Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Making Japanese Sweets

Anyone who has been to Kyoto will have seen Yatsuhashi being sold in all the tourist shops. Yatsuhashi is a Japanese biscuit invented in Kyoto made from rice flour, sugar and cinnamon. The taste and texture is quite similar to senbei. When Yatsuhashi isn't baked it is very soft and chewy like mochi. This is called Nama Yatsuhashi.

Nama Yatsuhashi is what is used to make Otabe, another popular Kyoto souvenir. On Valentines Day it was our school trip and we went to a workshop to make Otabe. The workshop was on the second floor of the Otabe shop located on Shinmachi street.

Otabe is basically a square of Nama Yatsuhashi with your chosen flavoring inside. Making them was really enjoyable and when we got to eat them at the end they were very delicious! I would definitely recommend this workshop to anyone coming to Kyoto, it takes less than one hour to make (and eat) a traditional Japanese sweet. Much more personal than buying them from one of the many tourist shops.

Website: http://www.otabe.co.jp/
Location: Shinmachi street
Price: Lessons run daily at ¥600 per person.
Time: The workshop is open from 10am to 2pm.

Travel Tuesday

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Weekly Roundup #5

This weekend I have been:

Wandering: around the aquarium! When I was younger going to an aquarium was one of my favourite things to do but I haven't been to one in ages so it was nice to go see all the fishes.

Photographing: some amazing outfits made by university students at a fashion show I went to during the week.

Watching: Cool Runnings. Because if you don't watch it when it's the Winter Olympics then when do you watch it.

Blogging: about this small fashion exhibition in Kyoto.

Visiting: Kobe. Where I went to two exhibitions, wandered around the designer shops and ate cake.

Listening: to Powerless by Rudimental feat. Becky Hill.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Student Fashion Exhibition

Last weekend I went to this small fashion exhibition at Art Gallery Kitano in Kyoto. It was an exhibition of clothes made by 3rd grade Kyoto University for Art and Design students on the Fashion Design course. Their theme for this collection was 'Dream and Illusion'.

This exhibition was small but really nice. As a fashion student myself, I really enjoy seeing other students work. Recently I have started to find out more about fashion events in Kyoto and this week I went to a great fashion show held by students from another university. I will write more about that next week. 
Below are photos of nearly all of the outfits from the exhibition, which is your favourite?

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Kyoto's Golden Pavilion

A couple of weeks ago I visited Kinkaku-ji (temple of the golden pavilion) with some friends. All year round lots of tourists visit this temple but it is known for being especially beautiful in the snow with the contrast of the white and gold. Unfortunately by the time we got there there wasn't much snow left on the roof, however it still looked incredibly beautiful.

The temple is a designated National Special Historic Site and a National Special Landscape. The current building isn't the original though. In 1950 it was burned down by a novice monk who then attempted suicide on the nearby Daimon-ji hill. However he survived, and was taken into custody. The monk was sentenced to seven years in prison, but was released because of mental illnesses. Then in 1955 the pavilion was rebuilt.

You can't enter the pavilion but you can walk around the beautiful gardens. This was my second time to visit Kinkaku-ji and I recommend it to anyone visiting Kyoto. 

Travel Tuesday

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Weekly Roundup #4

MUGEN Fashion Works Exhibition
This week I have been:

Watching: the Winter Olympics. Come on Japan! We currently have 5 medals, including a gold medal in figure skating for the 19 year old Yuzuru Hanyu who broke a world record in the short programme.

Visiting: three exhibitions around Kyoto. One was a small fashion exhibition which I will write a post about later in the week. Another was an exhibition about the history of Japanese schools. Then we went to see the Asian premiere of South African artist William Kentridge's large scale video installation, 'The Refusal of Time.'  It was very unusual and although I found it very interesting I didn't really understand what it was about, something to do with time, relativity and black holes...

Making: yatsuhashi. There are various types of yatsuhashi, the type I made is called otabe. It is a traditional Japanese sweet consisting of a triangle of dough similar to mochi. Inside is usually red beans. It was fun making them and they tasted really good!

Blogging: about how Valentine`s Day is celebrated in Japan. Did you know that only women buy chocolates in Japan?

Listening: to Money on my Mind by Sam Smith.


Friday, 14 February 2014

Valentine's Day in Japan

Is Valentine`s Day celebrated in Japan?
Yes Valentine's Day is celebrated in Japan but it is celebrated in a slightly different way to how people in Europe celebrate.

What gifts are bought?
The most common gift is boxes of chocolates. You can find Valentine`s chocolates in all types of shops from convenience stores to department stores. When we were in Osaka we went to look at all the chocolates in Daimaru, they were all packaged so prettily. Also there was the benefit of the fact that in Japan they often have small pieces to taste! People don't tend to give flowers or cards.

Who gives the chocolates?
The main difference in Japan is that only women give chocolates on Valentine`s Day! Then next month on the 14th of March it is White Day. This is when men are expected to return chocolates to people who they received them from.

Who do you give them to?
Valentine`s Day chocolates aren't just for your boyfriend. 'Honmei choco' are given as presents of love whereas 'giri choco' are given to people you feel obliged to, such as your boss or colleagues. A recent phrase is 'tomo choco' which is chocolates you give to your female friends.

I find it interesting that Valentine`s Day is celebrated differently in different parts of the world. How are you going to celebrate?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Festival food

Last Sunday I went to Yoshida Shrine to celebrate Setsubun. Like most festivals there were loads of interesting food stalls. I mentioned in my previous post that people often eat sardines at Setsubun, the aim being that the smell scares away the evil spirits! So of course there was a stall selling sardines.

They also had my favourite Japanese festival food: taiyaki. Taiyaki are fish shaped cakes with red bean paste inside. The red bean paste is made from sweeted azuki beans. I love these so much, if you ever find yourself at a Japanese festival you should try them!

Strawberries inside mochi balls


Making taiyaki

mmm taiyaki! My photo doesn't do them justice.

Sazae seafood

Rice crackers and sugared beans
Treat Yo Self Thursday Link-Up

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Setsubun: chasing away the devils

On the 3rd February it was Setsubun. This is day when people chase away evil spirits before the start of spring according to the lunar calendar. There are many things which people do in order to chase away the devil:
  • In some families the father of the house will put on a devil mask while the rest of the family throw beans at him shouting, 'oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi.' This translates as 'devils out, happiness in.'
  • You are then supposed to eat as many beans as your age, plus one extra as good luck for the forthcoming year. 
  • People often eat sardines as the smell is supposed to scare away the devil. 
  • It is also a tradition to eat a long roll of makizushi while facing in the direction which has been chosen for that year. You are supposed to eat the whole roll in silence.
There are ceremonies all over Japan celebrating this day I went to the biggest one in Kyoto at Yoshida Shrine. The main event was a performance but it was so crowded that we couldn't get near the stage. However we still had a great time, watching the devils as they went past us on the way to the shrine and buying a few things at some of the many food stalls.

After the performance the devils came back up the hill and we followed them as they made their way to another shrine. Not many people walked all the way up so I could get really close and take lots of photos. It was interesting for me because the festival had officially ended so I could see behind the scenes; people taking off their costumes and mothers waiting for their children who had been part of the ceremony.

This isn't a devil. He is the one who is supposed to scare away the devil.

Devil with a strange sense of style, leopard print pants?

I think this devil has been enjoying all the food stalls.

Those shoes!

I think this monk just got a funny text?

Even devils need a helping hand.

Devils' shoes.
Travel Tuesday