Croatia 2017 – Digest

I had never travelled to any seaside resorts during the peak season, so I was really amazed!! and learnt how Europeans (and others) spend their vacance, which was a good anthropological study ūüėÄ

Although fed up with the crowds (and prices!), I had a wonderful time in Croatia – enjoyed stunning views, encounters, swimming, sunbathing… and food + wine, of course!!

Before departure, I had asked one of my blogger friends for some tips.
Thank you, Martina on Crunch Crunch Away! !


Plitvice Lakes National Park

I advise you to take Entrance 2, not 1 if you visit the park in the high season, otherwise you would waste more than one hour to go through the entrance like I did.



I recommend the views over Split from the Marjan Park rather than from the Bell Tower of Saint Domnius – I am fearful of heights!!

View from Marjan Hill


Half day trip from Split by boat and local bus on my way back


Half day trip from Split by local bus (I’d love to try rafting in the river next time. )

Three island hopping by speedboat:

I was really looking forward to seeing the Blue and Green Caves. I waited for the tour while in Split, however, all were cancelled because of strong winds. As a Marphy’s Law, it went back to normal on the very day I left the city ¬†ūüė¶

Heading to Milna for morning coffee – Brańć Island (Try Milna Pekara for nice local bread.)
Paklinski Islands or Devil’s Islands
One of the highlights of my trip – Hvar Habour and Paklinski Islands from Spanjola Fortress



Lots of unexpected things happened in Split almost ruined my holiday but, thank goodness, Dubrovnik saved me!

To avoid (human) traffic jam on the Ancient City Walls and the long queue for the cable car, stroll early in the morning, then head to the top of¬†SrńĎ Mountain!


Joined a tour group from Dubrovnik and visited Mostar.

‘The historic town of Mostar, spanning a deep valley of the Neretva River, developed in the 15th and 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town and during the Austro-Hungarian period in the 19th and 20th centuries. Mostar has long been known for its old Turkish houses and Old Bridge, Stari Most, after which it is named. In the 1990s conflict, however, most of the historic town and the Old Bridge, designed by the renowned architect Sinan, was destroyed. The Old Bridge was recently rebuilt and many of the edifices in the Old Town have been restored or rebuilt with the contribution of an international scientific committee established by UNESCO. The Old Bridge area, with its pre-Ottoman, eastern Ottoman, Mediterranean and western European architectural features, is an outstanding example of a multicultural urban settlement. The reconstructed Old Bridge and Old City of Mostar is a symbol of reconciliation, international co-operation and of the coexistence of diverse cultural, ethnic and religious communities.’ ¬† ¬†(source: UNESCO website)

View from the Minaret of Koski Mehmed PaŇ°ha Mosque – ¬†Stari Most after reconstruction completed in 2008. On the way to Mostar, I saw some remains of buildings destroyed¬†during the¬†Bosnian¬†War.
He is collecting 25 euros from passersby to jump…
into the river from the Old Bridge, about 25 metres high above water level.

If you plan to visit this pretty old town or Montenegro with a guided tour from Dubrovnik, choose one in a mini van or/on weekdays, otherwise it would take really long – 6 hours in the high season – to clear the border(s).


Last but not least, Mljet is the best highlight of my trip. I didn’t see¬†Odysseus¬†Cave, but the national park was marvelous enough to satisfy me. Walking around the salt lakes, dived into the water whenever/wherever I wanted. I highly recommend the small lake where the waves were calmer, the water looked more emerald green and there were few tourists. I loved the tranquility and calmness floating on the gentle waves. It was so peaceful and soothing, which brought me back to childhood as I brought up by the sea, that I almost fell asleep!!

Benedictine monastery on the Isle of St Mary in the middle of Veliko Jezero (the Great Lake)

My photos cannot describe the beauty enough, so I uploaded below:

About 1.5 hour ferry boat trip from GruŇ嬆Port, Dubrovnik to Polańće, Mljet (140 kn for return). The entrance fee to the ¬†Mljet National Park is 125 kn (incl. bus and boat fares in the park), but worthwhile paying.

Mljet National Park
Timetable: Gruz – Mljet


Lessons learned :

Next time on, I will avoid travelling in high season (and the places Game of Thrones were filmed – is it the reason why Isle of Skye was full of tourists last year? Nay, it’s not the filming location, isn’t it?). And next time in Dalmatia, to keep away from the major towns/cities and stay in a smaller and quieter village or island.


Anyway, my culinary adventure stories shall follow.




The Misteries of Trapani – Good Friday in Sicily

Easter is approaching again…. As I posted last year, I travelled around in Sicily during the Holy Week of 2016, and saw some religious traditions: U Signuruzzu a Cavad du in Caccamo,¬†Holy Monday processions in Enna¬†and so on. After Etna, I moved on to the western part of the island for the Holy Thursday Procession in Marsala and Processione dei Misteri di Trapani on Good Friday.

The Processione dei Misteri di Trapani or simply the Misteri di Trapani (in English, the ‘Procession of the Mysteries of Trapani’ or the ‘Mysteries of Trapani’) is a day-long passion procession featuring twenty floats of lifelike wood, canvas and glue sculptures of individual scenes of the events of the Passion, a passion play at the centre and the culmination of the Holy Week in Trapani.

The Misteri are amongst the oldest continuously running religious events in Europe, having been played every Good Friday since before the Easter of 1612, and running for at least 16 continuous hours, but occasionally well beyond the 24 hours, are the longest religious festival in Sicily and in Italy. (source: Wikipedia)

Programme for Holy Week 2016


The Misteri are an artistic representation of the Passion and Death of Jesus through twenty sculptural groups, including two statues of the Dead Jesus and of the Lady of Sorrows. They were granted in trust, by deeds, by the Brotherhood of St Michael the Archangel, which instituted the rite in the late 16th century, to the members of the local Guilds in exchange of the promise to carry them during the passion procession every Good Friday. (Wikipedia)

At 2 pm, the procession commenced from Chiesa del Purgatorio accompanied by the local marching bands.

The statues are taken around Trapani by the portatori, volunteers who carry them on their shoulders and walk with a particular step called nnacata, rocking sideways.


Stood still for about 5 hours to observe all the 20 statues!

The procession continues throughout¬†the night…

even in rain…. (shower the following morning)


retiring into the church 24 hours after (about 23 hrs in 2016)


The people

Holy Monday in Enna, Sicily

On the following day after I saw U Signuruzzu a Cavaddu on Palm Sunday, I left Caccamo early in the morning for Enna. The commune holds traditional rites during the whole Holy Week, and I went up there to observe four religious processions on Holy Monday.

Once my Spanish friends invited me to Valladolid in Spain for its famous¬†fiesta¬†in¬†Semana Santa, Holy Week (unfortunately I couldn’t make it because of my fracture¬†¬†ūüė¶ ¬†). So when I heard about the processions during ¬†Settimana Santa¬†in Sicily, it rang a¬†bell and¬†I was right.¬†The Sicilian Easter tradition¬†dates back to the Spanish domination over the island of the 15th to 17th centuries.

Semana Santa de Valladolid

Programme of Holy Monday Processions in Enna

9.30 РConfraternity of St Anne (departs from the Church of St Cataldo)
11.00 – Confraternity of Our Lady of Visitation (from the Church of St Mary of Jesus in Mount Salvo)
16.00 – Confraternity of St Mary of Graces (from the Church of St Augustine)
17.00 – Confraternity of the Holy Sacrament (from the Church of St Thomas)
18.00 – Confraternity of Our Lady ‘the New Woman’ (from its church)

I missed 9.30 one but witnessed the rest.

Marching Band followed by the confraternities
Procession of Confraternity of Our Lady of Visitation

Every procession ends at the Duomo
Confraternity of St Mary of Graces at St Augustine
heading to the Duomo
Confraternity of St Mary of Graces
Confraternity of St Mary Graces
Confraternity of the Holy Sacrament


Confraternity of Our Lady ‘the New Woman’ with full moon
the last procession, Confraternity of Our Lady ‘the New Woman’




Kyoto Trip 2014 – Day 2

Itinerary Р2nd day (30th June 2014):

Central Kyoto – Shugakuin¬†Imperial Villa –¬†Kamigamo Shrine – Tenyu – Kamesuehiro¬†– JR Kyoto Station¬†–¬†Tokyo

Unlike the rainy first day in Kyoto, the following day was bright and clear. Lucky enough to have such a lovely day as I was suppose to visit Shugakuin Imperial Villa with breathtaking beauty and great masterpieces of Japanese gardening.

The Shugakuin Imerial Villa (Shugakuin Rikyu), built in the mid 17th century for retired Emperor Gomizuno, is a set of gardens and outbuildings (mostly tea-houses) in the hills of the eastern suburbs of Kyoto. It consists of the Upper, Middle and Lower Villa areas, each featuring gardens and buildings of the traditional imperial style.


Fusuma sliding doors of Jugetsu-kan, the Lower Villa building where Gomizuno would rest before going on to the Upper Villa.
Cedar wood sliding doors depicting the Gion Festival, Kyoto’s most well known festival in July (Middle Villa)
Regarded as one of the ‘three most treasured shelves’ in Japan (Middle Villa)
on the way to the Upper Villa
Upper Villa

shugakuin 3

shugakuin 2

The Shugakuin Imperial Villa is only accessible through guided tours, which require advanced booking because it is one of the Imperial properties and under supervision of the Imperial Household Agency (Click for the application).

For more information:

Kamigamo Jinja (Shito shrine)

After Shugakuin Rikyu, caught a taxi and hurried to Kamigamo Shrine (Kamigamo Jinja), one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Kyoto and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for Nagoshi no Harae, an ancient Japanese summer purification rite which many shrines conduct on the 30th of June. In this religious ceremony, of which origin goes back to the Nara period (AD 710 -794), people atone for their sins in the first half of the year and then pray for their health for the remainder of the year by walking through a tall chinowa wreath (a large sacred ring made of loosely twisted miscanthus reeds called chigaya).

Shinto priests

Unfortunately, I couldn’t reach the shrine in time for the rite¬†– well, I knew I couldn’t make it after¬†the Shugakuin Rikyu¬†guided tour, but anyway, I followed the¬†worshipers: walked¬†through the chinowa wreath three times ¬†in a 8 shaped like form (1. counterclockwise, 2. clockwise and then 3. counterclockwise)¬†praying ‘Purification Prayer’ to purify myself from misdeeds (tsumi), impurities (kegare), and¬†misfortune, and wished for good health for my family and for myself.


Below are Nagoshi no Harae – Summer Purification – rituals:

evening ritual

The 30th of June is the day of Oharae or Oharai (Grand Purification), purifying sins and bad lucks not only for an individual but also for the public and the country. This Shinto ritual is held twice a year: on the 30th of June and the 30th of December (Toshikoshi no Harae). On the day of Oharae in June, people in Kyoto eat Minazuki (as for Minazuki, read my Wagashi of the Month).


It is said that the triangular shape and Azuki bean, especially its red colour, guard people against evil spirits and protect against misfortune and illness. Minazuki is also believed to expel any negative actions of the first half of the year like the ritual. That is the reason why they eat Minazuki at the halfway mark in the year, praying for a good second half.

Nowadays, you can buy the confectionery¬†anywhere in Japan, but I wanted to try authentic one, so I tried Kamesuehiro¬†(est. 1804), ¬†one of the most famous traditional confectioneries in Kyoto.¬†Unlike others (very exclusive! – ‘Ichigen-san, okotowari’¬†which means ‘New customer/first-time customer/chance customer, no admittance’ is common among long established¬†restaurants, tea-houses, confectioneries etc. in Kyoto), Kamesuehiro is exceptionally customer-friendly. I recommend,¬†however, you should make an appointment and place an order in advance as people do with other long established confectioneries, esp. when you purchase a seasonal speciality like Minazuki.

Minazuki from Kamesuehiro

Also bought a small box of Kyo no Yosuga with higashi (dried sweets) and hannamagashi (half-raw sweets). Kyo no Yosuga is ideal for gifts (Click for more info).

Kyo no Yosuga: the sweets represent seasonal feature of Minazuki, or June: e.g. blue one with a green leaf — hydrangea; pink (dianthus) etc.

Hang on, what about lunch? The foodie is highly¬†organised when it comes to food ūüėÄ
I had already ordered¬†a bento lunch box to takeaway as well¬†as Minazuki. I can’t afford to stay and dine at Tawaraya Ryokan, one of the best ryokan inns in Kyoto, but I can afford a box from¬†the tempra restaurant Tawaraya runs! So I made a phone call to Tenyu¬†(Reviews on Tripadvisor¬†and photos of their dishes and obento boxes). ¬†Tenyu offers a¬†bento box of the month as the photo shows below: for June, Ayu Gohan bento box –¬†fishing season of ayu, or sweetfish starts in June and the fish is one of the most popular ingredients¬†of¬†Kyo Ryori, or Kyoto Cuisine.


Fully enjoyed Minazuki, June in archaic word, in Kyoto, and the bento on a Shinkansen bullet train back to Tokyo :-9





Kyoto Trip 2014 – Day 1

I paid a quick visit to Kyoto in June 2014: a two-day trip from Tokyo in the rainy season.

Itinerary –¬†1st day (29th June 2014):

Tokyo – JR Kyoto Station – Lunch at¬†Daiichi Asahi¬†– Yogenin Temple –¬†Byodoin Temple – Dinner at Ishikawa – Drink at Oku

Headed to Kyoto Takabashi Honke Daiichiasahi for Ramen as soon as I hopped off a Shinkansen bullet train. Just a five minute walk from Kyoto Station, and I found some people were queuing up. Waited for 15 minutes or so, but worth the wait! Reviews on Tripadvisor


Ramen @ Daiichiasahi – with extra Kujo-negi scallion topping


Then, went to Yogenin Temple, which is famous for its blood soaked ceiling:

The ceiling above¬†the corridor of the main hall is¬†well known for the “blood ceiling”. At¬†the Battle of¬†Fushimi Castle in 1600, Mototada Torii and his subordinates, ordered to defend the Castle by Ieyasu¬†Tokugawa (1st Shogun in Edo period), were defeated and killed themselves. The floorboards stained with¬†their blood were brought to the temple¬†to pray for those departed souls.

You might think it’s creepy, but Yogenin is one of the most historically interesting temples in Kyoto. It‚Äôs worthwhile visiting if you are interested in Toyotomi and Tokugawa Clans (click for more details).



After Yogenin,¬†took a train down to Uji to see Byodoin¬†Temple, one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. ‘Byodoin Temple is a striking example of Buddhist Pure Land (Jodo) architecture. Together with its garden, the temple represents the Pure Land Paradise and was influential on later¬†temple construction. Byodoin was initially built in 998 as a countryside retreat villa for the powerful politician Fujiwara no Michinaga, not as a temple.’ (ref:

You cannot miss¬†the interior of Amida Hall, or the Phoenix Hall, ‘built with the sole purpose of housing the Amida Buddha image. It has three wings, creating an image of the mythical bird of China, the phoenix. The central hall is flanked by twin wing corridors on both sides, plus a “tail” corridor. The roof of the hall is surmounted by bronze phoenixes.’ (ref:

The hall accepts up to 50 visitors at a time, and each tour is limited to 20 minutes. Check with the admission and times when visit.

Byodoin in rain — If you happen to have a 10 yen coin on you, you might want to contrast and compare.
Cleared up!
Byodoin in reflection


If you visit Uji in June or July and have a plenty of time there, try¬†Mimurotoji Tempe¬†for beautifully bloomed hydrangeas and lotus flowers. I was going to stop by, but stuck in the temple¬†because of heavy rain and couldn’t have enough time to make it….


Hydrangeas @ Mimurotoji


Headed back to Central Kyoto to book in a hotel, and went out for Obanzai dinner. Obanzai is:

the traditional home style cooking of Kyoto. It is made up of multiple small dishes that are usually quite simple to prepare. Local produce that is in season is best suited for the dishes. Although the cooking methods are usually not complicated, obanzai dishes can be made very rich by chefs skillfully bringing out the natural flavors of the ingredients.

Restaurants that serve obanzai ryori can be found all over Kyoto. Many of them have a relaxed and friendly atmosphere that reflects the home style of cooking. A full meal usually costs 2000 to 3000 yen, but can vary depending on the number and type of dishes ordered.   (ref: Kyoto Food Guide)

Enjoyed Obanzai a lot at Okazuya Ishikawa.  Reviews on TripAdvisor


After Obanzai dinner, chilled out at Bar Oku with a dram of Scotch.  Review on TripAdvisor


Alternative Obanzai restaurants:

My favourite¬†Obanzai place – ¬†I used to be a Menami-goer when lived in Kansai. Nama¬†Yuba Harumaki, or¬†Yuba (Tofu skin) Spring Rolls, and Renkon Manju,¬†or¬†Lotus Root Dumpling,¬†are highly recommended! Loved to go back again, but it’s¬†closed on Sundays. Reviews on Tripadvisor


Aji Rokkon
Tried 3 years ago and liked it very much. Reviews on Tripadvisor


Wagashi of the Month: May

In Japan, Children’s Day, or¬†Kodomo-no-hi,¬†falls on 5th of May.¬†To be precise, however, it is actually celebrated as the Boys’ Festival. To drive away bad spirits and celebrate the future of their sons, families display Gogatsu-ningyo,¬†samurai dolls and their armaments,¬†indoors like¬†Hina Matsuri Dolls, and¬†hoist Koi-nobori, cloth carp streamers.


Koi-nobori (pic from


Carp/Koi-nobori shaped Wagashi and iris leaves


Iris flowers called Hana Shobu, which bloom in early May, are placed in homes to ward off evil. It is customary to have a bath known as Syobu-yu, filled with floating iris leaves and roots not only to drive off evil but also to prevent disease.


Iris flower shaped Namagashi


Kashiwa-mochi, rice cake stuffed with sweetened bean paste and wrapped in an oak leaf, is eaten on the day. Since oak tree doesn’t shed old leaves until new leaves grow, it is considered a symbol of the prosperity of one’s descendants.


Kashiwa mochi 

Wagashi of the Month: April

Oops, May is almost there…. I was going to post this while¬†cherry blossoms were in bloom but¬†missed the right timing, so this is a bit out of¬†season….




Sakuramochi is a wagashi confectionery consisting of sweet pink-coloured rice cake with a red bean paste (anko) centre, and wrapped in a salted cherry blossom (sakura) leaf. Different regions of Japan have different styles of sakuramochi. Kanto-style uses shiratama-ko ( rice flour) to make the rice cake while Kansai-style uses domyoji-ko (glutinous rice flour). The former is called Chomyoji-mochi, and the latter is Domyoji-mochi.                 (Wikipedia)


chomyoji mochi
Chomyoji Sakuramochi


domyoji mochi
Domyoji Sakuramochi





sakuramochi assortment


Kusatsu Onsen Hot Springs Resort

Must hurry to post this before winter has completely gone!!

Japanese people are so much¬†in love with¬†onsen, hot springs. ¬†Generally, ‘onsen’ refers bathing facilities,¬†inns around hot springs or hot spring resorts. There¬†are numerous hot springs here and there in Japan, and people¬†enjoy various types of bathing facilities¬†in a dozen ways: popping in an¬†urban¬†public bath house equipped with a sauna or offers spa massage services, dipping in an¬†open-air hot spring¬†on riverbank or riverbed after a long bike¬†or motorcycle ride in mountains, staying at a luxury ryokan, a¬†traditional Japanese inn, to enjoy onsen and very tasty and high quality Japanese cuisine, etc.

An ideal onsen holiday  Рmust be in rural mountains or by the sea, hopefully snowy places in winter. My favourite one is, at an onsen close to the sea, eating crabs and doing a public hot spring bath crawl, which I am going to try again next winter and post on this blog .

Hakone Hot Springs Resort is one of my favourite destinations Рno crabs though. Hakone is very popular among hot spring goers and tourists because of the easy access from Tokyo, and beautiful and spectacular views of Mt Fuji.

Hakone: Lake Ashinoko and Mt Fuji (far left)

The onsen holiday we enjoyed this winter was a¬†simple and basic one for a weekend gateway from Tokyo. Kusatsu Onsen is one of the most famous hot springs resorts in Japan, and considered one of the three most renowned hot springs along with Arima Onsen¬†and Gero Onsen. We made a visit¬†at a very cold wintry weekend –¬†windy and snowy¬†– so¬†it was an ideal day for taking an onsen!

The most popular tourist place is Yubatake, the biggest (in water volume) hot spring in Kusatsu Onsen, which¬†literally means ‘a field of hot water’, where hot spring water is cooled down in the wooden conduits by a few degrees before it gets distributed to the various ryokan and public baths.



Kusatsu Onsen is famous for its quality and quantity of spring water. In Kusatsu Onsen altogether, about 32,000 liters of hot spring water are pouring out of the ground per minute and Yubatake itself 4,040.





hot spring source
a tiny shrine in the hot spring source – people throw coins in (not allowed though!)

Another tourist attraction is Yumomi performance in Atsunoyu Building adjasent¬†to¬†Yubatake.¬†Yumomi is ¬†a traditional¬†way to cool hot¬†spring water.¬†Unlike other onsen, the temperature of spring¬†water¬†is¬†extremely hot – it depends on the sources but it’s¬†between 50 ¬įC and 90¬†¬įC¬† (125¬įF¬†– 195¬įF)¬†–¬†while at many other onsen, the water¬†needs to be heated up as it isn’t hot enough¬†to bath in.


Yumomi Performance


It used to be cooled down like this (What a labour!) but not any longer.

After the performance, we had some walk up to Sainokawara Koen Park with hot spring streams, ponds and waterfalls.

hot water stream (sig)

saino kawara koen park
Can you see the steam coming off?

from top of the fall

hot water fall (sig)

shinto shrine
Shinto shrine

There is a open-air onsen in the park¬† for public use – ¬†of course, we didn’t try it ūüėÄ
Instead, we enjoyed rotenburo, an outside bath in the hotel we stayed.


MUST EAT in Kusatsu or Onsen Resort
Onsen Manju, a steamed bun stuffed with koshian, mashed and sweetened azuki¬†bean paste.¬†It is said that the munju used to be steamed with steam from hot springs but not any longer.¬†¬†I highly recommend Matsumura Manju shop’s in Kusatsu!

onsen manju

You might also want to try Onsen Tamago. Onsen Tamago, an egg poarched inside its shell slowly cooked in 30-40 ¬įC hot water, is another speciality. Well, it’s still called so even though boiled in a pan¬†over a stove at home… but anyway, it is literally authentic¬†Onsen Tamago!!

onsen tamago
Onsen Tamago eggs cooked in a hot spring


How to get to Kusatsu Onsen

Bus from Shinjuku, more precisely at JR Yoyogi Station, is the easiest way but advanced booking is a must!

There is another way¬†with trains –¬†


Where to stay

The Kusatsu Hotel, where we stayed, is one of the best ryokan in Kusatsu Onsen and has a long history Рopened in 1913.

kusatsu hotel
Kusatsu Hotel

hotel & kaki

Drying persimmons/kaki to make Hoshigaki, dried persimmon



Wagashi of the Month: March

On the 3rd of March, Japan celebrates Hina Matsuri, the Girls’/Doll Festival (not a national holiday), while some places in April according to the lunar calendar.

The festival has a long and curious history, but today, it is held in order to pray for a happy and healthy life for one’s daughter.

The first sekku¬†(seasonal festival) after the birth of a baby girl — it is a day when charming dolls are set out for display to symbolize the family’s wish that their daughter will be healthy, free from calamity and able to obtain a happy life with a good husband. Also called the Peach Festival or Momo no Sekku, as March is the season when peach flowers are in bloom.

(reference: )

Hina Matsuri Dolls

The¬†‚Äúhina dolls‚ÄĚ (¬†hina ningyo) are only displayed when a family has a daughter. Usually a set is handed down from generation to generation or the grandparents or parents will buy one for a girl‚Äôs first Hina Matsuri (hatsuzekku)! A complete set with traditional dolls can be extremely expensive! There is a superstition that the daughter of the house will have a hard time finding a marriage partner if the dolls aren‚Äôt put away in the evening of March 3rd!

Beautiful costumes of the HeianPeriod are worn by the hina dolls, representing the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians. They are displayed on a stand (hinadan) that is often covered with a red carpet. The platform can have several levels (up to 7). The most common ones are one-, five- and seven-tiered stands.

Depending on the region, the order of the dolls from left to right is different, but the order per level is the same. One example where you’ll find this difference in placement is with the Kanto and Kansai regions.

Top Platform:

On the top-tier you‚Äôll find the imperial dolls (dairi bina). They represent the Emperor¬†who is holding a ritual baton and the¬†Empress with a fan in her hands. The Empress is not wearing a mere kimono, but a costume called ‚Äújuuni-hitoe‚ÄĚ (twelve-layered ceremonial robe). The Royal family in Japan wears it during wedding ceremonies even nowadays. Traditionally the emperor was set up on the right from the viewer‚Äôs perspective, but in a modern display he‚Äôs sitting on the left.

The hina dolls are usually put in front of a folding screen (byoubu). These folding screens are very common in Japan for any type of decoration. They’re often also used to display the zodiac of the current year. Most of the time there are also lamp stands (bonbori) decorated with plum blossoms (ume) or cherry blossoms (sakura) representing the spring season.

Second Platform:

This is the spot for the three court ladies (sannin kanjo) who’re all holding sake equipment. Placed between them are stands with round table-tops with seasonal sweets on top.

Third Platform:

A total number of five male musicians (gonin bayashi) is displayed on the third tier.  Apart from the singer who has a fan in his hand, all of them hold a musical instrument.

(reference: )


So I prepared Odairi-sama and Ohina-sama shaped wagashi, and (real) peach blossoms for today. The couple,  made of nerikiri, are wrapped with a slice of kimono-shaped yohkan, a thick, jellied Japanese confection made from bean paste and sugar.


Odairi-sama & Ohina-sama (jo-namagashi)



Mejiro, Japanese White-eyes (from my window)



the third platform is not for the five musicians though….

Wagashi of the Month: February

This month’s Wagashi confectionery is¬†flower and¬†bird shaped. Tsubaki, camellia flower and Uguisu,¬†Japanese bush warbler both symbolise the coming of spring.

These are Namagashi, wet/fresh confectionery, and the Namagashi made from Nerikiri dough, or smooth sweetened white bean paste is called Nerikiri. The paste is usually coloured to be formed into motifs of the season.

Marriage of Namagashi and green tea, especially Maccha green tea is fantastic! That’s why I used to take tea ceremony classes ūüėÄ


wagashi - uguisu, a bush warbler
Harutsugedori, a bird that heralds spring (Uguisu, a bush warbler)


wagashi - Tsubaki, camellia
Tsubaki, camellia


wagashi - uguisu



wagashi - camellia


Spring is just around the corner!

Wagashi of the Month: Hanabira Mochi

This year up until December, on my blog, I am going to introduce Wagashi, traditional Japanese confections, which represents each month.

Japanese people have appreciated and loved the nature, the seasons and even the seasonal changes, and this makes peculiar¬†to their culture. People fully enjoy them¬†in their daily lives: Sometimes the beauty itself and sometimes imaginary worlds come up through five-sense perception, which have formed a large part of Japanese Arts. Haiku¬†poems and¬†Washoku, traditional Japanese cuisine and now on the list of the World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage,¬†are the most outstanding.

Wagashi, is not an exception. Quite often, the season of the year or the nature is expressed in its appearance, and some Wagashi have special meanings and are eaten wishing good luck, good health and so on at a certain time of period.

wagashi - hanabiramochi
Hanabira Mochi

I chose Hanabira Mochi for January, or rather for the New Year.
Hanabira Mochi¬†is usually eaten at the beginning of the year and¬†¬†served at Hatsugama, the first tea ceremony of the new year. That is the reason why you cannot find it anywhere except certain times of the year – until 7th, during Matsunouchi, the first 7 days from New Year’s, or 15th of January, i.e.¬†Koshogatsu (‘little new year’), New Year’s in the old lunar calendar; however, there are some which sell the confection through¬†the month.

(from Wikipedia)
The name hanabira¬†literally means ‘flower petal’ and ¬†mochi,¬†rice cake. The original form of Hanabira Mochi is Hishihanabira, a dessert that was eaten by the Imperial family at special events coinciding with the beginning of the year.¬†Hanabira Mochi was first made in the Meiji Era (8 September 1868 ‚Äď 30 July 1912), but it is now a familiar New Year Wagashi.

The exact shape of Hanabira Mochi is strictly defined by tradition. The white mochi covering is flat and round, folded over to form a semicircular shape, and must have a pink colour showing through in the centre of the confection, fading to a white at the edge. The mochi must not completely seal the insides.

In the center of a Hanabira Mochi is a layer of anko, sweet bean paste, commonly the white kind made from sweetened mung beans (flavoured with white miso). In the very centre is a thin strip of sweetly flavoured gobo, burdock root, which protrudes from the mochi on both sides.

Each element of the Hanabira Mochi is significant: The red colour showing through the white mochi is not only appropriate to the celebration of the new year, but also evokes the Japanese apricot/plum (ume) blossom, which in turn represents the purity, perseverance, and renewal associated with the New Year. The gobo represents pressed ayu, a sweet fish exclusive to East Asia, and a prayer for a long life.

I’ve just found a pretty¬†Wagashi for the new year, so let me¬†introduce¬†one more – suisen-shaped wagashi.

Suisen, or narcissus represents the new year since¬†it¬†blooms right around New Year’s Day. Suisen¬†is considered auspicious for the coming year.¬† The flower which¬†lies beneath frozen snow¬†symbolises¬†purity,¬†fertility¬†and life.

wagashi -  narcissus
Suisen, narcissus


wagashi -  Hanabiramochi



Apple Pandowdy

Apples, apples, apples…. I was thinking what to make with the fruit in season. Then happily, the right recipes reached me from a Postcrosser in Canada. This time I sent a postcard first with the address of this blog hoping to swap recipes with the recipient of the card, who suggests the trade on her Postcrossing profile. Generously enough, she gave me two: Apple Pandowdy and Apple Crisp.

What is a Pandowdy, by the way??? As usual, checked with Wiki and found that it is a¬†Canadian Maritimes and New England¬†variety of Cobbler¬†as well as ‘Grunt’ and ‘Slump’ (both also unfamiliar to me!).¬†I love apple crumble and had wanted to bake cobbler, so I chose it as the third try¬†(for 2nd¬†try, pls read¬†Adobong Manok). I¬†followed exactly the recipe:


1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
4 cups washed, peeled cored, and sliced tart apples
1 cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp shortening (trans free palm shortening)
1 beaten egg
1/3 cup milk

(* Canadian measurement: 1 cup = 250 cc/ml)


  1. Preheat oven to 375F/180C.
  2. Blend together first 4 ingredients in a saucepan.
  3. Stir in water. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and has thickened slightly (8 to 10 mins).
  4. Stir in butter, vanilla and lemon juice. Set aside.
  5. Arrange the apples in a greased 9 inch square baking pan that is 2 inches deep. Pour the sauce over apples.
  6. To make the sweet biscuit dough for the topping blend the 1 cup flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the shortening in finely.
  7. Add egg and milk. Stir with a fork to make a drop batter.
  8. Drop by spoonfuls over top of the apple mixture. Do not  stir.
  9. Bake for 35 to 45 mins.

Hmmm… Should I have used a pan instead of a plate as the name, Pandowdy indicates? And also, I should have made the drop batters smaller?

Anyway, as you can easily imagine, it’s so good! with the delicious sauce and the crispy topping –¬†I like the scone/biscuit dipped in the syrup. What is better, less fat and much healthier than my¬†apple crumble! but how could I have resisted spooing some vanilla ice cream on??? ūüėÄ ¬†Seems better to eat when it gets a little bit cool so that you can fully enjoy the taste of the apple and the sauce.

The pandowdy recipe is from a cookbook that the Postcrosser wrote for a fund raising event, and  there is a line at the bottom of the page:

We can’t always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.

It reminded me of the saying, ‘We are what we ate.’ I cook myself but I appreciate the people who have cooked for me, esp. my mum who fed me and make dishes I love whenever I go back to my parents’ place.

maple buiscuits 1 (sig)

Thank you so much for the apple recipes, dear Postcrossing friend in Canada! I will try the crisp as well.