Sakura Manjyu

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I’m in the middle of the report about the visit in Japan. However, I created this sweet from being inspired by Sakura/Cherry blossom in Japan in Spring time and cannot resist introducing them here any longer.

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[Sakura Manjyu]

Yes, these are the sweets I have used for the banner of this website. It is a type of Japanese sweet called ‘Nerikiri’. Its ingredients are white bean, sugar and rice flour. That’s all! So they are free from gluten, egg, dairy and even oil/fat. Very simple but it need a bit of practice to shape each one of them by hand into Cherry blossom or petals.

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The Rice Flour used for this is ‘Shiratamako’ which is made from glutinous rice ‘Mochi-Gome’. Although it is called ‘Glutinous’ this stickiness of rice is coming from the molecules of ‘Amylopectin’ and not from Gluten. The difference is that Gluten is Protein found in wheat and Amylopectin is a huge starch compound made of many sugar like molecules connected to each other so that it is Carbohydrate. They are completely different substances. By adding a small amount of sticky rice to ‘Shiro-An (White Bean paste)’ the texture becomes stretchy and bendy just like plasticine. When I add a little bit of natural food colouring it becomes more like a real cherry flower?

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When I have a market stall people often think these ‘Nerikiri” sweets are marzipan, but “NO” they are nothing like marzipan. You can shape each individual sweet by hand as you like so that it has to be skillfull to make ‘Nerikiri’ and the process is very time consuming. Among all Japanese sweets they are rather posh ones, I must say. They are often used for traditional Tea Ceremony because of its sophisticated delicate finish.

Although it is simple enough to make ‘Nerikiri’, in order to understand this sweet I have to start from explaining how to make ‘Shiro-An (White Bean Paste)’ first. It means I have to wait to post this recipe until I mention ‘Shiro-An’ making. Sorry for keeping you waiting. 💓

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Japan in Spring Time – Sakura/Cherry Blossom

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This became the post fact report, but I have been to Japan from the end of March and I just came back from there. So I will write about my visit in Japan in the next few posts regarding these topics.

  1. Japan in Spring Time (Sakura/Cherry Blossom)
  2. Onsen Inn and the Dinner
  3. Restaurants, Fast (Food) Ramen and Other Food
  4. Food Shop situation in Japan – Depa-chika
  5. Food Shop situation in Japan – Super Market
  6. Food Display in Japan

Japan has four completely different seasons and each one of them has its own good side. In my opinion Spring is the best season to visit Japan. One of the reasons for this is of course the famous Sakura/Cherry blossom. You get surrounded by Sakura/Cherry Blossom scenery anywhere you go. When you see the dense but fluffy pink clusters you cannot stop feeling very celebratory and having a supreme moment of bliss.

buds for webThe winter in 2014-15 was actually quite severe in Japan which brought lots of snow in many places especially in the north. When I arrived to the country, the weather seemed finally becoming milder and the cherry tree’s flower buds were just about to open … and then the cold air came down again and it became like winter suddenly. There was even blizzard in the northern part. I was glad I took my thick jacket with me as well as two lighter ones in my suitcase, however, I had to wait a little bit longer to see the buds open.

Actually the opening of Cherry Blossom is a big deal in Japan. People are looking forward to seeing the great scenery. We have a ‘Sakura Forecast’ on TV news every day in spring that shows the ‘Cherry Blossom Front’ telling people in which part of the country & when we can see the blossom.

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Sakura Blossom Front (sakura.weathermap.jp)

When finally the flower buds start opening, the Sakura Forecast tells which part of Japan you can see the blossom. Surprisingly Nagoya, the city where I stayed, was the second earliest place declared that Cherry blossom’s opened this year. That is unusually early for the city and very rare. So we did have the Sakura Blossom at last after waiting for a while.

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Once Sakura trees became nearly in full bloom I visited several famous spots in the area to view the scenery. They were Nagoya Castle, Tsurumai Park and Yamazaki River bank.

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Nagoya Castle through pink shades of Sakura. Shame the sky was not blue …

I have been to the first two of these places to view blossom in the past, however, it was Yamazaki River that really amazed me with the scale and the beauty!

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Yamazaki River at dusk. Dense pink canopy continues for several miles

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People enjoy walking along Yamazaki River with many Sakura trees in full bloom

Comparing to other places where people sit down feasting underneath the light pink canopy until the late night, along the Yamazaki River people were just admiring the beautiful scenery. Some area was lit up to show the different look during the evening which created another great atmosphere. Many bats flying around over the river showed that balance of nature is well protected in this area too.

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Yamazaki River at night (Photographed by Yuuta Hibino)

So, what was my thought? Excellent! Even just for seeing this view it is worth visiting Japan. It was very nice to see the city covered in pink fluff and everybody appreciating the scenery. Lots of people, including many foreign tourists, visit the spots for walking, taking photos, having picnic or just quietly viewing.

I thought we are very privileged living in this fortunate part of the world without worrying about starvation, sheltering from bombing or escaping from massacre. We also should not forget that so many people who lost family members in the 2011 earthquake/tsunami disaster were viewing the same sight under the same sky. It is important to appreciate whatever you have at any time.

Happy Sakura Viewing.

The First Sign of Spring in My Garden

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We have the first flower/bloom in a year in my garden right at the moment. It is Camellia. It was already here when we moved in so I don’t know the specific horticaltural name unfortunately. It is ‘the red blossom one’. The blossom is rather nice but it had a tough few years. It was maybe because that Blue Tits seem to like pecking the buds and it was not given the chance to open them properly. Although it does not have millions of blossoms even this year, it created good enough number to admire. Well done Camellia. You made me very happy.

I don’t do any gardening during winter. When the sunlight starts becoming slightly brighter and it gets warmer, I notice the first sign of spring in my garden. I can see it even through the window of the back room. When I notice this first sign of spring there is one thing I have to do. Although the sky is brighter, the air is still quite cold so I often hesitate to do the task and delay…

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What I see from the window is Clematis, Clematis on the trellis which stands right next to the back room. I can see tiny buds are appearing from the almost dead looking stems. During the growing season Clematis’ stems tangle up each other and it goes in all sort of directions. It is only in its dormant period that I can see the structure of the plant without any leaves. You should tidy up and navigate the stems to the right directions right now so that it will look good in summer time.

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Buds are starting to appear from almost dead looking stems of Clematis

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But you must hurry to do the task! Because once you notice the newly appearing buds, they start to grow very fast. If you hesitate going outside, it will be too late to do the task and the leaves are tangled up in the blink of an eye. Almost every year I hesitate to go outside a little too long and struggle to do the task properly later.

However, this year, I managed to do it already without any hesitation. I even re-painted the trellis. No tangling at all.

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Oops, some leaves are painted as well.

I just hope the Clematis flowers well this year. Last year it was not its best at all.

Happy Gardening.