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.
Hard to beat this summer combination. Frothed matcha poured over matcha ice cubes with amanatsu daifuku・甘夏大福. Amanatsu is a summer citrus that has the bitter tanginess of a grapefruit with a deep sweetness. This one has white bean paste covering the candied, pulpy citrus.
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!
I’ve been really going into the classic desserts and sweets lately! It’s been years since I’ve had this one: anmitsu・あんみつ. This is a real old classic, and can be found in cafes, sweet shops, restaurants, grocery stores or convenience stores. It is made from agar jelly cubes (algae based gelatin), anko (red bean baste) and fruit. And sauce! Typically white or in this case black syrup・黒蜜 which has a really nice molasses kind of taste.
It’s available year round but is definitely most popular in the summer. The toppings can really vary a lot, popular ones are mochi, custard, ice cream, matcha toppings or different fruits. This one had salted beans and sweet bean paste.
It was fun to put everything together, but I think next time I would really like to try it at a cafe that specializes in it.
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.
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!
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.