Fed up with winter yet? Ready for something colourful and cool (or better yet an excuse for a party)? In Japan, the change from winter drudgery to sunny springtime is marked by Hina Matsuri in a couple of weeks’ time. Hina Matsuri or Girls Day is a festival held on the 3rd of March where families with daughters wish for their health and happiness. It was originally called Peach Blossom Festival (momo no sekku) as it heralded the blooming of the peach blossoms and the final start of spring! As part of the festivities, many families set up elaborate displays of dolls made to represent an ancient Imperial princess’ wedding procession. Not your run of the mill Barbie or Cindy, these dolls are handed down for generations and are considered works of art in their own right (definitely not candidates for the budding kiddy stylist DIY home hair cut). Don’t worry if dolls (er, action figures) aren’t your thing, like all Japanese festivals Hina Matsuri is also about great food. Read on to find out about Japan Centre‘s five festive selections of sugar, spice and all things nice to get your teeth into at Hina Matsuri.
No, not the world’s fanciest dolly mixture, hishi mochi is made from rice cake and usually comes with three different coloured layers that reflect the changing seasons. These are usually put in the festive display with the dolls, but are pretty tasty to eat too (just don’t eat the display one, unless you like your mochi very chewy!) - - - - - - - -
This tasty tipple is made from rice, koji mould and shochu. It’s rumoured that a Tokyo brewery owner had a dream where a paper doll told him how to make it. Perhaps because of this colourful legend or its sweet flavour, it’s become a firm favourite for ladies to drink on Hina Matsuri.
Okay, so it’s not all sugar and spice. Chirashi sushi (or chirashizushi) is another traditional Hina Matsuri dish, made with seafood and other sushi ingredients scattered on rice. But just because it’s not sweet doesn’t mean that it can’t be cute! Luckily Japan Centre has you covered with our awesome Chirashi Sushi Cupcake recipe! - - - - - - - -
Red symbolises happiness in Japan, so it’s not suprising that sekihan is a popular dish for all kinds of special occasions, including Hina Matsuri. Made with adzuki beans and sticky rice, it’s a cinch to make and can be savory or sweet depending on your taste. - - - - - -
Even though many traditions are celebrated all across Japan, each area likes to do things in their own style. In eastern Japan hina arare are made from puffs of rice coated with sugar, coloured in feminine spring shades. Don’t worry if you don’t have a sweet tooth though, in western Japan these cute snacks are a bit more of a savoury, coloured version of the regular arare rice crackers we know and love. - - - -
But I Don’t Like Spring! Come Back Winter!
If spring is not your thing and all of this fanciness has left you feeling a bit too refined, Japan Centre still has something for you. Why not test your tastebuds against our range of spicy curry? (Also available in mild and medium styles for those of us who don’t like breathing fire). We also have a treat for those of you who like your spring traditions a little more, er…flat. Yes, okonomiyaki mix is back in stock! No more crummy crêpes or pathetic pikelets for pancake day! Just don’t get the okonomi sauce and maple syrup mixed up. – • Hishi mochi image courtesy of yuichi.sakuraba at Flikr • Hina arare image courtesy of Katorisi at Wikipedia