Last weekend I had a chance to visit Mukugawa
On December 16th, the Sunday I was in Mukugawa, several men of the village spent the morning making shimenawa
As the men continued to roll straw in their big, gnarled hands, the women of the village skittered about in the background, keeping rice wine warm and preparing food. From another room I heard a dull pounding and soon a voice called out for someone to help with mochitsuki
After the pounding, while the mochi was still gooey and steaming hot, leafless tree branches were brought into the hall and the women began attaching small clumps of white and red rice, creating the illusion of flower buds; a prayer for spring, warmth, and life.
In the afternoon we moved to our guest’s house to rest a bit before a drinking party to be held that night. He showed me photos of a variety of activities that, by his own admission, he has often prodded the villagers into once again trying. These included making charcoal, tofu, tea, and miso paste, as well as fishing for river eels and burning hillsides. I also saw pictures of the making of what was described to me as “the first sushi”, which I would later have a chance to sample. The technique consisted of gutting mackerel and stuffing them with salted rice and then placing them in buckets and weighting them with large stones; after five months of fermentation, the “sushi” is ready. Again, I felt a sense of awe at the skill of the villager’s craft, though wondered what would become of it all.
At around six we returned to the village center for a drinking party with everyone who had participated in the morning’s activities, as well as a few extras. I’ve been to many drinking parties in
Upon returning to our host’s home, the professor and I were treated to homemade white rice wine, which has a flavor reminiscent of yogurt. We also enjoyed deer meat cooked with garlic, small fish in a sweet sauce, and the fermented mackerel sushi I mentioned earlier. I must say, though I usually dislike mackerel, I was quite enamored with the fermented sushi—nice, sour taste that went well with the strong yogurty rice wine. The night wore on into less formal language, funnier stories, and mild arguments. Bed time was welcomed and I slept very comfortable on a futon waiting for me in the next room.
Mukugawa may become my fieldwork site, but I am still hoping that things will work out for me to go to
Anyway, here’s to Mukugawa. . .