I’ve often lamented that many of the old ways are nowhere to be found in Izu, but I understand why. People have no practical reasons to preserve the past, and few young people have the interest nor the time. That’s why Shuzenji Gami is such a rare and important discovery.
Everything about Japanese culture can be traced back to its rural villages. Japanese language, behavior, rituals, and diet can be traced back to a small village tucked away in a remote mountain valley.
How can that be? Let’s look at one lesson from language.
One of the first words a foreigner learns when studying Japanese is “gaijin,” 外人 which means ‘outsider.’ The more polite and socially accepted version of this word is “gaikokujin,” 外国人 which means ‘person from a foreign country.’ The word “gaijin” is strongly connected to the important concepts of “uchi” 内 and “soto” 外 in Japanese.
Sushi has become very popular throughout the world. Perhaps the most recognizable ingredient in sushi is wasabi. By now, many sushi lovers know that the wasabi they have on their sushi is not actually wasabi. It is a horseradish based mixture of ingredients designed to mimic wasabi.
So what is real wasabi? It is the root of an aquatic plant that grows in cold mountain streams. It is also very sensitive: grated wasabi must be eaten within 5-15 minutes in order to taste its fullest flavor.