The transition period from the end of a year to New Year in Japan is interesting. Traditionally we close a year by listening ‘Joya-no-kane’, 108 gongs of a huge bell at a Buddhism temple. In the Buddhism world it is believed that each person has 108 evil passions so each time hitting the bell it is removing our passion from us before starting the new year.
However, when we celebrate the New Year in a totally Shinto style. Of course we are all sin-less thanks to the Joya-no-kane on the previous night so it is a happy celebratory morning. When I was a child my family used to have a morning bath and changed into brand new underwear. When we sat at the table the first thing to do is haveing a little alcoholic beverage called ‘O-toso’ in a flat goblet and hope that all family would be well and healthy all through the year. We moved onto the breakfast having ‘O-sechi’ (special New Year meal prepared previously) and ‘O-zoni’ (Mochi in broth).
There are so many other customs we do only in New Year but one of them is placing ‘Kagami-Mochi’ in certain places. It is basically a set of two round mochi ( which are pounded glutinous savoury rice and not the dessert mochi sweets with ice cream inside) with a citrus fruit ‘Dai-dai’ on top. Normally it also gets decorated with some green leaves and white paper cut into Shinto style, but how you decorate it depends on the family.
All the things I wrote above are the customs in Japan. I’ve been living in the UK for a long time and haven’t done much traditional custom in the past, however, I felt I wanted to do some for this year so I made Kagami-mochi.
The year 2021 has just started but we are already in the fifth day in the New Year! Since we entered into this pandemic time has passed too fast. Now we are facing an even tougher situation particularly in the UK and our movement will be more restricted soon.
Ox Year has begun!
For celebrating the New Year I created some Japanese sweets. One of them is the red and white sweet with Japanese ‘Mizuhiki’ design that I used for my New Year card. Another one is this sweet. According to the Chinese zodiac, 2021 is the year of the Ox. I know the design on this sweet is a cow and not ox nor bull, but in Japan we include all their family.
I made this sweet with an image of a happy cow jumping up on the spring field. I wanted to create something rather comical to cheer us up by hoping this year will be a better one than 2020!
This sweet is vegan and gluten free.
Happy New Year!
Wishing you all a wonderful safe Happy 2021!
The 16th of June is ‘Wagashi’ Japanese Sweet Day. Although the ceremony is an old tradition that started in 848, it was forgotten once for a long time and reintroduced to the modern Japanese people in 1979. As a part of the ceremony we place sixteen sweets as an offering to the God in order to pray for good health.
Instead of offering sixteen sweets I have been introducing sixteen sweets from all my creation of the previous year recently (2018, 2017 and 2016 with the more detail of the Wagashi Day).
My Sixteen Wagashi in 2019
So I introduce sixteen Wagashi from all the Japanese sweets I created in the year 2019 here.
Happy Wagashi Day for you!
Around the New Year’s Day period I feel like I am more Japanese than any other time of a year. It must be because New Year is traditionally such a big event for Japanese and we have three days national holiday in Japan. As my New Year card I used the photo of ‘Kagami Mochi’ sweet this year. Kagami Mochi, two pieces of round Mochi placed on top of each other and decorated with a citrus with a leaf called ‘Daidai’, seemed to be a very spiritually Japanese thing for me. My spirit has been still in traditionally Japanese mode all through January and my second sweet of the year 2020 is this ‘Temari’ Ball.
Handcrafted Art ‘Temari’ Balls
‘Temari’ is a Traditional Japanese handcrafted ball which is made with cloth and embroidery. The materials and pattern provide a very Japanese quality. I made a sweet which is supposed to look like a Temari. Instead of creating a pattern of embroidery I tried to produce the Japanese-ish image with the colour combination.
I made two types of Temari sweet in a different colour combination, one with pink and purple and the other one with green and orange-yellow, and placed a tiny golden ball on top.
The darkest colour of each type is coloured with food. The purple with Ube, purple sweet potato, and green with ‘Match’ Green tea. Both types have a ‘Koshi-An’ Azuki Red bean paste as the centre filling so you can enjoy the taste combination of “Purple sweet potato x sweet Bean paste” and “Matcha x sweet Bean paste”, I assure you that both go so well.
This sweet is Vegan and Gluten free.
Happy Boxing Day!
It wasn’t a White Christmas in London this year but here you’re, you can have one! This is a Japanese sweet ‘White Christmas’.
It’s Vegan & Glute free.
Dear Wagashi Lovers in London!
There is something I’d like to announce with my great pleasure. Sakura Junction’s sweets have been back on the shelves! Since the Kimono shop which was serving my sweets for three years had sadly closed down a year ago, I was asked many times by the Wagashi lovers where they could get my sweets. Except on some occasions when I sell my sweets in a market stall, none were available to buy for the general public. However, now I can tell you that my sweets are back on shelves in London.
That is at The Havan Store (262 Kensington High Street, W8 6ND London) which is an Ethical Lifestyle boutique they have just started serving my sweets at their Matcha Tea Bar from this month.
So the first ‘Wagashi’ sweets at their Matcha Bar is Japanese Maple that I have introduced in my previous post. In the shop you can have the sweet with their Matcha tea which has something significant about. I’ve had Matcha tea in several places but their one is very special and memorable. It’s very smooth which is almost cream-like. I took a Matcha enthusiast to this shop and she was so amazed and loved it.
The shop’s ethical theme is another thing that I like about this shop. You will find something unusual and interesting to you.
My Japanese Maple sweet (Vegan & Gluten Free) is available at the Havan store during November. Enjoy! 🍁
What I like about Japanese sweets is that they are so seasonal. The colour, design and ingredients are all reflecting the season. For instance in spring we create lots of Sakura Cherry blossom sweet and in November it is officially Autumn so we make sweets of Autumn colour.
‘Momiji’ Japanese Maple
One of the most famous plant leaves in Autumn colour is the Japanese Maple. It is called ‘Momiji’ in Japanese and is famous for its leaves having the beautiful shape with the most delicate cut and it changes the colour into a very vivid red colour amongst all Acer family.
Yaaay! I have finished the Halloween themed Wagashi Making Workshop in London. I always prepare enough material for going to any events just in case for any situation and some sweet bean paste left with me after the class. I wanted to use it creating something interesting. I was in the Halloween mode and wanted to make a playful design.
So, this is what I created with the green paste (for Frankenstein’s Monster) and the orange one (for Jack-O’-Lantern). It’s a Monsterrrrr! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!
You might not be able to see well but the Monster is opening its mouth and the inside its mouth beyond its sharp fangs is orange.
I wanted to play with it more and made the mouth bloody too.
It is Vegan and Gluten free.
Have the enjoyable Halloween🎃, everyone!
My sweet for this year’s Halloween is Spider! I made another one and posted it a little earlier. I am not a great fan of spiders. They are spooky but I don’t like killing them. Whenever I find them in my flat, no matter how big or small, I look for a container and place them in it and release them outside. They are good guys and not our enemies.
When it comes to the Halloween theme the colour scheme is orange, purple, black and white? I covered all of them in this sweet. The parts that the spider’s legs are touching have got a small dent on the purple surface. These marks are making the impression that the spider is walking on a slightly wet surface and creating tiny ripples.
This sweet is Vegan and Gluten free.
Have a wonderfully spooookitacular weekend, everybody!