As the humid summer weather in Japan is fading out, the comfortable autumn season is coming little by little. In Japan, it’s often said “Shokuyoku no Aki”, which literally means that “Autumn, the season of appetite”. Then, how can we resist the attraction of the delicious sweets which are available only during this period of time! Besides, in Japan, both western influenced and Japanese traditional sweets are frequently available everywhere, even in convenience stores…
Here, this article will recommend sweets or desserts which you can try during autumn in Japan. Please note that you should not go ahead of this article in case that you are starving right now.
Chestnuts are one of the Japanese favorites in fall. Just boiled ones also taste good. But made into sweets, they become much more delicious. Various chestnuts featuring sweets are widely available anywhere, from the local convenience stores to department stores, from September to November. Lawson, for example, is focusing on new products featuring them. Using brandy in marron paste, a recently lined-up French chestnuts mont blanc will surely satisfy your taste (295yen/319kcal).
We can see many pumpkins featuring sweets around Halloween, usually made into cream or pudding, however, some of them are already available. Seven Eleven’s pumpkin pudding, for example, has realized the rich taste of pumpkin itself that you can even feel the texture of the actual pumpkin. An increased amount of whipped cream and a bit bitter caramel sauce upon that, you will be certainly satisfied (186yen/185kcal).
Sweet Potato not only tastes good but also is healthy, so rather popular among young women (Rumor has it that Miranda Kerr also adores this delicious vegetable…)
Here are some popular sweets made of sweet potato:
Imo kenpi (sweetened fried sweet potato stick)
Sweet Potato (the oven baked sweet which is made from milk, eggs, and sweet potato)
In Japanese, sweet potato is called “Satsuma imo (potato from Satsuma, current Kagoshima prefecture)”. In this context, Sweet Potato is indicating not the vegetable itself, but the name of the sweet made of the vegetable.
Daigaku imo (dipped in sweet syrup and sparkled with black sesame, after deep fried)
Daigaku means university or college in Japanese. Why it’s called “university sweet potato”? The origin is like this: during the depression at the beginning of Showa era, one of the students of Tokyo University began to sell this. While another insist like this: at the beginning of Taisho era, Mikawa-ya, an ice cream shop in front of Tokyo University began to sell this in winter. Though either the first or second, its delicious taste remains same…
As for newly launched sweets, Seven Eleven’s Miyazaki beni no satsuma imo ko is notable. In a sweet potato disguised purple dough, you can taste the rich golden cream made of sweet potato from Kyushu area, ”Miyazaki beni”（140yen/222kcal）.
Kaki means Persimmon in Japanese, whose best season is October～November. Among the 4 fruits on this list, persimmon still may be the least popular for sweets, but it’s deliciously made into the filling of tart or jam, and in the world of Japanese traditional sweets, wagashi, its cute appearance is often featured. In addition, it can be tasty in pickles or salad. Its young leaf is even utilized for tempura and so on.
In autumn, Sweets featuring rabbit or full moon are frequently available to celebrate Otukimi. Otukimi is also known as Jugoya (the fifteenth night with a full moon) or Chushu no meigetsu (the harvest moon), the moon on 15/Aug according to the old lunar calendar. If transferred into the current solar calendar, therefore, there is about a month gap every year. This year, in 2017, we can celebrate Otukimi on 4/Oct. The event, watching the beautiful moon around this period, has been appreciated from ancient time, firstly in China. Today still widely observed in Asian countries, like China or Vietnam. In China, they celebrate this event with mooncake, the disc-shaped confection of wheat-flour dough filled with bean paste.
In Japan, introduced by Japanese ambassadors who visited China, only noble class people enjoyed this elegant event during Heian era. In Edo period, however, even ordinary people had begun to enjoy this event, eating the potatoes harvested at that period, while watching the beautiful moon in the clear autumn sky. And as this event has been becoming more popular among the wider range of people, gradually another meaning has been added to the event: to present the gratitude for the bumper crop during the harvest season. That’s why we offer sweets such as rice cakes or vegetables on this occasion.
Regarding the offering, rabbit motif is often used for Otukimi sweets, do you know the reason why? Actually, ancient Japanese people believed that rabbits were making rice cake, from the shadow of the full moon. It’s interesting that while in other countries, it’s said that the shadow of the full moon looks like the side face of a woman or cancer…
Well, have you found your favorite sweets in the list above? It’s also good to have Japanese autumn sweets party with your friends. Do not forget, however, that there are not only “Shokuyoku no Aki”, but also “Sports no Aki (“Autumn, the season of Sports)” and “Dokusho no Aki” (“Autumn, the season of reading)”. And of course, “Benkyo no Aki”― “Autumn, the season of studying”!