Ichi-go ichi-e

3:35 AM Béné (ベネ) 0 Comments

This article was a request from the Japanese airline ANA.

Last month, I received an email from ANA which offered me to write a sponsorised article about "ichi-go ichi-e" and Japanese food culture. The deal was to share a video on my blog and write my feelings about it while talking about food culture in Japan. As ANA is a company that I like very much and the idea appealed to me, I immediately accepted.

Ichi-go ichi-e

Ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会) is a Japanese four-character idiom which means one time, one meeting. People are using it to say that one should cherish even the most insignificant moments because they will never happen again. This idiom comes from Buddhism and it seems that it is mostly used for tea ceremonies and martial arts.

Fukuoka's food stalls "yatai" are all about Ichi-go ichi-e

When ANA asked me to write about the concept of ichi-go ichi-e and about food culture in Japan, I immediately thought about Fukuoka's food stalls called yatai. Yatai are one of the city symbol and also a part of the heart and soul of Fukuoka. it aslo perfectly illustrate the ichi-go ichi-e idiom.

What's that ?

Yatai are tiny food stalls that are set up every night in different parts of the city. The "chefs" welcome their customers in small numbers, not more than 10, on stools arranged around their "kitchen". They cook in front of everyone while chatting and drinking alcohol. The yatai are super friendly spaces and the best places in Fukuoka for who wants to go to meet Japanese citizens. Even without speaking Japanese, you'll find yourself chatting with everyone and spend an excellent evening with people that you will never see again : it's what is ichi-go ichi-e. Yatai are made with wood, they are hardly longer than 3 meters and are open from 6 pm to 2 or 3 am. There are about 150 in town.

What about food ?

Chefs are cooking Fukuoka's specialities such as Hakata ramens, of course, mentaiko (spicy fish eggs) dishes, Hakata gyozas or oden (japanese pot-au-feu), yakitori and lots of other good things. They offers a good alcoholic beverages and soft drinks.
▶︎ Find out about Fukuoka foods

Yatai's manners

If the yatai are friendly and casual places, people are expected to respect some manners (at least two). The most important thing is that you have to order at least one dish per person, even if you want to share the food afterwards. This is really the basic rule, kihon as we say here and chefs can refuse to serve you if you don't respect it. The other thing to keep in mind is that you may be asked to change places during the meal depending on the arriving guests. Don't be offended and more to the designated seats.

How to find a great yatai ?

First choose wisely depending of the place. The best yatai are in Tenjin and Nagahama. You should avoid Nakasu island, near Canal city. Then open your eyes and your ears: if people are lining up it's good sign, if someone calls you (especially in English) just go away. Also, always ask for prices before ordering.

How to enjoy your meal at a yatai ?

First, don't be afraid to go. Travelers tend ignore yatai for two things : because it sounds like a place for regular customers or because they think they won't be able to communicate. Forget all that and pass your head under the curtain, you will be warmly welcomed. Once seated, don't hesitate to exchange a few words with the chef or the customers. There is no need to speak Japanese, translation software, simple English or basic Japanese words such as oishii or kanpai are enough. Finally, it is very likely that people will try to pay for your food and drinks, don't be surprised :)

One yatai to try ?

Without hesitation Mami-chan : delicious dishes, a nice, chatty and a curious owner and even an English menu. This is even the favorite yatai of my co-workers. Just try it !
▶︎ Access

Amezaiku, Japanese Art of Candy Sculpting

  The person who asked me for this article just told me about a video about Japanese food culture and I didn't know at all what I was going to discover. I imagined a video about whoch would show different Japanese dishes, a sushi master, a tea ceremony or skewers cooking on a flame. To make it short short, I imagined a very simple and deja vu video. When I cliked on the link, I didn't look at the title right away and my first impression was: crystal sculptures ? . In fact not at all!
Amezaiku (飴細工) is a Japanese art of candy sculpting, making great forms such as octopus, goldfish or frog with some hot sugar paste . This art was introduced during the Edo era, around 1600 and currently there are only two craftsmen left in Tokyo. I didn't know about amezaiku at all. I don't even think I've ever heard of it, though if I think about it, shaped translucent cady are sold during Japanese summer festivals. I was amazed by the precision and speed of the craftsman in the video. He must sculpt the sugar in less than 5 minutes, before the past hardens. It was also the case in France but my heart always hurts when I hear that a tradition is going to disappear. I have a great admiration for people who are passionate enough to want make their art surviving. If I spend a day in Tokyo I would like to visit his shop to see him practicing his art in front of me. It can also make a nice souvenir.

ANA and me

Until last year I only knew ANA through their websites, including their superb IS JAPAN COOL? which is a very nice guide to Japan, illustrated with great photos and videos. For my flights around Japan, I always reserved through JAL. I had always been satisfied and therefore I didn't see the interest to check an other company . When I planned my trip to Miakojima in June 2015, JAL had no more available seats for the days I chose so I booked my flights with ANA. It was an instant love. I loved how friendly smiling and helpful staff were (bothground staff and staff on board). I liked the confortable seats and how the plane interior looked (rainbow lights !!). Since then I first look at the ANA site when I have to fly somewhere. I had thought of going back to France for the New Year holidays and I checked for the first time ANA's international flights. I was pleasantly surprised that the website was really easy to use and I loved how it was simple to navigate between prices and days : everything is very clearly indicated and very convenient. Well, finally I won't go back to France since I'd have to go at least 2 weeks but eventually I'm planning to go back next summer. I am already very excited to try ANA on for a long flight.
▶︎ ANA website, choose your country !

Did you know about ichi-go ichi-e ? What do you think about ANA ? Would you to try to eat at a yatai ?

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