Friday, March 18, 2011
humanizing the quake (ibaraki)
Some time in the past week, they started calling the earthquake The East Japan Earthquake. This makes mighty good sense, because the disaster area extends across so much more than the six prefectures of the Tohoku area.
Ibaraki prefecture is in the northeast part of the Kanto region, bumping up against the southernmost end of the Tohoku region. I can't recall that I've ever visited it, except in passing, but I have fond associations with it-- they once had the funniest TV commercial for Ibaraki brand rice. But on a day-to-day basis, my affection for Ibaraki has to do with a different product for which they are well known: natto, a fermented soybean product that the Japanese often have for breakfast with rice.
Natto is sometimes called an "acquired taste," but in my household it is definitely comfort food. Natto has a distinctive smell (like pungent cheese, some say), and as you stir it, it produces lots and lots of sticky, gossamer threads, These sticky threads make it awkward to eat sometimes, but they are an essential factor in the incredibly high nutritional value of this product.
This particular kind of stickiness is called nebari (noun form) or nebaru (verb form) in Japanese, and can be used to describe the quality of "sticktoitivenes," or ability to persist, persevere, and hang on in adverse circumstances.
Today's etegami shows natto beans wrapped in straw, a traditional form of natto packaging. I tried to depict the sticky threads. The accompanying words roughly translate to "Hang in there, Japan!" using the word nebare (imperative form of nebaru). Watch as the people of Ibaraki exhibit this quality in the coming days. You'll see.