January 21, 2016
By Hikari Isaka and Maya Ito
Recently most Japanese eat ohagi. But in the old days, it was known as an expensive, luxurious sweet that Japanese only ate on special days. Ohagi is made from boiled rice and red adzuki beans. Its name comes from the bush clover, which blooms in September and is called ohagi in Japanese.
Japanese started to eat ohagi during the Edo period. People believed that red color of ohagi, which came from the red adzuki beans, was good luck, and helped prevent disaster from visiting upon them. It is said that ohagi is a foods exorcised the bad spirits. It is typically eaten during the autumnal equinox.
Botamochi is another kind of ohagi, but is eaten in the spring and named after “botan” or the peony flower. Japanese always eat botamochi during the spring equinox. The color of the adzuki beans to resembles the reds of these the seasonal flowers. However, in recent days, people are usually eating ohagi throughout the year.
The harvest season for Japanese adzuki beans is usually in the autumn. The sweetened bean paste of ohagi is made from these beans because these are fresh and soft. Therefore, the bean husks give the sweet bean paste a chunky texture. We call it tsubu-an in Japanese. On the other hand, the sweetened bean paste of botamochi is made with beans that have been kept through the winter. They are not so fresh. In addition the husks of beans kept throughout the winter have hardened, and so the texture on the tongue is a bit too rough, unlike the texture of the beans harvested in autumn. Accordingly, the sweetened bean paste of botamochi excludes the bean husks and is called koshi-an in Japanese. Japanese ate botamochi in spring a long time ago. However, we can eat both of these types of bean paste throughout the year due to current development preservation techniques. Nevertheless, the expiration date of Ohagi is short, and it must be eaten within a day.
The long-established store Imanishiken specializes in ohagi. Imanishiken was established at Karasuma-Gojo in1879 and recently opened up a branch in the and Takashimaya Department Store in Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo for a limited period. It sells just three kinds of ohagi: Koshian, Tsubuan and Kinako-flavored. The shop hours are from 9:30a.m. until they are sold out. It is closed on Tuesday.
We visited this store twice because we could not purchase anything on our first trip since all of the ohagi had sold out within thirty minutes of the store opening. On the second day, we could buy only a few pieces of ohagi—the last remaining two. If you purchase ohagi at the main store we recommend you go before opening time.