All Hydrangeas All the Time

This is the wagashi I was trying to base mine off of, unsurprisingly, Rabbit Moon・兎月 set the bar pretty high. Of course, it is made to mimic the hydrangeas that are in full bloom now. The ‘petals’ were bigger and had more burst than mine, so thats something I can improve on next time.

I mentioned that my neighborhood is spoiled with hydrangeas, and so I present: my walk to the grocery store and coffee shop. All of these are different bushes, I promise!

Sweet & Salty

This is actually a sneaky repeat, but I loved it so much I don’t mind. This is actually from 7/11 (you really can get/do anything there)! It’s a sakura mochi pudding with mizu yōkan・水ようかん (jellied sweet, smooth red bean paste) on top. I added the salted pickled cherry blossom for fun. I had this sweet tucked away for a while because it’s pretty shelf stable and I knew I would be missing spring as soon as it was over. Even though the hydrangeas are really incredible now, I love sakura season. Tomorrow I’ll try to take some pictures from around the neighborhood, its really spectacular.

May Snack of the Month: Kashiwa Mochi・かしわ餅

Kashiwa Mochi・かしわ餅 are often eaten during Children’s Day・子どもの日 which is usually around the first week of May during Golden Week holidays. It is a simple mochi with red bean paste inside wrapped in a decorative oak leaf. よもぎ・mugwort is another popular flavour for kashiwa mochi which has a fresh grassy taste. I opted for the simple kind.

I usually keep these flowers at my bedside and they are the most beautiful thing to wake up to, despite not knowing their name in neither English or Japanese.

First DIY Sweet: Hydrangea Edition

When I lived in Tokyo I went to a few classes to make Japanese sweets so it wasn’t my absolute first attempt at wagashi but it was my first solo attempt! All I can say is, I further understand why this is a specialized profession.

The pink color is a result of mixing red cabbage and lemon juice, it was really interesting to experiment and that is one aspect I would like to try again. Inside, I made a mochi ball, or dango, which is surrounded by white bean paste and then topped with the coloured jellies using agar agar.

So similar to the hydrangea・ajisai・紫陽花 I showed earlier, this is a pretty classic seasonal sweet that might be found in sweet shops when the hydrangeas begin to bloom.

I might need a few more tutorials before my next attempt, though I did learn a lot and have a fun doing it. I guess the bar has been set pretty high by all my usual sweet shops!

Another Classic

I obviously have favourite types of Japanese sweets but I do have a go at trying new things or revisiting things from before. A really classic sweet is warabi mochi・わらび餅. It’s a bracken starch jelly which is often clear but mine was made with black sugar so had a really nice depth to it. Best served chilled and then topped with kinako powder (toasted soybean flour). I must have tried it a few times before but was surprised how much I liked it this time! Summer snacks are great.

Warm Weather Favourites

A year round popular Japanese sweet is yōkan, a firm, jellied sweet often featuring red bean paste. There is a firmer, denser variety but when it gets hot out all I want to eat is chilled mizu yōkan・水羊羹. Mizu means water so it’s a more slippery, juicy paste. It’s hard to think of anything comparable in western sweets and maybe I’m not doing it justice. But trust me when I say it is one of the most pleasant things you could eat on a hot day. Also, I just can’t get enough of these flowers!

Hiking in Itoshima: Nijodake・二丈岳 Edition

I saw a sunny window in the middle of a rainy week and I jumped at the chance to get out this morning. I headed out east to Itoshima, where I’ve been hiking a few times but not on this path. It was lovely! The views there are usually quite pretty because its so close to the ocean.

I walked from the station to the trailhead, where there was a bit of an jump up. Good to set the tone for the hike! It was a lot of kind of steep uphill but it was very beautiful. A couple hours later I made it to the summit.

This is maybe the 4th little token I’ve collected hiking in Itoshima, they are such a great idea. I found a few boulders and had my lunch with a view.

I can’t believe how lucky I got with the weather after this gray week. I found some pretty fields, shrines, and waterfalls! Which were all looking good thanks to this weeks rain. And a cool foot bridge.

Hiking course complete! So I made my way down to a different station, walking along the country side homes, in Japanese its called ‘inaka’. One of my all time favourite things about inaka is the food!

More often than not I get lucky and find these little side-of-the-road, honour-system food stalls. Typically they are produce but in Sasaguri I got miso, and today I bought pickled daikon! I love them so much.

I love, love, love summit-to-sea hikes, and again this is pretty easy to do in Itoshima. After splashing around in waterfalls and getting a ton of sun it was so nice to dip my toes in the ocean and relax a bit before heading back home. I was so happy and lucky to get out today and really hope I can sneak in another hike during rainy season.

As always, check out my course on Yamap!

Hydrangeas and a Unique Fukuoka Treat

Mini Japanese lesson! It’s about sweets, it’s important. Sweets are sometimes called kashi・菓子. There are different ways, but that is one of them. Putting another character (in our case, the character: 和) the sound is changed to ‘gashi’.

The ‘wa’ in wagashi・和菓子 refers to Japanese style. (It is also the same character in Reiwa・令, the current Japanese age. It is now year 3 in Reiwa, it began when the previous emperor absconded and his son ascended. Anyway!) The vast majority of the sweets I write about are wagashi. The ‘yo’ in yōgashi・洋菓子 refers to western style. Think cookies, cupcakes, whatever.

This super cool minazuki・水無月 from Rabbit Moon・兎月 is a unusual combo of the both! This is actually a Fukuoka original as I learned. A jellied sweet wrapped in a bamboo leaf, usually red bean or matcha flavour traditionally eaten in the summer. The flavour of mine? French salted caramel! I’ve never tried anything like it, it was so good, I will eat many more this summer I’m sure.

Hydrangea Season

In the beginning of our early rainy season, hydrangeas started lining the streets everywhere near my place. They are still starting, but now I am seeing a lot blue ones like these.

Hydrangea, or ajisai・紫陽 are a popular wagashi and I had a hunch Kichi Zoh would pull through and they did not disappoint! I love the mix of blues, pinks, purples and crystal-like raindrops mimicking the morning dew.

I just am crazy for the slightly more impressionist, abstract wagashi. One of these rainy says I might try my hand at a hydrangea.

Rainy Season Mood

We are into the rainy season over here, which has definitely led to less hiking but no lack of sweets. The skies are always a little grey but at least still bright. This pretty iris wagashi is from Rabbit Moon・兎月 again. There’s a chance the sun will come out this weekend so I’m crossing my fingers to get out of the city a bit and seem some flowers out in their natural habitat because hydrangea season just started. Here’s hoping!