Hiking in Tachibanayama・立花山: Sunrise Edition

There’s a first time for everything, and today was the day I woke up at 3:00am to go chase the sunrise. A few of us avid hikers drove up and made the quick hike up. Full disclosure! Most of these are my incredibly talented friend’s pictures from his amazing camera and the boring unedited ones are mine.

The sun rises very early in the summer so it was a little brighter than we planned on the way up, but incredibly beautiful.

Even at such a low elevation we were above the clouds, which in this sunrise pic look like the ocean I think.

I’ve been to this area a few times, it’s a pretty popular hike because if it’s accessibility and being beginner-friendly. It was really nice to have the place to ourselves.

It was such a nice start to the day and I would definitely go on another sunrise trek again.

As always, here is my hike on Yamap!

Hakata Minazuki Tour Continues・Red Bean Triangle

A more classic take on Hakata Minazuki・博多水無月 from Flower Moon・花月堂, a truly beautiful shop that I stopped by for the first time. That’s one of my favourite parts (top fav is the sweets) about finding all the minazuki in the city, it gives me a great reason to explore new areas of the city and new sweet shops.

This one is wrapped so perfectly with a bamboo leaf and is adzuki flavoured with tiny little beans scattered throughout. Perfect on a hot day like today! Like I mentioned before, this is traditionally eaten to ward off evil spirits and I am happy to contribute by eating as many as I can.

Happy Wagashi Day! (AKA Christmas in June)

What a great day! This holiday goes all the way back to 848!! Rabbit Moon・兎月 was celebrating by giving out these super fun bags to eager customers. I love it! I celebrated my going to Rabbit Moon, the first sweet place I came to in Fukuoka and one of the reasons I started this blog. I got the seasonal namagashi, a beautiful intricate piece with purple sweet potato paste. A tradition I can get behind.

As a lovely piece explains:

It started in the year of 848 in the Heian period when plague was spreading throughout Japan. With the hope that this disease would stop and everybody would live healthily and happily, the Emperor Ninmyō changed the era to Kashō and prayed to the God with an offering of sixteen Japanese sweets. It was on the 16th of June and the number of the sweet offering was associated with the date. Since then this day became the Wagashi Day and people ate Japanese sweets and wished a happy life. This custom carried on until the Edo period.

Sakura Junction

I might have gotten a few other pieces that I can enjoy throughout the week. Happy wagashi day, I hope everyone can take a little sweets break today, it’s tradition!

Trip to Tugi

Welcome to one of my favourite shops in Fukuoka, Tugi! It’s so beautiful and their innovation equally matched by the deliciousness of their sweets. They have monthly specials and I always look forward to checking out their new items. Here is the daily selection of ohagi (sweet rice and bean paste), namagashi (bean paste, flour, sugar sweets) mushigashi (steamed sweets) and monaka (rice wafer and bean paste).

I don’t usually have drinks that aren’t plain coffee or tea but if I see something unusual I can’t help myself. Tugi has あんこソーダ・anko soda, or read bean soda! It’s smooth red bean paste with simple syrup and a splash of lemon topped with soda. It was so good! Definitely happy I tried it.

I took my sweets home and sat down to my matcha set. I got one of the monthly specials, black sugar walnut mochi・黒糖胡桃餅 made with black rice. Really everything they do is incredible, this one was no exception.

Hakata Minazuki Tour Continues: Warabi Mochi Edition

A hybrid sweet! My Hakata minazuki・博多水無月 challenge continues. This time from Umeya・梅屋 in southern Fukuoka. It’s a mizazuki wrapped in warabi mochi.

I posted a little while ago about warabi mochi, a classic Japanese sweet with bracken starch and kinako (toasted soy bean flour). The inside is very, very soft jellied red bean paste.

It was very interesting, I love seeing the shops individual interpretation of this wagashi. I guess because it’s so new (born in 1999) there’s not as much tradition so a lot of creativity is involved.

Hakata Mizazuki・博多水無月 Pineapple Edition

Sweets in the wild! I met a friend in Hakata, central Fukuoka and the namesake for this month’s wagashi, Hakata minazuki・博多水無月. This one (on the right) from Imada・今田和菓子 is pineapple, agar agar (algae gelatin) and white bean based and was so refreshing on a hot day.

Outside of Rabbit Moon・兎月 I saw this poster that details all the shops participating in making minazuki and what flavours they have. Well, I took it as a challenge. 2 down, many more to go! They are really spread out throughout the prefecture so I will have lots of opportunity to explore and walk around.

Like I mentioned before, the name is taken from the ancient Japanese calendar word for June. Luckily these sweets will be around until the end of July. I need to get busy!

Hiking in Itoshima: Tate Ishi・立石 Edition

Another sunny weekend! Rainy season is no problem if this pattern keeps up. A few people had told me about this very beautiful, mini hike in Itoshima that was a little windy so I was saving it for warmer weather. Itoshima is a bit of a beach town and it was great to explore around.

There are near panoramic view going most of the way up the mountain. Every 3 feet I stopped to take pictures, it’s really a prefect quick hike.

The terrain is unlike anything like I’ve seen in Fukuoka, you can see different rock sediment and its nearly all exposed rock. Most other places have more tree cover or are much softer earth.

These are all 3 different little beaches I popped into. Everything is so close and compact around here so it’s easy to see a lot.

Of course it wouldn’t be a hike without roadside produce! After I got off the course I waslked past some beaches and made my way over to the big rock/mini mountain. I think this is one of the most popular areas in Itoshima, every time I come to Itoshima with people we wind up here. I made my way to the other side of the rock to have lunch.

Maybe unsurprisingly I brought a sweet from Kichi Zoh with me. This one is special for June. It’s called minazuki・水無月 which is the name for June in the old Japanese calendar, before the Gregorian calendar was introduced to Japan. It literally means ‘month with no water’ which is hard to believe because June is rainy season. Interesting Japanese language tidbit, the 無・na typically means: no, none, without. However in old times it was also a possessive particle, so means the month full of water! Learning Japanese is a trip.

Anyway! The sweet minazuki is red bean on jellied mochi and was super good! I think I see more in my future this month.

As always, here is the course I took on Yamap.

Mini Hiking in Saga Prefecture: Kagamiya Edition

Rainy season thankfully took a little break last weekend and a friend and I were able to get out of the city and go on a little hike. It was really beautiful! At the top there were cafes and locally made pottery shops, so quite different than my usual summits!

The locker-looking thing on the left is a fresh egg vending machine. I was kicking myself for having bought a dozen the day before! If you look really closely you can see the times the eggs were laid. I love little spots like this in the countryside and of course love finishing a hike at the beach. I need to start bringing my bathing suit on hikes. Hopefully we get weather this good again this coming weekend!

And here is the course we took on Yamap

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!

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.