Memory Lane

Possibly the first time I’ve had fū manjū・麩饅頭 from Kumaya・熊屋, this was a soft, moist and salty black sesame dough with smooth & light red bean paste inside. They are the perfect thing during hot weather because they feel simultaneously refreshing & hydrating while light and fluffy. The last area I lived in Tokyo had a sweet shop that specialized in these and were probably the last ones I had eaten. Happy to break the spell.

A Perfect Day

Sakura season has peaked, making for far fewer crowds and a carpet of fallen petals. I couldn’t wait to get home to eat this other-wordly sakura ohagi from a new favourite Kumaya・熊屋. The base is sweet sticky rice with the most delicate and smooth blend of white bean and fragrant sakura paste glazed on top. I don’t usually get ohagi, they are often more lunch sized than snack sized but this was so amazing I couldn’t get over it; possible the best ohagi I have ever had.

Here are a few more sakura pictures near the castle ruins aka my snack spot (featuring some urban wildlife).

Adrenaline

Nothing fills my heart and soul with a greater rush of emotion that finding a new sweet shop and asking questions to the staff about every single one of their products. It’s wonderful, it’s fun (for everyone I hope) and I learn so much. Enter Kuyama・熊屋 a shop from Nagasaki, with the nicest staff and really unique sweets. On top is a brown sugar mochi and the shiny pink ball is a strawberry jelly case around a cream and white bean paste interior. I went late in the afternoon when there was only a little left in terms of selection or room in my stomach. I will go back next week without fail.

Field Trip: Shirouzu Coffee

I spend too many hours with my spine doing its best impression of a shrimp, hunched over my laptop. Shirouzu Coffee is one of the places I do that the most frequently outside of my apartment. The coffee is always good and the seasonal menu items are as delicious as they are fit for instagram. I got an amou (local variety) strawberry ice cream sandwich for lunch. It was a great computer break because it really required both hands but it was also some of the most beautiful ice cream I have ever had.

Hearts to Heavens

This is in Yusentei, the beautiful magical historical Japanese garden and tea house about a 10 minute walk from me. I never go here enough. picked up a sakura & white bean filled pastry and relaxed there for the afternoon. There was a wedding being photographed there, unsurprisingly because it is so beautiful but it was the first time I had seen it! You can get a bit more of a sense of the building with these pictures maybe.

A Deluxe Cake, Indeed

This is another from Suzuya, a famous (in the world of Japanese sweets) shop in Wakayama prefecture. On a bus ride after our pilgrimage hike, my friend who is well accustomed to my sweet tooth sent me a link for this place she had happened to find close by. I was so excited, how lucky to just happen across this place! Their signature item is called Deluxe Cake and it is really delightful and even by my standards, fairly sweet. It is a sort of cake that sandwiches a white and red bean jam paste that is wrapped in white chocolate. Definitely not for every day, but it is amazing. Fun fact, the heir to the Japanese throne, Prince Ashikino and his then wife Princess Noriko were served these cakes when they visited the area.

Little Triangles

Another souvenir from a train station. This is most famously from Kyoto but this is a modern take on nama yatsuhashi・生やつはし. Rather than cinnor red bean flavour on the classics, this is a red bean and black sesame version. I always love the gritty sweetness of black sesame in desserts, the mochi was so, so soft and it’s no surprise it’s such a common souvenir.

Back Home

The only good part of coming back from vacation is the souvenirs or ōmiyage・お土産. In Japan, souvenirs refer nearly exclusively to food. I got these little mochi at a quick stop in a town on the way back. They are red pean paste mixed with pickled plum. Sounds weird but it was so lovely and not too sweet but a nice gummy chewy texture.