2014/02/27

Hinamatsuri - for the old and the new-

“Hina-matsuri” (Doll Festival or Girl’s Day) is held on March 3 when families wish their daughters’ healthy growth and happiness. For this day, a set of dolls representing the Emperor and Empress in traditional court dress is are displayed. (*hina =little dolls/ matsuri=festival)

Of course, there are several special sweets to celebrate the day.

One of them is Hina-Arare. Hina is named after the festival and Arare is a bite-sized cracker made from glutinous rice. To make the snack special for this day, they are often colored white (representing snow), green (new buds) and pink (one’s life). Hishimochi, a diamond-shaped colored rice cake, is also well-known as a customary sweets for the day.

You may be surprised, but as a customary drink, Shirozake, a sake made from fermented rice considered to be a must to celebrate this day. Are girls allowed to drink alcohol in Japan? No!! So in fact, Amazake, a traditional sweet, low- or non-alcohol drink made from fermented rice, is served instead. Still, only Amazake is not enough to have the festive sweets. Maybe Hojicha (roasted tea with less caffeine) might go along with and good for little girls.

If I may add a few words……although this is the day for girls, “former-girls” including me still like this day even after we are grown up. We feel warm and happily excited.

Happy Hinamatsuri to the old and the new girls!

Hina-arare (left)/ Hishimochi(right)


2014/02/20

With or Without??

I had long taken it for granted that Japanese tea is drunk without sugar and milk.

Being in London about 20 years ago, I saw an Italian friend going to put some sugar into green tea. I just said to her right away. “No, no!!  Adding sugar to green tea is anathema!! Don’t do that!!” She replied, “Why? This is tea, right? Some add milk and sugar to English tea.” I was not open-minded enough to say “Enjoy green tea as you like!”. Instead, I replied that this is how we drink Japanese tea.

Back then, I strongly believed green tea “has to be” drunk without milk and sugar. Now, sweetened Matcha or Hojicha are seen here and there as Matcha au lait, Hojicha latte etc. It is not “has to be” anymore.

Hojicha Latte by Lipton  -T-

2014/02/15

HitoTema - a little extra time and effort -

In Japanese, there is a word tema, which literally means “hand and time”. It refers to “time and effort” in English.

Nowadays, people living in this busy world tend to prefer doing quicker and easier to taking time and effort. I have to admit I am the one of them. I often choose something quicker and easier.

But when it comes to tea, the story is different. Many choose bottled or instant tea even when they drink at home, but I make tea with using a teapot and tea leaves like all tea-lovers do so.

“Now, what shall I have? Black tea, green tea…In case of black tea, which one??....”. This is how my teatime starts. What I want to drink depends on time, mood and who drinks with. Then, boil water, warm a teapot, put some tea leaves into the pot, wait till a kettle sings, sometime wait another time for boiling water to cool down (for some Japanese green tea), pour the water into the pot, and steep it for a while.

For some, maybe many nowadays, this process seems to be troublesome. Even some of my friends who are not into tea say, “Do you boil water every time you make tea? What a troublesome!”, “If you make tea with a teapot, you have to wash it, right? No, not for me!”………..Oh well, it is not a big deal for me. Ready-made things are convenient sometimes, but I believe that “hand and time” creates warm feelings.

Again, I also choose something quicker and easier for some/many cases. We are living in very convenient and developed world. That’s even more reason that I also would like to keep doing “a little extra time and effort”, hito-tema.

2014/02/07

Happy Valentine Day -Japanese Style-

St.Valentine’s Day is coming soon. In Japan, unlike western countries, since a chocolate company introduced this custom in 1930’s, it became a day when only women give chocolates to men including boyfriend, husband and sometimes their male co-workers.
 
The related industry’s promotion has succeeded and this Valentine sale is becoming more and more intense. Special chocolates sold only around this season are seen a lot. Many are from overseas companies including France, Belgium and Germany.  
 
And now, women have realized it.----"Do we have to buy such a special chocolates only for men? " or "We don’t want to miss the chance to taste those! "----- Now, many women get a precious treat for themselves too.
 

Matcha truffle
Of course, Japanese-style chocolates like Matcha and Hojicha flavored ones are sold too. The tea’s bitterness go well with chocolates. Even for chocolate event, tea plays an important role.

Are you going to give a special treat to yourself or your significant other? Maybe both!!





2014/02/03

Let's Count 88! -Hachiju Hachi Ya-

As I posted on the previous blog, setsubun (Feb 3) is the day before the beginning of spring. It means that February 4 is “the first day of spring” (known as risshun) this year. I don’t feel 'spring' yet though.....
 
Anyway....for tea-lovers, it is the time to count 88!
 
The 88th day counting from risshun is a special ‘tea day’ known as hachiju-hachiya (literally, “eighty-eight night”). It is believed that drinking green tea made from tea leaves picked on hachiju-hachiya will bring you good health for the year. Tea festivals are annually held at tea-producing areas including Kyoto and Shizuoka on the day.
 
Hachiju-hachiya in 2014 is on May 2. Let's count together! :-)
 
-by T-