time. Having studied music, I forget sometimes that there are people who didn’t grow up going to concerts and hearing friends’ recitals and such. I can’t even remember the first time I heard the Bach Suites performed, but some of the people who attended our concert in Abashiri (a small city in eastern Hokkaido) in September said that it was their first time hearing a cello performed live.

Playing the same pieces over and over can be helpful and fruitful, as with the Bach Suites, but I can’t say I am quite as excited about repeat performances of certain other pieces. I confess if I never had to play The Swan again, I would not be sorry. (And yet it’s on the program for December 22, since there’s a certain person whom we like at our church who would really like to hear it.) I used to love Silent Night—it was my grandmother’s favourite—but singing and playing it 20-30 times every December has made me lose my taste for it.

Without a fresh challenge, I lack the motivation to practice and my skill level goes down; by continually challenging myself with new pieces, even the pieces I’m bored of start to sound better. This became clear to me when Shino chose the Schubert "Arpeggione" sonata for us to play last Christmas. I’d been wanted to play it for some time, but I was put off by the difficulty. It was the first piece Shino specifically asked to play, so I accepted the challenge.

Progress was very slow. I was trying to balance language study and concert preparation, after all. I didn’t think I would make it in time for the first performance. Thankfully I realized at the last minute that my bridge was too high; some simple adjustments to my instrument would boost my confidence and make the sonata much easier to play. As I practiced the "Arpeggione" sonata for hours and hours, I started noticing that even the other pieces I wasn’t practicing as much sounded much better than before.

In terms of practicality, of course it makes sense to play music that people want to hear and that I’ve learned to play well—the benefit of having a repertoire of pieces is that it’s easy to throw together a concert with very little effort. If people come to my concerts and somehow make good and lasting connections with the host churches, of course I am pleased.

On the other hand, I really don't see "entertainment" as the primary role of my concerts. I want the audience to think about and engage with what I'm playing. The list of commonly requested pieces represents a very narrow range of style and expression: mostly slow moving and major key, with the exception of Après un rêve and Minuet II from the Bach first suite. If I want to choose pieces to accompany my testimony, or to tell the story of Christmas or Easter, the range of expression here is far too narrow. What about the challenges Mary and Joseph experienced as they journeyed to Bethlehem and prepared to be parents for their Saviour? What about their joy and fears as he was born? What about the pain of the cross? If I’m telling my own story, what about the loneliness I experienced as a teenager? These emotions require a broader repertoire.

As a teenager and fledgling cellist, I struggled to find ways of expressing my emotions in ways that were church-approved. Members of my church loved my cello and encouraged me to use it in worship—with some significant limits. I found the music I played in youth symphony and school orchestra to be a much more honest expression of my own emotions that the music I was allowed to play at church.

It’s Advent: this is the time of year when we wait and listen and look. God is speaking and working, but often I find that he is at work in the painful and uncomfortable. Sometimes that which appears to be joy is actually a mask for suffering; I don’t want that kind of joy. I want the joy the starts in the midst of suffering and wells up to be an unstoppable, overflowing stream. That is the message of Christmas: the people walking in darkness have seen a great light. Captive Israel welcomes their Messiah. I want to play music that reflects this amazing transformation from darkness into light.

This is why we try to mix a little of the unfamiliar and challenging in with the comfortable when we’re choosing music to perform at our concerts. If you’re interested in inviting Shino and me to play at your church, we’re working on sonatas by Mendelssohn and Chopin. They’re really great pieces with a lot of depth—I highly recommend them. We’re thinking of doing Brahms and Debussy next. Our first performance of the Mendelssohn sonata is December 22, 1:30, Wakaba Church! Off I go to the practice room…

I think there's a bit more edge than usual in this week’s post... but it's not my intention to antagonize or offend. I'm sorry if I've rubbed you the wrong way. However, if you want to argue, please do it in person, and be nice with your comments. :)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Advent of a different sort

Today’s coffee: Tokumitsu Christmas blend…

…but it’s not Christmas yet. It’s advent. Good coffee though.

Back when we were at Regent College, we took Advent very seriously. We lit our advent wreath every night at supper while singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (except that I used the spelling closed to the Hebrew transliteration: Immanuel); when planning worship services during my internship at First Christian Reformed, I remember arguing with our pastor, a Regent graduate who was himself an advocate of Advent, about whether or not we should sing any Christmas songs before it was actually Christmas. I wanted to drag out the waiting to the last possible second, to make the resolution even more spectacular. Maybe I was a bit over the top, having newly discovered that actually it was okay to express our grief and even our anger before God.

Then I graduated from Regent, and I found that the world is a complicated place full of people who are not Regent graduates. This is of course not a bad thing, but others might not share my views on Advent.

4 ½ years after graduation, here we are in Japan. Our advent wreath is on the table, and we sing O Come O Come Emmanuel every night and read Advent passages from the Bible, but actually we don’t have any candles. We ran out last year, and it’s nearly impossible to get taper candles in Japan… we looked in about 4 different stores on Monday, and all we could find were candles for Buddhist altars. We finally found tea lights at a 100 yen shop. The taper candles we ordered on the internet are scheduled to be delivered sometime in the middle of week 2. We'll try again next year.

If I go on an Advent rant among friends here, they might look at me a bit strangely. They might not know the tune of “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” or other songs we sang at Regent. They might think those lengthwise half-sheets of paper with a service order printed on them look a little funny… and actually, printed on A4 rather than Letter sized paper, they do look a little wonky. That last example, unless you actually went to Regent, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about… but yesterday Keith led a worship session for our OMF year-end day of prayer—the Regent-styled half-sheets were nostalgic to us and to the two of our colleagues who are also our senpai from Regent. (And I got my high-church fix. Ahhhh…)

Yes, the world is a complicated place. Let me explain how Christmas works in Japan. I’ve probably written about this before, but I’ll refresh your memory.

Similarly to other places in the world, Christmas decorations show up in stores sometime around the beginning of November. Around the end of November, we start hearing Christmas music. (Somehow the fact that sacred Christmas carols, rather than some pop-star’s recent inventions, are playing IN PUBLIC gives me a bit of a thrill...) Around that time, at our local KFC, the Colonel Sanders statue will be wearing a Santa suit.

At church, we’ve already been planning our Christmas events for months. During December, Japanese people seem to be more interested than usual in Christianity, or at least in Christmas. Some people are curious about traditions in other countries, or perhaps they like the pretty decorations and the music. In any case, the churches in Japan go into overdrive mode. Our church has a total of 6 Christmas events for various groups: women’s wreath-making event, tree decorating and movie for the youth group, children’s and youth parties at church, Christmas meal and concert, and Christmas Eve candlelight service. Of course there are other events going on as various church members hold private celebrations with family and friends.

For non-Christian Japanese, Christmas Eve is the big day. You might spend the evening with friends eating KFC (yes, really) and fluffy cake with strawberries, or you might go on a fabulous date with your lover. By Christmas Day, the decorations are taken down to prepare for Oshougatsu (New Year’s, celebrated with the Western world on January 1), which is possibly the most important holiday in Japan.

The weird thing is, in the middle of all the Christmas decorations and planning and celebrations going on all around, my heart is still in Advent—I’m waiting to celebrate and rest, and I’m waiting to see God work in my life and in the lives of those around me.

Last year at this time, I was struggling to find time for studying, practicing cello, and planning and performing concerts. We put up our very first Christmas tree (plastic, purchased at Costco) in mid-November as a “fun break from studying.” I was desperate to graduate—I bought my graduation hakama (a kind of skirt worn over a kimono for graduation) and put it where I could see it as a reminder that the end of language school was in sight. God would get us through somehow.

I think our Christmas tree and my hakama were important visual reminders of what was to come. After all the concerts were over, I would sit in the kotatsu with a basket of mikan and a mug of hot tea while Keith and I opened our presents together. In February, we would finish language school and move on to the training and work we were eager to do.

This year I’m not nearly as busy, but visual reminders of our anticipation of God’s provision are still helpful: the Christmas tree with presents underneath, the fruit cake in the pantry, even the fat birds eating seeds off the trees in our front yard. God has gotten us through difficult and busy times before, and he will continue to provide for all our needs, including the world’s need for a saviour. He has heard and answered my heart’s desire to be close to him.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, a few days late. We had our feast last night (Friday).

I had good intentions of doing a "Friday post" this week, but events-at-church happened, among other things. To be fair, one of the events happened at our house. The youth group came over this afternoon and decorated our Christmas tree. We also watched a movie and ate turkey soup and pumpkin (kabocha) pie... and everyone helped Keith with some yard clean up (i.e. they burned stuff in the driveway). It was pretty fun. But we had to rearrange the furniture yesterday to make room for the tree, so no time for writing. Enjoy some pictures instead!

p.s. If you're desperate to read a "Japanese culture" post and a cute picture of all of us in the kotatsu with mikan isn't enough, please see Keith's reflection about our study of tea ceremony in our latest newsletter. :)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

November Newsletter

Keith and Celia Olson
Newsletter #24
November 28, 2013

Dear Friends and Family,

It’s been a very busy fall around here, full of concerts and rehearsals and meetings and events and other such things. Thankfully we’ve had a bit of a breather before the Christmas rush sets in.

Keith preached his first Old Testament sermon in Japanese from Isaiah 6, the first sermon of a series from Isaiah, and performed Britten’s War Requiem with the Sapporo Symphony Chorus. Keith wrote his reflections on performing the War Requiem as a Christian and shared them with several members of the choir.

Celia played 3 concerts in 3 different cities (Tokyo, Abashiri, and Sapporo) with 3 different collaborators playing 3 different instruments (piano, harpsichord, organ--come to think of it, Celia also played 3 different instruments: cello, baroque cello, viola da gamba); wrote a magazine article about hospitality, a testimony intended for the youth group, and another testimony especially for concerts; held her first cooking class; and translated her lasagne recipe into Japanese.

First concert in Tokyo!
With Shino in Daisetsuzan National Park on the way to our concert in Abashiri
Abashiri Concert
Making lasagne noodles at Chuo Church cooking class
Together we attended a conference for pastors and missionaries; harvested, ate, and preserved lots of food from our garden; continued our work at church, especially with the youth group; and continued our study of tea ceremony. In the middle of all that, we found time to enjoy the fall colors while hiking and biking; we continue to be thankful to live in such a beautiful place as Hokkaido!

Also this fall, we had our church bazaar. We made lots of snacks to sell.
The kids at church practice a song for the Children's Blessing Ceremony

Tea Reflections

Celia and I have been attending 茶 道 (sado--tea ceremony) lessons together with Noriko, a friend from church, three times a month for the last six months at the home of Fujiyama Sensei. The lesson starts with a proper greeting with Fujiyama Sensei: sitting 正座 (seiza--traditional Japanese style in which you kneel, sitting on your feet), you place your 扇子 (sensu--miniature folding fan) in front of you with the end that opens pointing left, then place your hands palms down on the ground just before your knees, and bow saying よろしくおねがいします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu--not really translatable but means something between “Let’s begin” and “I am relying on you do do your best”) to be said in sync with Fujiyama Sensei. From there, she will usually perform the ceremony for us, and then we each prepare a cup for each other. Everything from which foot is used to enter the room, to where to place the tea utensils, how to hold them, and what to say when is scripted for the tea master and guest alike. If it sounds very meticulous to you, then you are right, it is. One thing, however, that came as a surprise to me, is that although there are so many rules, the atmosphere is quite peaceful and relaxing. I can see how once these rules are internalized, following the set pattern brings a sense of comfort and stability. Small variations such as the flower arrangement or choice of tea bowl become highlights of conversation, but it is not uncommon for most of the tea ceremony to be spent in reflective silence. The sound of the simmering kettle and the pouring of water to clean the utensils all add to the atmosphere. As our Sensei says, “音もごちそうです (oto mo gochiso desu—The sound is also to be enjoyed).”

Keith enjoys a bowl of tea.
Celia prepares tea while Fujiyama-sensei looks on.
If the tea ceremony has been teaching me anything about Japanese culture in general, it is that the more comfortable you become in the set pattern, then the more you view change as uncomfortable and disharmonious. Whatever you think as “right” becomes following the pattern, and whatever you think as “wrong” becomes anything that deviates from the pattern. Before you make the tea, for instance, you clean the 茶杓 (chashaku—tea scoop) by wiping it three times. If you were to ask me why three times, then I would explain that two times would not feel like enough and four is too many (five is right out). When I expect three and then see three, I’m happy that the harmony is kept. This feeling of developing a harmonious spirit and maintaining that harmony is highly valued in Japanese society, including religious traditions.

Christianity is seen as a western religion that is unfamiliar and uncomfortable; the challenge when presenting the gospel is that it is seen to be disharmonious. Christians can no longer take part in visits to shrines, and respecting and remembering one’s ancestors is done in a different way. This causes disharmony in the family and the community. When presenting the gospel, however, instead of focusing on what is disharmonious, the challenge is to emphasize that it brings harmony between sinful people and the everlasting God. When addressing the biblical themes of shalom, the Kingdom of God, or everlasting life, any meaningful discussion must include the concept of 和 (wa--harmony).

Thanks to tea ceremony lessons, I’m beginning to understand how to communicate the gospel in Japanese in a way that connects to Japanese hearts, and also to understand more deeply the meaning of a relationship with God that contains 和.

Prayer Points

  • November and December are outreach season for churches in Japan, since many are interested in Christmas. Please pray that many will believe this year.
  • Praise God that at Celia’s fall concerts, 2 people said that they want to believe. Please pray for the churches as they follow up with these people.
  • Please pray for the many Christmas events we will be involved with at our church: Dec. 15: Keith preaches from Isaiah 9, children’s Christmas party in afternoon, youth group Christmas party in the evening. Dec. 22: baptisms, Christmas lunch, and concert (Celia and Shino and possibly others). Dec. 24: Christmas Eve service.
  • We praise God that two middle school boys, Ke and Ko will be baptized on Dec. 22. Please pray for their faith to continue to grow. Please also pray for their friends, M and T, who believe, but face opposition from their families.
  • Keith is singing Beethoven’s 9th with the Sapporo Symphony Chorus on Dec. 14. Please pray for him to develop friendships with choir members.
  • In addition to Christmas events, please pray for our time with friends, both those from church and those outside of church. Please pray for opportunities to talk about our faith and for mutual encouragement as we celebrate Jesus’ birth.
  • Please pray for our ongoing language development and training. Sometimes we find that as foreigners, we naturally do things that do not fit in a Japanese church setting; these lessons can be painful to learn.

Language Corner

Once in September while we were eating a delicious barbeque supper with a friend from Keith’s choir, I (Celia) was explaining about my hometown: yes, most people in Seattle can use chopsticks, and yes, it is possible to buy Japanese ingredients at the grocery store. As to why this is, what I meant to say was “シアトルには二世日本人が沢山います” (Shiatoru ni wa nisei nihonjin ga takusan imasu: There are lots of Japanese-Americans--lit. second-generation Japanese--in Seattle), but what I actually said was “シアトルには偽日本人が沢山います” (Shiatoru ni wa nise nihonjin ga takusan imasu: There are lots of fake Japanese people in Seattle”). Oops. There’s only a tiny difference, but it had our guest chuckling. Thankfully he was kind enough to explain my mistake to me.

We’re thankful for each of you. Please pray for us in the busy season ahead. We pray that each of you will have an Advent and Christmas season that is enjoyable and meaningful.

Love in Christ, Keith and Celia

I'm back inside for the winter... but hey, at least there's no slugs inside the house.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Balancing Act

Today’s coffee: Tanzania… and who would have thought that pouring espresso over pudding would be so delicious?

Actually, this was last week's mocha, but I forgot to post the picture. Isn't it pretty?
Over the last several months, I’ve been very busy, as I wrote last week. In the middle of all that busyness, although lots of good things happened, I got rather stuck in a pattern which I call “bingeing and purging.” No, it has nothing to do with food or alcohol or anything like that. Other people might call it procrastination, but it’s not just procrastination. It’s nose-to-the-grindstone followed by complete exhaustion, coupled with thinking-I-can-do-more-than-I-actually-can. Guess what? I’m operating in my second language. Everything takes twice as long as I think it should… and it takes a lot more motivation to get started. Also, this is our first time being out of school and having a real job—but that real job is very similar to being self-employed. We are responsible for setting our own schedule, but that takes some getting used to.

Let’s take an extreme example: the weekend in which I had a concert during which I also gave a short talk on Saturday, then I performed several pieces at the same church during worship on Sunday morning, then hurried back to Wakaba to give a completely different talk for the youth group in the afternoon. However, I had also had a concert with completely different music on September 28, so I really had no time to prepare for my October engagements until after that was over. Preparing the youth group talk took longer than expected, and the people who usually correct my Japanese writing weren’t available, so I asked our pastor to look at it… at the very last minute, when he was probably busy with other things. After the Saturday concert, I was up until 1 a.m. making revisions to the youth group talk… and I’m not sure I want to know how many Japanese mistakes I ended up making, since I didn’t manage to get the final version checked.

Somehow it all worked out. After the youth group talk, we split up into groups to talk about the content—I could tell that the girls in my group had listened and taken to heart what I had said, and they shared about their own struggles and hopes. I was encouraged. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that God is still at work even when I’m exhausted. 

The situation repeated itself 2 weeks later as I prepared for a cooking class. The class itself turned out to be really fun, but the preparations were not. (On the bright side, now I have an actual recipe for lasagne! I managed to get pictures from the class and Lasagne recipe on the blog this week! I also posted the Japanese version!)

Keith and I usually go out to breakfast on our day off. It’s not anywhere special—just Royal Host, which is similar to Denny’s, but I can get EGGS BENEDICT there, which is awesome, since English Muffins are difficult to find here. This week we talked about how we’re going to get out of the bingeing and purging pattern—how do we avoid last minute panic and complete exhaustion (and thus lack of productivity) which often lasts more than a week?

The solution we came up with seems a bit too simple: working a little each day on each of the things we need to do—emails, writing talks and sermons, housework, Japanese study, practicing our instruments, and other preparations for concerts. Some days we have more time at home to do personal work, and some days we have a lot of meetings and rehearsals and classes. Even if we are working from home, we need to have regular work hours and regular breaks—and times to spend doing things other than work. 

There’s a hitch: we realized that in a profession such as ours, it’s difficult to define which activities are “work,” and which are “rest.” For example, playing the cello may be fun, but it’s my job… and sometimes it’s not fun, but that doesn’t mean I can stop. Work and rest seem to be something of a continuum which we’re still trying to define. I think both working and resting regularly is the key to escaping from our bingeing and purging pattern, but this is a work in progress for us.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013



私の好きな料理をご紹介します。 実は、私にとって、料理は面倒くさければ面倒くさいほどいいです。 もちろん、ラザーニャは面倒くさいので好きです。 ラザーニャを作りましょう。

私のラザーニャは色々な人の料理から影響を受けました。 子供の時、母はおいしいラザーニャを作ってくれました。 特に畑の野菜で作ったミートソースはおいしかったです。 

毎年実家の近所の人達はチリビーンズ祭りを行っています。 父はチリビーンズが大好きで、何回もチリビーンズ祭りの大会で優勝したことがあります。 高校生の時、初めて父と一緒にチリビーンズを作りました。 その時、父のクッキング・スタイルを習いました。 それは、冷蔵庫と相談するスタイルです。 父はレシピを使わず、ただおいしそうな材料を畑、冷蔵庫などから集めて、チリビーンズを作りました。

生パスタの作り方は神学校の合宿の時に学校の教授から習いました。 すごくおいしくて、思ったより簡単でした。

ずっと前からラザーニャを作っていますが、今月の中央教会の料理教室のために初めてレシピを書きました。 (写真はその時撮っていただきました。) その前は何回も父のクッキング・スタイルと同じように色々なラザーニャを作っていました。 

レシピ: ラザーニャ

  • パスタマシン、パスタカッター
  • クッキングマット
  • チーズ用おろし金
  • バーミックス、またはフードプロセッサー
  • キャセロール(22x30センチ位の耐熱皿)

1. ミート・ソース

  • 牛挽き肉、400g
  • オリーブ油、大さじ1
  • 玉ねぎ、1個(大)、1センチの角切り
  • 塩、小さじ1
  • 白ワイン、大さじ2
  • バリエーション:お好みの野菜、旬の野菜(ピーマン、なす、きのこなど、1センチの角切り)
  • ローストにんにく*、大さじ1、またはにんにく、大さじ1、みじん切り
  • お好みのハーブ、小さじ1 (オレガノ、ローズマリー、タイム、パセリがお勧め)
  • トマト、800g、2センチの角切り、またはトマトの缶詰、800g
  • 赤ワイン、240cc
  • 赤とうがらし、1本(入れなくても大丈夫)
  • トマトペースト、170g
  • コショウ、小さじ¼
  • はちみつ、小さじ1
  1. フライパンで牛挽き肉を炒める。 焼き色がついたら、火を止め、紙タオルで余分な脂を抜き取る。 牛肉をボールに入れる。
  2. 大きい鍋にオリーブ油を弱火で温めて、玉ねぎ、塩、白ワインを入れる。 蓋をして、10分ほど焼く。 蓋をとって、ひと混ぜする。
  3. お好みの野菜や旬の野菜を入れるなら、それを2.に入れて、2-3分間混ぜながら炒める。ローストにんにく、ハーブを加えて、よく混ぜる。
  4. トマト、赤ワイン、赤とうがらしを3.に入れて、煮立てる。 火を弱くして、15分間弱火で煮る。 火を止めて、バーミックスでピュレ状にして、トマトペーストを入れてよく混ぜる。
  5. 1.の牛肉を4.に入れて、煮立てて、火を弱くして、10分間弱火で煮る。
  6. 火を止めて、はちみつ、コショウを加える。 赤とうがらしをとる。


  • にんにく、適量
  • オリーブ油、少々
  • 塩コショウ、少々
  1. にんにくの皮をむいて、ボールに入れる。 オリーブ油、塩コショウをかける。 
  2. オーブンの皿に載せて、180℃のオーブンで30分程焼く。 
  3. フードプロセッサーでつぶして、ペーストにする。
  4. ガラス瓶に入れて、冷蔵庫で保存する。

ラザーニャ2枚分(せっかく生パスタを作るので、沢山作らないともったいないと私は思っています。 残ったラザーニャヌードルをカットして、パスタにする説明も書きました。)

  • 卵、6個
  • 塩、小さじ½
  • バリエーション:お好みのハーブ、みじん切り、ドライ・トマト、お湯で戻して、みじん切り
  • セモリナ粉、300g
  • 薄力粉、300g
  • 薄力粉(打ち粉用)、適量
  1. 大きいボールに、卵、塩を入れて混ぜる。 ハーブ、ドライ・トマトを使うなら、それも入れて混ぜる。
  2. セモリナ粉、薄力粉を少しずつ入れて、よく混ぜる。 混ぜられない時、生地を打ち粉したクッキングマットの上に載せて、手に打ち粉を付けて、生地をこねる。 残っている薄力粉があったら、それを加えながらこねる。 生地がツルツルになるまでこねる。 
  3. 20分間ほど生地をねかせる。
  4. 生地を6つに分ける。 1分割を取って、残りの5分割が乾燥しないようにボールを上からかぶせる。
  5. 手に打ち粉を付けて、手で生地の1分割を薄く伸ばして、四角い形にして、パスタマシンの一番厚いセッティングに入るようにする。 (私のパスタマシンは「1」というセッティングが一番厚いです。「6」は一番薄いです。)  パスタマシンを「1」にセットする。 
  6. 5.の生地の両面に薄力粉を振り掛けて、パスタマシンに生地を通す。 変わった形になってしまったら、端を折って、もう一度同じセッティングでパスタマシンに通す。
  7. パスタマシンを「2」のセッティングにして、6.を繰り返す。 「5」のセッティング、ラザーニャヌードルが1-1.5 mm の厚さになるまで繰り返す。
  8. 5.-7.を残っている5分割でも繰り返す。
  9. キャセロールの大きさに合わせてナイフでラザーニャヌードルをカットする。 注意:ラザーニャヌードルをゆでないほうがいいです。
  10. ラザーニャが出来上がって、ラザーニャヌードルが残っている場合は、パスタにしましょう。 そのためにパスタカッターを取り付けます。 ラザーニャヌードルに両面に薄力粉を振り掛けて、パスタマシンのパスタカッターに通す。 パスタに薄力粉を振り掛けて、クッキングマットに広げて干す。 
  11. すぐゆでる場合は2分ほどゆでる。 次の日なら、7分ほどゆでる。
  12. 保存のし方:2日間そのまま干しても良い。 その後、冷凍庫で保存するのがお勧めです。
クラスの皆さんは手伝ってくれました。 3人で楽です。
うわああ、 きれいなパスタです! 早く上手になりました。

3. ホワイト・ソース

  • ヨーグルト、900g
  • 卵の黄身、2個
  • おろしモッツァレラ・チーズ、80g
  • おろしパルメザンチーズ、40g
  • ローストにんにく*、大さじ1、またはにんにく、大さじ1、みじん切り
  • 塩、小さじ1
  • コショウ、小さじ¼
  1. ヨーグルトをだし袋に入れて、それを大きいボールの上に、裏ごしに入れて、一晩ねかす。 ボールに出た黄色い液は捨てる。
  2. ボールに1.の水切りヨーグルトも入れて、他の材料も全部加えてよく混ぜる。

4. チーズ、野菜など
ラザーニャは色々な材料、色々な作り方があります。 人によって、旬によって違います。 ですから、私の好きな方法を書きましたが、どうぞ、お好みの材料を使って下さい。

  • おろしモッツァレラ・チーズ、160g
  • おろしパルメザンチーズ、40g
  • お勧めの野菜:
  • 秋と冬:きのこ(マッシュルーム、しめじ、まいたけ、200g)、かぼちゃ(150g)、ほうれん草(1束)、玉ねぎ(1個、中)
  • 夏:バジル、ズッキーニ(中、2本)、なす(大、2本)など
  • テーブルに:ハーブ塩、おろしパルメザンチーズ
  1. きのこ、玉ねぎなどを1センチの角切りにする。 ズッキーニ、なすなどを5mmの輪切りにする。 ほうれん草などの青菜を1センチの長さに切る。 かぼちゃを4mmの厚さにスライスする。
  2. ほうれん草などの青菜を1分間ゆでて、水をきる。 
  3. かぼちゃを2分間ゆでて、水をきる。
  4. きのこ、玉ねぎをフライパンで炒めたら、おいしくなります。
  5. ズッキーニ、なすはそのままラザーニャに入れても良い。

5. ラザーニャを重ねて、焼く

  1. オーブンを200℃に予熱する。
  2. 22x30センチのキャセロールにオリーブ油を少し敷く。
  3. 下記の「ラザーニャの層」のようにラザーニャを重ねていく。 「0」から始めて、「12」まで進む。
  4. この「ラザーニャの層」にはお好みの旬の野菜をいっぱい入れて下さい。
  5. ラザーニャをオーブンの下段に入れて、20分間焼く。
  6. オーブンから出して、おろしモッツァレラ・チーズとおろしパルメザンチーズを振り掛ける。 ラザーニャの向きを変えて、オーブンに戻して、20分間ほど焼く。 きつね色になり、プツプツして来たら、オーブンから出す。 10分間冷ます。
  7. ハーブ塩、おろしパルメザンチーズを振り掛けて、お召し上がり下さい。
  • 13: チーズ
  • 12: ミート・ソース、少々
  • 11: パスタ
  • 10: 野菜
  • 9: ミート・ソース、たっぷり
  • 8: パスタ
  • 7: 野菜
  • 6: ホワイト・ソース
  • 5: パスタ
  • 4: 野菜
  • 3: ミート・ソース、たっぷり
  • 2: パスタ
  • 1: ミート・ソース、少々
  • 0: オリーブ油
重ねる準備、できました! 秋のラザーニャを作るために、この材料を使います。 ミートソース、かぼちゃ、ホワイトソース、スイスチャード、きのこ、チーズ。
かぼちゃは珍しいかもしれませんが、おいしいです! お勧めです。
やっぱり、一番楽しいのは食べることです。 :)

My Lasagne

Guess what? I finally wrote out "my recipe" for lasagne. Although it's now written down, there's no guarantee that this is the recipe I will be using from now on. ;) I will probably continue to improvise based on what's in my garden/refrigerator/pantry. But here is one version that I made for a cooking class I did this month at Chuo Church. The pictures are from the class.

Oh, by the way, I live in Japan now. We use metric here. But I'm still using American sized spoons and cups--1 cup is 240 mL, 1 Tbsp is 15 mL, and 1 tsp is 5 mL.


Special Equipment: Pasta roller, pastry cloth, cheese grater, pasta cutter in case of leftover pasta, blender or stick blender (recommended), casserole pan (9x12in or equivalent)

Step 1: Meat sauce
Makes 1 large lasagne

  • 400g ground beef
  • 1Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp white wine
  • Optional: other vegetables, diced (pepper, eggplant, mushroom, olive, etc.)
  • 1 Tbsp roasted garlic* or minced garlic
  • ½ tsp Italian herb seasoning (or 1 T fresh herbs of your choice, minced: oregano, rosemary, parsley, and thyme are recommended)
  • 800g tomatoes, rough cut, or 2 cans (411g/14.5oz each) whole tomatoes with juice
  • 1 cup red wine
  • ¼ tsp hot pepper flakes (optional)
  • 170g (1 small can) tomato paste
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)
  1. Brown beef; drain fat if necessary. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat up olive oil in a large pot over low heat. Add onions, salt, and white wine. Cover and cook for 10 minutes until soft. (If you are using other vegetables such as peppers, add them now and sauté for a few minutes.) Add roasted garlic and Italian herb seasoning (or fresh herbs of your choice) and mix well.
  3. Add tomatoes, red wine, and hot pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, blend with stick blender. Add tomato paste and mix well.
  5. Add beef; simmer for another 10 minutes.
  6. Add honey and pepper; adjust seasoning.
*Roasted Garlic
You can make any quantity of garlic you want; I usually make a large batch of about a kilogram of garlic which I store in a jar in the fridge and use for all kinds of recipes.

  • Garlic, peeled and root end removed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
  2. In a bowl, toss garlic with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Spread garlic on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes until soft and brown, stirring several times.
  4. Crush the garlic until smooth in a food processor.
  5. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Step 2: Pasta
Makes enough for 2 large lasagne (16 servings), OR 1 large lasagne (8 servings) plus a bunch of extra pasta (about 4 servings)

  • 6 eggs (or 5 eggs and 2 egg whites, since 2 yolks go in the white sauce)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Herbs of your choice, minced (optional)
  • Reconstituted and minced sundried tomatoes (optional)
  • 300g Semolina flour
  • 300g all purpose flour
  • Extra flour for dusting
  1. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, salt, and optional herbs and tomatoes.
  2. Add flours a little at a time and mix well. When it gets too thick to stir, turn the dough onto a floured pastry cloth and knead the dough with floured hands as you add the remaining flour. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and only slightly sticky.
  3. Rest the dough for 20 minutes.
  4. Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Keep the remaining pieces covered so they don’t dry out.
  5. Using your floured hands, shape the first piece so that it is roughly square and flat enough to fit through the widest setting of your pasta roller (that’s #1 on my roller).
  6. Coat both sides of the dough with flour so it doesn’t stick to the pasta roller… and feed it through! If the shape is funky, reshape (fold in the ends) and put it through again on the same setting.
  7. Set the pasta roller to #2, and repeat step 6 until your pasta is as thin as you want it. My pasta roller goes as narrow as #6, but I prefer to stop with #5. The pasta sheets should be about 1-1.5 mm thick.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 with each of your remaining pieces of dough.
  9. If you’re making lasagne, cut the pasta sheets to the correct size and assemble your lasagne! No need to pre-cook the pasta sheets.
  10. If you are done assembling your lasagne and have leftover pasta sheets, coat both sides with flour and roll them through your pasta cutter. Toss the finished noodles with flour and allow them to dry on your floured pastry cloth for up to 24 hours. After that, put them in a plastic freezer bag and store in the freezer.
  11. Cook your noodles in salted boiling water for 2 minutes (if they’re very fresh) or up to 7 minutes (if you’ve dried them for a while) until al dente. (NOTE: This step is NOT necessary for lasagne noodles! Do not pre-cook raw lasagne sheets!)

Making the dough. Actually it is kind of intimidating to do this with a bunch of people watching...
Starting to roll out the pasta. It starts very small.
The pasta stretches and stretches! It's actually easiest to do with 3 people--one to feed, one to catch, and one to turn the crank.
Everyone caught on quickly. Look at that beautiful pasta!
The lasagne is done, so now it's time to cut the leftover pasta. Ozawa-sensei gives it a go.
We made lots! Everyone got to take some pasta home!

Step 3: White sauce
Makes 1 large lasagne

  • 2 packs (450g each) yogurt or 3 c ricotta cheese
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ c/80g grated mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ c/40g grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp roasted garlic* or minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt (or 1 ½ tsp herb salt)
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
  1. If you are using yogurt, pour the yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a large bowl; let strain overnight. Discard the yellowish liquid (whey) in the bowl.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the strained yogurt with the rest of the ingredients, being sure to incorporate the roasted garlic so there are no clumps.

Step 4: Cheese , Vegetables, Etc.
I’m usually very flexible when it comes to what sort of cheese and which vegetables I use. Here are some guidelines, but feel free to use what’s in season and available.

Suggested ingredients:
  • 160g Mozzarella cheese
  • 40g Parmesan cheese
  • Suggested vegetables:
  • Fall and winter: mushrooms (button, shimeji—135g, maitake—100g), kabocha (150g, cut in 4mm slices), spinach or other greens (chopped and blanched)
  • Summer: basil, zucchini, eggplant, etc.
  • Optional: herb salt, additional parmesan cheese for serving
  1. Grate the cheese, if it’s not pre-grated.
  2. Chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces (mushrooms, onions, etc), 5 mm slices (zucchini, eggplant, squash, etc), or rough chopped (leafy greens).
  3. Blanch leafy greens in boiling water for 1 minute; drain well and squeeze out excess liquid.
  4. Blanch squash and other slow-cooking vegetables in boiling water for about 2 minutes, or until just tender; drain well.
  5. Zucchini and eggplant do not need to be pre-cooked.
  6. Brown mushrooms and onions in olive oil. This will increase flavour and reduce water content.

Step 5: Assembly and Baking

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
  2. Oil a large 9x12 inch or equivalent casserole pan. Any size is fine, but I find square or rectangular pans easiest to work with.
  3. Assemble the lasagne according to the “suggested layering” list below, starting from layer 0 at the bottom and working up to layer 12—leave out the cheese for now; we’ll add that partway through the baking time.
  4. This layering list is very flexible. I wouldn’t suggest eliminating pasta or sauce layers, but you can add, substitute, or completely leave out vegetable layers.
  5. Bake the lasagne for 20 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle the top with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Flip the lasagne 180 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes more, until the sauce at the edges is bubbling and the cheese is browned.
  7. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes… if you can wait that long!
  8. Serve with parmesan cheese and herb salt if you like.
Suggested layering:
  • Layer 13: cheese
  • Layer 12: meat sauce (thin layer)
  • Layer 11: pasta
  • Layer 10: vegetable
  • Layer 9: meat sauce (thick layer)
  • Layer 8: pasta
  • Layer 7: vegetable
  • Layer 6: white sauce
  • Layer 5: pasta
  • Layer 4: vegetable
  • Layer 3: meat sauce (thick layer)
  • Layer 2: pasta
  • Layer 1: meat sauce (just a little)
  • (Layer 0: Oil the pan)
I set up the different ingredients more or less in order for easy assembly. This time we used vegetables in season in the fall. From the far end of the table: meat sauce, kabocha (a kind of squash), white sauce, swiss chard, mushrooms, and cheeses.
Kabocha in a lasagne was a pretty novel idea, I'm told. The Japanese concept of lasagna has only pasta, meat sauce, white sauce, and cheese... although I have seen recipes in which vegetables take the place of the pasta. Still, it seems the kabocha and other vegetables went over well.
Swiss chard layer--colorful! (It came from our farm!)
The class participants spread white sauce. I made one example lasagne, and then the participants put together 2 more.
After the lasagne bakes for awhile, cheese goes on the top. (Another cultural note: apparently Japanese lasagnes usually have white sauce as the final layer underneath the cheese. I found out afterwards. Oh well.)
Of course the best part is eating the lasagne! (My mouth was full.) Yay!

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Today’s coffee: mocha (Tokumitsu), Papua New Guinea

So… last week I was hibernating. It’s been a busy two and a half months. First was my concert in Tokyo, then one in Abashiri, and the Wakaba Bazaar a week later (I made 5 different snacks to sell). Towards the end of October, I had a concert at Sakae Church, and then I played for their worship service the next day… and then rushed back to Wakaba to give a talk for the youth group in the afternoon, which I hadn’t really had checked properly… who knows how many Japanese mistakes I made? Then there was a pastor’s conference, and a week after that, a cooking class. Meanwhile, we were harvesting lots of stuff from the farm and preserving what we couldn’t eat right away. After the cooking class was over (I taught everyone to make lasagne with pasta from scratch), for the next week I spent as much time as possible resting… but there were a lot of things to catch up on too.

I’m glad this period is over; now we’ve got a couple of weeks to rest and prepare for Christmas rush. Still, in the middle of all of this, we saw some beautiful fall colors, met up with a lot of people we don’t usually get to see, I actually got around to writing up my lasagne recipe which previously only existed in my head, and we saw God at work in a lot of ways.

Our friend, Izumi is visiting right now; she was a fellow student at Regent. After having heard about her mom’s amazing pickles and her dad’s amazing garden for years, we finally managed to meet up with all of them in Niseko yesterday. During a nice early-morning onsen soak, Izumi told me about how she looks for beauty every day—not just beauty in nature, but the beauty of God at work, and the beauty of time spent with friends and family. This has gotten her through difficult times, she said.

Here are a bunch of beautiful things I’ve seen and experienced over the last two months that had me thanking God for his goodness. There's a huge number of picture that I want to share (who wouldn't take lots of pictures of Hokkaido in the fall?) so I'll give you 2 options to look at them.

For the casually interested, a collage:

If you want to take time to look at each picture (and read the captions), please visit the web album I made with all of these pictures.

A few more things I'm thankful for which don't have any pictures:
  • Keith and I went to see the new Studio Ghibli movie: 風立ちぬ (Kazetachinu—The Wind Rises). A beautiful film, very subtly anti-war… and the hero is an aeronautical engineer! Somehow with my family history, engineers are rather close to my heart…
  • Our car. It is loud and old, and it uses lots of gas. But without it, we wouldn’t be able to get around in the winter… and we wouldn’t be able to go camping or hiking!
  • People who pray for us and encourage us, both here in Japan and at “home” in the US… and lots of other places too!
  • Time to rest and cook and spend time with friends.
  • Anticipation: wow, does the Christmas fruitcake ever smell good. Waiting is difficult, but we're looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s with friends.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Hope for Generation Y

Today’s coffee: blend (at Tokumitsu)

I really didn’t think I’d get to write this week. We’ll make it fast—just one cup of coffee (and a slice of cheesecake). This afternoon I’ve got to actually write down my lasagne recipe, which until now has only existed in my head… (cooking class next week!)

Last night I went to a concert. Well, not exactly a concert. The students at our local seminary have been working very hard at learning to play the organ—some of them may become pastors in very small churches where there is no one else to accompany the singing during the worship service. Last night’s concert was they’re debut at accompanying congregational singing.

During the concert, the students read through the entire book of Philippians interspersed with hymns by Fanny Crosby. (I have a sneaking suspicion that her hymns are more popular among Japanese evangelicals than they are in the US these days.) Encouraged, I decided to read Philippians again this morning in English.

Backing up a bit, last night before we went to sleep, Keith and I talked for a long time about humility—our need for it, our failures in the past, and our thankfulness that God has sent us to a place and a work where we will either learn humility or we will fail. We also talked about a certain blog post which made the rounds on facebook a while ago—this particular blog presented a hilarious and yet painful description of our generation. We were both raised to think we were special. Special in the eyes of our family and friends, yes. Better than everyone else, no. But somehow thinking we were “special” made us lose sight of our own weaknesses and gave us a sense of entitlement that was, and still is, hard to shake.

As I read through Philippians again this morning, I found hope in chapter 2:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phi 2:1-11 NIV)

I found this passage to be both convicting and comforting. Am I entitled to a life of comfort in which my talents and intellect are respected? No. I am to consider others better than myself. But I’m not the only one. Jesus, the founder of my faith and the model whose life I seek to emulate, threw away all of the things humans want—power, honour, glory—and was born as a human to a poor family, lived a short life full of love for others, and died a painful death in our place.

And yet even if I am disrespected and my life seems less successful than I had hoped it would be, I know that I am loved. Jesus made himself nothing for my sake, for each one of us. Living my life in humble obedience to the one who loves me is far more meaningful than all the successes in the world.

So, I think there’s still hope for “generation Y”: God loves us despite our failures and shortcomings, and we can respond to God’s love for us in obedience and humility and teachability. I still have so much to learn, but I am confident in the one who is teaching me.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Concert weekend!

It's going to be a busy weekend, so I'm not in particular going to do a Friday post today. I have a concert Saturday night, then I'm playing at the same church Sunday morning, and back at my own church to give a talk for the youth group Sunday afternoon... and that talk isn't quite done yet. Guess what I'll be doing today??

For those of you in the Sapporo area, I'm including a poster and details below.

  • Date: Saturday, October 26, 2013, 6:30 p.m.
  • Place: Sakae Church, Sapporo Higashi Ku, Kita 47 Jo Higashi 7 Chome 2-1 (Phone: 011-731-7277)
  • Repertoire: Bach viola da gamba sonata #3, bits of Bach cello suite #1, Ghibli movie music, hymns.
  • Also: I will tell a bit of my story as a musician; Akasaka-sensei (visiting from Kanto) will give a message
  • Cake: yes. Sure to be delicious--I know from experience. :)

Hopefully I'll get around to posting some pictures sometime this weekend!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pear Exchange


Today’s coffee: Guatemala

We’ve had crazy weather this week. On Tuesday, we joined the crowd of people at the farm trying to harvest as much as possible before the typhoon came. Our table is covered with peppers and tomatoes and herbs—we’re hoping some of the unripe ones will ripen. There’s zucchini in the refrigerator too.

I think the typhoon must have weakened and changed course, since we hardly got any wind at all, just torrential rain. I guess the farm will be okay for a few more weeks. Here’s hoping the daikon and red cabbage will be big enough to harvest before the snow comes. Yesterday morning after the typhoon ended, the mountains around Sapporo were capped with snow.

This morning as I was taking advantage of the sunshine and airing the futon on the balcony, I noticed that the Ojiisan (a polite way to call an elderly man) next door was on the roof, trimming the pear tree. 

I had previously received permission to pick up as many pears as I like. I made jam with them and brought a jar of it next door with my thanks. Then the next day, Obaasan (a polite way to call an elderly woman) came over with a big bag of peppers from their farm. (In Japan, it is impossible to out-generous one’s neighbour… :)

As I continued on with household chores, I snuck glances out the window. “What shall I do? Maybe I should go offer to help?” When I saw Obaasan picking up fallen branches, I decided to act.

“Could I please pick up some more pears?” I asked. 

“Sure!” said Obaasan. 

We chatted about cooking and gardening as I dropped pears in a big black bucket. Ojiisan smiled absentmindedly as he trimmed branches. “Watch out!” called Obaasan, as pears and branches dropped around me. 

I found out that the pear tree had been in the yard for more than 20 years, but the family never ate any of the pears. They’re not all that good to eat plain, but perfect for baking—unfortunately there’s not many traditional recipes using pears in Japan. (If you know if any, leave a comment. :)

Tonight’s task is to peel, cut, and use as many pears as possible. What to make first? I wonder what our neighbours would like to try?