Konno Chokubai Center – Delicious Simplicity

 

We’ve already written on this blog about Hota-waka Go-zen, Rikuzentakata’s new signature cuisine that showcases the delicious local scallops of Hirota Bay, but that is far from the only way to enjoy scallops in Rikuzentakata.

For something a little more classic and traditional, one could stop by Konno Chokubai Center in the Otomo district, a popular lunchtime spot among the locals. The menu is small, but specialization leads to perfection, and every item on the menu reflects the bounty of fresh seafood available in Rikuzentakata.

Konno Chokubai Cener’s signature dish is Iso Ramen, a local variety of the well-known Japanese noodle soup, which adds a giant scallop and multiple varieties of fresh, local seaweed to a simple salt-based soup broth. Scallop-lovers can also order huge scallops grilled in the shell (either a la carte or as a set meal with rice and miso soup), or hotate-don, which consists of scallops in a sweet-salty sauce and egg over rice.

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Iso Ramen – ¥600
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Grilled Giant Scallop – ¥400

The “chokubai” in the restaurant’s name means “direct sale” and it refers to the fact that the scallops are caught and sold, “ocean to table,” directly from the source. Not only does that make them delicious, it also helps keep the costs low. And with the freshness, the taste, and the price, it’s no wonder that the locals keep coming back for more.

Rikuzentakata, un luogo inaspettato

Ho avuto l’occasione di visitare Rikuzentakata nel corso della mia ricerca sulla ripresa dei territori colpiti dallo tsunami. La città è stata duramente danneggiata dal disastro. Ciononostante è un luogo molto vivo, dove i cittadini si stanno dando molto da fare per ricostruire il loro territorio e la loro comunità. Tra le cose speciali che si possono fare a Rikuzentakata, c’è sicuramente quella di sperimentare un delizioso menù a base di frutti di mare locali. In particolare, nella zona si producono votate (capesante) e wakame (un tipo di alga). I ristoratori locali hanno messo a punto un menù comune, è quindi possibile magiare in posti diversi per provare le differenze.

La città di Rikuzentakata è divenuta famosa, dopo il disastro del 2011, per il suo “pino miracoloso”, l’unico ad essere rimasto in piedi dopo essere stato in balia dello tsunami. L’albero faceva parte di una pineta centenaria che è andata completamente distrutta, ma che si sta cercando il modo di ripiantare. Al momento l’area è al centro di lavori di ricostruzione, ma il pino, che è stato messo in sicurezza per garantirne la preservazione, è visibile. Il pino è diventato ben presto il simbolo della forza di resistenza di questa città e per questo si è deciso di trasformarlo in un monumento, realizzando un’opera di conservazione grazie all’uso della tecnologia. L’albero infatti, non avrebbe resistito naturalmente alle infiltrazioni di sale dovute subite durante il disastro.

Ma Rikuzentakata non è solo mare. Sulle colline intorno alla città ci sono altrettanti luoghi meravigliosi. Uno di questi è il Fumonji, un tempio buddista che è un luogo magico e affascinante, custode della tradizione locale e diventato, dopo il disastro, anche il luogo dove riposano molte delle vittime di quel terribile evento. Nel bellissimo bosco antistante il tempio, sono state disposte le statue dei rakan. Rakan è la parola giapponese che indica gli illuminati che hanno raggiunto il nirvana nella religione buddista. In molti templi buddisti se ne trovano 500. Seguendo questa tradizione, il Fumonji, ha creato un’iniziativa che ha visto gli stessi abitanti di Rikuzentakata scolpire le statue come tributo ai concittadini che hanno perso la vita durante lo tsunami. Il workshop di arte terapia, viene organizzato due volte all’anno finché il numero di 500 non sarà raggiunto. Quest’anno ho partecipato anche io, insieme ad alcuni amici, al laboratorio e ora anche il mio rakan veglia su questa terra alle pendici di un cedro centenario. Mi piace molto l’idea di aver costruito, attraverso di lui, un legame eterno con questa terra bellissima.

Flavia Fulco – Roma

Careful What You Ask For: Best Case Scenario

For the third year, Rikkyo University in Tokyo and Stanford University from California (USA) have sent students to Rikuzentakata.  Fourteen bright, young, energetic, smart, and compassionate students visited two weeks ago.

We asked them to create three specific items.  We are happy to share the first here:

We should also mention Rikuzentakata also now has our own multi-lingual YouTube site where we will share videos made by our visitors and for our city.  (If you would like your video shared on this site please e-mail us at visit@city.rikuzentakata.iwate.jp.)

A huge thank you to Rikkyo University and Stanford University students.  You’re welcome back any time.

 

 

How to Bow (and why you should visit Japan)

A handshake is a worthy introduction when meeting someone for the first time or sealing an agreement. A hug can express gratitude or say farewell to a good friend. A courtesy is a polite way of accepting a compliment and also bestowing honor to another. But the action that can do all this and speak a legion of words is a bow.

The western hemisphere may have claimed a victory when they preferred the uncomplicated fork rather than acquire the more intricate niceties of chopstick technique, but I feel that they in turn have also sorely missed out on a treasure. That is, the art and practice of bowing. While it’s not uncommon to see a dainty bob of the head in an apology or acknowledgment in a country such as America, a deep, stiff bow at the waist might draw curious glances. During my visit to Japan, I was introduced to an entirely new culture. If you’re going to spend any amount of time among the locals in Japan, you will very quickly become acquainted to the world of bowing.

I’ll admit, my bows were a little awkward and graceless the first few days.  The appropriate and expected times to bow are bound to confuse a foreigner. My personal experience taught me that if in doubt, it’s always better to bow than not. This rings especially true in formal circumstances. Also, if someone else bows to you first, it’s modest for you to return the bow with one of your own that dips lower than theirs. The deeper your bow, the more sincere your expression. The action displays a sense of respect and manners that is so reflective of the values of the Japanese people themselves.

It didn’t take long me to recognize the brilliance of this simple motion and adopt it into my social routine. It only takes a few days of immersion into the culture for bowing to become a natural motion, and then second nature. It is a multi purposeful stroke of genius in my opinion. It can express thanks, acceptance, submission, confirmation, honor, agreement, greeting, parting, and friendship. I think many other countries could do well to take on this little manner, but I am compelled to voice my doubts on its ability to thrive in a different environment.

The custom of bowing has roots that run deep and strong in Japan, filled with a proud history of bows. I believe it is this noble, dutiful pride that is bound in the hearts of the Japanese people that sets them apart from the rest of the world. Their national concept of honor, respect, and community is one unparalleled to any other society I have known. The dignity of the people is what allows this tradition of bows to endure through the centuries, and the resulting kindness is what makes them special. The serene gardens, breathtaking views, and illuminated cities make Japan a wonder for any traveler, but the sights don’t capture the experience that can only be found in the details accredited to the spirit of the people.

In all my years to come, I’ll never forget how Japan knew how to cherish the strength in community. Visiting Japan is an encounter that is well-worth your time, and an adventure that will show you that there’s a certain grace and esteem in respecting the people in your life.

 

Olivia Jeffcoat, California, USA

 

More Than Just a Tourist

Have you ever stayed at a hotel or inn, ate at a restaurant, shopped in a gift shop, and felt like you were at home or at a very close friend’s house? These were some of my most memorable experiences during my week-long visit to Rikuzentakata. (Among many others, of course.)  Everywhere you went, no matter how long you were at each establishment, the staff and/or owners would follow you out the door and wave good-bye to you as you left the parking lot.

The first night in the city was at Capital Hotel 1000. We came in on our tour bus and checked in. It was a beautiful hotel; the Japanese version of a Marriott. The rooms were western in design. After that first night, the majority of our stay was at Minshuku Numataya, a ryokan inn. The tatami matted rooms came with a sink with bathrooms and communal baths down the hall. I greatly appreciated the cultural immersion of the stay in this inn. At the end of our stay in the Minshuku Numataya, we even got hugs from the owner, which I have heard is a very rare occurrence. And, of course, they came out to the parking lot with us and waved good-bye. The last night in Rikuzentakata, we were back at the Capital Hotel 1000.  But the waves good-bye were not lost on the formality of the establishment.

Among other things we ate out many times and visited several gift shops, and at each place, you guessed it, we got waves good-bye. I think with all of those good-byes, I definitely need to come back and say, “Hello!” again!

-Sonya Fugate, Crescent City, CA

Feeling Alive

There’s nothing more entertaining than what I’m about to talk about, about my trip to Japan. I can’t really put all of my thoughts out but as far as it goes, I loved every single second I spent there. Everything felt so lively and indulging.  I was constantly on my feet doing some kind of activity. But most of all, the best part about my trip there along with my fellow colleagues was meeting all the kind, sincere and wonderful people in Rikuzentakata. To be honest I felt like I was at carnival. A carnival with nonstop entertainment filled with lots of joy and love. The many places we saw to the abundant amount of people we met, it was without a doubt life changing. I will never forget my time there and hopefully further down the road, I hope to visit once more and feel the exact same emotions I felt when I went there the first time.

Mitch Chai Thao, California, USA

Breathtaking views and more on Mt. Hakone

As a volcanic archipelago, Japan is full of mountains basically from tip to tip. Scenic mountaintop vistas can be found all over the country, and of course Rikuzentakata is no exception.

Mt. Hakone is a small mountain just a short 10-15 minute drive from the center of Rikuzentakata. As you make your way up the winding, narrow road toward to the summit you’ll pass by a few attractions. First, there Kesen Daiku Sakandenshoukan, a museum and model of a traditional Japanese building.

Second, there is Hakoneyama Terrace, a stylish cafe and inn with gorgeous views from its patio terrace.

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Finally, you get to the summit, climb to the top of the viewing platform, and are greeted with stunning 360° views of the coast and surrounding mountain range. On a clear day, you can see for miles and miles, from Kesennuma in the south to Ofunato in the north. And even on a cloudy day, you can see the beautiful green fields and blue waters of Rikuzentakata just below.

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With its many attractions and various views, Mt. Hakone makes for a perfect afternoon excursion.