As being the capital city of Africa, Addis Ababa continues to be an arena for different kinds of exciting international and continental events. At this time of year, there is no shortage of finding a way to be entertained, explore, learn, and discover in the city of Addis Ababa. And I didn’t find it difficult at all to pick an event that resonates with my soul which is travel and tourism. Thus the past weekend I attended a festival which provided a great way to keep my finger on the pulse of my dream destination. Japan is one of the countries that its culture, people, costume, history, and cuisine fascinate me.
Discover Japan festival occurred for the 5th time in Addis Ababa on November 9, 2013. It is organized by the Japan embassy in Ethiopia. Though it is not like actually visiting Japan, the festival was a great placebo which really helped me to capture the essence of this unique country in so many mesmerizing ways…and while I am still here in my home town Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In sharing my experience with the world, I start with the very thing that tickles my curiosity, when every time I ponder about Japan. So I took my self to the section where I can learn about Japanese calligraphy, which is often considered to be the most complicated in use, and I consider it as a work of art.
I was so excited to be given the chance to choose a word to be written in Katakana- which is one of the three main scripts in Japanese writing system, it is used for foreign words and names. The fun part was getting an opportunity to write it myself, so obviously I choose my name because I wondered how it would look like in this unique and beautiful works of art. It surely did exercise my “awe-aerobics”!The culture segment of this festival is where I spent most of my time because this was the spot that I was be able to really immerse myself in the most interesting Japanese traditional cuisine, costume and tea ceremony. Regarding Japanese cuisine, there was a well-organized and dedicated section of the festival in introducing Mochi Tsuki, which is a traditional ceremony of making Mochi (Japanese rice cake). Mochi is a traditional food for the Japanese New Year and here is the simple but interesting recipe for it in “Amharic.”
The ingredients are Mochi- rice (1-2 Kg at one time) and water. Equipment: steamer, Usu (mortar), Kine (pestle or pounder). And the steps in preparing Mochi: put “Mochi rice” into the water to be observed. Put steam “Mochi-rice” into “Usu” and then knead it with “Kine.”
Pound it in “Usu” with “Kine” and sometimes turns it over and pour a little water into “Usu.” Take it out from “Usu” after it becomes smooth and soft (Rice pieces are well mashed and became big one “Mochi”). Cut it into small pieces; make them round shapes (about 50 pieces at 2 kg).
Well I was fortunate enough to participate in this traditional ceremony of preparing Mochi and I must say I had really memorable and fun time in pounding the steamed Mochi rice with Kine.
Tasting Mochi or Japanese rice cake complemented with tomato sauce or soy sauce depending on your choice.
Time for Tea! Well before attending the Japanese tea ceremony which is also referred as Way of Tea, I got all dressed up in the unique and colorful Kimono (Japanese traditional garment). Putting on Kimono is an art by itself and it definitely gives a sense of grace.
Kimono are T-shaped, straight-lined robes with attached collars and long, wide sleeves. Kimono are wrapped around the body and secured by an Obi (waistband), which is tied at the back. I also learn that these days kimono are most often worn by women, and on special occasions in Japan.
One of the interesting facts I learn about Japanese tea ceremony is the fact that tea gathering are classified as Chakai or Chaji. A chakai is a relatively simple course of hospitality that includes confections, thin tea, and perhaps a light meal. This soul nourishing Japanese cultural activity, which Zen Buddhism was a primary influence of it; involve the ceremonial preparation and presentation of Matcha (powdered green tea).
It is obvious that Japanese cultural events would not be complete without Mikoshi- a portable shrine. It is one of the essential elements for Matsuri (Japanese festivals) thus; it was interesting to witness even the miniature of Mikoshi at the festival.
Last but not least, I believe it is the hospitable, warm, and charismatic people of Japan that complement this unique, historical and cultural country and of course who made my stay at the discover japan festival even more exciting, so I just want to say…