Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Yummy Summer Wagashi

It's hot.  Yesterday, the sun beat down from a nearly cloudless sky and the humidity was at 63 %.   Weather.com told me that Tokyo was at 32 Celsius, but that it felt like 44.  44...what?  Degrees Celsius?  Because when you convert that to Fahrenheit, that means that in Tokyo, yesterday, it felt like a whopping 111 degrees Fahrenheit!  

I took a geology class in college, once (I had to), and I remember learning that Tokyo has so many people, and so much concrete, that the mega city creates its own, mini weather system.  Sick, right? And I believe it. All this concrete radiates heat. That's why I'm hiding in my house, typing out a blog post!  

Summers in Japan have always been hot, though, due to most of the country being located in the subtropical climate zone.  In keeping with traditional Japan's keen sense of the slightest, seasonal shifts, my local dessert shop unfurled a new banner.  Ta da! It's time for the summery summer wagashi!

Many of these juicy-looking wagashi are gelatinous in nature, and for good reason.  A soft, cool texture is perfect on a sweltering day!  My previous post had a photo of wagashi from Kyoto, the texture of which was meant to evoke an icy, mountain stream.  Water is a major, summertime theme in Japan.  During these miserable months, Japanese may cool themselves with koi-and-water-patterned folding fans, hang a tinkling, koi bell from the eaves of their home, or serve tea on a tray decorated with delicate, golden water ripples.  Anything to make the viewer think cool.

I could hardly contain my delight when I entered my local wagashi shop, hoping to purchase some of the wagashi on the outside poster, and spotted these.

A dessert with a bubble-filled pond and a swimming gold fish?  Squeal!!!  Ok, so the bottom layer was made of gelatinous beans and Little TF could only be persuaded to take one bite.  Could a dessert be any cuter? Could it?

Remember, also from yesterday's post, that fresh, green leaves can be used to imbue a sense of coolness?  Woven Things are also part of the Japanese, heat-fighting repertoire!  Women wearing summer-weight kimono or yukata like to carry their necessities in woven, basket-like hand bags.  Homes and businesses shield their windows from the brutal sunshine by using sudare, woven screens made of bamboo.  My summery house slippers have a woven bamboo sole.  Woven Things convey lightness and promote the passage of any possible breeze.  

Look! This wagashi combined both a leaf and a miniature, woven basket!  This treat, while not as adorable as the goldfish wagashi, was a much more delicious selection.  Inside its gelatin skin was a sweet and soft ume, or Japanese plum.  Little TF and I had a fight over this one.  So good!

Want to see more super-cute wagashi?  Take a look at my Pinterest board, Japanese Food!

Disclaimer:  I do my best to make sure all my information is accurate.  However, details may change or I may just be flat-out wrong.  Please let me know if something needs a correction.  Thank-you!


  1. I love how such care has been taken so as to have a goldfish implanted within the dessert... and yet they couldn't have used chocolate? They use beans???

  2. yes, I DO want to see more super-cute wagashi!