Thursday, April 28, 2016


Mikiko (Mom), Tomoko (Sister), and I

7.05 am on April 16, 2016 (Japan time). My mom, passed away.

It was a day before my scheduled donabe cooking presentation at Sakura Matsuri in Washington DC. My sister, Tomoko, told me a few days before that the doctor notified her she wouldn't last long, so I told myself to be ready for any news. In her final minutes, I was in a hotel room, connected with Tomoko via mobile text messaging. Then, Tomoko eventually texted that she was pronounced dead.

Mom's spirit has departed to heaven.

I fulfilled my DC schedule (but didn't tell anyone), then a morning after coming back to LA from DC, I left for Japan.

I met Mom's body. Her body was so tiny, but her face was calm and beautiful. When I saw her last time in her hospital room in March, because I knew deep inside that it was going to be the last time to see her alive, I tried to imprint her last look in my memory. She looked like she was suffering. So, I was happy that she didn't have to suffer anymore and would be in better place, heaven, with Dad.

Her funeral was also beautiful. She was surrounded by a lot of flowers, which she loved so much.

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After the funeral, she was cremated, then we had "Shojin Otoshi" meal. We offered the same meal to her, with a glass of beer.

I miss her so much.

I should be stronger, but I'm very, very sad, and I can't help it.

There is nothing but all the fun memories with her in my head, and I miss her even more and feel even more sad. I wonder if she was happy in her last years after Dad died, then Grandma (her mother) followed. I should've paid more attention to her feelings and done more to make sure she was happy. There are also so many things I wanted to do for her in the future. But, it's too late. Now, I have all the regrets.

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I returned my home in LA yesterday. Papa & Mama...thank you so much for having been my parents and always loving me and taking great care of me. I always love you both.

Mom's posthumous Buddhist name is 輝月美徳信女, which describes she was a generous person who dedicated her life for other people's happiness, and she was also a bright and faithful person in her human life.

Friday, April 22, 2016

DONABE Cooking Demonstration at Sakura Matsuri in Washington DC

(Photo by Motoko Oshino)

I arrived in Washington DC last Thursday to do a donabe cooking demonstration at Sakura Matsuri, annual Japanese street festival, as part of Cherry Blossom Festival on Saturday there.

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On Friday, prior to the Saturday main event, I was invited as a speaker at JAPAN Bowl meeting for high school teachers who teach Japanese language in the US. It was such a pleasure to talk about my "happy donabe life" journey, and I was glad they enjoyed my presentation.
(Above two photos courtesy of the Japan-American Society of Washington DC)

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In the afternoon, I started prepping for the cooking demonstration the next day. I made a test batch of rice with my double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san" to check the stove's condition in the prep kitchen. The donabe rice came out really perfect, just like in my kitchen, and I was so happy. (Above two photos by Masako Morishita)

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On Saturday, the day of Sakura Matsuri, the the weather was so gorgeous with the beautiful blue sky. There was a huge line of people even before the venue opened at 10.30 in the morning. Every year, tens of thousands of people attend this event. (Photo courtesy of Reiko Hirai)

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I spent busy hours cooking tasting samples of my dishes for the attendees before my demonstration. (Photo by Masako Morishita)

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My demonstration was scheduled at 4 pm. When I arrived there, the event was in full swing and packed with people!

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They are the audience for my donabe demonstration. All the seats were completely full and there was even a big standing crowd going outside of the tent! (Photo by Motoko Oshino)

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I was ready! (Photo by Motoko Oshino)

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My donabe cooking demonstration started. (Above two photos by Motoko Oshino)

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I made Matcha Onigiri (green tea rice balls) and Shira-ae (vegetables, mixed in tofu cream). (Photo by Motoko Oshino)

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(Above two photos by Yentzu Chen)

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Tasting samples were passed around to the audience. (Above two photos by Yentzu Chen)

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I had a great fun! (Above two photos by Motoko Oshino)

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The demonstration was followed by book-signing session. There was a long line of people who came to talk to me and gave me such generous compliments about my demonstration. It was such an honor to do the presentation and meet so many wonderful people at this hugely popular and important event for Japan-US cultural exchange. (Above three photos by Motoko Oshino)

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Wrapping the final night at a very local cool bar. I enjoyed DC-style BBQ!

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I would like to thank Reiko (left), Masako (3rd from left) and Motoko (right), who realized my participation in this event and gave me all the help to make the presentation a big success!

Happy Donabe Life.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Donabe Cooking at Sakura Festival in Washington DC Today

I arrived in Washington DC on Thursday.

It's been so sunny, warm, and beautiful here! I'm invited to do a donabe cooking demonstration at Sakura Matsuri, the hisotic and big annual event in DC today. I am so excited to be part of this event and will be making a rice dish using double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san".

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I'm featured in both local English and Japanese's funny that I'm introduced as "Mrs. Donabe" in the Japanese paper. This is the largest annual Japanese cultural event in the US and about 50,000 (ore more?!) people are expected to attend today! I can't wait to spread Happy Donabe Life to people in DC!!

Happy Donabe Life.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Naoko's Happy Donabe Life on YouTube - Udon Noodle and Clam Hot Pot "Asari Udon Suki"

Subscribe to Naoko's Happy Donabe Life Channel!

Naoko's Happy Donabe Life - My new donabe cooking video is now on YouTube! It's Udon Noodle and Clam Hot Pot, very simple and tasty one pot donabe recipe. Please check it out and hope you will try it home.

For this dish, I used my Kyoto-style shallow donabe, "Kyoto Ame-yu".

Here's the link to Naoko's Happy Donabe Channel. Please subscribe! I will be posting more donabe cooking videos.

Happy Donabe Life.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Making Sakura Mochi

Sakura Mochi (cherry blossom mochi) is a very popular seasonal Japanese dessert in the spring time. There are two kinds of Sakura Mochi. For the eastern (Tokyo) style, anko (sweet azuki bean paste) is wrapped in a thin pancake, and for the western (Kyoto) style called "Domyoji", anko is wrapped in a sticky layer made of domyoji (cracked mochi rice) flour.

I'm from Tokyo, but I love the western style, Domyoji, and I've been making them at home almost every spring time past years.

The ingredients are not very easy to find outside of Japan. This time, I got all the top quality ingredients back from Japan. So, I was especially excited.

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Salt-marinated sakura (cherry blossom) leaves (from Izu) and flowers (from Okayama). They were rinsed to remove excess saltiness and set aside.

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Domyoji-ko is made from mochi rice (sweet rice), which was steamed, dried, then cracked into a course powder. For sakura mochi, tiny amount of food coloring is used to give the light sakura color before cooking it. And, past years, I made my Sakura Mochi without coloring the domyoji-ko. This time, I found domyoji-ko which was already colored in pink. I steamed it in my donabe steamer, "Mushi Nabe", it came out so pretty! I see many people cook domyoji-ko in microwave for convenience, but I highly suggest you do the traditional way, steaming! Domyoji-ko, steamed in donabe has the best texture and the flavor.

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Once the domyoji-ko is steamed, a small amount of sugar is added and mixed. Then, I wrapped anko (sweet azuki bean paste...I used coarse kind from Hokkaido) with it.

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To finish, each piece was topped with a salt-marinated sakura flower and wrapped in a sakura leaf. They were so good that I always feel nothing can beat homemade Sakura Mochi! I made 12 pieces and ate 10 by the next morning (2 were saved for Jason). I love Sakura Mochi so much. The aroma of sakura from the flowers and leaves give such special nuances to this delicacy.

Here's my recipe:

Sakura Mochi

Yield: 12 pieces

150 g domyoji-ko (cracked mochi flour)
12 pieces salt-marinated sakura leaves
12 pieces salt-marinated sakura flower
240 g anko (sweet azuki bean paste)
1 tablespoon sugar

  1. Soak the domyoji-ko with an ample amount of lukewarm water in a bowl for 10 minutes. Drain.
  2. Soak the sakura leaves and flower in water in separate leaves for 5 - 10 minutes. Remove them from the water and pat dry. Set aside.
  3. Divide the anko into 12 and shape each into a ball. Set aside.
  4. Get Mushi Nabe ready. Rinse a tenugui (thin cotton towel) and wring, then line the Mushi Nabe grate with it. There should be extra length of tenugui hanging from both side.
  5. Spread the drained domyoji-ko over the tenugui and wrap lightly with the remaining ends of tenugui from both sides. Cover with lid and steam for 25 minutes over medium-high heat. Turn off the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Transfer the steamed domyoji-ko to a bowl (you can lift the whole tenugui carefully and invert the contents into a bowl easily) and add the sugar. Mix with a spatula well.
  7. Set a bowl of water on the side. Wet both hands and take 1/12 of the domyoji-ko and flatten to a round shape.
  8. Take a piece of anko and wrap with the domyoji-ko nicely. Top a piece with a sakura flower and wrap with a sakura leaf. Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients.
Sakura Mochi can be stored in a tightly-sealed container up to 1 day in a cool place (no refrigeration).
Happy Donabe Life.