This is my stop during the blog tour for The Daydreamer Detective by SJ Pajonas. This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 4 till 8 April, you can view the complete tour schedule on the website of Lola’s Blog Tours.
How Sweet Potatoes Saved Japan by S.J. Pajonas
In The Daydreamer Detective, Mei returns home to her mother’s farm, broke and jobless, and just in time to help with the fall harvest. Her mom puts her to work picking sweet potatoes and Mei admits that they are her least hated vegetable. That’s because sweet potatoes have a long-standing place in the hearts of Japanese people and very nearly saved Japan from total starvation in the 18th century.
Back in the days of the samurai, Japan routinely went through famines caused either by poor weather or infestations. Many people died and the governments and lords of the time did their best to come up with alternate crops than rice to feed the people.
In 1732 crop failures and pests led to another famine, Great Kyoho Famine, and a call was put out to anyone who could help come up with a solution to the problem. Aoki Konyo, lovingly-known as Professor Sweet Potato, thought that farming sweet potatoes was the answer to Japan’s famine problems. At the time, they were grown in southern areas of Japan, closer to Okinawa, and bringing them to the north was not possible because they spoiled easily. Konyo worked tirelessly to develop a strain of sweet potato that could be farmed in the cooler climates of central and northern Japan. Resistant to bad weather, the sweet potatoes he developed have a high yield (one vine can grow six or more potatoes), grow in poor soil, and can be planted season after season. His first crop was in 1735, and Konyo attended to them himself. From then on, many farms in central and northern Japan grew an abundance of sweet potatoes that helped save the population from starvation.
After Word War II, Japan rationed rice and sweet potatoes because there wasn’t enough to go around. So many people planted sweet potatoes wherever they could: school and home gardens, public parks, etc. Sweet potatoes were even hot on the black market! This was a time before transportation was used to bring food into the city so people took trains out to the countryside, where sweet potatoes were plentiful, just to buy them.
In Japan, the sweet potato is called satsuma-imo. “Imo” (pronounced “EE-mo”) refers to all fleshy tubers that are grown in the ground like white and yellow potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, and taro. The sweet potato is called satsuma-imo because it originally came from Satsuma Prefecture. Kagoshima, a port in Satsuma, often hosted sailing vessels from other nations and this is where the sweet potato is thought to have entered the country.
The Japanese love sweet potatoes! They can be roasted, boiled in a sweet soy sauce stock, made into tempura, or steamed and eaten on a cold winter day. I love teriyaki sweet potatoes over rice with nori. Oishii! Delicious! So next time you eat a sweet potato, remember how special they are to Japan and how even Mei enjoys digging them up in the fall.
Further reading on sweet potatoes – http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2011/11/25/food/sweet-dreams-of-a-childhood-winter-warmer
Luck? Forget it. Mei Yamagawa is fresh out of it. She’s just been downsized from her 3rd job in five years and her bank account is dry. Now, to keep her head above water, she must leave Tokyo and move back to her rural Japanese hometown. And there’s nothing worse than having to face your old rivals and ex-boyfriends as a failure while starting life over as a farm girl.
But when her best friend’s father is murdered, and her best friend is named the main suspect, Mei turns her daydreaming ways towards solving the crime. Between dates disguised as lunches with the town’s hottest bachelor chef, searching for clues, and harvesting sweet potatoes, Mei has a lot of non-paying work cut out for her.
Will she catch the killer before her bad luck turns worse? Or will she fry in the fire with the rest of her dreams of success?
You can find The Daydreamer Detective on Goodreads
Stephanie (S. J.) is a writer, knitter, amateur astrologer, Capricorn, and Japanophile. She loves foxes, owls, sushi, yoga pants, Evernote, and black tea. When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing or spending time outside, unless it’s winter. She hates winter. Someday she’ll own a house in both hemispheres so she can avoid the season entirely. She’s a mom to two great kids and lives with her husband and family outside NYC. They have no pets. Yet. When it comes to her work, expect the unexpected. She doesn’t write anything typical. Find her online at http://www.spajonas.com.
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of The Daydreamer. There will be two winners:
– One US Resident will win: One paperback copy of Adult Coloring Book Japan, One Signed Copy of The Daydreamer Detective, One signed copy of Removed, and a surprise flavor of Pocky!
– One International Resident will win: One ebook copy of The Daydreamer Detective, One ebook copy of Removed, and One ebook of each Rice Cooker Revenge, Washing Statue Wanderlust, and Mamachari Matchmaker