At last, Autumn is here! I’ve been humming Etta James since last Saturday, when the temperature suddenly plunged from mid-30s every day, to 21C. My Japanese teacher told me an old saying, [暑さ寒さも彼岸まで」atsusa samusa mo higan made or "neither heat nor cold lasts past higan (autumn equinox)." I kind of doubted her, given the weeks of relentless heat, but sure enough, right on shuubun no hi, or autumn equinox (Sept 22nd), autumn came with a bang. Of course, the signs of the new season have been around for a few weeks – beer and chuhai cans are now dressed in their autumn colours and the supermarket is decked out in plastic maple and ginko leaves. Chestnuts, pumpkins and sweet potatoes are in EVERYTHING! Growing up in Sydney, we didn't have much in the way of specific autumn dishes, so it always feels exciting when autumn arrives in Japan.
|Kuri kanoko, a kind of chestnut jam sweet|
|Montblanc - my favourite! This is a very fancy version, at Mitsukoshi|
|Sweet potato danish with black sesame seeds - not too sweet.|
|Autumn "limited" drinks are here.|
|Sweet potato chips!|
It’s the perfect weather for walking, and the shops are full of delicious autumn produce like sanma, aki aji, sato imo, nashi and very expensive matsutake mushrooms. Autumn is short, so we’ve got to get out there and make the most of it before winter sets in.
Just over a week ago, I saw my first “akatombo”, or red dragonfly, of the season, our persimmons are getting a little colour (hope I can get some before the birds do, this year!) and random berries, pomegranates and “higanbana”, red spiderlilies are popping up around the neighbourhood. Last week was “ohigan”, or autumn equinox, and these gorgeous red flowers appear right at this time – hence the name.
|It kindly stopped for a photo|
|The persimmons are coming along well|
|A lovely autumn kimono and obi combination|
We should visit our ancestor’s graves again at ohigan. The traditional sweet is “ohagi”, named after the hagi, bush clover flower. They’re delicious and pretty easy to make. You cook up some mochi rice, the same way you’d cook normal rice, then mush it up a bit, and roll it into egg shapes. Cover it in a layer of anko - bean paste or kinako – soy bean flower. I can’t handle a whole lot of bean paste as it’s very sweet, but as a thin layer over rice, it’s quite tasty.
|Ohagi. I think the kinako one tastes best.|
|Halloween seems to get more popular every year. Our local bakery went a little overboard this year!|
This Sunday is Juugoya (15th August on the old calendar), otherwise known as “otsukimi” – moon viewing. A lot of cake shops are selling dango and moon cakes and you can make offerings of round, ‘moon shaped’ things. It’s a kind of harvest festival, and like many seasonal festivals, it originally came from China. I’m going to try making the traditional 15 shiratama dumplings. The fashionable cake shops are pushing white macarons this year for Otsukimi. Sounds good! If you miss it, don’t worry, there’s another full moon festival in late October, called Juusanya.
Next week, I’m planning to go look for higanbana, inspired by Rurousha’s excellent post from last autumn. Check it out, here: Kinchakuda by Rurousha