For Water Boiling 水だき用

The Japanese language is hard. I am reminded of this fact every day. No matter how much I learn, there is always more learn. Speaking, reading comprehension, composition…

I enjoy the challenge of Japanese though, I really do.

This week, on Wednesday, I spent the day at Somemaru’s house. After a day of shamisen lessons, he said he wanted to make nabe (hot pot). He wrote out a list of ingredients and sent me shopping. I could read everything on the list, so no questions asked. I was on my way.

I got to the supermarket and started putting ingredients into my basket one by one, beginning with the vegetables: 1/2 head of hakusai (Chinese cabbage); one bunch of kikuna (garland chrysanthemum — Japanese greens); one tub of shiitake mushrooms; 1/2 daikon radish, the lower half; one bunch of shironegi (leeks).

Next, one tub of kinugoshi (silk-strained) tofu, sliced; one pack of kuzukiri (arrowroot noodles).

Next, raw oysters, two packs.

And finally, 400 grams of thinly sliced pork loin, mizudaki yô

Mizudaki yô? Huh? “For mizudaki?” … “For water daki?” … daki… “burn?” … “boil?” “For water boiling…?” Ugh.

I asked a young part-timer, stocking meat nearby.

MATT: Excuse me. Is this pork loin here mizudaki yô?

PART-TIMER: Mizudaki yô?

MATT: Yes. Mizudaki yô. See, it’s written right here.

PART-TIMER: I’ll be right back, sir.

Off the young man goes, soon to return with an older employee. I pick up the pork loin Somemaru always buys for nabe.

EMPLOYEE: Hi, you’re having nabe right?

MATT: Yes, that’s right.

EMPLOYEE: What you have there is fine.

MATT: This is mizudaki yô?


MATT: Thank you.

I paid for the groceries and hurried back to Somemaru’s. On my way I smiled and thought to myself, if Japanese language is difficult for even Japanese people, I have a LONG way to go.

I promise to always remember my learning experiences, and show compassion to my Japanese language students in the future…

The first entry for “mizudaki” in the Kôjien dictionary (electronic version): Nabe ryôri no isshu (one type of nabe cuisine).




スーパーに着きますと、材料を一つずつ籠に入れ始めました。まずはお野菜:白菜 半切、菊菜 1、しいたけ 1、大根 下半分、白ねぎ 1。

続きまして、絹ごし(切れたやつ) 1、くずきり 1。

次は、かき 2袋。

そして、最後に豚ロース 水だき用 400g

え?水だき用?用=for … For 水だき? 水=water … For water だき?… 焚き?炊き?For water boiling? わっ。
















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.








Unwelcome Matt 招待なし真人(マット)

Today was shamisen/ohayashi lesson day at Somemaru’s. I emailed him–and Cc’d Aisome–yesterday asking if it would be all right if spent the day at his place. I heard back right away from Aisome: “Shishô has vanished by himself into Umeda, so I can’t answer for him. We do have enough fish for four people, so we’d be okay for breakfast. I’m sure Shishô will be happy to see you, so come on out!”

With that I planned on arriving at Somemaru’s at 10am. I didn’t hear back from Somemaru, but just assumed he was too busy to reply.

I arrived at 10am. I announced my arrival with a carrying “ohayô gozaimasu” (good morning) as I took off my shoes in the foyer. I ascended the stairs to the second floor and found Somemaru cooking breakfast in the kitchen. Down to the floor I went with a head-to-floor bow, “Shishôohayô gozaimasu!”

“Why didn’t anybody tell me Matt was coming?!” Somemaru questioned.

Oh no.


“Shishô, did you not see the email I sent?” I asked timidly.

“No,” he said. “I didn’t get a mail.”

All I could do was apologize in embarrassment. Somemaru is a kind-hearted man, though, so he said nothing more of this “unwelcome Matt.” We got right back to convivially cooking breakfast. After eating, we started the regular morning routine–cleaning, etc.–before Somemaru’s students began arriving.

I stayed until dinner, too. At several points during the day I was able to talk to Somemaru about some research I am working on. Some of the things I had previously spent hours on–and still couldn’t fully figure out–Somemaru solved with little more than a word. I feel so lucky to know him.

Tomorrow Somemaru has plans to go cherry blossom viewing in Kyoto. He was very kind to invite me along, too. Of course I said yes!

Shishô, thank you for a nice day–and your generous guidance! (and sorry for this morning’s “surprise.”)













Practice Day お稽古日

Today was a shamisen practice day at Somemaru’s. I’ve written in past blogs about what goes on on practice days, so won’t lay it out again in this post. I haven’t shown any pictures of practice, so today I’ll share the view from the master’s chair, from which he also gives rakugo lessons.