Ohagi-A Japanese Confectionery Related to Flowers

January 21, 2016

By Hikari Isaka and Maya Ito

Ohagi is made from boiled rice and red adzuki beans.

Ohagi is made from boiled rice and red adzuki beans.

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.

Imanishiken specializing in ohagi at Karasuma-Gojo

Imanishiken specializing in ohagi at Karasuma-Gojo

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.

All of the ohagi had sold out within thirty minutes.

All of the ohagi had sold out within thirty minutes.

 

 

Okonomiyaki, Yakiniku and Ramen in Kyoto

by Akiko Kagawa; Fumiaki Kai

Do you like eating? What do you want to do when you visit other countries? You may answer that you want to visit famous places or enjoy shopping. I think that many of you would also say you want to try that country’s cuisine. So please imagine you’ve come to Japan. When you walk along streets in Kyoto, you will find many kinds of restaurants, especially okonomiyaki, yakiniku and ramen restaurants. Of course, Kyoto has many healthy Japanese restaurants serving yuba and tofu, but okonomiyaki, yakiniku and ramen are also part of Japanese food culture now. Maybe you will be surprised by the number of these restaurants. First of all, I would like to talk about Kyoto-style okonomiyaki.

Do you know okonomiyaki? The owner serves you okonomiyaki which made with flour which is dissolved with water and mix with vegetables and meat or fish and sellfish. The shape is circular like pizza. In Japan, there are different kinds of okonomiyaki, for example, Hiroshimayaki in Hiroshima, and Monjayaki in Tokyo. Both are quite famous, and similarly, Kyoto also has its own style of okonomiyaki. Each has its own specialty. Ingredients include cabbage, yam, and flour, and, usually, they also contain pork or squid. Japanese might think when they hear the word “okonomiyaki,” that Osaka is the most famous city for okonomiyaki. However, there is also Kyoto-style okonomiyaki. Kyoto-style okonomiyaki cannot be easily defined. We cannot tell exactly what it is because it depends on each restaurant. For example, a restaurant might use agi (beef cheek) or soy sauce or Kyoto scallions. However, Kyoto-style okonomiyaki is based on the city’s culture and history.

Next, yakiniku means broiled meat, vegetables, fish and shellfish, and so on. There we can enjoy an easy and simple meal so a yakiniku restaurant is often used after work for a drinking party. The cost depends on each restaurant, but probably you can eat as much as you like for about 2500 to 5000 yen. This all-you-can-eat style is very popular, and recently yakiniku is popular. It also means there are many nice restaurants designed by famous designers. For example, last week we went to Nandaimon which is located near Hankyu Kawaramachi Station. The restaurant has a really good atmosphere because of its lighting and situation, so it was a comfortable place for us. At other yakiniku restaurants we can also enjoy natural scenery as we eat, looking, for example, at the Kamo River or at a row of traditional Kyoto houses. Famous yakiniku restaurants are Gyukaku, Tendan, Shabuzen and Fufutei. Most of them are restaurant chains. Especially, we recommend Shabuzen which is located near Yasaka Shrine. There are many sightseeing spots such as Kiyomizu Temple, Koudai Temple, Maruyama Park nearby, so after you enjoy sightseeing why not you go there? You will spend a nice time.

Lastly, I would like to talk about ramen (a type of Chinese noodle). Ramen came from China in 1665, and we can see Chinese designs in the bowls used. However, the ramen that we eat now is very different from the original. Japanese have changed it to fit our taste. The famous ramen shops in Kyoto are Tonryu, Muttepou, Marutake, and Takayasu. Especially at Muttepou, people who are waiting to enter form a long line. It is so famous that sometimes reporters from TV, magazines, and newspapers come here. Ramen is cheap and is served quickly, so perhaps that why it is liked by so many people.

When you are looking for restaurants it is convenient to use a magazine named LEAF. It is a traditional magazine in Kyoto. If you use it, you can enjoy searching for a place you might like to go to. The magazine is very colorful, and the explanations in Japanese are easy to understand. If you want to go to a restaurant cheaply, you should use HOT PEPPER or MILKUL or GOBAAN. However, be careful that you pick up a copy early because all these magazines are popular among Japanese students. The publication day is at the end of the month. These magazines are free, and you can find them anywhere in Kyoto, especially at bookstores or convenience stores. In the magazine there are many kinds of coupons, so you can go to restaurants cheaply. Those are only in Japanese, but it will be useful if you have Japanese friends or acquaintances or you can find them and go there by yourself. You should better to know these coupons anyway. You can probably find restaurants which are in your guide book that you want to go to. We recommend that you check them before you go to a restaurant.

Could you understand our explanations about food? Did you enjoy them? You may imagine that Kyoto cuisine is only yuba and tofu, but there are more types of food in Kyoto, we think. If you come to Kyoto, please visit the restaurants we have introduced, if you have time.