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Now in Full Bloom! Traditional Japanese Sweet "Ohagi"

Updated: Apr 26, 2022

↑ Cute pastries? No, it's Japanese Wagashi, "Ohagi"!

Ever-evolving Wagashi is a Hot Topic on SNS!

Hello from Japan Culinary Institute, and welcome to JCI's blog for those looking for an opportunity to learn about Japanese cuisine and culture in Japan!

In Japan, it is customary to visit the graves of the deceased around the vernal equinox in March and the autumnal equinox in September. "Ohagi" is a traditional Wagashi made and offered to the ancestors and eaten. Ohagi is a simple confection of glutinous rice wrapped in sweet bean paste. Still, it has recently evolved into a colorful and lovely confection that has become a topic of conversation on social networking sites (see photo above). We introduce the connection with ancestors, which Japanese people cherish, and the "Hana Ohagi (Flower Ohagi)," which is currently the focus.

Table of Contents

1. About "Ohigan" in spring and fall

2. What is "Ohagi"? Names and variations

3. Beautiful and Delicious New Ohagi

4. Summary

1.About "Ohigan" in Spring and Fall

↑ Front: Tsubu(mashed)-an and Koshi(smooth)-an Ohagi, Left: Ohagi with black sesame and Kinako (soybean flour). Back: When made at home, it is carried in a stacked wooden container.

In Japan, families visit the graves of their ancestors during the week of "Ohigan" in spring and fall. The Ohigan period lasts for seven days, three days before and three days after the mid-day of the spring(or fall) equinox. In 2022, the middle days of the spring and fall equinoxes will be March 21 and September 23, respectively, both of which are national holidays.

Both the spring and fall equinoxes are days when the length of day and night are approximately the same. The date is not fixed but changes from year to year, depending on the sun's navigation. The custom of visiting graves on Ohigan is because the sun rises in the East and sets in the West during these two weeks of spring and autumn. It is believed that "the afterlife," believed to be in the far West, and "the present world" in the East, are most easily connected.

↑ Along with flower offerings, it is customary to offer Ohagi to ancestors' graves on the Ohigan (nowadays, offerings are increasingly taken home instead of being left as is) due to hygiene issues.

In Japan, there is a common saying, "Hot and cold weather lasts until the Ohigan," meaning that by the time the spring equinoxes are over, the weather will be warmer, and around the autumn equinoxes, the summer heat will be over. On the Ohigan, the Japanese traditionally make Ohagi at home, place them in stacked boxes, enjoy them with family members, serve them to relatives, and offer them to ancestors' graves.

2. What is "Ohagi"? Names and variations