Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Turtles and Snake-Dragons

The other day we visited one of my favorite places, a little lake called Sakura Ga Ike.

Aside from the meditative atmosphere -- it's surrounded almost completely by trees -- I also like the story behind it. You see, it is believed that at the very bottom of this lake lives a giant Snake-Dragon, a Snake-Dragon, mind you. No timid plesiosaurs or long-necked seals here. No pikes or swimming elephants, nope. A Snake-Dragon!

Nessie eat your heart out.

Since I've actually got a column coming out soon in a cool e-zine where I'll write about neat local folklore and will eventually write up that story, I won't go into any more detail here. Instead I'll talk about number two on the list of cool animals for today, turtles!

Koi (carp) the size of my beagle call Sakura Ga Ike home. However, there are loads of the suckers and the kids who line the shore to feed them quickly bore of the slurpy, greedy beasts and begin to root for the underdog, the turtles.

There are only five or six of them and while turtles look cooler (or cuter depending on your gender) swimming around they almost invariably loose out in the food fight to the carp. So by the end of the day you get a dozen children all screaming, "TURTLE! You can do it!" and aiming their bread just right.

Here's a picture of a turtle and a fish vying for a piece of food. A chunk of fu that the fish has already devoured by the looks of it.

Turtles are auspicous. They are said to live 10,000 years. While cranes are lucky too, they only own enough good luck to last a mere 1,000 years. Humph. There is a saying in Japanese Sen nen man nen (one thousand years, ten thousand years), it basically means a long, long time and refers also to both cranes and turtles.

Another reason to visit the lake is to purchase a special sweet meat called kame manju. The town is right on the ocean and sea turtles come every year to lay their eggs. The snack is a way to remember the turtles and a kind of wish for the babies to (when they grow up) return back to the same shore and lay their own eggs.

Here it is in the box.

An idea of how big it is. This is actually the smallest size. I'm cheap.

And here after cutting it into pieces with a sharp knife you can see it is a kind of cakey exterior with a mushy, sweetened red-bean paste interior.

Mmm, mmm good!


Anonymous said...

Not going to make it this summer. Bummer. Momo and I have to wait around for some job prospects. She's still going to the conference in Hawaii in August and might still go to Fujieda for a week or so, but I'm staying here.

I lived in Hamamatsu for a long time and turtle blood is a favored tonic around Hamanako. Something to do with the way the turtle's head come out from between its shells.

Kappa no He said...

Oh man, I was really starting to get excited there. Okay, NEXT time!!

Turtle blood, yum. Yes, not only do they live a long time but they are arguably the most phallic of animals as well.

Bk30 said...

woot grats on the e-zine gig! Man that scene is what dreams are made of. Poor turtles. LOL

Leah J. Utas said...

Eating to remember turtles? Count me in.

Dawn said...

In New Zealand we have a mythical creature called a taniwha that lives in rivers and lakes. I don't know if they fart, though!

(And if you think I'm being rude see the description of a kappa at the top of page. I don't normally come on blogs and pass wind!)

Kappa no He said...

BK: Thanks, I'm so excited. Nervous too!

Leah: Eating to forget...eating to remember. All good stuff.

Dawn: Oh, I'm sure Taniwhas fart. They just have better manners than I do. I'm sure they wouldn't go one to brag about it on their blog.

Frank Baron said...

Lovely picture of a lovely spot. I'm a huge fan of lakes, rivers and ponds and not (solely) because of their finned inhabitants. They're simply places of beauty and harmony and being around them is soothing to the spirit.

Kappa no He said...

Frank: I agree. I adore water myself. I spent six years of my childhood in Alaska and we were forever salmon fishing. Man, that was the life. I spent the rest of my childhood near the ocean which I love but only when there are few to no people around.

Talia Mana said...

I had high hopes that edible turtle would be filled with chocolate but no... Those photos are great. I must take my camera with me when I go out. It's great to have pictures of everything as it happens.

Talia Mana said...

Dawn the taniwha is REAL!!! Mythical *huffs in disgust*

Kappa no He said...

Talia: Thanks. Maybe I should talk to someone about a chocolate version. I just googles the Taniwha and it may be some distant cousin of the snake-dragon thing. Very cool. I so want to visit New Zealand.

jean said...

Once again, I wonder how it can be that we have both lived in almost the same spot for years and years but yet I have never heard of either this lake or the turtles (not to mention all the folklore). Thanks for the ejucashion, Kappa!

Talia, there are a million delectable-to-the-eye baked goods in Japan which would be so much damn better if they were filled with chocolate instead of bean paste!!

Crabby McSlacker said...

Beautiful pictures and a lovely site! There's something so restful about it.

I'm afraid I have to agree about the bean paste. I've tried to like it, but just can't get there.

I guess it's sort of like Peanut Butter is in the States--kind of gross to those who aren't familiar with it but beloved by locals.

Kappa no He said...

Jean: I didn't know what a scone was until I met you. Swear to God. I tend to be completely ignorant of current affairs (who is the Prime Minister of Japan?), but know detailed information on how the very first false teeth makers here were actually Buddhist sculpture craftsmen, used because of their high skill.

Crabby: Thank you, that's sweet. Great analogy about the peanut butter. As in China red bean (adzuki) paste is all the rage. I don't hate it. Sometimes I really like it, even. But chocolate is so much friendlier to my system. It's magic.

rosemerry said...

My friend is a Japanese major and will be going back to college to get her Masters in the subject. She has been to Japan at least twice. I'll ask her if she's ever been to your lake.

The turtles look delightful. You wouldn't happen to have a recipe would you?

Gillian said...

Blogger lost my comment! Doesn't matter how much of my comment got swallowed, I still miss manju. I've lost my recipe for brown manju - need to find it and some red beans and to start cooking. It's autumn here, which is the perfect season.