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It was one winter when I visited the Senbon Enma-do
in Kyoto several years ago.

Enma Daio, the Great King Yama, is known as the judge of after life. He is scary enough to silence a crying child. He is always angry, very angry. It is commonly believed that he rips out your tongue if you lie. But he has his reasons to be intimidating so much. It is his duty to judge the dead and send sinners to hell. On the other hand, it becomes Enma’s sin to inflict great suffering on the sinners . So he is forced to drink boiled liquid-iron three times a day as a punishment. It is said that this torture is much more painful than any other tortures that sinners receive in hell. Even so, he keeps on carrying out his duty in the hope that this world becomes a better place.

When I found this out, my heart twinged a bit as if I had seen a bad-boy feeding an abandoned dog. Since then, whenever I see a statue of Enma in temples, as a big Enma fan, I would tell him in my heart that “I understand.”

One day, a rival appeared. She was a lady at Enma-do, a temple that enshrines the great king Yama.

She warmly welcomed me into the hall, where the three-meter high Enma who looked as angry as always, with his big goggly eyes almost falling out of place. Appreciating the statue of Enma, I told her that I was his big fan. She broke into a broad smile, saying that “I bet Enma-san likes you too!” She looked about 70 years old or so and had a small build. Her bobbed hair and fair skin made her look youthful. This sweet-looking lady was an Enma fan too. She told me that she lived alone but never felt lonely. “ Being around Enma-san makes me happy! Life is fun”, she said with a big smile. She was giving each people who visited the temple one mandarin orange that once had been offerings to Enma, saying that it would bring him/her blessings.

えんま1

When I heard this, I realized that it was impossible to compete with her. She could feel happy just to be around Enma-san. I had gotten lost in my life and was searching the place I wanted to be. I didn’t know how to be happy. She must have sensed my wavering. When I left, she grabbed my arms, stared into my eyes and said, “Never forget to smile. Try as hard as you can to make yourself happy.” Then she put two mandarin oranges into my hand.

Whenever I see mandarin oranges at supermarkets or greengrocers in the beginning of winter, I recall this sweet memory with this lady and remind myself to keep working hard. That produces a warm feeling while I hunch my shoulders from the cold wind.

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It is 2014.ラプンツェル

I spent a busy year-end through the holidays at my parents. I felt tired out when I returned to Tokyo. While I was browsing the in-station shops, I found a KALDI, an import grocery store. Lured by its free coffee they give away in front of the shop, I walked inside and found bottles of mulled wine, “Glühwein” in German.

By passing time with some quality hot wine in my flat, the sense of a new year began to comfortably sink in.

I wonder what is going to happen in this year?  What shall I do?

But first of all, I want to liven up this blog more. I would appreciate your visit to this site. Thanks!

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羊

Talking of barbeque in my family, we always had mutton in my childhood. Maybe it was because mutton was my father’s favorite. I like mutton too, though some people say they don’t like mutton because it has a distinct flavor. I often had mutton when I lived in Ireland. But unfortunately mutton is not so common in Japan except in Hokkaido. Now kebab is becoming popular but its meat is usually chicken. I wish it were mutton.

There is a restaurant I visit when I want to have mutton. SHILINGOL, the very first Mongolian restaurant in Tokyo, is located in the residential area a few-minute walk from Sugamo Station. In Japan, importing mutton from Mongol is not permitted, so instead this restaurant imports mutton from New Zealand, which tastes similar to Mongolian mutton. This restaurant’s chansammaha, or salted boiled mutton chop is absolutely delicious.

I wanted to have the dish recently, but this restaurant is not really the place to go on your own. So, I invited some workmates to have dinner together.

Unfortunately, posset posset, a milk-like alchoholic drink made from yak’s milk was not available because it was only available during the summer. Instead we had a toast with a shot glass of vodka. In Mongol, vodka seems to be the major alcohol. We did as the owner of the restaurant instructed us, to purify the Heaven, then the Earth and finally ourselves before drinking down the shot, and then battled with the muttonchops.

Everything is delicious in this restaurant. Its free Mongolian milk tea has a unique flavor but tasty as well. My workmates loved this place.

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The picture on the left is of a sheep brain. This dish didn’t only shock our table but steamed up the workmates’ facebook wall for a couple days too. Sheep is a significant source of nutrition for Mongolian nomads, so they must eat so they must eat without wasting any parts. Its tastes is bland and its texture is like fish roes or a hard mousse. The sauce, which comes with the dish, or rock salt are nice seasonings for the dish.

Around 8:00 pm, the restaurant’s Mongolian chef transforms into a matouqin player and begins his live performance. The performance lasts for 20 minutes or so including a song called Suho’s White Horse, which shares the same title as the famous picture book. The time is very well-spent and with the sound of his matouqin bringing into mind the image of horses sprinting across the prairie with gallant strides. Speaking of horses, 2014 is a year of the Horse. My progress in this year of the Snake was a bit slow, so I want to speed up in this new year. A sense of speed is important, isn’t it?

「SILINGOL」 http://shilingol.web.fc2.com/

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