Archives for the month of: September, 2016

Moving south again to Taiwan, I would like to share a picture of an aboriginal dog from the Atayal village of Smangus in the mountainous center of the island. I hope to see many more of these beautiful, intelligent animals during my research trip beginning in December.

These dogs are boar-hunters, companions, and guards for the tribal villages of the mountains. They are always inky-black, with sharp upturned ears, alert brown eyes, and muscular, compact bodies. I was sorely tempted to bargain for a puppy…

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Can you spot the noodles in the dog’s dish?

If Taiwanese tribes are indeed related to seafaring Austronesian peoples as suggested by linguistic similarities, then these unusual Taiwanese dogs may be ancestral to the extinct poi dog of Polynesian cultures in Hawai’i. Below is a historic picture of a Hawai’ian woman with her poi dog. These dogs were small and short-legged, showing how quickly dog breeds can be altered in size and appearance.

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I encountered a variety of native dogs while working with the Pumé hunter-gatherers of southern Venezuela. These puppies, photographed by me in 1993, were being toted by a young lady and her grandmother packed for a wet season camp move several miles away.

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Unlike Taiwanese Atayal dogs, Pumé dogs are typically white with black spots. But the two breeds are similar in their athletic wiry build, keen intelligence, and excellent value as hunters, companions, and sentinels. Many native special breeds (like the poi dog) are now extinct. But where would we be without them? Hats off to Native dogs everywhere!

While visiting Kyoto last week I was enchanted by the Gion District–the variety of food and shopping is stunning. Many of the stores are small businesses, still family owned. One beautiful clear evening I walked with the happy throngs until I limped and still couldn’t see it all.

The restaurants, candy and tea stores, and ice cream shops all are beautifully appointed, spotless, and showcase uniquely Japanese plastic replica food art in big shiny windows. Here is my favorite display of the night: img_0205The middle rows show really unique parfait ice cream pairings with matcha cubes, mochi balls, and chunks of sweet potato with sesame seeds. But zoom in on the top row: from left to right you can spot french fries, breaded pork cutlets, fried prawns, and my boyfriend’s pick, ‘American Dog Parfait’–by which is meant corn dog complete with ketchup and mustard. It might seem bizarre to us, but I think it is a perfect example of that flavor called ‘umami’ in Japanese that combines salty/savory/sweet.

I was stuffed from dinner so will have to return to Kyoto, starve myself all day, and then go to this amazing parfait joint.

In my closet hangs a lightweight gossamer cotton kimono, properly termed a yukata. My auntie Gwan sewed it for me 30 years ago, when I was in high school. This lovely garment is a testament to the Japanese colonial period from 1895-1945, when my father’s family–all Chinese, of course–were Japanese citizens, wore kimono, spoke Japanese, ate Japanese cuisine, went to Japanese schools, and even went by Japanese nicknames. My uncles still go by Taka, Susumu, Toshi, my father’s nickname is Naho.

China ceded Taiwan to Japan in the 1890s after losing a naval war. And the legacy lives on.

For the past week I’ve been in Kyoto, with complex emotions roiling through me regarding Japanese history and its impacts on China, Taiwan, and my own family. But as I walked the streets, especially in twilight, the magic of Kyoto was everywhere. Here is a cup of cold sake and sashimi that I enjoyed in a tiny restaurant near the Imperial Palace.

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Freshest sashimi I’ve ever had. Sweet and delicate.

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Nothing beats an overflowing cup of cold sake on a steamy August evening.