Water, Wood, and Wild Things: Learning Craft and Cultivation in a Japanese Mountain Town (Hardcover)

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"With this book, you feel you can stop time and savor the rituals of life." --Maira Kalman

An immersive journey through the culture and cuisine of one Japanese town, its forest, and its watershed--where ducks are hunted by net, saké is brewed from the purest mountain water, and charcoal is fired in stone kilns--by an American writer and food stylist who spent years working alongside artisans


One night, Brooklyn-based artist and food writer Hannah Kirshner received a life-changing invitation to apprentice with a "saké evangelist" in a misty Japanese mountain village called Yamanaka. In a rapidly modernizing Japan, the region--a stronghold of the country's old-fashioned ways--was quickly becoming a destination for chefs and artisans looking to learn about the traditions that have long shaped Japanese culture. Kirshner put on a vest and tie and took her place behind the saké bar. Before long, she met a community of craftspeople, farmers, and foragers--master woodturners, hunters, a paper artist, and a man making charcoal in his nearly abandoned village on the outskirts of town. Kirshner found each craftsperson not only exhibited an extraordinary dedication to their work but their distinct expertise contributed to the fabric of the local culture. Inspired by these masters, she devoted herself to learning how they work and live.

Taking readers deep into evergreen forests, terraced rice fields, and smoke-filled workshops, Kirshner captures the centuries-old traditions still alive in Yamanaka. Water, Wood, and Wild Things invites readers to see what goes into making a fine bowl, a cup of tea, or a harvest of rice and introduces the masters who dedicate their lives to this work. Part travelogue, part meditation on the meaning of work, and full of her own beautiful drawings and recipes, Kirshner's refreshing book is an ode to a place and its people, as well as a profound examination of what it means to sustain traditions and find purpose in cultivation and craft.

About the Author


Hannah Kirshner is a writer, artist, and food stylist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Vogue, Saveur, Taste, Food52, Marie Claire, and Atlas Obscura, among others. Trained at the Rhode Island School of Design, Kirshner grew up on a small farm outside Seattle and divides her time between Brooklyn and rural Japan.

Praise For…


"Part memoir, part cookbook, and part love letter to Yamanaka, the Japanese mountain town where Kirshner apprenticed with craftspeople. Kirshner's portrait of the community is vivid and full of detail—it is as close to traveling anywhere outside the country that I got in the last year."
Margaret Eby, Food & Wine

“Something between memoir, travelogue, ethnography and cookbook, Kirshner weaves together local history and profiles to explore the intricate connections between craft and the natural environment of a town that balances traditional culture with modernity. . . . Experience fuels each turn of the page as, alongside Kirshner, readers practice the magic of traditional papermaking; hunt wild boar and duck using time-honored traditions; walk deep into the mountains to harvest sap for lacquer; or apprentice with Shinichi Moriguchi, a master wood craftsman, and learn to carve a tray using a near-extinct technique.”
The Japan Times

"An enthralling personal journey. . . .  Her lyrical style is soothing and retains the magic of her experiences without being overly effusive. The book is dotted with beautiful illustrations, and exquisite recipes finish each chapter. It’s a respectful, insightful and illuminating work to be savored."
—The Tokyo Weekender (An April Book Club Pick)

"Water, Wood, and Wild Things is memoir, ethnography, cookbook, and sketchbook rolled into one. It evokes the best of the nature writing of Rachel Carson and Wendell Berry, as well as the food writing of M.F.K. Fisher and craft writing of Edmund de Waal. . . . [Kirshner’s] observations about her teachers’ works render extraordinary what at first glance might seem ordinary. Her drawings are charming, and her words, miraculous."
The Provincetown Independent

"The author moves on to the most dangerous, unlikely, and wildly specific pursuits—and goes where women are rarely welcome. . . . Water, Wood, and Wild Things takes us to a charming small town where the past is always close by."
International Examiner

"Over a four-year period, artist and journalist Kirshner spent many months at a time in the little town of Yamanaka . . . apprenticing to and learning from numerous practitioners of traditional Japanese arts and domestic skills. The sensitive, perceptive, and gratifyingly detailed book that resulted allows readers into worlds few people enter, as the author plants rice by hand, studies the traditional tea ceremony, assists a group of older men who catch flying ducks with nets, learns the art of woodturning, and much more. . . . The volume is amply illustrated with the author's nimble line drawings, and its varied chapters are interspersed with intriguing recipes. . . . A vicarious pleasure for those stuck at home, and a loving tribute to the practitioners of traditional arts."
—Booklist (starred review)
 
“[Kirshner’s] many adventures working at the sake bar, taking tea lessons, luxuriating in hot springs baths, appreciating the subtleties of the Japanese language, learning to dance, assisting with wood turning, and going duck and boar hunting are punctuated with charming sketches and recipes for delicacies such as pickles, bean gelee, sake ice cream, miso-cured eggs, fried chicken, dumplings, game stew, pickled wasabi greens, tempura, rice balls, persimmon leaf sushi, and more. . . .  Travel readers who appreciate off-the-beaten-path locales and local cuisine will enjoy this dreamy account.”
Library Journal

"In Kirshner's explorations and excavations, we navigate the pulls of place and identity—Water, Wood, and Wild Things settles us into Yamanaka, and alongside the folks who live there. Kirshner is both participant and observer, humbly and tactfully weaving a portrait of a history, its mores, and how they've changed. But, above all, she listens—allowing the community to tell their story, and allowing us to view the tapestry she's painted alongside them. Water, Wood, and Wild Things is a trove and a boon—we can't help but feel grateful that Kirshner brought us along for the journey."
—Bryan Washington, author of Memorial

"If you have a yearning (as I do) to go to Japan and do exactly what Hannah did (without the mountain biking), you will be very grateful for her essays on life among the craftspeople of a small town. Hannah transports you to a place of serenity and beauty, where moments of exquisite wonder pervade. With this book, you feel you can stop time and savor the rituals of life."
Maira Kalman, author of Cake and Beloved Dog

"Kirshner’s beautifully illustrated and worded depiction of Japanese craft is artfully grounded in nature’s four seasons alongside meticulous food preparation rituals. With each turn of the page, you can almost hear Kirshner sliding open yet another wooden paneled door to reveal a shokunin who refuses to let their craft fade. Water, Wood, and Wild Things wonderfully brings a myriad of haptic, visual, and aromatic taste sensations of Japan that individually tantalize within a perfect dashi broth of storytelling."
—John Maeda, author of The Laws of Simplicity

"What does it mean to immerse yourself in a place? What can you learn from the experience? Hannah Kirshner’s Water, Wood, and Wild Things chronicles her time in the mountain town of Yamanaka—and offers a record of what she learned about technique and creation there, from brewing sake to making charcoal."
—Tobias Carroll, Inside Hook

"Hannah Kirshner depicts Yamanaka, its landscape, its people (and the things they make) with intimate feeling and lucid focus. Water, Wood, and Wild Things is exquisitely attentive—a lovely and special book."
Rosie Schaap, author of Drinking with Men
 
"In her engaging narrative, Water, Wood, and Wild Things, Hannah Kirshner conveys the essence of Japan’s rapport with nature that continues to shape craft, community and the culinary arts. Her lyric sketchbook provides a glimpse of a mountain town in transition, nurtured by the past while accepting (considered) change."
—Elizabeth Andoh, author Washoku and Kansha

"What a luscious book! Kirshner’s delightful stories are rooted in deep history and thought. Lovely illustrations and delicious recipes enhance the multi-layered narrative. Read from beginning to end or pop around between chapters, following your appetite."
—Gina Rae LaCerva, author of Feasting Wild

"I love this book! Kirshner opens up a window to a Japan that virtually no one from the outside gets to see, and as a hunter, angler, forager and cook myself, it is fascinating to see that those traditions are not only very much alive there, but also that they are not so different from our own here in the United States."
—Hank Shaw, author of Hunt, Gather, Cook

"How does one engage ethically with a culture not their own? Kirshner offers one possible way. Her humility, curiosity, and dedication shine through in the accuracy and honesty of her discussions of historical contexts and the privilege she enjoys as a white American woman in Japan. Kirshner listened, and allowed me to hear the voices of Yamanaka’s people, who are recreating traditions every day."
—Takeshi Watanabe, author of Flowering Tales: Women Exorcising History in Heian Japan 

"Hannah Kirshner’s delicate drawings and uncommon recipes complement this beautiful tribute to rural Japan. Here, cultural practices both old and new are inseparably tied to place and place is incalculably enriched by the human history it contains."
Winifred Bird, author of Eating Wild Japan

Product Details
ISBN: 9781984877529
ISBN-10: 1984877526
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: March 23rd, 2021
Pages: 368
Language: English

How to read more

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( Birmingham Museums Trust’s Digital Image Resource shares thousands of images that span decades of Birminghams vibrant past)

How To Read More

If you love reading, but for some reason you read less and less, know that everything is fine. It happens.
Our lives today have so many things that distract us - how can we not put books away when all these movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, social networks and endless surfing in online stores are around ...
Yes, it's really hard to resist, but you certainly can!

In this article, we want to share with you some tips to read more often and more successfully.
These are some notes and some practices that we have collected for our SUNDOG BOOKS readers club.
And maybe it will bring more books into your life!

Why do we want/need to read more?

To start reading more, you have to understand why you need it.
And you will be surprised, but your goals can be quite varied:

- for work
If you read a lot on duty, then you definitely need to speed up the process. The logic here is simple: read faster → work faster → more time for books for yourself.

- for education
you need this for your educational career or sometimes you just want to read to learn. And, with all the new alternative ways to gain knowledge (podcasts, online courses and videos), the book still does an excellent job of this task too.

- for self-development
all exercises for increasing speed, one way or another, improve cognition and memory.

- for fun
because good books always = fun!

Book lovers have an additional special goal for reading more often. If you love literature, you will understand what we mean: you want to catch everything - to follow modern literature, and not forget about the classics, look into non-fiction and children's publications. And there’s so much you want to reread! The goals are ambitious, but attainable if you read a lot.

 

And so - How to read more:
We will tell you about the methods that we use ourselves. Perhaps some will suit you as well.

 

15 minutes a day

You've probably already heard this rule: if you want to start a healthy habit, devote 15 minutes a day to it. Once upon a time, we all read irregularly, in jumps and starts. Sometimes we cannot open a book we have begun weeks ago. Therefore, you should decide to create a rule: devote at least 15 minutes a day to reading. Try reading before bed, or maybe during lunchtime, or even when you are having your morning coffee.

You will see progress immediately. You will notice that almost always your 15 minutes will grow into half an hour or more. But the most remarkable thing is that in three weeks your hands themselves will be looking for a book.

 

50 First Pages
This method advises - If the book hasn't hooked you from the first 50 pages, put it aside! Life is too short to read uninteresting books.

It is necessary to change the approach to books. At first it will be hard for you to stop and put the book down. Even if we put the book away, it will seem to reproach us from the shelf, mocking us as quitters. But in the end we should come to one simple thought: if it doesn’t hook your attention, you should not force yourself to read it.

***Fifty pages is not a bad test. Not the most objective, but definitely effective. It helps to determine whether it interests you or not, and whether to spend time on things that do not excite.

 

Reader's Diary

This should be used to improve the quality of reading - to make it more conscious. For starters, it can be a simple notebook with headings:

  • Author
  • Year of publication
  • Main characters
  • Scene
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Quotes

And, yes, a reader's diary is not a thing about quantity, but about quality. But, it can also motivate. When you open your diary and start looking at quotes (especially quotes), you immediately really want to read.

 

Maybe a Book Bet?
Several people can participate. Members of the betting group can come from friends, family, and also your colleagues. And of course you can set your own rules for participation, but we'll give you a simple example:

Everyone in the group should read and review a book over the course of a month with weekly updates. Anyone who does not finish a review buys the book for all other participants for the next month.

 

Speed Reading

Another effective way to increase the amount you read is speed reading. The logic here is simple - the faster you read, the more books you can enjoy.

*There are many online courses on speed reading, and you can also study on your own using instructional books. But, it is worth noting that this is a serious learning process that will require some effort on your part.

 

Outcome

Reading every day is quite attainable, the main thing is to try to make it a habit.
Sometimes, instead of heading for Facebook, try opening a book and soon you won’t even remember why you needed to wander around social media.
And also - don't forget about audiobooks. They are a cool way to take the load off your eyes sometimes and just immerse yourself in the story. Some books are really strong in voice acting.

 
 
 

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