Training camp in Amagi

May is my favorite month. In Tokyo cherry blossoms bloom at the beginning of April. When cherry blossoms start falling, young leaves come out and the green deepens day by day. Then, May is filled with fresh green in all its tones and the landscape becomes cheerful. In the mountains like Amagi spring comes a few weeks later than it does in lowland and we can observe leaves coming out even at the beginning of May. Therefore, when I went to Amagi together with orchestra friends during the Golden Week, I could experience the start of spring for the second time this year.

As Sugi-Phil has an internal chamber music concert of its members in a few months, we found it a nice to have a "training camp" at this timing. Therefore, our homework was the e-minor concerto for four violins and a cello from L’estro Armonico by Antonio Vivaldi. But, of course, our pleasure was not limited to Vivaldi. As two violinists, including me, are also able to play viola, we had flexibility in choosing repertory and enjoyed among others playing string quintets by W.A. Mozart and other pieces with different formations.

As host of the "training camp" my main concern was how to feed 5 people in addition to myself for two nights and three days.

Our dinner table is about to be ready! From left to right: potato salad, wakatake-ni, aji-no-nanban-zuke, grilled sardines and kiriboshi-daikon.

Horse beans joined later.

I usually arrange a barbecue party with "shichirin" on the wooden deck. However, I knew from the forecast that the weather on the first day would be drizzling. Therefore, I cooked rather many dishes for an indoor party in the first evening and I am eager to upload their pictures, though I failed to find correct color balance for them. I am not much fond of heavy and greasy meals, as I am not young anymore and of course I am a Japanese man. What I cooked were almost vegetarian dishes: kiriboshi-daikon (1), aji-no-nanban-zuke(2), potato salad, wakatake-ni(3) and boiled horse beans. We added two dishes: grilled dried sardines and winner sausages. Semi dried sardines are now in season and to my surprise 30 very tasty pieces of fish cost only 200 yen (US $2.3 ). They all fitted perfectly to Arabashiri and Ike; both are sake from the region.

(1)"Kiriboshi-daikon" is fine-cut and dried radish. Usually, kiriboshi-daikon is soaked and cooked sweet salty with fine cut carrot, shiitake and abura-age (deep fried tofu).
(2)"Nanban-zuke" is deep fried fish and vegetables soaked in soy-vinegar sauce. Small horse mackerels are used.
(3)"Wakatake-ni" is cooked bamboo shoots with seaweed. It is lightly seasoned so that the fresh taste of bamboo shoots, the taste of spring, is fully appreciated. Fresh leaves of Japanese pepper from the nearby bush are added.

Playing the string quintett g-minor KV. 516

Wine produced by Nakaizu Winery

The evening with music, sake and tidbits continued well into midnight and at later stages the number of players decreased while others were watching and drinking.

We had a wonderful weather on the second day. We started music early in the morning in the sunlight filtering through twigs with tender leaves. I do not know a better pleasure than playing in the morning sun. Then we went on a small trip in the nearby area. Of course, our purpose was wine and sake tasting and bathing in hot spring.

I reported on Bandai-Jozo in another article. We also went to wine tasting to Naizu Winery Hill. But Nakaizu Winery was a slight disappointment as its wine did not fit my taste. I should not blame the winery, because it needed to sell its wine among Japanese consumers who are not much familiar with wine and are fond of sweet and light wine. It seems that their expensive wines have somewhat better quality, but unfortunately too expensive for my purse. I can buy two or three bottles of good imported wine with the same amount of money.

Barbecue on the wood deck

Dried horse mackerel, onion, fried tofu, shiitake, winner sausage and green pepper
Smokers are expelled from the house!

Since I started "shichirin" barbecue, I improved the method of using this portable oven in order to have an enjoyable party. A Japanese style fire starter made my work of setting fire to charcoal drastically easier. I now use a large square shaped grill, so that grilled foods can be pushed to its corner without being over-grilled. I also put three small pieces of brick between oven and grill so that fire can gradually cook foods.

Dried fishes are always the main ingredients in our barbecue party. But, I add now more and more vegetable. In particular local shiitake mushrooms, which we bought at a shop run by local agricultural cooperative, were cheap and delicious. Onions are indispensable as well.

It was still rather cold in the evening. However, during my ten days’ stay in Amagi, the green was deepening and the landscape becomes more cheerful day by day. What a lovely month May is!