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Saturday, Jan. 28, 2006

JAPAN LITE

The rah-rah radish, part II


On Shiraishi Island, the radish rah-rah starts in December, when you see "o-baa-chans" pushing wheelbarrows full of daikon. The esteemed radish is wheeled around -- entire radish families are given rides. In December and January, they are pulled out of gardens and transported to houses. If you look closely, spying onto islanders' porches, you'll see the remains of the radishes, heads lopped off and handing on one wall, and their bodies shredded and drying on reed mats in the sun.

News photo
This radish on the run was last spotted fleeing in Sydney.

Says recent Shiraishi visitor and aspiring daikon photographer Chris Thyregod: "Shiraishi gave me an up-close and personal introduction to daikon. It opened my eyes to the aesthetic beauty of the daikon, the abundance and incredibly orderly lifestyle by which these radishes live."

"Rarely found alone," he observed, "and generally lined up in neat rows hanging around drying themselves on bamboo frames, each daikon has its own unique personality and form."

I soon found myself guiding him to daikon patches, and pointing out particular daikon families that offered unusual photographing opportunities. I was surprised by my own latent knowledge of the brute. I even dragged him up to the temple to see what I had identified as the biggest radish on the island. We spent an entire afternoon chasing daikon on Shiraishi, pushing back their leafy wigs to observe their features. Soon, we began to realize that some of the daikon were indeed renegades and seemed to have arms and, in one case, even legs!

It also became more and more apparent that the daikon isn't just a behemoth garden vegetable, it is omnipresent in the local people's lives as well. The daikon was virtually part of the Japanese family. We saw radishes sunning themselves on a veranda. We passed two daikon chatting on a ledge, and observed yet another sitting on a stoop next to some shoes.

With a promising career as a daikon photographer ahead of him, Chris left Shiraishi Island and headed back to Australia.

The next day, when I went up to visit the biggest radish on the island, I noticed it was gone! Just a large vacant hole represented its former self. All the rest of the daikon were still there in their neat little rows, but the biggest radish had mysteriously disappeared. I immediately suspected the maddish radish murderer.

I asked around the neighborhood, but no one seemed to know the whereabouts of the daikon, except for one elementary school student who said he had seen a large radish running for its life toward the port.

A couple of days later, I got an e-mail from Chris, who reported excitedly that he had seen a familiar-looking radish running through the streets of Sydney. That's when I knew that the big brute had indeed gotten away. He had escaped the maddish radish murderer! And as far as I know, he is still on the run.

Have you sighted the radish on the run? E-mail your photos of radish sightings to amychavez2000@yahoo.com


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