Could it be barley, rye, or wheat?

In the next episode some of the characters discuss grain crops for their food provisions. The original text only says 麦 (mugi), which could be wheat (ko-mugi or small mugi), barley, rye (oh-mugi or big mugi) or oat (karasu-mugi, probably).

First I’ve always wondered which of those things what I was eating was. Second, I’m good with categorizations but very bad at differentiating members of categories. Quite frankly I often feel I couldn’t care less (I’m amazed at the fact that for some time as a child I used to love memorizing all the car names). I knew there were wheat and the rest. I knew I loved porridge which I’m quite certain is made of oat. While I’m at it I also love oat biscuits so I may have inclination towards oat in general but beyond that was a mystery zone, so I had to fix that for that one sentence in the next episode, and after some patient work found out that

  • Japanese people have long grown and eaten barley and wheat,
  • loved eating cake made of ground wheat (manju and such), and
  • eaten barley mixed and cooked with rice in Bakin’s time,

so there it is. What Sadayuki meant by mugi had to be oh-mugi, or barley.

wiki 大麦

Wikipedia photo of Oh-mugi (barley)


On a completely different note, this made me think of some interesting historical artifact in Asia. There are many corner shops in Singapore but they’re not called ‘corner shops’.

Before I move on, for readers who’ve just muttered to themselves what the heck is a corner shop, it’s a small shop like a tobacconist which sells small items of daily needs such as toiletries, soft drinks, chocolates and crisps. I believe the North American equivalent is a drugstore.

Back to our attractive Pacific island, these little shops are called ‘provision shop’ there. When I learnt it the first time I dared not ask the local lady who told me the fact but couldn’t help imagining those shops originally serving for the needs of soldiers on overseas duties and the name getting stuck.

Ever since then the word provision became to me connotative with the Pacific island just off the equator and the drugstores it houses. So this is why I remember Singapore once every few times whilst writing about Japanese warriors 200 years ago.


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