Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Katsuren at the Center of the World

Katsuren is not only the title of a novel but also a real place, a UNESCO world heritage site. The ruins of the castle, or gusuku, overlook a deep water harbor sheltered by the Katsuren peninsula in Okinawa. Unlike the sites closer to Naha or the incredibly beautiful Nakijin gusuku farther north in Motobu, Katsuren is not well visited because it is well off the beaten path of tourism. However, at one point in history, it was the center of trade for that part of the world. A character in the novel Katsuren remarks that ancient coins and pottery from far away are always turning up if you poke around in the dust at the castle site. Surprisingly--or not surprisingly if you know Katsuren's history--a coin from ancient Rome turned up last fall. So did a coin from the 17th century Turkish empire. It is not so hard to imagine trade between Katsuren and China, the Philippines, even Thailand. But Turkey way at the far end of the silk road, and Rome--farther still! What a wonderful find! As the author of a novel featuring a brand-new archeologist beginning her career at the back-of-beyond Katsuren site, this news gave me a super thrill. Thank you, archeology!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What is a Goya? (2)

Goya grows in the shade of its own vines. It is a prolific vegetable and a mainstay of Okinawa cooking.

What is a Goya?

Sometimes called bitter gourd, goya is Okinawa's signature vegetable. You sometimes find it in salads, but mostly it is cooked in a frying pan to be added to stir-fry dishes. The most famous of those is surely goya champuru, which is a hodgepodge of scrambled egg, Spam, and goya.

To prepare the goya, wash it but don't even attempt to peel it. Instead, split it lengthwise and scrape out the inner white pulp. Next, slice it into thin half moons, as if you were slicing celery for salad. Finally, take a handful of salt and rub it into the goya slices and wait for about 15 minutes. Then, rinse the slices to get rid of the salt and a lot of the bitter taste of the goya. Now you are ready to cook with goya.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Look what I found!

Imagination is powerful, but reality is even better. In the new Okinawa novel, my hero Sam Ryder gets an idea concerning energy conservation. According to this photo, it looks like someone beat him to it. This charging station for electric cars is at one of the markets on Route 58, on the way North to Motobu.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rain, Rain

Okinawa gets a lot of rain. Everyone, including this "shisha", learns to live with it. As in the rest of Japan (except for Hokkaido) there is a rainy season--May in Okinawa, June on the main island Honshu. This year, at least so far, the rain is cool and refreshing.

Rain is what you make of it. Today it is misty and moody, just the thing to awaken one's inner romanticist and make creativity sprout. I personally am taking advantage of the season to go on a writing retreat. Be back at the end of June!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What does Karen want?

According to Amazon, what she wants is a terry-lined shower cap. Imagine my surprise at googling my own blog, only to find Katsuren had become an Internet tout for bath goods. I think the least they could have done, after using the book as a link to the bath goods site, is show the shower cap model relaxing with a copy of Katsuren. LOL

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Another Song for Sam

Sam is barely out of his teens. He is not a geezer, who wheezes about "the good old days" and moans about the newest generation. To Sam, the good old days are happening now. He IS the newest generation. But still, he cherishes the Okinawa mystique as much as the old men in his bar do. And that's why he sings them this song:

Make the crossing to Yonaguni.
Look out from the eastern-most cape.
See the waves below
break into flowers of foam.
This is the country where feelings go deep,
and hearts are like churning waves
resolving their turmoil
in flowers of foam.
Forever may it be:
the land where hearts grow deep!

(translated by C. Nisaragi from "Agari-zachi", by Kina Shokichi)