The exhibition "I love sushi" started its world tour in Ashgabat. The event is dedicated to the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Turkmenistan and Japan. And after the festive grand-opening in the Turkmen capital, it will start out a multi-year journey to different countries and cities.
The Ashgabat exposition is being held at the Museum of Fine Arts, where on Friday the opening ceremony of the Japan Foundation's exhibition was held, introducing the world of the rich culinary culture of the Land of the Rising Sun through numerous showpieces.
The premiere brought together numerous "sushi lovers" of a wide age and status range- from respectable ladies and diplomatic officials to advanced youth and fans of Japanese pop culture.
The exhibition is divided into 5 sections: "Introduction to Sushi", "Sushi in the Edo period", "Sushi culture today", "Sushi Experience" and "Sushi spreading around the world".
The first division presents samples of various types of sushi, as well as the family tree of the world's most famous representative of washoku - traditional Japanese food culture.
The next, "150 examples of modern sushi" are presented, showing a diversity of variations of one dish which cannot be found in any cuisine in the world.
The Edo Period Sushi section contains works by Japanese artists depicting banquets, as well as sushi counters and the stages of their mass production during the historical period between the 17th and 19th centuries, when Japan opened up to the world.
Most of what we consider traditionally Japanese came from the Edo period: minimalist design, tea ceremony, spa treatments, sushi…
The central object in the section "Sushi Culture today" was a reproduction of a sushi stall. Such stalls gained popularity with the advent of nigiri-zushi ("nigiri" means "handful" in Japanese, which means the technology of making sushi with your hands) in the 1820s.
This is the most common kind of sushi. It consists of an oblong lump of rice pressed with the palms, a small amount of wasabi, and a thin piece of filling that covers the rice.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, sushi at such kiosks was something like a modern fast food.
The sections "Sushi Experience" and" Sushi Spreading Around the World " include videos made up by the NHK Educational Corporation, which tell about the history and evolution of sushi.
The exhibition ends with an installation of sushi, focused mainly on nigiri-zushi, which includes 30 pieces of each of the 31 types of nigiri. The combination of shapes and colors creates an impressive visual treat effect.
Each individual sort of sushi is simple, but when placed in a serving tub, together they create harmony and aesthetics that make any day feel like a holiday. It becomes clear why the Arts museum was chosen for the exhibition – for the Japanese, this is not only a philosophy and food culture, but a real art as well. That's why the sushi collection looks like a assemblage of artworks.
After welcoming speeches by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan in Turkmenistan, Mr. Yamamoto Hiroyuki, and the Minister of Culture of Turkmenistan, Atageldy Shamuradov, a degustation of sushi cooked by the chef of the Ambassador's residence, Machida Hiroyuki, was organized for all the visitors. Mr. Machida agreed to answer a few questions specifically for ORIENT.
– Please tell us a little about the history of sushi.
– Originally, sushi preparation was based on fermentation of rice to get a sour taste, which helped keep the fish fresh for a longer time, as there were no refrigerators at that time. Thus, the rice was thrown away uneaten. Over the years, sushi have undergone significant changes, which has led to the emergence of many new kinds. The main type of sushi today, nigiri-zushi, is the "youngest" one.
– The exhibition presents 150 examples of modern sushi. Are there any types that are served on special occasions, for example, gunkans or nigiri?
– There is no division by type. Sushi are sushi! If we talk about some division, then for lunch people usually eat sushi simpler, for example, with a thick omelet. If there is a holiday at home in the evening, then sushi with expensive fish is served. The only difference is in the price.
– Sushi have long been in demand in many countries. What types are popular among the Japanese?
– The Japanese love oily fish. It looks tastier, but costs more as well. The most favourite ones are sushi with tuna.
– What advice can you give to novice sushi masters?
– The most important thing in cooking is practice. The greater the number of prepared dishes, the more experienced and skilled the cook becomes. This also applies to making sushi.
– How many years have you been practicing washoku cooking yourselves?
– I've been cooking for about 20 years. I may look young, but I'm actually 52.
After a conversation with Mr. Machida, the embassy staff shared the details of preparations for the exhibition:
– This event was planned several months ago. Since this is the world premiere, the exhibits were still in development at that time, so we were waiting for them to be manufactured and delivered. That's what took most of the time. After they arrived in Ashgabat, we had been preparing the exposition ourselves for three days. And we are glad to see that so many people came to its opening.
The start of the world tour of the exhibition" I love sushi " coincided with the day when it became known about the death of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Many visitors considered it appropriate to personally express their condolences to the Ambassador of Japan in this regard. But this sad context, which came from the morning news, did not become a darkening moment, but made the event only humanly warmer.