Cherry Blossom Forecast 2024 (Japanese version only) (Japanese version only) (Japanese version only)

when and where to see cherry blossoms (Japanese version only):

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Halloween has recently become known in Japan, but it's still an unfamiliar event to many of us.  Recently, we can buy Japanese-style confections modeled after Jack-o'-lantern.

There are some Japanese confections containing pumpin.


The colors of this confection are produced by pumpkin pulp and shell.

Yamaji(山路:mountain path)

This confection contains white bean paste, adzuki bean paste and green peas.

These confecitions are variations of ukishima(浮島) which is a steamed moist sponge cake that contains bean paste, sugar, eggs and flour.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Exhibition of Shoso-in Treasures

The Japan Meteorological Agency announced that Kogarashi-ichigou(木枯らし1号, the first cold wintry wind of the year) blew seven days later than last year in Kanto Region including Tokyo on the evening of October 26th.

The autumn imperial garden party was held with persons of merit in various fields at Akasaka Gyoen on 28th, but it was rainy and cold with a high of 11 degrees Celsius and a low of 10.

The typhoon No.14(Chaba) passed away tonight.
The 62th Exhibition of Shoso-in Treasures is being held from Octber 23rd to November 11th at the Nara National Museum.
Shoso-in(正倉院: The Shosoin Repository) is a wooden treasure house that Todai-ji Temple(東大寺) owns. It is a raised-floor-style log house with a tiled roof and has a moisture-proof property.

We can see the treasures only at this exhibition once a year and the exhibits vary from year to year, so a lot of visitors flock to the exhibition.

Shoso-in served as a time capsule. The treasures are in a remarkable state of preservation because they have been doubly-protected by wooden footed containers with lids and a high-floored log house. We can see about 1250 year-old and best-preserved masterpieces.

Shoso-in's treasures comes from the relics of Emperor Shomu(聖武天皇, 701-756) that his consort Empress Komyo(光明皇后, 701–760) dedicated to Todai-ji Temple(東大寺) shortly after his death. The list of those offerings says that she dedicated his relics for the reason that they provoked deep sadness. The tresures include the personal belongings used in Emperor Shomu's daily life, ritual articles from Todai-ji and artifacts which were brought to Japan from China, India and Iran along the Silk Road.

Emperor Shomu and Empress Komyo believed in Buddhism deeply. The emperor set up Todai-ji and the Great Image of Buddha as an attempt to secure protection from a series of disasters and prevailing epidemic.

The emperor invited Jianzhen (or Ganjin) (鑒真 or 鑑真; 688–763), who was a Chinese high priest, to introduce faithful Buddhist commandments into Japan and to approve only observant monks of the commandments as official ones.

He established provincial monasteries and nunneries(国分寺・国分尼寺, kokubun-ji and kokubun-niji) in each province of Japan. Todai-ji was positioned as the head of all these kokubun-ji.
Empress Komyo established Hokke-ji Temple(法華寺) as the head of all the provincial nunneries in 745. She set up public facilities such as a home for orphans and the neediest and a free clinic to care for the sick and to treat patients with medication.

She became the first empress from a non-imperial family. The members of her clan used her position as a empress to hold actual power over the affairs of state. Some people said that many projects were carried out to display the might of her clan.

Three years after his death, she retrieved four relics from Shoso-in. Recently, it has become evident that the two swords of them were identical to the two swords that were discovered accidentally at the foot of the Great Image of Buddha in Todai-ji during its repairs in the Meiji Period.

Although it is still uknown why she did it, some people said she expressed her strong will. Some people guess that some of the retrieved relics were buried to purify the site of Hokkeji Temple and to protect the temple from evil. Some people guess that the retrieved relics included love letters.

The nuns at Hokke-ji have made the same dog-shaped lucky charm(お守り犬,Hokkeji-Dog Talisman) as one of the empress' own making. The charm is available at the temple.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

first snow, first cold wintry wind and kaki

The first snow of the season fell in some areas of Hokkaido.

The Osaka District Meteorological Observatory announced that Kogarashi-ichigou(木枯らし1号, the first cold wintry wind of the year) blew seven days later than last year in Kinki Region including Osaka. Kogarashi-ichigou was announced only about Kanto Region(Tokyo) and Kinki Region(Osaka).
It is the first north winds of over 8 meters per second between mid October and the end of November when pressure pattern shows high barometric pressure to the west and low pressure to the east.

In Amami Oshima (奄美大島), many Okinawa habu(Yellow spotted pit viper) have been seen due to torrential rains.

October 26th is Kaki(Japanese persimmon) Day that the Kaki Group of the National Fruit Tree Research Association invented in 2005. This day was established based on the following very famous haiku poem that Masaoka Shiki(正岡 子規, 1867-1902) composed on a trip to Nara on October 26th in 1895.

柿食えば 鐘が鳴るなり 法隆寺
"When eating kaki, I heard the bell ringing, of Horyu-ji Temple."

Nara Prefecture is still a main kaki producer.
The day is not well known, and I also recently learned of it. Kaki is unpopular with the young. People used to plant kaki trees in their garden, but there aren't many kaki trees in the gardens of newly-built houses. Kaki fruits are currently on the market, but they are not yet ripe enough to eat in my area.

柿袋 製作/藤本正子
"drawstring pouch in the shape of kaki" designed by Masako Fujimoto

Shigeyoshi Inoue(ed), Yasashiku-Tsukureru-Densyou-no-Chirmenzaiku (Tokyo:Fujin seikatsu-sha,1998),P.15

Kaki is rich in vitamin C, polyphenol and kalium. Removing the astringent taste is necessary for many kinds of kaki.  Its astringent taste is identified as persimmon juice(tannin).
Persimmon juice has been used since long ago as water resisting agent, strengthening agent and antiseptic agent by coating wooden tubs, Japanese paper, wooden building materials and fishing nets of natural materials.

It is also used as clarifying agent in the process of sake brewing.

Coarse oilpaper umbrella(番傘, bangasa), paper umbrella(唐傘, karakasa) are coated with persimmon juice.

Tanned papers are essential for Edo-Kommon(江戸小紋).  Kommon are fabrics dyed by cut paper stencils which have fine patterns. Those patterns look unpatterned from a little distance because of their elaborate designs.

The cut paper stencils are called Ise-katagami(伊勢型紙), which were made in Ise(now Suzuka City) and were sold by merchants of Ise under the Kishu domain's aegis. They had a nationwide distribution network. Now the six artisans of Ise-katagami are designated as Living National Treasure, but the production of Ise-katagami has dropped significantly due to kimono's unpopularity and improved technology.

Persimmon juice has natural infection-fighting properties, so antibacterial goods containing it are on the market.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

autumn color of leaves

Autumnal colors of the leaves in Nikko are now at their peak. Since the average temperature for September was high, leaf colors in most areas change later than usual this year.  In Tokyo, the leaves will turn red in December this year.

Iroha-zaka slope in Nikko is famous for the beautiful colored leaves, but viewers suffer from major traffic jams. I've been there years ago.  Its colored leaves were very beautiful, but I got carsick due to the endless hairpin curves of Iroha-zaka slope.
Major viewing spots in Japan are crowded with people and their cars.

 The pictures at Iroha-zaka slope. Real colored leaves are more beautiful.

Momijigari(紅葉狩り:leaf peeping)

Momiji(紅葉:autumn leaves)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Mid Niigata Prefecture Earthquake

The Mid Niigata Prefecture Earthquake(中越地震, Chuetsu jishin) occurred at 05:56 p.m.(Japan Time) on October 23rd in 2004 and caused 68 deaths.  Some people that took shelter in cars after the earthquake developed symptoms of economy-class syndrome. Niigata Prefecture is a heavy snowfall area, so heavy snows crushed many quake-damaged houses during winter.

The earthquake caused great damage to former Yamakoshi village(旧 山古志村) which is the birthplace of Nishikigoi(錦鯉, coloured carp) and is still a main producer of the coloured carp.
The brisk exports of coloured carps has rescued the carp farmers in Niigata Prefecture from the doldrums.

Ushi-no-Tsunotsuki(牛の角突き) is a kind of bullfights that have taken place in some areas of Niigata Prefecture since the Edo period. The bullfight appeared in "Nansou Satomi Hakkenden (南総里見八犬伝)", which is an epic novel written by Takizawa Bakin(滝沢馬琴).
It has been designated a significant intangible folk cultural asset of the country.
Unlike bullfighting in Spain, bulls are never injured in the bullfight. Villagers name the bulls for the bullfight and cherish them. So they lamented their bulls' death due to the earthquake.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Festival of the Age and the Fire Festival in Kurama

I heard that the typhoon No.13(Megi) caused considerable damage in Taiwan. I express my sympathy for people in Taiwan. Reconstruction works and rescue operations went into full swing.
An elderly woman said that she escaped surging water by hanging onto her childhood friend's grave. (Many Japanese gravestones are shaped like a low square pole.)
Two festivals were held in Kyoto on October 22nd.

One is the Jidai Matsuri(時代祭:the Festival of the Age), which dates back to around 1895, when the Heian Shrine (平安神宮, Heian jingu) was built to commemorate Kyoto's 1,100th anniversary as Japan's capital. On the 22th day of the 10th month in 794, the Emperor Kanmu moved Japan's capital from Nagaoka-kyo(長岡京) to Heian-kyo(平安京, now the center of Kyoto).

About 2,000 citizens dressed in historical costumes parade from the Imperial Palace to Heian Shrine in a two-kilometer procession. The costumes are precise reproductions of the ones dating from the end of the eighth century to the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Originally, the costume parade started to set the mood for the festival.

The other is Kurama no Himatsuri(鞍馬の火祭: the Fire Festival in Kurama), which is an annual festival held at Yuki Shrine(由岐神社, Yuki Jinja) at Kurama(鞍馬) in Kyoto. The festival comes from the relocation of the shrine to Kurama. The Emperor Suzaku moved the shrine to long for peace and quiet after a series of disasters and rebellions in 940. The carriers of religious instruments went in procession to Kurama, holding up torches.

In the evening, the parishioners wind through the town holding 500 torches. Around eight o'clock, At the shrine's stone steps in front of its gate, torches are collected and are burned. The young parishioners run up the steps and go down the steps with a portable shrine. They carry mikoshi(portable shrine) through the streets of their community.

photos:KYOTOdesign (Japanese version only)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

chrysanthemum-shaped confections

Three people have died from mudslides in Amami area. The rain eased off, but many mudslides tied up telephone lines. So the extent of the damage has yet to be determined.

A new international terminal building at Tokyo's Haneda Airport has been opened today. The building has 20 restaurants and 22 shops including a cafe with a planetarium, stores that sell merchandise based on Japanese characters such as Hello Kitty. An 'Edo period street' has been reproduced on its 4th floor.
Regular international flight services at the airport will start on October 31st.

Now we tend to regard chrysanthemum as a floral tribute to the deceased. Most Japanese flower shops sell a bouquet of flowers including chrysanthemum as a flower offered on the grave or Buddhist altar.

The flowers used to be considered a symbol of longevity.  The chrysanthemum is used in the Imperial Crest.
In the Edo Peried, the exhibitions of chrysanthemum were held on the day of Double Ninth Festival. Art lovers or high-ranking domestic servants who served the wives of shoguns or feudal lords sent chrysanthemum flowers to the exhibitions to win a prize.



Hasami means a scissor. We use this scissor only to make petals of a chrysanthemum by making equally spaced cuts in this confection. It resembles a Japanese-style scissor for sewing. It's a tool for professional use, so it's expensive.


Chrysanthemum is called kiku(菊) in Japanese, but it has several another names such as chiyomi-gusa, masari-gusa(優り草o r 勝り草) and yowai-gusa(齢草). Chiyomi-gusa and yowai-gusa are associated with longevity.

Kikkaten(菊花展: the exhibition of chrysanthemum )

Purple one is made of purple sweet potatoes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Jusanya(十三夜) means the night or the moon on the 13th day of the 9th month in the lunar calendar(corresponding to October 20th of this year in the Gregorian calendar). Jusanya is twinned with Jugoya, so Jusanya is also called Nochi-no-Tsuki(後の月, later moon).

Unfortunately, I can't see the moon tonight.
We can't worry about that now. Amami Area is being ravaged by torrential rains due to the typhoon No.13(Megi) and stationary autumn rain front.  The area received up to 647 mm of rain ever recorded in a 24-hour period, 131 mm in a 1-hour period. The total amount of rainfall reached 800 mm or more since it began to rain. Amami area had a record-high rainfalls. Heavy rain complicates rescue efforts.

I expresse concern about the damage from the typhoon No.13 in the Philippines. The typhoon is on its way to China. I hope that people in southern China will be safe.
Moon Viewing on this day is unique to Japan and is also called Mame-meigetsu(豆名月, bean harvest moon)or Kuri-meigetsu(栗名月, chestnut harvest moon). 
Newly harvested beans started to reach the market, but they are smaller than usual due to the searing summer.

There are different stories about the origin of Jusanya. It is said that this custom started in the Imperial court.
People were unwilling to hold only one of the two moon-viewing events, Jugoya and Jusanya, as katamizuki(片見月: partial moon viewing).



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ebisu-kou and Bettara fair

Bettara fair(Bettara Ichi) is held in the area around Takarada shrine(宝田神社) at Nihonbashi in Tokyo on October 19th and 20th.
Bettarazuke (べったら漬) is a kind of pickled daikon.

On the 20th day of the 10th month in the lunar calendar, shrines across Japan held Ebisu-kou(えびす講).
Foods for offerings to Ebisu have been sold on a fair the day before Ebisu-kou since the middle of the Edo Period. Bettarazuke became popular on the fair and the fair came to be called Bettara Fair.

Ebisu(夷、戎、胡、蛭子、恵比須、恵比寿、恵美須) is an ancient Japanese god and is famous for one of the Seven Gods of Fortune (七福神, Shichifukujin). He holds a rod with his right hand and a sea bream under his left arm, so he was regarded as the god of fishermen and good fortune.

It is said that the Japanese gods gather at Izumo Taisha Shrine(出雲大社) in Shimane Prefecture in the 10th month in the lunar calendar and Ebisu looks after people during their absence.
So he came to be regarded as the god who brings people success in business and the safety of their families.

On the 20th day, merchant families shut their shops up early, made offerings such as a sea bream, libations, rice cakes and fruits to Ebisu and held dinner parties for their business associates and relatives in the Edo Period. Now it's not held.
There is a bunraku play with the scene of such a party.

Many shrines hold Ebisu-kou on November 19th and 20th because the 10th month in the lunar calendar corresponds approximately to November.

Nishinomiya Jinja(西宮神社) in Nishinomiya City of Hyogo Prefecture is the head shrine that is dedicated to Ebisu(or informally, "Ebessan").
The shrine and the shrines under it hold Toka-Ebisu(十日えびす) for several days around January 10th. Toka-Ebisu is also a festival to pray for the prosperity of business. Visitors buy a good luck bamboo branch and pray to Ebisu.

People living around the shrine locked a door with a key, put out a light and stayed at home on the evening of the 9th of the 1st month in the lunar calendar because Ebisu ran around the streets during the night. Now its main gate is opened at six in the morning of January 10th, and many men rush into the main hall to win laurels as "Lucky Men".

In the meantime, why the Japanese gods gather at Izumo Taisha Shrine?
Because they have a meeting to make a good match between people.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Double Ninth Festival

Double Ninth Festival or Double Yang Festival(重陽の節句,Chouyo-no-sekku) originated from a Chinese custom was celebrated on the 9th day of the 9th month in the lunar calendar(corresponding to October 16th this year). It's called the festival in chrysanthemum flower season.

Odd numbers are regarded as active(陽, yang or yo: a traditional Chinese spiritual concept) in China.  The ninth day of the ninth month (or double nine) is regarded as a sinister day because  the day has too much yang.

People had the custom of climbing up a hill or high building with their family and drinking chrysanthemum wine to drive away evil spirits and pray for longevity on the 9th day of the 9th month in the lunar calendar. Now this became a minor custom in Japan.

The following poem was written by Du Fu(杜甫, Chinese famous poet) when he stood a high place on the the 9th day of the 9th month in the lunar calendar in 766. I read this poem in my high school text book, and I'm fond of it.

登高    杜甫


the same poem translated into Japanese:

風急に 天高くして 猿嘯哀し
渚清く 沙白くして 鳥飛び廻る
無辺の落木 蕭蕭として下り
不尽の長江 滾滾として来たる
艱難苦だ恨む 繁霜の鬢
潦倒新たに停む 濁酒の杯

"Climbing Up(Deng Gao in Chinese, Toukou in Japanese)"  written by Du Fu(Toho in Japanese)

"The winds harshly blow, I feel that a clear sky is very high, I can hear the wail of monkeys.
I can see the beach with clear water, its sands are white, a bird is flapping about there.
Leaves continuously fall from boundless trees, I hear them rustling.
The inexhaustible Yangtze River(or Chang Jiang, 長江) rush by.
I've been far away from home for so long and also been a perpetual traveler in foreign lands.
I've been prone to illness and climb up all alone now.
I harbor resentment toward trials and tribulations that made my sideburns turned frosty.
A sense of hopelessness made me spiritless.
In addition, I was forced to give up drinking because of illness."

It's hard for me to translate this poem satisfactorily into English.  I suppose you can get the English translation of this very famous poem.

This poem reminds me of Georges Moustaki's "Ma Solitude".
"I have lived with my solitude for too long, so my solitude keeps me from feeling lonely."
We learn about classical Chinese and Japanese literature in high school. This poem appeared in school text books. 
The defining difference between both classical literature is the presence of female writers. I've never read writings by women in classical Chinese literature.  Many classical Chinese poems took on such themes as the their love for their country, friends and family. So they are regal.
Meanwhile, many ancient Japanese women wrote poems, novels and essays. There are many writings on the subject of romance in classical Japanese literature.

"Manyo-shu(Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves)" was realized in the late eighth century and includes approximately 4,500 poems written by people from every walk of life from different regions of Japan over a period of about 300 years. It includes the poems of many women such as empresses, aristocratic ladies and wives of front-line soldiers.

In the Heian period(794 to 1185), many women were active as writers. They were not professional writers, but Murasaki Shikibu (紫式部) hired on as a private tutor of Fujiwara no Michinaga's daughter in recognition of her "The Tale of Genji".

Kisewata(着せ綿, 被せ綿 : floss silk to cover chrysanthemum flower)

These confections represent white silk and red chrysanthemum flowers.

On the night of the 8th day of the 9th month in the lunar calendar, people made moist floss silk with the night dew and scented it with chrysanthemum flowers by putting floss silk over the flowers.
On the morning of the 9th day of the 9th month, people wiped their faces or bodies with the floss silk. This custom to pray for longevity is unique to Japan.

Friday, October 15, 2010


October is the season for newly harvested rice in Japan.  Temperatures were unusually high this summer, and this year's newly harvested rice has lower quality than last year.

I already ate the rice.  It tastes good because it is sweeter and contains more water other seasons.  I usually choose the rice brand named Koshihikari from Niigata Prefecture other than Minamiuonuma area.  Koshihikari from Minamiuonuma area rates with the very best.

Kannamesai(神嘗祭) is a festival held by the Imperial court from October 15th to 17th.  The emperor dedicates newly harvested rice to Amaterasu-Ohmikami, the Goddess of the Sun, an imperial ancestor. The festival used to be held on the 17th day of the 9th month in the lunar calendar. It was held on September 17th after the solar calendar was adopted since 1872.  However, the harvested rice couldn't keep up with the day's festival, so it has been held on October 17th since 1879.

Sekihan manju(赤飯饅頭)
This confection has nothing to do with Kannamesai.
Sekihan and chestnut on the buns.
Sekihan(festive red rice) is made by steaming glutinous rice together with red beans which colored the rice.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Health and Sports Day

It's a summery day. Temperatures have reached 28 degrees Celsius in Yokohama and have reached over 29 degrees Celsius in several areas.

Health and Sports Day (体育の日) is held on the second Monday in October. It was designated in 1966 to commemorate the opening day of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Many schools held their athletic meetings today, but the date of the athletic meeting varies from school to school now. Some schools hold them in spring.

The event of cutting antlers was held at Nara Park on October 10th and 11th. Althought antlers are shed and regrown by itself in early spring, the event started in 1671 to prevent antlered deers from injuring people or another deers. Cut antlers are dedicated to the god.

The deers living around Nara Park have been regarded as the messengers of the Kasuga Grand Shrine (春日大社, Kasuga-taisha) and have been designated as a national natural treasure. They were already living there when the Kasuga Grand Shrine was found in 768.

They are wild animals although they are accustomed to people. It's dangerous to come close to deers be in estrus.
Their staple food is the native plants at the park. We are allowed to give the deers only shika-senbei(鹿煎餅:deer biscuits) that Foundation for the Protection of Deer on Nara Park sells as a snack. It contains rice bran and cereals. A part of earnings from these biscuits sales are used to protect deers.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nagasaki Okunchi Festival

Okunchi Festival in Nagasaki is held from October 7th to 9th. Okunchi Festivals are held to give thanks to deities for a good harvest in Kyusyu Region. Some of them are also held on the 19th day and the 29th day.

According to the most widely believed theory, "Okunchi" means ninth day(九日,kunichi) and comes from Chouyo-no-sekku(重陽の節句) celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth month in the lunar calendar. Chouyo-no-sekku is one of the five season-related celebrations. Odd numbers are regarded as active(陽, yo) in China. The ninth day of the ninth month has two active numbers.

It is said that the festival dates back to 1634, when two women danced in dedication to the god of the Suwa Shrine in order to suppresse Christianity.
(Refer to the blog post under the date of August 9th for the suppression of Christians in Nagasaki.)
Nagasaki was the only Japanese city that was allowed to trade with foreign countries during the period of national isolation.

The city has a historically close relationship with China. So a dragon dance, one of the features of the festival, is performed.
(The events related to China are being perfomed as usual in Japan. The celebration of China's National Day was also held as usual in Yokohama's Chinatown on October 1st.)

Shippoku-ryouri(卓袱料理) that originated in Nagasaki is a fusion of Japanese, Chinese and Dutch cooking. Platters for share are served to guests at the round table.
Nagasaki champon (長崎ちゃんぽん) is a noodle dish originated from China.

Castella (カステラ, Kasutera) also originated in Nagasaki and is a popular Japanese sponge cake without edible fat such as butter. The name is derived from Portuguese Pão de Castela. It was introduced to Japan in the middle of the 16th century. 
Fukusaya(福砂屋), which was founded at Nagasaki in 1624, is famous for its moist castella.  In a dramatic re-enactment, a kind of Dutch ovens was used to bake the cake at the end of the Edo Period.
There are various ways to make castella. They come in a variety of textures. It was hard for me to make castella under controlled temperature.

Castella (カステラ, Kasutera)
These are very moist.

Ogura castella(小倉カステラ)
this confeciton includes adzuki beans.

A fried donut filled with adzuki bean paste.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sweet Osmanthus

Kinmokusei(金木犀 :Osmanthus fragrans or Sweet Osmanthus) is in full bloom.

It has subdued blossoms but has a strong fragrance. At this time of year, we can smell the blossoms everywhere. I noted the presence of the blossoms while I was out walking my dog at night. 

Teika-kazura(定家葛:Trachelospermum asiaticum) blossoms near my house also asserted their strong presence by scent. It comes into bloom in the middle of May.

Its name derives from the legend that Fujiwara no Teika(藤原定家, 1162-1241) couldn't get Shikishi Naishinnou (式子内親王 Princess Shikishi) out of his mind even after her death, and reincarnated Teika clung to her grave as Teika-kazura.

The blossom has five petals, but ceramic artist Kenkichi Tomimoto(富本憲吉,1886-1963)made a design of the blossom as a four-petal flower.

Kuchinashi(梔子、巵子、支子:Common gardenia, Gardenia jasminoides) is strongly scented in June and July.
The seed can be used as stock for making dye.  Food colorings I'm using originates from this seed.

photos :「季節の花 300」 (Japanese version only)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sweet chestnut and Pacific saury

Sweet chestnut and Pacific saury(秋刀魚, sanma) come into season at this time of year. We eat Pacific sauries broiled with salt and rice cooked with chestnuts.

The Chinese characters "秋刀魚"  literally means an autumn fish. Pacific sauries are cheap and better-tasting in autumn.

Japanese chestnut(or Castanea crenata) is delicious, but it is difficult to remove astringent skins from the chestnut. So we frequently buy peeled chestnuts. I peel raw chesnuts a once or twice a year and cook with them or preserve them in syrup.
Raw chestnuts slightly darken when cut or peeled, so food makers or confectionery makers turn them yellow with gardenia fruits or bleach them with hydrosulfite.

We make confections with chesnuts preserved in syrup.
There is also a confection using chesnuts with their astringent skins preserved in syrup.


Baked confection filled with sweet white bean paste and small pieces of preserved chesnuts.


Neri-youkan(練り羊羹) consists of sweet bean paste, kanten solution and sugar. Mushi-youkan(蒸し羊羹) is a steamed mixture of flour and sweet adzuki bean paste. Kuri-mushi-youkan is a mushi-youkan containing chesnuts.

Youkan commonly means neri-youkan, but mushi-youkan has a longer history than neri-youkan. Neri-youkan keeps longer than mushi-youkan.

Kuri-kinton(栗金団) or Kuri-chakin(栗茶巾)

This confection is made by wrapping a mixture of sugar and mashed chesnuts in silk cloth and twisting the cloth.


Kuri-youkan commonly means neri-youkan containing chesnuts, but this confection consists of mashed chesnuts, kanten solution and sugar.


Zeitaku youkan(ぜいたく羊羹)
This contains sweet mashed chesnuts.

Toyo no aki(豊の秋)


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Japan Traditional Art Crafts Exhibition

The 57th Japan Traditional Art Crafts Exhibition(日本伝統工芸展) is being held at Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo from September 22th to October 4th. Unfortunately,  the photographs on the exhibition's site are small, so you can't see their fine details.

The Exhibition will travel through such areas as Nagoya, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Sendai, Okayama, Matsue, Takamatsu, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Matsuyama, Osaka from October 6th to March 15th in 2011.

I took a silverwork class years ago, and the class teacher sends her work such as a silver flower vessel to the exhibition every year.
In Japan, "tradition" is living. Some said that a series of innovation make tradition. The exhibition requires the applicants to create sophisticated design based on high degree of professional skill in Japanese traditional techniques.

You can buy most of the winning works in the exhibition.  When I visited the exhibition years ago, red seals were put alongside the works to show they have already been spoken for.  However their prices were not indicated. The exhibition provides a huge opportunity to get a high-quality unique work.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Autumn festivals and athletic meetings

The 10th month in the lunar calendar(corresponding to November in the solar calendar) was named Kanna-zuki(神無月), when all of Shinto deities gather at Izumo-taisha (出雲大社, Izumo Grand Shrine) in Shimane Prefecture. Now many harvest festivals are held in October.  Most Japanese summer festivals derive from the Star Festival or the Bon Festival, and most autumn festivals are held to give thanks to deities for a good harvest in shrines.

It is said that several festivals such as Okunchi Festival in Nagasaki(長崎おくんち) come from Chouyo-no-sekku(重陽の節句), which is one of the five season-related celebrations and was celebrated on the 9th day of the 9th month in the lunar calendar(corresponding to October in the solar calendar).

miniature mikoshi(神輿, portable shrine)

This hanging scroll shows tree sparrows with wing spread flocking to ears of rice. I remember rice paddies used to be put up sparkling tapes or nets to warn away sparrows. I haven't seen them recently.
It is presumed that the number of tree sparrows in Japan has dropped by 50 to 80 percent compared to 1990.
Tree sparrow nests in a narrow gap such as a space between roof tiles and a roof, but less houses have tiled roofs due to earthquake countermeasures. There is decreased green space where tree sparrow can feed itself.

Kikkoudou(橘香堂) in Kurashiki(倉敷) of Okayama Prefecture started selling a confection named murasuzume(むらすゞめ) which was modeled after a tree sparrow with wing spread in 1877.
The confection has distinctive appearance due to using ammonium carbonate.

Kichou(几帳) is a partition that a cut of silk cloth is hung on a wooden bar. It was used at aristocrats' houses and we can also buy now.

Tokkuri(徳利:sake bottle) and choko(猪口:small sake cup),  a meal set on a small dining table

Health and Sports Day (体育の日) is a national holiday in Japan.  The day was designated in 1966 to commemorate the opening day of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
It was held on October 10th, but the day was moved to the second Monday in October in 2000.  The day was chosen for the Tokyo Olympics because October 10th is what meteorologists call a “singular fine day" in Japan.
Most schools and organizations used to hold their athletic meetings on October 10th. Many companies used to hold it and I took part in it.

The poster says Koube elementary school hold athletic meetings on October 10th.

There are a gym uniform,a red cap and headband on tatami mats.
"Red and White" often means opposing two groups in games. It is said that it comes from the battles between the two clans of Genji and Heike. The Minamoto clan(源氏, Genji) flew white flags and the Taira clan(平氏, Heike) did red ones.

Soy sauce and a broken egg and its shell are placed on the table.
Tamago-kake-gohan(卵かけごはん) is a meal composed of a raw egg mixed with white rice, often seasoned with soy sauce. Recently we can buy a special soy sauce for tamago-kake-gohan at supermarkets.
The expiration date of eggs in Japan shows the date suitable for eating raw.
pieces of rolled egg(卵焼き, tamagoyaki) and sausages in the shape of octopus(たこさんウィンナー, tako-san wiener) are served on a plate. Both of them were popular dishes for children's boxed lunch in Japan. You can make tako-san wiener by frying sausage with some lengthwise cuts.

In the center of the table and in rice balls, there are umeboshi(梅干:pickled ume). The tartness of the pickled ume stimulates the appetite and prevents food poisoning, so people often place them in rice balls and boxed lunches.

The clinical tests at three hospitals including Jikei University School of Medicine demonstrated that ume extract reverses liver damage.
Shoichi Adachi(足立正一), who is a developer of drug about the immune system, tested some ume ingredients to see how they affect oral sarcoma of his dog. He gave the dog milk laced with ume extract, and cancer cells in his dog became necrotic. I watched the report on the NHK TV program named "asaichi". However, demonstration experiments about it are not held.

Rice balls(にぎり or おむすび, onigiri or omusubi)

A woven basket contains triangular rice balls with a sheet of dried laver wrapped in a bamboo sheath. Making rice ball and hand-rolled sushi(にぎり寿司, nigiri-zushi) are not as simple as it seems.
Rice balls keep their shape better when being held with a hand, but they unravel when entering a mouth. There is a knack in making them.

Rice cooker of old sort

Mercurochrome, commonly known as akachin(赤チン), was always kept in the first-aid box.