塩豆腐と竹熊手 Sea Water Tofu and Bamboo rake

I landed in Oshima for the first time! 大島に行ってきた!

Oshima is one of the little islands around Ojika, ten minutes away by the boat that runs four times a day. About 80 people live here including two children at the bunko (a branch school) and some pre-school kids.  Junior and senior high students must take the small ferry, or a fishing boat, to Ojika for school everyday.

大島は小値賀本島から船で10分、80人あまりが暮らしています。分校に小学生が二人と、若い人が戻って来たりして、今はあかちゃんもいます。中学生は日に4便の連絡船で小値賀本島の学校へ。

何しに行ったかというと、豆腐です。島で昔からお祝いや法事ごとに作られて来た海水豆腐(島の人は塩豆腐と呼ぶ)。

IMG_0383にがりではなく海水をそのまま使って固めた豆腐を、とてもかわいい岳田のおばあちゃんに教えてもらいました。作り方は普通の豆腐とほぼ一緒ですが、より大胆でいい感じ。大豆を挽いて絞った豆乳を再度あっためるときに、海水をがばっと入れて、それを更に固まるまで炊き続けます。固形分ができて水が澄んだら型に入れて重石を乗せる。できた豆腐は、ほんのり塩味が大豆の甘みを引き立てて本当に!おいしい。がっちりと詰まって堅く、カナダで馴染んだ豆腐を思い出させる懐かしい食感です(うちら日本人は「白人豆腐」と呼んでました)。

74 year-old Takeda san taught me how to make sea water tofu. Oshima islanders call it shio-tofu, salt tofu. Tofu is usually made with nigari, a byproduct of sea salt, in order to curdle soy milk. When you boil down sea water, you get salt and nigari, bitter water. But this tofu takes plain sea water. This method is almost the same as the nigari tofu except that it’s made with more boldness! First you make soy milk and heat it again with quite a bit of sea water until it curdles. When the whey is clear, you scoop the curd into a tofu mold which has a cotton cloth lining and press it for a while. What comes out is a dense and smooth mass that is slightly salty. It’s so delicious. Subtle sweetness of the soy is brought out by the sea water and its firm texture  reminded me of the tofu outside of Japan. I promised myself that I’d make it again before I forgot.IMG_0384

IMG_0389

おばちゃんがお昼に作ってくれた大島のだご汁は、鰹生節だしで淡口醬油味、とろけた里芋がネギと混ざっていて、これも絶品です。Takeda san made me dagojiru, a dumpling soup, for lunch. This too was very nice and hearty (it was a cold and windy day).

12時半の船を逃すと夕方まで便がない。ので、おばちゃんとの会話に出て来た、竹でしょい籠なんかを作るお隣のとくぞうさんのところに押し掛けます。「今すぐできるもんじゃなか」と首を振る82歳のじいちゃんをコタツから引きずり出して、無理やり教えてもらったのがミニ熊手。竹を割って、七輪の炭火で曲げて手の部分を作り、それをワイヤーで留めていく。IMG_0398見るは易しとは良く言ったもの、わたしが竹を削るのにも難儀している間にじいちゃんはひょいひょいと作り上げてしまいます。「耳が聞こえん」と言いながらもシャキシャキのとくぞうさん、「これはどうすればいいの?」と泣きつくと「自分で考えれ」と切り返されます。何度もやり直してやっと完成。気がついたら冷えきっていた体に、ここのおばあちゃんが出してくれたよもぎ餅(ここではさつま芋とだんご粉と小麦粉を混ぜた餅に、トウビンという小さい豆の餡でした)のおいしかったこと。

Takeda san had mentioned about her cousin next door who made baskets and whatnot out of bamboo. I had been wanting to learn how to do it, plus the next boat was not until 5:45. There was no reason not to go, at least to say hi. Takeda san took me to his house and there he was, in his kotatsu (a foot heater under a table, covered by blankets). He was not so keen on getting up. “I don’t have any bamboo ready” said the man. “I’ll go get some!” “You don’t know how to choose!” “Tell me which and I’ll get it!” So I successfully dragged 82 year-old Tokuzo san out of his kotatsu. He said there was no bamboo good enough for baskets, and that they were too difficult for a beginner. So “we will make a mini rake today”. IMG_0397Split the bamboo and smooth each stick, then bend one end of each stick with the heat from charcoal. Tying them together with a wire while keeping them aligned looked easy but was not, of course. Tokuzo san is frank and witty. I’d ask for instructions and he would tell me to think for myself. He finished his piece while I was struggling with the first part, went back to the kotatsu and started reading a newspaper. Once in a while he glanced at me and laughed at my ill-looking rake. After several tries, I finally made it. His wife made us tea and we had yomogi-mochi (a mugwort flavoured rice cake with sweet bean paste inside) while talking about life in Oshima. The sweet mochi and their words filled me with warmth and an urge to absorb what was being said and shown.

岳田さん夫婦といい、とくぞうさん夫婦といい、大島の人々は温かく慎ましい。そして何でも作る、作れる。ここには店の一軒もなく、買い物は小値賀本島に行くか、店に頼んで連絡船に積んでもらいます。必然的に何でも作ることになる。とくぞうさんの竹ものも、「必要に迫られて作りよっただけ。きれいな細工はできん。あんたもっと上等の竹細工ば習て来て、代わりにじいちゃんに教えっくれれ」。でもわたしは、使う為に作るざっくりした実用品が大好きです。突然やって来たわたしを丸1日受け入れてくれたおじいちゃんおばあちゃんたち。手作りのおいしいものを食べさせてくれ、とくぞうさんとこのおばちゃんはつきたてのかんころ餅を、岳田さんはジャガイモと大根漬けを渡してくれました。あまりにありがたくて、足癖の悪い私が帰りの船の中では膝を揃えて涙をこらえていました。豆腐や熊手と一緒に、この人たちの賢さと強さとやさしさをつないでいかなくては、と、図々しさを恥じつつまた行こうと心に決めた日でした。

IMG_0399People here are warm and humble, yet full of skills. In this island where there is not one single store, just a vending machine, people naturally make most things themselves (for other stuff they go to Ojika or ask the stores there to load things onto the boat). Tokuzo san’s bamboo tools are no exception. He says, “I started making them out of necessity. Can’t make pretty stuff. You go learn those fine crafts and teach me in exchange”. But I love these rustic and practical things.

They took me in with such an unaffected hospitality and fed me with all sorts of homemade food. They even sent me off with more food like sweet potato mochi, daikon preserves and potatoes from their garden. On the boat home I sat with my back straight, trying not to cry from an overwhelming appreciation (forget that I forcefully dragged Tokuzo san out in the cold). It’s not just skills and knowledge, but their strength, wisdom, and kind heartedness that I have to learn and pass on.

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