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

Viking. Mar. 2021. 368p. ISBN 9781984877529. $26. TRAV
After an initial visit to Japan in her early 20s, years later food writer Hannah Kirshner traveled from Brooklyn to apprentice to an acquaintance who runs a sake bar in Yamanaka in northern Japan. To Kirshner, Yamanaka’s forests and mountain views evoke memories of her hometown of North Bend, Washington, in the foothills of the Cascades. Her 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. The book concludes with her concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the well-being and livelihoods of the friends she made in Yamanaka.
VERDICT Travel readers who appreciate off-the-beaten-path locales and local cuisine will enjoy this dreamy account.
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