Tag Archives: cookies

#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie #16

by Lillian Csernica on May 16, 2018


Today’s fortune says:

Do not mistake temptation for opportunity.


Regina sat in the highest room atop the marble tower on the Isle of the Turquoise Clouds. In honor of the coming moment, she wore midnight blue velvet, her river of black hair swept up and held in place with clusters of diamonds. On the desk before her lay two pieces of parchment. On one, a list topped by the word Temptation. On the other, a similar list topped by the word Opportunity. She contemplated the words written beneath Temptation, inked in the blood of a rare night bird. Words of power. Words of warning. Dangerous words. As such, all the more attractive.

Beneath Opportunity lay words written in ink made of water from the Sacred Spring of Seven Rainbows mixed with the crushed petals of the Sunrise Lotus, which blossomed only on the morning of the first day of the New Year. Fortune favored the prepared mind. Regina had made her preparations with the greatest care. The decision that lay before her could alter destinies beyond the scope of her imagination, perhaps even beyond the reach of her dreams.

The first full moon of Spring hung round and bright. The night-blooming flowers raised their faces in its silvery light, loosing their fragrances upon the evening breeze. The constellations graced the heavens with their sparkling patterns. Regina read the lists again, then bent her head. A nod, a bow, a gesture of surrender to the ineffable powers of Chance and Fate.

The hourglass ran empty. The moment of decision had arrived.

At the base of the tower, the ship’s bell rang three times. Regina rose from the desk, taking one list with her. She walked to the ivory lattice gates that opened onto a shaft running the length of the tower. Summoning a turquoise cloud, Regina descended to the ground floor. She raised one hand and the heavy oaken door swung inward.

Before her stood a creature that came up to her shoulder. It wore a white shirt, blue lederhosen, black shoes with shiny buckles, and one of those ridiculous Robin Hood-style hats that failed to hide the creature’s pointed ears. On one small hand rested an oblong box wrapped in scarlet silk. On the other hand rested another oblong box wrapped in silk the blue of a perfect summer sky.

“The red,” Regina said.

“You are certain?” The creature’s high, reedy voice sounded like crickets. “The penalty is the loss of our deliveries for the remainder of your lifetime.”

“Do not presume to instruct me. The next decision I make could cause you considerable pain.”

The creature bowed. “As you wish.”

Regina took the scarlet box and unwrapped the silk. To choose Temptation was to risk everything she’d learned, everything she’d built. To choose Opportunity meant running the same risk, but the reward was tremendous.

The silk fell away, baring a box made of sturdy brown paper. She opened the end flaps. A tube of mirror-bright silver slid out onto her palm. Inside lay twenty-four discs of the finest baked confection known to any living being.

“Well chosen,” the creature said. “Few can penetrate the logic of the double-bluff.” It stepped back and made Regina another bow. “Until next year.”






Filed under Blog challenges, chocolate, creativity, fairy tales, fantasy, Fiction, Food, Humor, Lillian Csernica, nature, sword and sorcery, Writing

The Shosei-en Gardens (Kyoto Day Two)

by Lillian Csernica on November 24, 2015

From Top Sight Seeing .Com

The elegant Shosei-en Garden (aka. Kikoku-tei) is located about a short distance east of the Higashi Honjanji temple to which it belongs.

The Garden is originally said to be built on the Heian era site of the Rokujo Kawara-in mansion of Prince Minamoto no Toru, the son of Emperor Saga, in the late 9th century. Later, in 1641, the shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu presented a large parcel of land, which included the garden site, to the Higashi Honganji. In 1643, Sennyo Shonin, the 13th hereditary heir to the Honganji tradition on the Higashi side, commissioned Ishikawa Jozan to create a garden. This marked the beginning of the Shosei-en Garden.

In 1858 and 1864, fires swept the grounds, reducing its structures to ashes. But in 1865 and continuing on into the early years of the Meiji period (1868-1912), the buildings as well as the pond and the magnificent stone wall, were restored to their original condition, as we see them today.

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A lovely family having photos taken in the Gardens.

Pat and I crossed the street to visit the Gardens.  There’s a 500 yen admission fee that includes a guide full of wonderful photos and information.  Unfortunately for us, it’s only in Japanese.  Still, it had a map so we did figure out what we were looking at in terms of bridges, tea houses, and the main natural features such as the pond.

In the pond we discovered black koi.  A few of them were cruising past the cement curb that borders the pond.  So of course I pulled out my bag of “temple cookies” as I took to calling them.  I still don’t know what those cookies are made of, but oh man, did those koi go nuts!  I asked Pat later and she told me there must have been at least fifty black koi churning up the water pushing each other out of the way to get bits of cookie.

Once again I managed to draw a crowd.  There I stood, talking to the koi in a mixture of English and Japanese, tossing pieces of cookie to different areas of the mob.  One teenage girl and her mother came close enough that I thought it appropriate to offer her a cookie.  With much laughter she broke it up into pieces and tossed it to the happy koi.

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Below you see the smaller of the two bridges in the park.  I’m proud to say I took this photo myself.  It does not come from a professional stock photo site.  (The ducks showed no interest in the cookies, which was probably all for the best.)

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The afternoon was moving on toward twilight, so the sunlight came in at my favorite glorious end-of-the-movie angle.  The small bridge looked so different as the quality of the light changed.

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Shinsetsu-kyo, other side.

Now for the big bridge.  This one took some effort to get to.  I had to cross a small stone bridge, then ascend an uneven stairway made of big blocks of stone.  The wooden steps leading up to the bridge were each a bit of a stretch as well.  I had to wonder how the Palace and temple officials could possibly move around in the Gardens, given how much yardage Heian Era kimono included.  Just keeping their sleeves off the ground would have been a bit of a chore!

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There I am on Kaito-ro, a larger bridge with stone steps and beautiful woodwork.  It looks like part of a temple.

It was here in Shosei-en Gardens that I met an anomaly.  Pat and I came in just behind a group of Japanese men and women who were dressed in business attire.  I got the feeling some of the local folks were showing the sights to people not from Kyoto.  At one point the path narrowed.  The senior gentleman of the group turned and motioned Pat and me to go ahead.  I don’t know if it was due to Pat’s cane, or something simpler such as the group taking their time to admire aspects of the Gardens we non-Japanese probably didn’t notice.  The point is, in Japan the men go first.  I’m sure in these times of international travel and cultural exchange, the gentleman who in effect “held the door” for us was just being polite.  Even so, I appreciated his consideration and thanked him with extra-polite Japanese.  He had a really wonderful smile.


An empty home altar ready to be equipped.

On the walk back to our hotel we passed all the stores selling all the items a righteous Buddhist might need.  I’ve mentioned the stunning variety of prayer beads available.  What really blew my mind were the butsudan, or home altars.  Large or small, plain or ornate, they were really impressive.


A butsudan complete with a figure of Amida and offerings.

And now, for an entirely different type of educational experience.  When we got back to the street with our hotel on it, we stopped in at one of the small restaurants nearby.  Things went along in the usual sequence with getting the menus, figuring out what combinations to try, and placing our orders with the server.  Pat and I never seem to maintain a reasonable level of “normal” for more than about fifteen minutes.  Sure enough, that night it was Pat’s turn to find an all-new way to stir things up.

On our table among the salt, pepper, hot oil, and other unidentifiable condiments, there sat an oval object flat on one side and with a pearly dome on top.  It had four little legs on it, and a hatch where the battery fit inside.  The battery told me this thing did something, but we could not figure out its actual purpose.


This I now know is a “call button.”

And then, as I handed it back to Pat, I must have gripped it harder than I meant to.  This sudden “ting!” came out of nowhere.  Honestly, I had no idea where the sound originated.  In Japan you are surrounded by electronica, so the sound could have come from somebody’s phone or tablet or the overhead music system.

No sooner had the “ting!” sounded than our server appeared at our table.  I swear I never saw her coming, and I sat facing the kitchen.  Now we understood.  One used the device instead of shouting “Sumimasen!” when one wanted the server’s attention.  I tried to apologize.  When that didn’t work, because the server expected us to ask for something, I grabbed the first thought that occurred to me: “Mizu, onegaishimasu.”  In English, that’s “Water, please.”  This caused me some further embarrassment, because not five feet away from me sat a table with a water pitcher and cups so guests could serve themselves.  Whoops.

Next time: Toei Kyoto Studio Park, where I met the Shinsengumi!


Filed under Food, Goals, history, Humor, Japan, Kyoto, nature, research, travel, Writing