Friday, November 13, 2009

Going to Noriaki Nakabayashi San's house

Mouthful of a name isn't it? Well I call my assistant at work Nori for short. The other day he invited me over for dinner at his house. At 26 yrs old his household comprises of him, his father, both of his grandparent and his great grandmother (who is amazingly 100 yrs old this year)

It's actually very common in Japan for 3 or even 4 (like Nori) generations of a family to all live under one roof with the younger generations having more of an obligation to take care of the aging parents (compared to us shameful lot in England who just throw them into old peoples's homes!)

Got to Nori's house which is just on the outskirts of Tonami City (about half an hour drive from where we work in Oyabe City) The house is a typical Japanese style and really big (believe me "big" is a rarity in Japan when it comes to dwellings) In fact I was told that Toyama Prefecture (prefecture is the county/state) has the highest home ownership in Japan and one of the largest average size of house (150m sq). I'll move on before this starts sounding like some a statistics report....

Nori's house is like walking into one of the samurai's houses in Kanazawa. Huge tatami mat rooms divided by wooden shoji screens (apart from the front door Japanese don't generally use doors in houses) and old scroll type paintings on the walls. One of the rooms was called "butsuma" which can be literally translated as "Buddhist family chapel". Nori opened the doors of this plain looking cabinet in the corner and inside was the most beautiful, intricately designed shrine all in gold, like opening the doors to a miniature size Emperor's palace. It's actual name is "butsudan" and Nori's father works for a company who sells them so that might explain why this one had the WOW factor.

The beautiful Butsudan at Nori's house

The house was soooo cold, so cold that I thought my fingers might freeze around my chopsticks. You see the Japanese DON'T have central heating. Can you believe it? A country whose winters are almost more brutal than in the UK and a country that is so technically advanced? What?!

Instead they archaically put gas heaters in the room they want to heat and all huddle around it OR they the kotatsu, a low wooden table with a heater built into the table which is then covered by a heavy blanket OR I guess they use both!

Nori on the left, Nori's father in blue shirt, his uncle and grandmother

Anyway I digress. After popping down to the supermarket we prepared raw veggies, beef, gyoza and some white fish for a Nabe dish, absolutely perfect for cold winter nights. The gas heater was put in the second lounge and in no time it was toasty warm and I was a happy bunny!

I then met Nori's father who returned late from work and his lovely grandmother. Neither of them spoke a word of English but I stumbled through using my terrible Japanese. At least I tried! I only met Nori's grandfather briefly and he later explained that his grandfather hated the Americans and the English. How bad did I then feel?! The war scars obviously never really healed. I did my best to promote international peace, gave countless bows and "dozo yoroshiku onegai shimases" ("nice to meet you" or more literally "please be kind to me")

Nori's uncle then appeared clutching a few bottles of Toyama's best sake. We laid out all of the Nabe ingredients on the low table, placed the camping gas stove in the middle of the table (yes camping stoves are very popular household item here!) and chucked everything into the bubbling pot.

The Nabe was so delicious and its the first time I've drank sake and actually liked the taste, hallelujah. I didn't particularly want to spend a whole year in Japan only drinking Chilean Cab Sav! I'm sure his father and uncle were trying to get me drunk. I did my best to stay sober but must admit was a bit wobbly when I left the house and didn't even feel the cold when I got outside. So that's why hot sake is so popular in the winter!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jessica
    I enjoyed your Kanazawa commentary. I was an ALT in 2004/05 living in Kosaka Machi with my wife and 2 children. Two of my schools were Kenrokuen Junior High, and Kosaka Junior High.
    As a Primary school teacher in Australia, Nori was our Japanese Native speaker in Sale, Victoria for 2 years. I spent quite a bit of time with Nori. Small world!
    Steve Cunningham