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Heart of America

Japan-America Society
The mission of the Heart of America Japan-America Society is to further understanding 
between the peoples of Japan and the Greater Kansas City area by promoting
social, cultural and educational exchanges.

To: Heart of America Japan-America Society members

Greeting from HAJAS President

Memories of Summer

I went to Japan in 1978.  The country was just pulling out of a recession and an energy crisis.  At that time, it was considered extravagant to drink some bottled drink when you have perfectly good tea to brew at home.  In the summer, the drink of choice was mugicha or roasted barley tea.  No caffeine, lots of minerals, cheap and easy to brew.  Usually it is chilled, but at that time there were simple neighborhood eateries that would leave a kettleful in the dining area for enjoyment at room temperature.  The flavor is slightly reminiscent of coffee, because of that roasted tang.  Now you can find it in most Asian supermarkets; feel free to try it!  Also, at that time, almost no one had air conditioning.  People stayed as cool as they could by leaving the sliding doors of traditional houses completely open.  At night, reed screens were used for privacy.  However, that kind of screen does not block insects, so everyone burned mosquito incense coils, katori senko, at night.  In those days, it was made with an extract of Dalmation chrysanthemum, which is mainly pyrethrin, a natural insecticide and repellent, considered to be very safe for humans and pets.  Nowadays it is still available, but it is made of synthetic pyrethrin.  The smell is still very similar.  So, for me, summer in Tokyo was characterized by the taste of mugicha and the smell of katori senko.  So nostalgic!  I don’t need the mosquito incense so much, but I still enjoy mugicha in hot weather.  The photo shows a typical landscape of northern Nagano prefecture in summer.  Columbines are a relatively new addition to the gardens of Japan.   

John Lytton

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