When I opened my blog for writing this new article I was so shocked to realize that it hasn’t been updated since the beginning of March. I know I haven’t posted much lately but there’s no excuse for nearly three months of absence. However, one thing I can tell you is that I have been creating sweets and there are lots of photos of them and half written articles in my folder. It was just because many things happened. We are at the end of May now and I have almost missed the opportunity to post about the beautiful Sakura season. Almost! We are still in springtime, right? So, it’s better late than never!
The beautiful season passed very quickly. I am talking about the Sakura Cherry blossom season of course. In a normal year cherry blossom flowers at the beginning of April. It’s the start of an academic year in Japan so all parents and children who are dressed up for the entrance ceremony to school take a photo with fully blossoming cherry trees. However, I heard that cherry blossom opened so early this year and it was actually the earliest flowering in 1200 years in Japan. It means that the parents and children could not have a memory shot in front of the beautiful sakura this year sadly.
Although it’s been so cold in the UK for 2-3 weeks now in May, we had wonderful weather at the beginning of April. It was good enough weather for viewing single-petal cherry blossoms which was also great timing when the strict lockdown was just eased a little. Lots of people were in the park but still socially distancing between each group.
For this springtime I made several cherry blossom sweets and the first ones are these. They might look similar to the one I made last spring but I introduced a little different technique.
The 3rd of March, was Hina-matsuri the Girls’ Day in Japan. People celebrated the girls’ healthy growth by placing Hina-dolls and having some special food and drink on this day. The most famous meal for this day is Chirashi Sushi with clear soy sauce based soup with clams. Since it is the flowering season of Plum tree, the day is also called Momo-no-sekku which means Plum blossom day. In sweets wise we have Hishi-mochi, a diamond-shaped tri-coloured mochi in green, white and pink, and Hina-rice-crackers etc.
I made a Mochi type sweet for this year’s Hina-matsuri. What I wanted to create was a mochi which reminds of Hishi-mochi sweet.
Do you look forward to springtime? I can tell you that actually spring has just started according to the old lunisolar calendar. The period of the beginning of spring is called ‘Risshun’ in Japan and it’s between the 3rd – 18th February this year. I must say that Japanese are the nation who’d like to celebrate any seasonal occasions so of course we never miss the chance at this particular time of year, however, it’s not for the beginning of spring.
The one day before the beginning of spring is called ‘Setsubun’ (the 2nd /Feb this year). It’s not a national holiday, but rather significant day for most Japanese and there are a few customs we do on this day depending on the area. One of the customs widely done on this day is ‘Mame-maki’. It’s the getting rid of demons and bringing luck into the house ritual. Quite often one of the family members wears a demon face-mask and stands at the entrance of the house and other people throw roasted soybeans (peanuts in shell instead in some area) at him/her from inside the house by shouting ‘Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!’ which means ‘Demon’s (Oni 👹) out! Luck gets in!’. Another popular custom is eating a futomaki sushiroll with seven fillings called ‘Ehoumaki’ by facing to a certain direction (it’s west-south-west this year).
Ehoumaki Sushirolls & Mame-maki Sweets
I created miniature versions of Ehoumaki sushirolls (cut version) and Soybeans in wooden cup for Mamemaki with Japanese sweets.
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!
How was the weather where you are yesterday? It was the day the full-moon should be seen last night that people in Japan celebrate and enjoy viewing the beauty of it. By hoping to see the beautiful full moon we traditionally eat round (moon-shaped) Mochi. However, the shape of the Mochi varies depending on the area.
I was hoping to see the beautiful full moon and made two types of Tsukimi Dango. ‘Tsuki’ means moon and ‘Mi (Miru)’ means to view in Japanese.
Yesterday, the 22nd of September, was the Autumnal Equinox Day this year. One week period around that day is called ‘Higan’ in Japan and people cleanse ourselves spiritually by doing right things and cleaning ancestors’ graves.
On the culinary side of this tradition during the week we have sweets called ‘Ohagi’. It is a mochi type sweet with half pounded sweet rice with ‘Azuki’ sweet red bean paste. Some of them are flavoured and decorated with ‘Kinako’ toasted soyabean powder, green seaweed or black sesame seeds.
I love Ohagi and can eat 2-3 pieces of them easily all one go! It is normally quite big and filling, and for the people who’d like to try all the flavours for a teatime it might be a little hard. So I made a version of all three types of sweets on one skewer! In this way everyone can taste all the flavours. 🍡
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.
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.