Yes we are entering the fall, the chestnut season which the SNS in Japan floods with chestnut delicacy.
This year I bumped into this old school kind of chestnut sweet. The confectionary’s name is Ena Kawakamiya and the sweet is called kuri-ichi. I chose this because I use to go to this area where the confectionary is, Gifu prefecture, for business, and know that it’s famous for chestnut but yet not as famous as in Obuse, Nagano Prefecture. Gifu is more of a country side and everything is more rustic or old school and Obuse is near a big city so the products are more modern and polished.
It’s my first time buying Kuri-chi, I tend to go (or gifted) Kuri-kinton which is a lightly sweetened chestnut cake. Kuri-chi goes a bit further. The lightly sweetened chestnut paste are rolled with a thin layer of azuki bean paste then wrapped in a magnolia leaf to steam… What is this?? I thought.
When I opened the box, it was like a gift from Totoro… I opened the delicately wrapped magnolia leaf came a loaf of a azuki chunk. Woah!
The Magnolia leaf is very commonly used in Gifu. Hida-Takayama area is the most famous for tourist destination in Gifu and this place is surrounded by mountains. The town is beautifully preserved as like a town in Edo period. Because this area is surrounded by mountains, they use a lot of natural products for cooking and for the Magnolia leafs, they wrap the rice with it for steaming it, use the leaf as a tray and place miso with meat and cook it on a stove etc.. The Magnolia have a disinfecting quality which is good for storing the food in the forest and it also have a minty, gingerly taste which spices up the food a little bit.
It is impossible to get in touch with these rustic old sweet in Yokohama except on these special timings. Japanese people enjoys each and every season by food. I think these custom emerged from the Tea ceremony, while you enjoy the tea from each season the seasonal sweets and food are served in a Kaiseki manner. We don’t drink green matcha tea every day or rarely entertain ourself with Kaiseki foods, but we enjoy a bit of the season with little hints sprinkled in our daily lives.