New Year Upgrade

Today I get to try out some new toys. I got a new chasen ・茶筅 yesterday in Kurume after looking around for a little while. Here’s my 1.5 year old chasen, I got a very cheap one in Kyoto when I first thought to start making matcha at home. For about a week, little bamboo pieces started falling out. It looks so sad! Not sure what I’ll do with the old one yet…

I’m really happy to start “re-investing” in these products. Making conscious purchasing decisions with these items is really important to me. I really wanted to wait until I could make a connection with the item, seller and environment and was so happy with the little shop I got it from.

In Kurume I wandered around the park (it snowed a lot) and went to the department store sweet shops. Minamoto Kitchoan・宗家 源吉兆庵 has some truly beautiful sweets so I splurged a bit. Also last weekend I finally restocked on matcha at Ohori Terrace, just in time.

First up is this little kumquat, white bean sweet. Really soft and delicate, juicy and tart kumquat. Excited to try their other products! I don’t often go to department stores, for sweets or anything, but I went twice this week. Department stores in Japan can be extremely fancy and luxurious, definitely more Holt Renfrew than Canadian Tire.

Roses are red, violets are blue, this mochi is soy sauce based, dreams do come true!

Red roses, berries and mochi

This is a 醤油餅・shōyu mochi, or soy sauce mochi, but its quite lightly flavoured and mixed with white bean. The salty, smooth, sticky, sweet is really nice. It reminds me of mitarashi dango at festivals a little bit. It’s made out on the coast at Itoshima Dango but I bought them at the grocery store near me. Most of the little local places are still on their New Years holidays so I’ve been going to the more major grocery stores lately. They will open again soon and I will run back with open arms.

New Years Sweets V2: Year of the Bull

Welcome to the year of the bull! A cute like white bean and yuzu dorayaki bull. 雄牛・おすうし・osu-ushi is ‘bull’ but I really don’t know too many animal names in Japanese and asked for the yuzu cow when I ordered him from Kichi Zōh.

This is the little clay bell I got from Kanōdake shrine on the New Years hike. It will make my wishes come true. So far it’s been a cute start to the year.

New Year Sweets V1: Hanabira Mochi

Hanabira mochi・葩餅 is one of my favourite Japanese sweets, probably because I only get it once a year. It’s so soft and delicate and is just a nice, gentle sweet to start the new year with. When I picked this one up from From Kichizo・吉蔵 they gave me a calendar as a new year present! Just after Christmas I hung my shimekazari on my front door to ward off bad spirits.

Two years ago my friend from Osaka taught me how to make Kansai style ozoni like her mother does every year. It uses white miso and is really creamy and nice. That’s what I made for dinner tonight but maybe I’ll try Fukuoka style ozoni when I use up my kagami mochi on January 11.

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.

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.