48 HOURS A DAY - S01 E556

1 week ago

Read Story: SEASON 1 EPISODE 556

Nara Chameshi and Grilled Bonito

Zhang Heng held up the rice bowl in front of him, put it under his nose, and took in a whiff. Akane Koyama’s Nara Chameshi had a heavenly fragrance, a mixture of tea and grain with hints of salt and wine.

A serving of Nara Chameshi had more than just rice in it. Usually, the Japanese included millet, dried chestnuts, glutinous rice, red beans, and fried soybeans. After brewed with the stock, it was typically served in a bowl paired with pickles and tofu soup. Originally, Nara Chameshi was something only monks would eat at the Toda-ji and Kofuku-ji Temple in Nara. However, it had since gained a lot of popularity since it was served to ordinary people.

“Give it a taste,” Akane Koyama put down the wooden spoon and urged. “I shall.”

Zhang Heng took his chopsticks, picked up a pickled stick of radish, and chomped on it with the steaming hot Nara Chameshi. “How is it?” Akane Koyama asked nervously, sitting on her knees and eagerly leaning forward.

Zhang Heng did not answer her immediately. Instead, he closed his eyes, allowing himself to savor the taste lingering between his lips and teeth. After a while, he opened his eyes.

“Well, that was unexpectedly delicious. I didn’t know you can cook so well.”

“You are too generous with your praises. I learned it from my father,” said Akane Koyama, relieved after seeing Zhang Heng’s reaction.

“Can your father cook?”

“Yes, my father once said that cooking is the same as swordsmanship, a form of cultivation on its own. It takes great patience to get the results we desire,” continued Akane Koyama.

Five days passed since Yamada and his men came to challenge Akane Koyama. After the Choshu Domain’s samurai retreated, Zhang Heng volunteered to join the Koyama Dojo. However, she didn’t agree to let him join immediately, urging him to rethink it for a few more days.

In Akane Koyama’s opinion, apprenticeship was one of those significant events in life. When it came to that subject, one was usually discouraged from making a hasty decision. Moreover, Zhang Heng’s swordsmanship was formidable enough that even her father might not beat him if he were still alive. Hence, Akane Koyama did not know what else she could teach Zhang Heng. To thank him for saving her life, she invited Zhang Heng over by cooking him a simple meal. Other than Nara Chameshi, she also prepared grilled bonito. The fresh fish and its skin were grilled over the fire until they turned white. After that, he was supposed to dip it in vinegar with wasabi. Delicious, it was a very popular dish in Kyoto.

Matsuo Basho (yes, that’s right, the famous Hihori haiku master) once said, “The wisteria blossoms / bending the finger and waiting patiently / it is a good day to eat bonito.” The haiku was used to express his desire to eat bonito. There was also once a saying, “I will pawn my wife to eat bonito.”

When the yearly season of bonito was available in the market, its price was comparable to gold. Back in the day, only the generals were allowed the pleasure of savoring it.

Now, it was finally the people’s turn to enjoy the bonito. Akane Koyama had spent a lot to make the meal. Coupled with the children’s subsidies, she had been stretched so thin, she probably wouldn’t be holding up any longer even though Zhang Heng just passed her the rent. Her best option was to close down the dojo and live in Kyoto with the rent she received every month. Or, she could marry someone and give birth to a child. These were the possibilities that she had never considered before.

As the two ate, someone suddenly knocked on the door.

Akane Koyoma put out the fire. “I’ll open the door. Carry on with your meal.”

She then ran to the front door and when she opened it, standing outside was a couple that looked unfamiliar.

“How can I help you both?” asked Akane Koyama.

Before the man could even say a word, his wife was already down on her knees in gratitude.

“Huh?”

Akane Koyama was baffled by the situation. Fortunately, the man quickly explained, “We are Chiyo’s parents. A few days ago, you rescued two little girls at the market? One of them is our daughter.”

“Yes. I remember. It’s not a big deal… I just did my best to help them.”

Akane Koyama seemed a little shy when she talked to them. At the same time, she also saw Chiyo hiding behind her parents. The latter was holding a box and was a little bashful as well.

Taking the box from Chiyo, the man handed it to Akane Koyama.

“We know we can never repay you for saving our daughter. I hope you will accept this little gift from us.”

Akane Koyama opened the box and saw a wakizashi.

“My ancestor is a famous blacksmith in Ise, but I am ashamed to tell anybody. In my generation, I only know how to make some farming tools. Fortunately, a wakizashi was still handed down to me. I hope you can find some use for it,” said the man.

“This is too precious. Since it’s a legacy from your ancestors, passed down for generations, you should keep it,” replied Akane Koyama, politely declining the offer. “No, no, we are not samurai. Even if we have it at home, all it would do is collect dust. It’ll be better for us to give it to someone who really needs it. I believe that you will be able to use it well.”

Seeing how Koyama Akane refused to accept the gift, the man became a little anxious. Immediately, he pulled his daughter to him and knelt on the ground like his wife.

When Zhang Heng heard the commotion outside the door, he thought that the Choshu Domain’s samurai had come to their doorstep. He quickly put down his bowl and chopsticks and walked out of the dojo. Chiyo seemed a little surprised to see Zhang Heng, not expecting him to be living with Akane Koyama. The little girl looked at Zhang Heng curiously and guessed the relationship between the two in her heart.

In the end, Akane Koyama couldn’t refuse them, so she gladly accepted the wakizashi. And thankfully, the family of three soon left. Akane Koyama stood silently at the entrance of the dojo as she held the wakizashi. The sword appeared to have invoked some deep memories. Zhang Heng did not want to bother her. After a while, she raised her head.

“Sorry. I remember some things my father said before-Koyama Myoshin-Ryū focuses more on defense than offense. Everyone has something or someone they want to protect. A blade is used to inflict hurt. However, as long as it is used well, it can also be used to save. This is probably the reason why he opened the dojo. Today, his words have left a deeper understanding of me.”

“Can I see it?” Zhang Heng stretched out his hand and took the wakizashi from Akane Koyama’s hand.

The wakizashi was slightly lighter than an ordinary short sword. Although it had been forged a long time ago, it was well maintained, and the blade was still sharp. Using the jade technique, the iron sand was first smelted into iron blocks in a furnace. After that, the blacksmith would bludgeon the iron block with a hammer until it turned into a flat bar, subsequently molding it into shape. The wakizashi was indeed an excellent weapon. “Take it if you like it,” said Akane Koyama. She had noticed that Zhang Heng only had an old knife, and he did not have a wakizashi.

The wakizashi was not used regularly like Tachi. In most cases, it was used for

emergency after the samurai lost his primary weapon. Or the samurai would use it to break armor and fight in small places.

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48 HOURS A DAY - S01 E555

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