One of the many delights about living in Japan is, as many Japanese people will be willing to tell you, the country’s four distinct seasons. Imagine our surprise then when we learnt that there are actually 72 seasons in Japan! An ambitious new project by a Japanese patissier aims to showcase all 72 seasons with traditional Japanese sweets, one sweet per season. The results are stunning and will be sure to please anyone with a sweet tooth or an eye for the visually aesthetic.
Japan, as most will testify, is famous for its delicious food culture. So much so that Japanese cuisine has actually been recognised as a UNESCO world intangible cultural heritage item. Whilst Japanese tea and Japanese sake are well revered around the world, it seems that traditional Japanese sweets (known as wagashi in Japanese) haven’t received the attention they deserve.
In fact, many traditional Japanese sweet stores have closed down due to a lack of successors to family businesses operating sweet stores, and the industry is struggling. There is concern that the art of traditional Japanese sweets will be lost as the number of stores decline.
Given the unfortunate state of affairs, Chikara Mizukami has set out on a mission to revive and deliver to the world the charm and beauty of traditional Japanese sweets.
Mizukami runs a famous traditional Japanese sweets store called Ikkoan in Koishikawa, Tokyo, in addition to holding workshops overseas. As one of the most successful and renowned traditional Japanese patissiers, he hopes to teach the world about the culture and art of traditional Japanese sweets through a book project based on the 72 seasons of Japan. We think he might just be the right person for the job!
Some of the creations are too beautiful to eat. Here is a sample.
The concept of 72 seasons (known in Japanese as Shichijuuni-ko) has its origins in an ancient Chinese system whereby each season has further subdivisions. Therefore a different season occurred every five days or so. Each mini season is nuanced by a subtle change in weather and nature (flora and fauna). It is all rather poetic and Japan later adopted this system as well. Examples of seasons include: the return of the geese to the northern province and the awakening of frogs from hibernation in the early spring.
The Ikkoan Brand Project Book will aim to showcase the high quality craftsmanship, skill and sensibilities required to create such beautiful handcrafted delicacies. With each sweet featured in the book representing one of the 72 mini seasons in Japan, the results are sure to be stunning!
Japanese chefs and patissiers certainly have a knack for making food look as beautiful as it tastes, and this book project is no exception.
The project is being crowdfunded using the Japanese site Green Funding, and needs to collect 300,000 yen (about US$2,441) by August 6. Fortunately, at the time of this writing, it looks like they’ve already gotten 303,000 yen! If you’re interested, you still have plenty of time to back the project, but you’ll have to be in Japan to do so — Green Funding only accepts payments from people living the country.
Hopefully the book will eventually see an international release for those outside Japan!