I love to read a wonderful blog called Surviving in Japan (Without Much Japanese) and, this month, that blog is hosting the Japan Blog Matsuri (thanks Ashley!). So, I thought I’d join in and submit my post to the festival fun. If you’re sitting there thinking “What is Japan Blog Matsuri??”, click here to find out.
This month’s theme is:
“Fall is the season for eating (食欲の秋/shokuyoku no aki)”
Japan is a country which is so proud of its four seasons. As autumn approached, I asked my students: “What do you do in autumn?”. They collectively replied, “reading and eating”, as if it were some kind of unwritten law that all Japanese people must behave the same way in each season.
And yet it’s true. I don’t know about the reading, but all of a sudden everyone is eating like they’re storing it up for winter. Even my ridiculously skinny co-worker told me how she was adding an extra bread roll to her lunchbox because it was autumn.
This autumn has been a slow starter and the temperature is still in the 20s in some areas. But, despite the sweltering heat of late summer, oden (おでん) appeared in the shops and the vending machines started stocking hot drinks alongside the cold ones. All my students started coming in wearing furry boots, knitted jumpers and scarves (and mostly they didn’t complain about being too hot!). In Japan, it’s like a season-switch is flicked and, no matter what the weather, everyone moves on to the next season. It’s as if the pretence might force the season to change. Personally, I’ll be wearing short sleeves and eating ice-cream (Haagen Dazs pumpkin ice-cream?!) until it really cools down. (I should add that, at night, it’s bloomin’ cold, actually. And I must confess that I have already started using my yutanpo (湯たんぽ)…)
However, I’m not complaining – simply observing. I am in fact delighted to see the return of autumn food. I’ve never been a fan of oden (although I think I might give it another try this year…), but I’m happy to see lots of natural seasonal food available in the supermarket, like: persimmon (kaki/柿), pears (nashi/梨), chestnuts (kuri/栗 and maron/マロン) and pumpkin (kabocha/南瓜).
Persimmon are my personal favourite. I don’t think I had ever seen one before I came to Japan (perhaps they’re not available in England?), but last year I simply couldn’t get enough of them. There are two kinds: the round ones that look a bit like tomatoes (pictured above) and the longer, thinner ones which are usually dried. Once dried, these thin ones are so delicious and sweet.
Of course, not everything is about the natural harvest of autumn. One glance in any convenience store in Japan will show you that everything is geared up for the new season. Everything from cakes and desserts, to crackers and candy will have some kind of new seasonal flavour. My favourite ones to watch, as you probably know, are Kit Kats…
These Kit Kats come in regular chocolate flavour (チョコ), Caramel Pudding (キャラメルプリン) and Chestnut (マロン)… and they’re all really tasty! 😉
So, whatever your taste, Japan is bound to have something that will be just your cup of tea…
Pumpkin Pudding Tea