Monday, March 28, 2011


Since March 11, not a day has gone by that I don't think of the people of Japan and the tragedy they're facing.  I can probably safely say that goes the same for many of us.  It is unfathomable and heartbreaking, and there are no words to describe this order of hardship.  But what amazes me is how survivors are pulling through, that in the midst of having their homes and towns leveled and losing loved ones, their mentality remains "ganbarimasu"--"I'll do my best".  They do not loot but instead pour their energy into rebuilding again.  Adversity may bring about destruction, but it also has the power to unite, reconcile and strengthen.

Some years back right after college, I spent a summer in Japan, teaching English to earnest Japanese students and adults, and helping at a small Christian church in a suburb of Tokyo.  More than a country that brought us anime, cute product packaging, and superior cars and electronics, what I found was an orderly, precise, and almost overly polite society that highly valued hospitality and the expression of respect.  Deeply rooted in their own traditions, Japan has also adapted some of the best parts of Western culture, such as food and fashion, and made them its own.  

In my spare moments, my host family or some students whisked me away to see the sites, introduced me to sushi, ramen stands, fine French cuisine and patisseries, dressed me up in their traditional yukata (a summer kimono), and bestowed me with gifts--tokens to remember Japan by.  It was an illustration of their overwhelming affability to an otherwise complete stranger.  And since then, Japan--especially the people--has occupied a place in my heart, which over time has perhaps collected a little dust but has not been entirely forgotten.

In the midst of current events, I pray for recovery, both physically and spiritually, for a stricken nation.  People sometimes say everything happens for a reason.  Having the advantage (or is it?) to have never suffered greatly in this way, I can easily nod my head and agree.  Who can truly discern God's plans in all of this, but I also believe that God is a redeeming God and can create light in the midst of darkness.

I attempted making brioche a few weeks ago for a good friend's birthday.  Oddly, brioche was a regular breakfast item while I was in Japan, sometimes served by my host families with tea jelly and, of all things, a green salad.  Their brioche was light, buttery and smooth.  Mine was dense, greasy and coarse.  I will not offer my own adaptation of the recipe--you can find it at the King Arthur Flour website.  After this unsuccessful attempt, I will resign myself to enjoying brioche made by professionals instead.