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Japanese Sweets for Spring

Updated: Apr 26, 2022

↑"Cherry blossom Kinton" with a deep and light pink color to represent cherry blossoms in full bloom Seasonal Poetry Created with Wagashi For those looking for a chance to learn about Japanese cuisine and culture in Japan, Kon'nichiwa from Japan Culinary Institute (JCI), and welcome to the JCI blog! March marks the arrival of the spring cherry blossom season that all of Japan is eagerly awaiting. Wagashi ( traditional Japanese confectionery ) stores are filled with motifs of "Sakura, cherry blossoms," "Uguisu, Japanese nightingales," "Nanohana, canola blossoms," and "fresh greenery," which are the most popular springtime delicacies. Yes, spring is the season when the world of wagashi becomes even more glamorous! Wagashi is an edible art form that expresses the Japanese sense of beauty through sweets. In this issue, we will introduce some typical springtime wagashi. If you are interested in Japanese food, why don't you join us at JCI to try your hand at making Japanese wagashi that you can love with your eyes and taste with your tongue? Table of Contents 1. The profound relationship between the Japanese people and cherry blossoms 2. Nerikiri, the quintessence of wagashi 3. Wagashi with Cherry Blossom Motifs 4. Typical Spring Wagashi 5. Summary

1. The profound relationship between the Japanese people and cherry blossoms

↑ Enjoy strolling and partying under the illuminated cherry trees In Japan, once March arrives, a cherry blossom forecast (sakura zensen) is issued along with the weather forecast, reporting daily when the cherry blossoms will bloom in various regions. Of course, Japanese people love the beauty of cherry blossoms themselves. Still, at the same time, they are excited about the outings such as cherry blossom viewing that accompany them. There are numerous cherry blossom viewing spots throughout Japan. Many people enjoy partying or strolling around under the cherry blossoms when the cherry blossoms bloom, calling it Hanami(literary flower viewing). Recently, some spots have begun to light up at night to create a fantastic night view of the cherry blossoms.

↑Crowds gather at cherry blossom viewing spots to enjoy sake, food, and sweet treats (Koizumi Kishio, Hanami at Asukayama, 1934).

↑ Hanami dango, easy to eat and perfect for eating while viewing cherry blossoms

2. Nerikiri, the quintessence of wagashi

The quintessence of Japanese confectionery is "Nerikiri" (photo), an artistic Japanese confectionery that depicts scenes from the four seasons. Some types are only available for a limited time. Nerikiri or Nerikiri-An (sweet white bean-based paste) is made by mixing white Koshi-An(smooth) bean paste, which is made by cooking white beans and other ingredients to remove water, then kneaded with yam and other ingredients. Gradually, the term "Nerikiri" came to refer to crafted confections made with this Nerikir-An. Nerikiri is served on celebratory occasions to entertain special guests or accompany thick tea at tea ceremonies. Special tools such as spatulas and wooden molds are used in the crafting process. The delicate and exquisite artistry requires the skill of the craftsman and his visual sense and creativity. The coloring of the nerikiri also demonstrates the craftsman's sense of artistic expression. In addition to cherry blossoms, other spring motifs include Uguisu, Japanese nightingale, which is said to herald the arrival of spring; Nanohana, yellow canola flower, which is in full bloom at the same time as the cherry blossoms; and Tsukushi, a plant that peeks its brush-like head out of the earth in early spring. As for color, in addition to the cherry blossom color, matcha (green tea), which represents fresh greenery, and mugwort paste are added to add the flavor and fragrance that spring brings.