In 2019 I began doing a conversation exchange in Cambridge with an amazing Japanese woman called Nami. At the time she was a visiting scholar living in Cambridge for several months. The language centre matched us and we met once a week or so to talk in English and Japanese. Despite the difference in status (she is a very impressive linguistics professor, and I’m…well…lil’ ol’ Jimmy Miles) we always had a great time. In these sessions I didn’t speak as much Japanese as I perhaps should have, but we discussed a lot about both languages and had a blast! In particular I think Nami liked having a native speaker to interrogate about subtlety of meaning for particular English phrases or cultural quirks. I was very happy to oblige and often her questions were so interesting that I adapted them into full lessons in my “day job”.
Nami often gave me incredibly generous gifts, for which I’m very VERY grateful and I intend to write as much as possible about them in entries on here.
Nami even sent my family a huge parcel of various amazing things over Christmas 2020 (including a beautiful handkerchief for Elin too!).
One of the many items in the parcel was a bag of snacks which we didn’t really get around to opening and enjoying over the holidays. Christmas is such a decadent time of the year it can be difficult to manage all the food, and these snacks seemed so special that just cracking the bag and letting them get lost in the rest of the Christmas “ambient nom noms” seemed rather inappropriate.
However, tonight my parents came over to mine for dinner and we finally opened that bag of snacks from Nami, to enjoy with some white wine while I finished off cooking the main course (roast lamb, couscous + brown rice, peas, gravy: simple but effective!).
We were busily eating the Nami snacks – and my father was remarking on how excellent the seaweed taste is in many of them – when I decided to lay out the remaining little packets to put aside whatever the different patterns were, perhaps as something to write about on the blog.
But there were no duplicates! Each packet had a different person on them and different writing!
amazing (e.g. of strength); great (e.g. of skills); wonderful; terrific; to a great extent; vast (in numbers)
There’s obviously something very special going on here!
The temptation to fish out the other discarded packets from the bin and assemble them all together was great, but I know that my time is limited and I would probably not get around to analysing them all…and anyway…there was dinner to be cooked, so I left it at the above photo and one close-up here:
Now dinner is over, my parents have gone home, and I am sitting thinking that I have neglected my blog for yet another day…what does it all mean?
Let’s cut to the chase: these are KARUTA snacks from 小倉山荘売.
“kyōto・shinise no senbei arare・okaki senmon-ten tsūshin hanbai | ogura sansō-uri”
Kyoto’s long-established rice cracker biscuit and okaki specialty store mail order | Ogura Sanso
They are rice crackers from Kyoto. And they are delicious!
But what about the KARUTA part? That relates to Japanese poetry, but I will save it for another day.
Image credit: I took these myself 🙂