Today, July 7th, is known in Japan as Tanabata 七夕, or Star Festival (Qixi Festival in China). According to legend, this is the one day of the year that the star-crossed lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Altair and Vega), separated by the Milky Way, can finally meet. As we introduced last month, Tanabata is a festive occasion and one of the highlights of Japanese summer. Shopping arcades are brightly decorated and people tie wish cards to bamboo branches in the hopes they will come true.
Japanese sweet shops, especially traditional wagashi shops will often mark the occasion with themed sweets. The creations can be quite beautiful, but one shop in Aichi Prefecture has truly outdone themselves this year.
Take a look at this gorgeous creation:
Called Ama no Gawa 天の川 (Milky Way), this translucent agar-based kingyoku 錦玉 style jelly is made by Ōmiya (Oumiya) 近江屋, a wagashi sweets shop which has operated in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture for 80 years.
Here are a few more views from different angles. As you can see, the jelly has a beautiful blue and purple gradation and is speckled with gold flecks and edible glitter to reproduce the star-studded Milky Way. As for the taste, it is flavored with lemon juice, for a refreshing sensation to cool you off on a warm summer night.
In addition to Ama no Gawa, Ōmiya has also created other sweets for the season. For example, these Oiden Hanabi おいでん花火 a colorful, festive wagashi named after the fireworks display during the local Toyota city Oiden Matsuri festival. As you can see, the color, sparkle and pattern of a fireworks “flower” opening with a bang is reproduced in wagashi form. Although the festival had to be canceled this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, people can enjoy these “edible fireworks” as they stay home and look forward to next year’s festivities.
Or this wagashi called Gohho no himawari ゴッホのひまわり (Gogh’s Sunflowers), inspired by the famous series of paintings Vincent Van Gogh began working on during the summer months. The chef paid particular attention to simulate the painting’s colors and brush strokes.
Another wagashi perfect for summer is their Remon Biyori れもん日和 (which can be loosely translated as “a perfect day for lemon”). A bright and sunny kingyoku jelly made with a slice of domestic Japanese lemon, it has a fresh lemony flavor with a tinge of bitterness, which, as they jokingly add on their Twitter account, is “just like first love.”
The fourth-generation head chef of Ōmiya also has a YouTube channel where he shows how to make wagashi. The most recent video shows off their hydrangea-themed wagashi, perfect for the current rainy season when the flower is in bloom.
If you’d like to see more of Ōmiya’s creations, you can follow their Twitter account. If you live in Japan and happen to be in the area, you can visit them at the following address:
Address (JP): 〒473-0914愛知県豊田市若林東町棚田24
Address (EN): 24 Tanada Wakabayashi Higashimachi, Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture 473-0914
Hours: 8:00 – 18:00 (17:00 on Sundays)
Access: 5 min. walk from Meitetsu Wakabayashi Sta.