Sunday, August 10, 2008

Obento box and an onsen

A couple of days ago I took my friend, Masako-san, out to an onsen, hot spa in Nikko. Masako has been a good friend to me since our children were in kindergarten and as a sister-in-Christ she will also pray for me when I am down and I for her. This day I wanted to rack her mind about how to present a Bible study lesson that I'm teaching at church.

I decided to make the day a mini-retreat for us and so I was up early making an obento (lunch box) for us to share. Not too many years ago I was making an obento every morning for Tetsu and for Takumi while he was in high school, but since Takumi is in the States and Tetsu eats at the convalescent home nowadays, I've been relieved from this duty. (I made and left an extra lunchbox for Takumi this day for old times sake.)

Japanese mothers and wives spend a lot of time making lunches for their family. In kindergarten my kids had to take a lunch everyday for three years but once they started elementary school, a school lunch was provided daily. In jr. high, when Takumi and Leiya had sports tournaments on the weekend I would pack a box lunch but daily they were required to eat at school (it is a requirement.) In high school there were were no school lunches again and so the routine of getting up early and cooking little tidbits started again. Even for my kids, sandwiches and an apple just didn't do it for them! They wanted rice balls and grilled fish or meat or something more substantial.

For my lunch with Masako-san I pulled out an old plastic tiered box that is trying to look like expensive lacquer ware. It is plastic. I started filling it with things left over from our dinner from the night before. Cold corn on the cob (it is eaten without butter and salt), two types of pickles, green beans in sesame sauce, potato salad, bamboo shoots and pork, fried chicken, salty fish rice balls and grapes. I didn't forget the chocolate! All this got tied up in a kerchief and off we went to the onsen!

By the way, kerchiefs, called furoshiki, are the traditional way to carry packages and groceries in Japan. Before bags were ever introduced to the country, everything from envelopes to fluffy bedding was carried in these squares of cloth. Even now books are available that teach how to wrap up beer bottles, watermelons, boxes etc. The other day I carried a pie somewhere dangled in an extra large furoshiki.

Masako-san and I had a great time at the onsen. "Baring" our hearts (and more!) to each other. That's what I call a good friend, when you can show her everything and know that she'll still love you.

"Hmm. I didn't know Tanya thinks like that! I can see Tanya's gained a little weight in the past years!"

The bath overlooked a forest and river running below it and we enjoyed our time chatting in and out of the extremely hot water.

"I want to take a picture of the outside bath!"

"You're not putting me sitting in this spa on your blog no matter how good a friend you are!"

Thus no pictures of Masako-san.


artfilstitch said...

Your Obento box looks delicious and I love the kerchief. Now, the onsen! I know that must be a very relaxing time for the whole body and the surroundings are so serene. I would have to wear a bathing suit due to the culture difference and baring all things could be a frightening sight. :>)

Amanda said...

Now that's what I call a packed lunch. My boys took packed lunches to school for many years and it was a chore that I never really enjoyed. They weren't keen on sandwiches either so took salads much of the time + cake + fruit. The kerchief brought back a memory of my mother. She did a great deal of Ikebana and had several Japanese friends. One of the tips she picked up from them was using kerchiefs (or is it kerchieves?) to pack up and carry all her equipment.

Anita said...

Saw your name mentioned on Amanda's blog. We lived 3 years in Misawa and one of the things I really miss is the hot baths. What a lovely reminder of them in your post.
Olalla, WA

Mary said...

I wasn't a good Mom when it came to packing lunches - I worked full-time and made the boys buy school lunches. When Chris was old enough, he packed his own to carry - doesn't that sound terrible?

I love the scenery and the idea of the hot tub BUT I'm way too modest to jump in without clothes. When I go to a spa I'm never one of the ones who goes without a bathing suit. Was that a hard custom for you to get used to?

Chocolate Cat said...

What a fun day and what a lovely lunch!

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

So, now I know the origin of the "Bento Box" quilt pattern. Thanks so much for artfully portraying and sharing your culture with us. Looks and sounds like you had a fun day!

Beth said...

Masako-san may be a good friend to YOU..but YOU are a good friend to her too! I had to chuckle a bit thinking of her ,PRAYING you would not put her picture on your blog. Thanks for the kind words about Rookie. Posters will go up today.

Fuji Mama said...

Your obento looks positively delicious! I miss onsen!

Katie said...

Oh so interesting. Glad you had a nice retreat with a good friend.

Helen said...

We currently have a campaign to not use plastic bags for our supermarket purchases. We are supposed to use re-useable bags which are made from some kind of synthetic fabric that looks like dimpled paper. I can't really see how they are any better than the plastic bags since they are not made of natural fibre. Sometimes progress isn't and the old ways really are better. Or perhaps I'd better make a few cloth bags to use instead :-)