Chapter 5: The guises of winter in overlapping layers of white

While there is nothing wrong with easily comprehensible and explicit colors, shapes and materials, the unparalleled elegance of wagashi (Japanese sweets), which combine abstract forms, textures, and enigmatic names to bring the qualities of each of the seasons into clear focus in our minds, presents something that is so much more exciting intellectually. I find myself particularly strongly attracted to winter sweets that conjure images of snow and ice. Shimobashira (lit. “pillars of frost”) is a silvery white candy confection that looks like bundles of fine thread. Made by Kokonoehonpo Tamazawa in Sendai, this would have to be Eastern Japan’s superlative confection for someone of my tastes. Meanwhile, I would … 記事を読む

Chapter 4: Reflecting the landscape of autumn

Nothing makes us more keenly aware of autumn’s progress than the persimmon, this fruit that adds color to hilly countryside landscapes with its intense vermillion. The cultivation of persimmons in Japan goes back to ancient times. The fruit even received mention in the Shosoin monjo, a collection of documents stored in Shosoin, the eighth-century storehouse at Todaiji Temple in Nara. Persimmons were not only eaten raw but were put to use in various other ways in the lives of the Japanese of old. The fruit’s astringent juice was used to create a preservative and waterproofing agent, persimmons that had fallen off the tree were fermented to create persimmon vinegar, while … 記事を読む

Chapter 3: Confectionery and pottery that both came into being in Gifu

After managing to get through the burning hot summer, the coming of autumn feels like a reward. Bit by bit, the sky starts to feel more open, the air fills with a clear coolness in the mornings and evenings, and the fields and mountains come to bear their abundant harvests. Once September comes around, the first thing that appears heralding the new season is kuri kinton (mashed sweet potatoes with sweetened chestnuts), which is made with specialty chestnuts (kuri) from Nakatsugawa, Gifu Prefecture. Japanese people have been using chestnuts since as far back as the Jomon period, which demonstrates a long-standing, deep relationship with this species of tree. From research … 記事を読む

Chapter 2: A bowl that reflects the moon

After the passing of the equinox, when touches of autumn gradually creep into the breeze, Japanese start to yearn for bowls and confectionary that remind us of the moon. This is the time of the eighth month in the old lunar calendar, which came right in the middle of the three months of autumn that were known as “mo,” “chu,” and “ki.” What’s more, the full moon of this month, which is otherwise known as “chushu” (mid-autumn), is in fact the harvest moon, the moon that appears on the 15th night. Japanese gave the moon (“tsuki” or “zuki”) poetic names that made reference to the time that it appeared. The … 記事を読む

Chapter 1: The cool touch of white porcelain in midsummer

In its association with ceramics, the most basic and indispensable appearance of white porcelain manifests itself in table dishes. However, the fact that it is basic does not mean it is mediocre or boring. A white porcelain vessel, with its somewhat sturdy feeling, is like a canvas before it is painted on, tugging on the deepest creative impulses of its user. Just as the well-known saying refers to the “five colors of India ink,” ink painting attempts to represent a myriad of subjects with a single color of ink, but the color white also has a limitless number of tones, from the white porcelain known as “blue-white porcelain” or “Yingqing,” … 記事を読む