My grandmother, Connie (Kanako) Komori, is a nisei Japanese Canadian who grew up in West Kelowna. Connie used to travel several hours north from our home in Kamloops to Valemount in the fall to pick matsutake. She walked in pine groves towards the hummocks that mushrooms make when they push their fleshy caps towards the sunlight. Brushing aside the carpet of pine needles and pressing her palm to the soil at the base of a pine tree, she felt for a stirring. She uncovered perfect mushrooms—tight capped and firm, with white and brown flesh radiant as though illuminated from inside. Watching Connie forage then, it seemed as though a silent frequency, like the smells that guide keen dogs, directed her even-keeled perambulations.
Now that Connie is eighty-four years old, she doesn’t make the annual foraging trip. Her friends are kind, and they bring bags of frozen matsutake down to her every so often. She turns them into matsutake gohan to share with her family and friends.