New Year’s Eve snackies

I got these from Dazaifu Baien while I was in Dazaifu last week. This little eggy, dried sweet is called Yorotsuyo・よろつよ and it is sort of like a meringue but with gelatin added in. The texture and mix of salty/sweet is really nice. I can’t think of anything I’ve had just like it. I was in Yanagawa for a couple days and I found a local pottery shop and got a shiny new matcha bowl. The shop owner was very sweet and gave me this little charm as a gift. Ready for the year of the ox to begin, tomorrow!

For the first day of 2021 and I’ll be hiking in Kanoudake. I cannot wait for the new years sweets to begin. And, like everyone else alive on earth, for this awful year to be over. I will eat the traditional end of year toshi-koshi soba tonight and osechi tomorrow after hiking.

Another New Favourite

Seems wild that I have not been here yet. It makes me excited to think about the other places I haven’t found yet. Sho itō・処いとう is a grade A super cute shop. It is in a tiny triangle shaped store beside the river, run by this lovely old woman. The sweets come in 2 sizes, small and medium, which is the first time I’ve seen this. Genius! Means I can get double. Anyone who has been to Japan knows how rampant the plastic waste is, but this shop is one of the most eco friendly I’ve seen that doesn’t explicitly advertise to be. She wraps them up like a little present I can unwrap at home.

Hoshigaki・干し柿 sweetDried persimmon

Imitation hoshigaki sweets are a top fav of mine, but that kind of sweet potato and the nori one was a first for me. The kurikinton・栗きんとんcandied sweet potato and chestnut is a new years staple but it was the first time I’ve seen it in a sweets shop, or before new years! It was delicious.

Mochi Day: The Best Day of My Life

beautiful little red bean mochi

I went to Togetsu a few minutes after 6:00pm, their seasonal closing time which I had forgotten about. The man who owns the shop saw me checking the time from inside and he ran out to tell me that from now until the end of the year they were only selling mochi, and of course kagami mochi. He tells me to wait and runs back inside. When he comes back he gives me these and apologizes for the shops seasonal change and tells me to come back tomorrow. Through tears of joy, I say yes.

Cut to the next day. I come back as promised and they really have changed everything for the new year! Its all mochi, all outside! The smell is incredible, the aroma of fresh mochi can be caught a block away. I’m already over the moon.

My Japanese abilities are humiliatingly bad, but I try to ask how to prepare the kagami mochi at home, for me to eat. It came out, however, as how is it made, at the shop. To my absolute shock and joy, the woman goes to the back and talks to the same man that gave me the mochi yesterday. He tells me to come to the back so I can have a tour of the shop and see how it is made!! This is just about the most busy time of year imaginable for them. I cannot believe it as 4 wagashi makers who have been making these neighborhood sweets and snacks and traditional customary foods show and tell me how the mochi is made. Truly cannot overemphasize, this is my Disneyland. I am so happy I cannot speak or take a picture.

This is already the best day of my life. But then. He asks if I would like to make my own. To say I made it would be a bit of a stretch because, well. These people have achieved a perfect product through a perfect system and technique. But I was involved and that means so much to me.

I was so so so happy to take home by beautiful baby kagami mochi. On new years I will turn it into zenzai or ozoni. Or both. I really can’t believe how lucky I was to benefit from his kindness and generosity. Every time I look at it it brings me so much joy. Japan, the neighborhood, and this shop have the most elegant, precise, intricate and immaculate items, but sometimes simple is special too.

Hiking in Ōnojō: Shiōjiyama

Welcome to my adorable Christmas eve hike! It was really rainy and cold in the city but meant I had the whole mountain to myself all day. I was in 四王寺山 and went to Ogusukuyama・大城山, Obarayama・大原山 and Iwayayama・岩屋山. The views are not really what you’re going for; the trails are really nice and there is some beautiful scenery though. I really liked this area, which is not surprising since it is right beside Dazaifu!

There are temples, tiny trails and also day campsites so there are lots of places to spread out (by myself). There is even a waterfall, though it is one that makes you question the definition of what constitutes a waterfall.

It was nice to see the end of Japanese maple leaves (momoji) even if they had fallen. I loved how misty, foggy and moody it was up there. A little weird vibe for Christmas but it felt nice, I would love to come back and see the other trails this area has to offer.

And since I was so close to Dazaifu I popped over to Taizen and got a white bean strawberry monaka! Because it is Christmas after all.

And of course, here is the path I took on Yamap!

Winter Strawberries

Japan is very focused on having highly seasonal food items. A personal conspiracy theory I hold is that because of the lack of natural winter fruits (citrus aside), it was just randomly decided to put strawberries in winter. They are all, always grown in greenhouses and you can go strawberry picking there. Except you can’t bring them home. You pay for a time slot to walk up and down the raised boxes of strawberries stuffing your face and gorging on strawberries dipped in condensed milk until you feel sick.

It’s… definitely an experience. This leads to the massive, bizarre popularity of Japanese Christmas cake (strawberry shortcake?) but more importantly: ichigo daifuku・いちご大福. Another one from Togetsu, this one is very delicate with white bean paste, my favourite combination.

Norwegian matcha

I found a cheese shop in Yakuin that is really pretty good and they had one of my favourites: Bruvost!! A very sweet and creamy, caramel-y brown cheese that I ate at any opportunity when I was in Norway for Christmas maybe 5 years ago. I can’t believe it now, it was an incredible trip. It went nicely with strawberries and matcha but I guess its usually with a tart jam in the morning.