It was ‘Hinamatsuri’ the Girl’s Day yesterday. I have mentioned about the Japanese culture of praying for the good health and happiness of girls on the 3rd of March on my previous post. We decorate our home with Hina Dolls of Emperor and Empress as well as some other figures on red carpeted shelves, that are between five to seven shelves (or even more) traditionally. I created some sweets in shapes of the dolls in the past. On this day we don’t just decorate but also eat a sweet called ‘Hishimochi’ which means diamond-shaped Mochi which I also have created it once before.
There is one sweet that people particularly in the Kyoto area eat for the Girl’s Day but I was not familiar with it until recently. The sweets are called ‘Hichigiri’. I heard that this sweet was born in the palace in the old time in probably the Heian period. People needed to make many Mochi to serve so many guests that they were too busy to roll up each Mochi piece into a ball shape. Then they just pulled small pieces and left the pulled shape as it was. If you understand ‘Kanji’ (Chinese) character you know Hichigiri (引千切) means literally ‘pull and cut into a thousand’. I could imagine that the Palace kitchen was so busy.😆
So this year I tried creating these sweets for Hinamatsuri.
At the end of June a place called Japan House opened up in the West part of London. I only knew its name and I didn’t know anything about it. So, one week after the grand opening I visited the place without any expectation. With their own introduction Japan House “is a project which aims to nurture a deeper understanding and appreciation of Japan in the international community, by creating a number of hubs from which to showcase and communicate Japan as a country of countless charms, able to enrich the rest of the world”.
From the entrance the ground floor level is spaced for the display of many different types of items such as a Bonsai plant, books, arty figures, unusual looking teapots and rubbish bin and then one particular thing on the window sill attracted my attention. It is a wooden object that comes with two parts as a set. One side has some carving on it and the other side has a hole. I wonder if anybody knows what this is.
You might not have guessed but I am a quite Harry Potter fan. I have to admit that I am not the young generation who grew up with the characters whilst the books were published but I have read all the stories and saw all the films. I even read the sequel story “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” which was written in the theatre script format. I generally like going to theatres and am also accustomed to reading scripts, however, in this book I occasionally had problems visualising the scenes described how it would be created on the live stage. As you can image the story was about the wizardry world so there are several scenes the characters are using magic or some un-natural event occurs. That is why I wanted to go and see it for real. For the people who would like to see the play, don’t worry I am not going to give away any spoilers here.
Do you know today, the 16th of June, is “the Wagashi Day”? ‘Wagashi’ means Japanese Sweet in general but how is this day connected with Japanese Sweet and what do people do this day?
The Wagashi Day and Sixteen Sweets
It started in the year of 848 in the Heian period when plague was spreading throughout Japan. With the hope that this disease would stop and everybody would live healthily and happily, the Emperor Ninmyō changed the era to Kashō and prayed to the God with an offering of sixteen Japanese sweets. It was on the 16th of June and the number of the sweet offering was associated with the date. Since then this day became the Wagashi Day and people ate Japanese sweets and wished a happy life. This custom carried on until the Edo period.
Sadly the custom diminished sometime later, but in 1979 Japan Wagashi Association reintroduced the Wagashi Day back into society by wishing that people would continue appreciating the magnificent Japanese sweet and carry on the beautiful food culture for future generations.
Although I have liked eating Japanese Sweet Wagashi since my childhood, it is not that long ago that I started making it myself. Since then I realised that Wagashi is such a versatile sweet which is made from very limited ingredients of just beans, rice powder and sugar basically. By wishing this world becomes a safe and wonderful place to everybody I re-introduce 16 sweets of mine that I made last year 2016.
Enjoy your Wagashi Day! 😀
I wandered into a little wonderland called ‘the Gingerbread City’.
It was a miniature town made of many Gingerbread Houses by different designers and architects.
They were constructed with all sorts of sweets and candies.
What kind of traditional Food do you have during the Christmas season? In England people have Roast Turkey with Gravy for their meal and then Mince Pie or Christmas Pudding for dessert or Tea.
I wanted to make some Japanese Sweet with a Christmas theme so after thinking for a few days decided to make this fusion sweet.
It might look like just a normal Christmas Pudding which is a wheat cake with lots of dried fruits and steamed in a quite big bowl. My version is much much smaller, just about 5cm in diameter. It is actually a very traditional Japanese sweet ‘Nerikiri‘ that is made from sweet Bean paste, rice flour and sugar. The white part is also made from sweet White Bean Paste and not icing sugar.
Officially it is Autumn now. In the UK the clock has been set back to Winter Time so that morning starts in darkness and the Sun sets very early. The weather has been becoming more and more wet and miserable. On the contrary in Japan Autumn is described as for 1. Sport, 2. Appetite, 3. Arts, 4. Reading Books and then 5. Great Autumn Colour and more!
The reason that “Autumn is for Appetite” is simply because there are so many tasty food that become available during this season. They are Mushrooms (including super Mushroom ‘Matsutake‘), Fruits (such as ‘Kaki’ Persimmon), Sweet Potatoes, Ginkgo Nuts and so on …
However, the delicacy we enjoy the most of all is ‘Kuri’ – Sweet Chestnut. Everybody loves Sweet Chestnut in Japan. I have to say that it is almost like “Kuri = Autumn” for Japanese. We make lots of sweet with Kuri Chestnut and we cook even rice with it.
So inevitably I chose Sweet Chestnut as the material for the sweet of November.
Kuri – Mochi Sweet Chestnut
On the 7th of July we have another traditional event in Japan. It is called ‘Tanabata 七 夕’. It seems like Tanabata originally came from China a long time ago but it became one of the Japanese traditions started in about Nara period (AD 710 to 794).
The story behind the event is like this …
In the evening of ‘Hinamatsuri‘ (Girls’ Day, the 3rd of March) I attended the Sake Tasting seminar which was organised by Japan Centre. The venue was the popular Ramen restaurant Shoryu near Piccadilly Circus in London. Although it was early evening on Thursday the Ramen shop was packed with Ramen lovers. As soon as we arrived in a private Dining Room downstairs we were welcomed with a glass of chilled sake 🍶. Lovely 💓
My little Rabbit Hina-ningyou
The 3rd of March is Girls’ Day in Japan. It is called ‘Hina Matsuri‘ or ‘Momo no Sekku‘ and we celebrate girls’ health and growth (Don’t worry we have Boys’ Day as well). This day we decorate ‘Hina Ningyou‘, the dolls of a princess and a prince or even with lots of their servants and music players on red carpeted shelved space, with Plum blossoms in a room.
My Hina Ningyou are Rabbits. I brought them when I came to England. They are very small and cute.
There is certain food we eat on the day that is all pretty and beautiful for girls of course. Main meal is definitely ‘Chirashi-zushi‘ which is Sushi rice served with colourful fish, vegetable and egg on top. We also have a clear soup with ‘Hamaguri‘ Big Clam.
One of the typical sweets for this day is ‘Hishi-mochi‘ which is Rice cake in a diamond shape in tricolours of pink, white and green). ‘Hina arare‘ (pastel coloured Rice crackers) and lots of sweets in flower shape & colours are often had as well. The girls have a drink called ‘Amazake‘ which is sweet Sake. Yes, it is a kind of Sake. Although there is alcoholic Amazake but normally we have sweet sake without alcohol, so young girls can have it on this Hinamatsuri.
I have been thinking what I should make for this day and wanted to try something new for me. And then one idea stuck in my mind so … here it is.