We are now heading in to the shorter days of Autumn. Friday the 23rd is the Autumn Equinox. In Japanese micro season it is known as Shūbun. This season is broken into three parts.
September the 23rd-27th Kaminari sunawachi koe o osamu ( thunder ceases )
September the 28th- October 2nd Mushi Kakurete to o fusagu ( insects hole up underground )
October 3rd-7th Mizu hajimete karuru. ( farmers drain the fields )
The equinoxes are a special time for Buddhists they believe that this is when the worlds between the living and dead are at their thinnest, thus at this time people pay respects to the deceased .
This is also part of the silver week holiday in Japan starting with Respect the aged day and finishing on equinox day.
Buddhists call Autumn Equinox O-Higan or Aki no Higan, and it is tradition to make ohagi at the time a type of Japanese wagashi (sweet) Ohagi おはぎ is named after the Japanese clover bush and these sweets are sometimes also taken to ancestors graves at this time as offerings. They are really delicious and so easy and fun to make.
To celebrate why don’t you try to make them. They are made with sweet half pounded ( hangoroshi ) Mochi rice with an anko filling and rolled in various toppings like kinako and ground sesame. You can also do a reverse one where the rice is the filling and the anko is on the outside. You can either buy chunky bean paste called Tsubuan in packets at Asian grocery store or make your own.
The above shows Mochi rice and bought and homemade tsubuan.
You will need 1 rice cooker cup of sushi rice and 1 cup Mochi rice (Mochimai). First give the rice a good rinse changing the water until in runs clean. Soak your rice in four cups of water over night and then cook in your rice cooker or pan. This does make a lot of ohagi so you can either freeze them or just use half the amounts 1/2 cup sushi rice 1/2 cup Mochi rice and two cups of water. Through experience if your rolling your ohagi in toppings do this after you have defrosted them.
When the rice is done mash your rice but not fully so you still have some grain and leave to cool covered with a cloth so it doesn’t dry out. Divide into balls and flatten out. It is advisable to use plastic wrap but if you don’t want to just have damp hands and a wet clean cloth to hand. In the middle of each flattened ball add a ball of anko and then fold the rice over the anko to make a sealed ball. Carry on making until all are done.
If you want to make inverted ohagi make small balls of rice and add this to the middle of larger flattened balls of tsubuan.
Now choose what you would like to roll your ohagi in . Powdered black sesame ( kurogoma ), kinako ( soybean flour ), sesame seeds mixed with sugar or maybe matcha.
How about making Kurumi which is powdered walnuts with sugar. The balls of sticky rice become easier to mould into balls after they have been rolled in the topping.
They make lovely gifts and are perfect with a green tea.
I know I will be making them to enjoy with a tea while looking out onto my already changing colours of maples in my garden. In Japan they won’t be changing just yet people in Japan will have to wait until late October, November to do what’s called momijigari or autumn leaf hunting which is as much a custom as hanami flower viewing in the spring.
Inokashira park Tokyo