When the cicadas can be heard no more, the leaves start to turn and the temperatures cool, we know Aki Kinu ( Autumn has arrived in Japan ! ) This is known as Kigo a word or phrase that is used in Japanese poetry to associate with Japanese seasons.
In Japan people are very much in touch with the changing of the seasons. Aki 秋 is the word for autumn/fall in Japan and after the hot humid heat of the Japanese summer, people look forward to the cooling breezes and clear blue skies that the new season brings.
During the heat of the summer people loose their appetites so when autumn comes people refer to it as Shokuyoku no Aki ( Autumn the season of Appetites).
Autumn is the season of the rice harvest with world sake day being held on October 1st at the start of sake production.
There is an abundance of delicious produce to have at this time from, matsutake mushrooms, persimmons (kaki), chestnuts known as Kuri or marron when it is in a sweet or dessert, sweet potato and a variety of squash and pumpkins.
Even the Starbucks gets on board with seasonal flavours like sweet potato or chocolate marron flavour. This year japan will be finally getting a pumpkin spice latte after a long 15 year absence along with Starbucks Reserve serving up a warming autumn spice oat latte.
I decided to do my own version with powdered hojicha, spices and warm oat milk. I made some chocolate chip pumpkin spiced loaf cake to go with it. It made the perfect tea time snack.
To make the pumpkin spice loaf cake :preheat your oven 180 degrees c
I used 1 cup of puréed pumpkin that I had steamed and scooped from the flesh. Combine that in a bowl with 1/3 cup of coconut oil, 1 tea of brown rice vinegar and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup. In another bowl add x2 cups of plain flour, 1/2 cup of coconut sugar and 1/2 a cup of caster sugar,1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda a pinch of salt and some pumpkin spice ( I will let you decide how much spice you want to put in, you can also add other spices like cinnamon or nutmeg ) Add the wet ingredients to the dry and give it a good mix. I then gradually started to add oat milk. You can use any plant based milk. Add a little at a time until you get a batter consistency. Throw in some chocolate chips or walnuts are also nice and give it one final mix but don’t mix too much.
Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and pour in the batter smoothing it out evenly. Bake for around 60 mins.
Finish with a dusting of icing sugar.
Japan sometimes refer to autumn also as Aki no Mikaku ( autumn the season of flavours ).
You may like to try making some simple rice dishes with mushrooms, chestnuts or sweet potato that are popular at this time.
Another thing that people anticipate with the changing seasons is Momiji, this refers to the Japanese maple tree. As well as viewing the cherry blossoms in spring people in Japan are also excited about the turning of the maple leaves from green to bright vivid red and orange, this is known as kouyou or autumn colours.
There is a word in Japanese Fuubutsushi this refers to the little things that signal a change in the seasons, the feelings, scents, images and sounds that might evoke memories or anticipation of the coming season. I think when we become more aware of this it helps us to centre ourselves and celebrate the passing of time.
As well as viewing the beautiful leaves and partaking in eating delicious food. Japan has other sayings for autumn.
Dokusho no Aki ( Fall the season of reading ) with the nights drawing in people find it easier to sit and read.
Also Koraku no Aki ( Fall the season of athletics, or activities outdoors). I guess this is why on the second Monday in October Japan have a national holiday known as sports day. This year it was brought forward to coincide with the Olympics.
Maybe it’s time to get out those winter blankets that you have put away over the summer, in Japan they have something called a kotatsu a table with a blanket and a heater underneath, doesn’t that sound cosy.
What ever way you choose to enjoy autumn I hope you are all stay safe and well. Why not take some inspiration from my autumn recipe food section and cook up something to celebrate the season with what ever seasonal produce you can find. Or go hunting for the changing leaves so you can admire them this is known as “Momiji -Gari” in Japan and is a very popular thing to do in Autumn.