Christmas Carving クリスマス木彫り

This year I enjoyed another Christmas Eve at Somemaru’s house.

During the day I helped with some cleaning and decorated Somemaru’s balcony with Christmas lights.

As evening approached, we turned on the Christmas lights, and prepared dinner, which included an appetizer of fried chicken, a longtime Christmas favorite in Japan thanks to the marketing department at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The main dish was Hayashi-ya Rice, or hashed beef over rice, Somemaru-style. We began properly too; with sparkling wine and a toast.

And of course, after dinner came Christmas cake and tea.

As it is finally complete after several months of work, I chose this day to give Somemaru his wood carving. He seemed to like it, and that made me truly happy. (See below for captioned  photos of the carving.)

Somemaru also gave me a thoughtful gift this evening: a signed paperboard (shikishi) with a personalized greeting that reads, Matô ni ikiru shiawase (Happiness is living the way you see fit). [This is also a play on my name: Happiness is living like Matt.] 

Somemaru shishô, thank you for making Christmas special this year too.












a-Oh NO〜ri あオーノーり

Today was a regular lesson day at Somemaru’s. In the a.m., we made a nice breakfast, Aisome and I cleaned house, got the shamisen and drums ready for lessons, and took care of students as they came in.

On a break I spoke to Somemaru about the so-called “old-men’s gags” (ossan gyagu). Most people in Japan (especially younger people) groan when they hear these pun-based jokes, but  the truth is – I feel – everybody in this country has a place in their hearts’ for them.

I bet if I had 100 yen for every time I heard someone pull an ossan gyagu on me with my own name (e.g. chotto Matto, or “wait a Mattit”), I would be a rich man today. Okay, I’m lying. But I would probably have close to 10,000 yen. And when I hear it, I groan and say, “oh not again,” but the truth is (confession time), I love it too. Every time.

Tonight for dinner we had Somemaru’s famous okonomiyaki (a savory pancake-style food, made with batter, diced cabbage, seafood, pork, and whatever else you want to put into it; a favorite in Osaka). Somemaru was nice to help me flip mine, and even helped me choose the toppings (sauces, seasonings) that would taste best.

Then, all the sudden, dinner was brought to a momentary halt.

Somemaru went to pass the ao nori (seaweed powder) to me, but, as the top of the package wasn’t sealed properly, half of the contents poured out onto Somemaru’s lap and food… I felt so bad, especially since he was being so kind to make my dinner an enjoyable one. Aisome and I jumped up and started cleaning. Fortunately, not all of Somemaru’s okonomiyaki was ruined, and we were soon back to a wonderful dinner.

Following dinner, after the dishes were done and Aisome and I were getting ready to leave for the evening, I couldn’t help recalling the ao nori episode at dinner, and the ossan gyagu conversation I had earlier in the day with Somemaru. Then it came to me…

“a-Oh NO〜ri!”  (ao nori + oh no!)

Hey, is that a groan I just heard?

I made my leave without sharing my new ossan gyagu with Somemaru.

Today was another very enjoyable day.











Omelets, Shamisen, Maps, and Deer オムレツ、三味線、地図と鹿

Today I had a very nice day at Somemaru’s house.

He requested omelets for breakfast, so I stopped on my way to do some grocery shopping. Fortunately the omelets turned out okay. Okay, I will be completely honest: the first one was a flop — it looked more like a scrambled omelet — but that one went to me, of course.

After breakfast, Aisome and I cleaned the house and set out shamisen, etc., for a day of lessons. Now that I am spending most of my time on my research, I really miss being able to hear Somemaru’s shamisen and singing. Today was, therefore, a real privilege.

Somejaku (#5 deshi) stopped by Somemaru’s house today. It had been a while since I had last seen him, so it was nice to see and talk to him, too.

After shamisen lessons, we went grocery shopping, and then had fun preparing a wonderful dinner. After dinner, Somemaru shared with Aisome and I a great collection of Osaka maps. Maps in the set include pre-Edo-, Edo-, and Meiji-period reprints. On map after map he explained where scenes in rakugo stories occur. It was a treat to view the maps with Somemaru, and I am looking forward to taking my time to study them in the future.

Today Somemaru had a new hanging scroll up. This one is quite possibly my favorite yet. I was surprised when I saw Somemaru’s name signed on it, along with his personal seal. The deer in the scroll is great because he allows the viewer freedom to wonder why he is gazing upward. Is he looking at a crow in the tree above? Is he cooling his neck in an unexpected summer breeze? Is he trying to hear something deep in the woods behind him? This is a great scroll because it allows our minds to wonder, our hearts to play.

Thank you for another nice day, Shishô.








Weekend Cleaning 週末の掃除

Somemaru is off to Nagano for a show today, so I have the day off. I gave my own place a deep cleaning for a change, and kept the windows open for a good part of the day. Spring is certainly on its way!


Yard Work Heart Work 庭掃除心掃除

Today Somemaru had another full day of shamisen and hayashi lessons. I helped with the regular lesson-related duties, and spent a couple hours outside doing yard work. I pulled weeds and organized the area behind the house. Nobody hardly ever sees this part of Somemaru’s property, but I think the back yard should get just as much, if not more, attention than the front; just as a person should spend time “polishing” their insides along with their outer appearance.

I spent a lot of time at my parents’ in recent years doing yard work… For some reason I have always felt purified after doing work like this, especially when it is for others. This morning Somemaru complimented the yard work I did for him last week, so that made me want to continue today. And, of course, the same good feeling followed today’s work. I’m especially glad that Somemaru won’t have to do it himself.