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[Asahikawa's Kuma Bokko]

"Kuma Bokko" is a folk craft produced at Tomiya Kyodo Mingei, a souvenir store in Asahikawa, Hokkaido. Asahikawa is one of the most popular cities in Hokkaido for woodworking, and there are many wonderful woodcrafts in the souvenir shop. Since I welcomed him into my home, he has been sitting on the table or a shelf, a great source of comfort for me every day.

Kuma Bokko was born in 1956. It was originally slimmer and longer than it is now, and was named after the word "bokko," which means "stick" in the dialect of Hokkaido and the Tohoku region. The material used was Hokkaido's Ezo spruce and Abies sachalinensis, which were gradually shaped from square timbers using electric saws, burnt to accentuate the annual ring pattern, and delicately polished using sandpaper. The process is said to be extremely delicate and time-consuming. Because of the extremely delicate work involved, it is very rare to have a beautifully finished face and body, and it is not uncommon for a bokko to be born with various injuries, some minor, some serious.

The annual ring pattern on the body of the Kuma Bokko is very distinctive. The rings are different depending on the type of wood used, and even if the same piece of wood is used, the rings will appear differently depending on the part of the tree from which it was quarried. There are also differences in the angles of the face and body, and variations in the overall coloring depending on the degree of firing. The craftsman who paints the eyes, nose, and other parts of each piece is said to look at the shape and color of the rings on the finished piece to create a unique facial expression, so that even if the same parts are painted, the finished Kuma Bokko will have a slightly different expression depending on their subtle positioning. It was difficult to choose the best one, and I spent a lot of time selecting my favorite one.

I picked up the Kuma Bokkos simply because they were so adorable, but when I learned about the time and effort that went into creating each one, and how much love was put into them, they became even more adorable. If you have not had a chance to visit Asahikawa, but are curious about Kuma Bokko, you should definitely come to Tomiya! If you have a chance to visit Asahikawa but are curious about Kuma Bokko, please visit the Tomiya Kyodo Mingei website. It is very interesting to read about this and that about Kuma Bokko, and you can feel their love for Kuma Bokko very clearly.

Tomiya Kyodo Mingei
https://www.tomiya-s.com/
Otaru Showroom
https://www.shokunin.com/en/showroom/otaru.html

References
https://www.tomiya-s.com/eshopdo/refer/cid17s0m0.html
https://www.tomiya-s.com/eshopdo/refer/vid3-035-1-1.html
https://www.tomiya-s.com/eshopdo/refer/vid3-036-1-1.html
https://www.tomiya-s.com/eshopdo/refer/vid3-159-1.html
https://www.tomiya-s.com/eshopdo/refer/vid3-181-1.html

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[Fumiya]

There are many different tastes of winter in Kyoto, but one of the best to try during this cold season is the hot "Fumiya Nabe" (hot pot).

Fumiya is an udon shop established in 1946 in Nishiki Market. When it was first established, it was a sweet shop, but in 1963, Fumiya Nabe was born out of a desire to create a signature product and to make Nabeyaki Udon, which was expensive at the time, more readily available. With the attitude of "sparing no expense in ingredients and labor," most of the ingredients are still handmade by craftsmen every morning. The soup stock is made from natural Rishiri kelp, dried bonito flakes, and Fushimi's underground water, to which white granulated sugar, mirin, and light soy sauce are added.

I had never been to this restaurant before, although I knew of it because there was always a line when I passed by Nishiki Market at lunchtime. I ordered their specialty, Fumiya hot pot. When the waiter opened the lid of the pot in front of us, steam was rising from the pot. On top of the clear broth and soft udon noodles, there was shrimp tempura, rice cake, boiled shiitake mushrooms, egg, and fu. When you first drink the broth, it has a gentle taste with a refined aroma and flavor followed by a slight sweetness. The thick batter of the tempura soaked up the broth well and made me feel relaxed. All the ingredients were in harmony with the broth, and I enjoyed eating every last drop of the dish, wondering where to start and how to proceed.

After finishing the meal, I felt warm, nourished, full, and energized, and I was very grateful that I could easily enjoy this dish for less than 1,000 yen. The Fumiya Nishiki branch is just a stone's throw from the Fumiya main restaurant, both of which are a 7-minute walk from our Sanjo Showroom. The cold days are still continuing, but we hope you will all go there to try them, feeling as if you have a reassuring ally to help you get through the cold winter in Kyoto.

Fumiya
https://www.kyoto-fumiya.co.jp/
Sanjo Showroom
https://www.shokunin.com/en/showroom/sanjo.html

Reference
https://www.kyoto-nishiki.or.jp/stores/fumiya/

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[Broccoli in Japan]

Many of you may have seen or heard the word "broccoli" in the news recently. It was big news that broccoli will be added to the current 14 "designated vegetables," which include cabbage, radish, onion, carrot, etc., as they are consumed in large quantities and are of high importance in people's daily lives.

This is the first time in about half a century that a new item has been added to the list of designated vegetables since potatoes were added in 1974. The designated vegetables are expected to lead to a stable supply, as the government provides a forecast of demand and a system for farmers to systematically produce the vegetables. Broccoli was added because of its conspicuous increase in consumption among vegetables in general. It has doubled in the last 30 years, so it is now an indispensable vegetable in our diet.

So what kind of vegetable is broccoli? It is one of the green and yellow vegetables, but in fact, it is said that a type of cabbage whose flower buds are edible was bred in Italy to become the present broccoli. Introduced to Japan as an ornamental vegetable in the early Meiji Era (1868-1912), broccoli was first cultivated in earnest after World War II, and consumption grew. 1975 onward, the demand for broccoli as a food source grew as interest in healthy eating increased and broccoli's high nutritional value attracted attention.

Broccoli is rich in vitamin B, vitamin C, β-carotene, vitamin K, and iron, and both flower buds and stems can be eaten. It is also high in fiber, and its especially rich vitamin C content, even after boiling, is higher than that of lemons or strawberries. Broccoli is also great for its high content of iron and folic acid, which prevent anemia, and vitamin K, which aids in the absorption of calcium, each of which has its own nutritional components, but with a good balance of nutrients to aid absorption, this vegetable provides an efficient source of nutrients. Broccoli can be used in lunch boxes, stir-fries, salads, and snacks. What is your favorite broccoli recipe?

For lunch today, I made peperoncino with broccoli and canned mackerel. Boiling broccoli with pasta makes it quick and tasty. Nakamura Douki's Aluminum Pan is characterized by the direct transmission of heat power adjustment and quick response to high and low heat adjustments. This makes it easy to see how the heat is applied to the pasta sauce and prevents the pasta from stretching as it blends and evaporates quickly when the cooking water is added. Aluminum is a material that can be easily raised and lowered in temperature, and we hope you will enjoy the comfort of using a frying pan that takes advantage of this material.

Nakamura Douki's Aluminum Pan
https://www.shokunin.com/en/nakamuradouki/fryingpan.html
Seiryugama's Shallow Bowl
https://www.shokunin.com/en/seiryu/asabachi.html
Noda Horo's Enamel Food Container
https://www.shokunin.com/en/noda/

References
https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/special/sakusakukeizai/20240130/626/
https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%96%E3%83%AD%E3%83%83%E3%82%B3%E3%83%AA%E3%83%BC
https://binanpasta.com/mackerelbroccolipeperoncino/ (Recipe)