Wednesday, August 13, 2008


The Obon holiday is upon us here in Kansai. Up to a whole week off where we're supposed to leave the city for our home towns to celebrate our ancestors. Of course, my "home town" is rather ill-defined (where I was born? Where I grew up?) and on a different continent; Ritsuko's home town is Chuuo-ku in Osaka city so we're already there, no travel required, with the family grave a quick bicycle ride away. But many people are travelling this week; there'll be fireworks and festivals, polishing up family graves and general attention will lavished on the old folks still living in some rural district far away from the big cities.

I have the entire week off. We are going to Kobe a couple of times - we just recently found another excellent Indian restaurant - and see friends and relatives. This weekend we went out to eat and watch the fireworks with a cousin of Ritsuko's and her husband. Today we're seeing the World Press Photo exhibition that opened in Osaka this week. This travelling exhibition of the best in news photography over the year was very good last year, and I have no doubt it will be fun this year too. The exhibition is held all over the world, basically, so check out the website and if you can, please go.

A week off also means taking the time to do some of those projects and chores that always end up unfinished. I'm trying to get an old camera working, so I'm making a shutter speed meter (very simple, just using a photodiode connected to the computer microphone input), and I'll be trying to get back on an old project of mine doing a small independent rover (where, incidentally, I'll have use for the same speed metering circuit as above). It's been long enough that I may simply need to start over - I don't even have the computer with the original code anymore. Since my project ends this year I'm looking into what I should be doing next, and having a week off is a good time for that; I'll probably post more on this at some point.

If you make your own umeboshi (pickled plums) then Obon is the perfect time to take them out to dry. They've been pickled in salty brine since June, and now they'll dry out, becoming firm and meaty. You need three days or so of sunny weather, and you need to watch the weather so you can get home and take them inside in case of rainshowers. When dried, they go back into the brine which they'll partially soak up and creating a very juicy, savoury balance of tastes. We are doing two kinds this year; one jar with shiso leaves creating the intense red color and adding some flavour, and one jar without shiso. Both should be good.

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