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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tea in Gion

The Big Dude just found some of my lost photos from 2000 from my stay in Asia. 

I had gone to Japan for an entire month on one trip, in order to do some training. One side trip from Tokyo was to Kyoto--yes, to Gion, the home of the geisha and this was after "Memoirs of a Geisha" was published. So that was exciting! 

We stayed at a ryokan, the traditional inn, and one day, wandering around Gion, we saw a tan plaster statue of a kimono-clad woman posed in the doorway of a teahouse. The statue was beautiful--the color a uniform tan, like tea-stained marble. We gazed at the statue for quite a while. Then, it moved and smiled at us! It was NO statue, this was a teahouse hostess, simply gazing out the doorway in some kind of meditative repose. She was dressed in a plain, light brown silk kimono, but how incredibly elegant.

Naturally, we had to have tea there!  I ordered matcha, which I had never had before (despite my Japanese teacher being a tea ceremony master, shame on me.) But I knew I would like it even before the first, bitter, fragrant sip of the green foam.

This is what came on my plate: a bowl of matcha and a sweet, a "wagashi" made of agar-agar (kanten) and sweetened, colored white bean paste. It was in the shape of a tiny fishbowl! I hated to destroy it by eating it, but it was delicious, a pure sugar sweet that set off the bitter aromatic tones of the matcha. A moment to celebrate every sense, including the aesthetic.

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