Matcha & Miso: Halen Môn in Tokyo - Halen Môn

We have been sending Halen Môn to Japan for some years, and it’s highly prized for miso and soy sauce making as well as eating in its flaky state.

And indeed I’ve wanted to visit Japan for a long time. I got very close to it in 2011 and finally reached there in 2014 as part of a Welsh trade mission and a delegate on an EU Protected Food Name stand at Foodex.
I had never met our distributor but had a good personal relationship with her through email and telephone and now I was about to be met by her at the airport. Luckily we got on in the flesh too and she was unfailingly kind, helpful and courteous throughout the week.

Days passed meeting customers, chatting to fellow PFN producers, and negotiating my way round the exhibition hall with no clue as to what the notices or announcements meant. Japanese people were consistently courteous but often their English was equal to my Japanese, so we often resorted to mime.

A heavy cold necessitated advice from my distributor- I was forced to ask for help as I couldn’t possibly understand any of the drugs on offer (memo: always travel with a medicine chest.)

Food was testing to one who doesn’t really like sushi. Challenging textures were presented exquisitely in some restaurants and less so in others (the sign below reads ‘fish guts pickled in salt)

Breakfast consisted of banana muffins except for one memorable morning when we’d got up at 4:30 to see Tokyo’s magnificent fish market and wolfed down a beef curry on returning at 7:30.

The day before I left the city I was lucky enough to visit two beautiful Japanese gardens where I saw bonsai (‘harass the tree and make it dance’) and the beginnings of flowering cherries and plums planted by a General long ago with the words ‘you may forget me but you will never forget the spring’.

I ate glutinous rice in a sweet aduki bean broth, which, if I had tried to swallow it and choked would have been aspirated from my throat with special equipment kept by the caterer for that purpose; I witnessed the opening of a department store in which a young woman addressed the waiting crowd, giving details of that day’s events and promotions before bowing deeply and allowing us to enter on the dot of 10:30, and as we made our way through the store every other assistant also bowed from the waist; I was profoundly moved by a visit to a Buddhist Temple and a meeting with the Monk who not only knew of Halen Môn but actually used it; and I enjoyed a Japanese tea ceremony with the most beautifully presented and delicious food and matcha tea imaginable.

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