For some reason, Blogger’s system was down and I couldn’t get onto my blog...I was finally able to get on.
The weather the past week went from rainy to sunny, back to rainy...on top of that, cherry blossom season is almost here. Unfortunately, I will be going to Hawaii next week. The weatherforecasters predict the cherry blossoms to start blooming the day after I leave. “You can’t have it all”, my Grandmother would say. This is true, but at least I can enjoy the food before I go, right?
During cherry blossom season, many people save spaces under the cherry trees to have big picnic parties sometimes running late into the evenings. To sit under the cherry tree and view the blossoms is called hanami. Viewing them at night is called yozakura.
Companies, college groups and families usually send a person to save a space for their picnic. (The companies and college groups usually send the person lowest on the totem pole.) These people have to go REALLY early in the morning to save a space. If you walk through a park that has cherry trees early in the morning, you’ll notice plastic blue tarp lying under every cherry tree and the person who had to save the space sleeping on it. (Although, if it looks like a tent, then that's a homeless persons "home".)
Anyway, if you are ever in Japan during this season it is very beautiful. Sitting under the pink-ness of the cherry blossoms, eating your hanami bento (cherry blossom viewing boxed lunch), eating hanami dango (rice cakes on a skewer colored in the pink, white and green), drinking some sake, wine or tea all the while enjoying the conversation and company of good friends/family. There are even some who set up their karaoke machine to sing a little. Don't worry, even if you go alone, you'll still have a great time, just to see everyone having a nice time is kind of relaxing. (Be warned though: some people ruin this atmosphere by not being able to handle their alcohol(or knowing when to stop drinking), getting really sick and well, you get the picture.)
Still, for the most part, this is a very cheery time. After a drab, colorless winter, the soft pink flowers paired with a nice sunny day, is a nice way to welcome spring. And towards the end of the season, as the petals start to flutter off the trees, this is yet another wonderful experience.
Today, I bought a bento from Yonehachi. They are known for their okowa (steamed mochi rice (glutinous rice) with different toppings). Okowa is also known as sekihan. Sekihan is glutinous rice (mochi rice) with red adzuki beans which is made usually for celebratory occasions. When you buy Yonehachi's boxed lunches you are allowed to choose your okowa. (At their counter they have the boxed lunches all lined up next to about 5 different okowa.) I chose okowa with octopus, one with chestnuts & red beans and one with sakura flowers (cherry blossom steamed rice) and veggies. The cherry blossoms used in decorating food items are salted and preserved. This boxed lunch was very filling and delicious!
I also got hanami dango (rice cakes on a skewer colored in pink, white and green) by Fukujudo-hidenobu, a local Japanese confectioner in Tezukayama. They have a sales counter in the Daimaru Umeda store. Inside the pink rice cake is a sweet red bean paste the outside is coated with a rough sugar-like topping, the white rice cake has a sweet white bean paste and the green rice cake’s outside is made from yomogi(mugwort) and the inside has a sweet red bean paste. The rice cake was so soft and yummy!
I saw these Sakura macarons on their website and wanted to try them. I had never had macarons before, since they are rather expensive. These were made by a Kyoto confectioner, Malebranche. This was really tasty and not too sweet (are they supposed to be this big?). The macaron is coated with a little cherry liquer, the flavor isn't very strong, very light, inside, there is a light cherry flavored whipped cream at the bottom, raspberries and a pannecotta fills the middle. On the top there is a preserved cherry blossom and powdered sugar.
It was quite a foodie day.
Well, hopefully the weather will improve over the next week and warms up enough for me to see the tulips that I planted, bloom before I go...
Have a nice weekend!