I'm still hard at work on H+MC. The writing is going slowly these days, but I've been happy with the pages. Kaguya and Hakashi have clambered to the top of mountain to confront a fire rat, despite their sexual tensions. When the weather is this nice, it's impossible to be down about a low word count.
Since it's cherry blossom season, I thought I would share a cherry blossom picture by Hiroshige Utagawa. "Evening Cherry at Nakanochō in the Yoshiwara" (c. 1834-5) shows women and courtesans sneaking into the Yoshiwara, or Edo's pleasure district. Above are some snapshots from the print. In the first, we see the gate to Yoshiwara, as well as lantern advertisements for tea houses. You can see two geishas looking at the crowd behind them. Yoshiwara was the center of urban nightlife from 1617 to the end of the nineteenth century; it was the only district in Edo where prostitution was legal. But people could go into Yoshiwara to do other things—the nice brothels were expensive—such as visit tea houses or enjoy the Nakanochō cherry blossom's by moonlight.
Notice the woman with her face covered up!
My friends in Japan are all posting cherry blossom pictures. They are not visiting brothel district, however. Department stores are selling special cakes, picnic baskets, and even special booze for cherry blossom "flower viewing parties" or hanami. (I prefer to think of them as flower picnics).
To celebrate my own sort of hanami in Los Angeles, I visited Fugetsudo. Fugetsudo is Little Tokyo's oldest continuing business. This year they celebrated their 110th anniversary. The little shop off the main street makes delicious mochi, or pounded steamed rice cakes. I dropped by on a weekday morning and peaked into their kitchen. Candy-makers in the kitchen carried and stretched mochi. I ordered a box of handmade confections.
My favorites were a seasonal cherry blossom rice balls, seasoned with sugar, pickled cherry leaves, and filled with sweet bean. Also, the "mikan," a mandarin orange-shaped pillow of happiness in the top righthand corner, was a delicious winner.
All the candies were too much for one person, but it seemed manageable with tea. That's my food logic. The friendly shop assistant talked me into purchasing some cherry blossom tea as well. (Spoiler: it was a good idea). (Tea Lover's Note: the "Sakura Sencha" by Den's Tea is marvelous).
Fugestsudo was founded in 1903. Following World War II, the owners were sent to the Japanese American internment camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Following the war, the family returned to Los Angeles. The Kito family is still there crafting delicious snacks.
I love wagashi and tea, although a lot of people don't have a taste for traditional Japanese confections. My mother calls them bean sweets. (She doesn't say that in an affectionate way).
Do you have any old, interesting shops in your neighborhood?