Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A `shroom with a view

It was after a few days of consistent spring rain, when the sun shone down on the sacred park known as the Gosho, and the weather warmed their backs that the members of the Kyoto Mushroom Club congregated one Sunday morning. Armed with magnifying glasses, tripods and a zest for all things fungi, the intrepid mushketeers looked forward to a marvellous morning of mushroom viewing, The precipitation whet their anticipation. There were sure to be mushrooms galore.

Registering their names, and receiving Mushroom Monthly, the weekly newsletter.

A crew of twenty five strong set off on the route proposed by their intrepid leader, whose pendant was said to be the source of his tremendous knowledge of mushrooms. Their enthusiasm was only tempered by his dire prediction of trampled fungi should the excitable mob not tread carefully. It was with purpose then , but also a sense of caution that the hunt for the sticky thicket dwellers commenced.

The leader of the pack. A real fun guy. Note mushroom pendant AND mushroom sweater.

After a few minutes came the cry everyone had been waiting for: "Mitsukataaa!" "I found one!" They swooped on the discovery like a flock of pigeons on a chip packet, cooing at the momentous mushroom as you would a new born baby.

Tools of strange description came flying out of pockets to burrow and pick around the stem. Magnifying glasses were shared around as people peered and craned to see. Then another cry, and another, soon people began congregating in so many places that the intrepid leader didn't know who to divulge his knowledge to first. Sprouts of all sizes and shapes were being spied and examined, each one being dutifully noted in the mushroom minutes, before being left to lie limp in the soil. As if a hedgehog had snuffled it up but at the last moment decided to move along. And move along they did, after three hours they had completed a full circuit of the enormous park.

By the end of the tour 32 different types of mushroom or toadstool had been found, fondled and filed. A satisfactory morning's work by all accounts. The session finished that sunny morning with one final speech from a senior member of the group bemoaning the act of mushroom picking from the park. The mushrooms were to be appreciated by everyone, he insisted, and should not be pillaged - besides which, he noted, people still die in Japan every year from eating unknown mushroom varieties. Apparently this hobby is not without its dangers, not that it would ever deter these dedicated followers of fungi.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A tip of the hat.

Well it has been a while between posts, and for want of a better excuse let me just offer this one: err...hibernation? To be fair I have had a busy time of late what with a baby, a trip home, a wedding and a couple of new jobs occupying a lot of my time. But I have recently received some impetus to start blogging again with the chance to write voluntarily for a local travel guide coming my way. In some ways it was the nudge I needed to dust off my writing hat and get to tappin' again.

Speaking of wearing hats, the hats I wear seem to be more varied these days. While I do mean this in a metaphorical sense, I overheard someone at the pub comment once that a hat is something that should be acquired, rather than only worn. A hat, they opined, was an extension of your persona and that not just any hat could be perched on your melon. I tended to agree with that, as new hats are not always easy to wear. They take some time to start to feel acquired. However, the older your hat becomes, the more faded its edges, the softer the fabric and the more it begins to smell like your shampoo (or lack of), the more comfortable it seems to sit on your noddle. I remember hats from my childhood with great fondness - mostly baseball caps that would be shaped and smoothed over years until the colours faded and the plastic would shear through the material, exposing the mold underneath. (Yes mold without the 'u', I never kept my caps THAT long!).

But back to the original comment;I have been wearing some different hats recently, and slowly but surely acquiring them to the point where I feel they sit comfortably on my head. My new 'father' hat is a goody. I found it snug a lot quicker than I imagined I would.

A family of hat wearers. Taken last June.

My `teacher` hat feels like a hat I have inherited somewhat with most of my Dad's family being teachers at some stage in their lives. I wear it with pride. My `foreigner in Japan` hat is easily recognised for what it is. I have recently been trying on my `cook` hat more and more, and have found it a hat I would like to wear more often. (As an aside, the book I am reading now is London by Edward Rutherford - an historical novel which follows numerous families' lineages through London's entire history. Fascinating to see the origins of interesting surnames such as Silversleeves and Bull as well as simpler ones such as Carpenter or Burgess. Being able to see how genealogy effects people's lives and traits more than we realise. Another reason my 'cook' hat is starting to feel 'acquired' methinks.) As I mentioned, my writing hat has been dusted off and it still fits! Finally, my 'husband' hat, which was given to me by a truly remarkable and wonderful woman. Needless to say, I love all of my hats, indeed that is why they are mine!

So I will be donning my writing hat a bit more regularly I hope. A tip of the hat to Chikako and the team at Journal Kyoto too. Thanks!