Thread by Thread

Essays by Prairie Stuart-Wolff

The Moment at Hand The Moment at Hand

The Moment at Hand

Misako Hahsida sits on a stool in the shade scrubbing a newly fashioned bamboo tokkuri in her lap. Rinsed clean, she holds the vessel for sake at arm’s length. The elegant sweep of a fine edge runs on a slight diagonal at each node tracing the bamboo’s circumference. It glistens, an emerald green. Aodake, fresh bamboo, carries the weight of water, saturated and crisp. It soothes the mind like a cool drink on a summer’s day.

Picking up a choko she slides a finger vertically along a furrow in the small sake cup that runs from lip to foot. She is new to this work, self taught and unencumbered by any cannon that might dictate the rules of perfection. With elegant economy she fashions wares in concert with the life and body of bamboo, celebrating asymmetries like this indentation where a branch was pressed against the culm. Her eyes shine with guileless admiration, full of wonder at what her own hands can make.

The deep green with blue undertones of aodake elicits profound reverence, a symbol of all that is ephemeral: spring, youth, vitality, the present moment. Misako’s husband spends long hours walking the bamboo groves, searching far and wide for moso bamboo with internodes well proportioned to the girth and reach of tokkuri and for madake bamboo with a good color and circumference for choko. When he returns with the harvest she must work quickly. Raw bamboo is perishable, the color fleeting.
Aodake wares are savored at the table. There, a thin veil of cold clear sake gurgles forth from the tokkuri like a babbling brook, cascading across the blond flesh at the spout. The base of the choko rests cool against the fingertips. The sake soaked rim meets the lips, round and mellow on the tongue, laced with the clear scent of bamboo. The moment is vibrant and alive and impermanent. Let us drink it in.

About the author

Prairie Stuart-Wolff is a writer, photographer, and avid home cook who upon moving to Japan in 2007, immediately recognized the great depth and beauty of Japanese culinary traditions. She produces Cultivated Days, an online journal that investigates and celebrates the ingredients, principles, and practices of Japanese food and culture in context.