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SAKURA-MOCHI, Traditional Sweets Covered With Cherry Leaves

On the 3rd March, we, the Japanese, traditionally celebrate Girls’ festival called Hinamatsuri.  If you want to know about Hinamatsuri please refer to our site, “2 Hours Drive From Tokyo” -Usui, Makkou-.

There are several dishes we eat on this day such as Chirashizushi. Chirashizushi is one of a kind of Sushi (liaisoned from Chirashi-sushi), which literally means Sprinkled (chirasu) Sushi. It can be explained as “many kinds of sliced raw fish with cooked vegetables are sprinked on sushi rice”. But today I would like to concentrate on Sakura-mochi, Sakura (Cherry) mochi (sticky rice cake).

Sakura-mochi is one of the traditional Japanese sweets of early spring. Another representative would be Uguisu mochi, which who wants to know about, please refer to 2 Hours Drive From Tokyo as always. LOL.

Now then, what is Sakura-mochi??
Edo style Sakura-mochi differs from that of Western (Kyoto-Osaka) style. As you already know, I’m Tokyo native so I will show you the Edo style first.

Sakura-mochi was said to be born in Muko-jima, which is very famous for Cherry blossoms.  It was so popular that we can find many Ukiyoe works of Mukojima view of the past.

 

mukojima

Hiroshige

 

mukojima2 utamaro

Utamaro

 

It is said to be in 1717, a new special sweets was invented and was sold in front of Chomei-ji temple which became a big hit.

Chomeiji20120114

Chomei-ji temple

 

What was so special about Sakura-mochi then?  Before explaining, I would like to show you some photos, which would be far easier and clearer than my explanation in poor English!

 

chomeiji2

Sakura-mochi of Chomei-ji temple

 

choumeiji

A close shot of Sakura-mochi

 

I bet you are amazed by how Sakura-mochi of Chomei-ji temple is… These leaves are salt pickled cherry leaves. Of course, they are edible, moreover, very tasty with a scent of cherry.
Inside of the leaves is like this;

 

bara1

 

A ball of Anko (Sweet bean paste) covered with a thin crepe-like rice cake. You can eat it with all the leaves (three leaves) or without.  It depends on how you like the taste of it.  More leaves would be more salty.  You can muse yourself with a well balanced sugar and salt and the aroma of cherry.  In addition to the saltiness and the scent, another important raison d’être of cherry leaves is to prevent drying of mochi inside.

The popularity of Sakura-mochi of Chomei-ji temple was well spread all over Japan and other kinds of Sakura-mochi were made in many other places of Japan.

 

sakuramochi_funawa

Sakura-mochi of Funawa with one leaf
(This style has become the standard.)

 

However, in Western Japan (Kyoto – Osaka) if you order Sakura-mochi, a different type of mochi will be served.

 

domyouji

Western style Sakura-mochi which is called Domyo-ji in Tokyo

 

Instead of crepe-like flat rice cake, they cover Anko with thick coarsely grinded sticky rice mochi.

You can find this Western style Sakura-mochi also in Tokyo because we are generous.  But the name is different.  You will have to call it “Domyo-ji”.

Even though two different types of Sakuramochi have names of two different temples, Chomei-ji and Domyo-ji, we can feel at ease to concentrate on each tastes of delicious spring sweets as there is no religious battles between the two.

 

Shop Information of Choumei-ji

Address: 5-1-14 Muko-jima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Opening hours: 8:30 – 18:00
Closed on Monday (changeable)

You can eat a Sakura-mochi with a cup of green tea in a shop with 250 yen. Also several sizes of boxes for take away or presents are available from 6 pieces (1200 yen).

Why don’t you go to Mukojima to see the beautiful cherry blossoms and have some experience of Japanese traditional sweets? You can reach this shop on foot from Asakusa crossing Sakura-bashi bridge. Also you can walk from Tokyo Sky Tree on Sakura-bashi street.  For those who are not yet familiar with Japanese sweets the taste could be a bit difficult and strange.  But I personally like Sakura-mochi so much and it is definitely one of my “musts” in spring time, either Edo version or Western version.
にほんブログ村 歴史ブログ 日本の伝統・文化へ
にほんブログ村 英語ブログ 英語の日記(和英併記)へ

 

choumeiji2

Shop of Chomei-ji

 

map of chomeiji

 

 

 

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