April in Aomori seems like a happy place to be, the anticipation over the blooming of the cherry blossom genuinely has everybody on the edge of their seats. It’s crazy how much of a big deal these blooms are, people cannot wait for them to arrive, they are extremely excited. Our whole garden in Ireland bursts with blossom every year and unless my green thumbed mum points it out it would probably go largely un-noticed. Other than the green thumbers most people might catch a glimpse of it on an odd day but I think that’s really about it. Here in Japan it is quite possibly the highlight of the year. During a class quiz a question I asked a while ago was ‘What is your favorite season?’ 77% said spring …because it is blossom season. When I was in school spring to me was exciting and all but it was really just seen as a stepping stone to the warmer days of summer. Our school books described spring as ‘lambing season’ ie when lambs are born.
Every year the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the public track the sakura zensen (cherry-blossom front) as it moves northward up the counrtry with the approach of warmer weather. Nightly forecasts following the weather segment of news programs all show these sakura zensen . The blossoming begins in Okinawa in January and typically reaches Kyoto and Tokyo at the end of March or the beginning of April. It proceeds into areas at the higher altitudes and northward, arriving in Hokkaidōa few weeks later. We await with almightly patience here in Aomori.
April in Aomori has people smiling…regardless of the heart breaking disaster that floats constantly in our memories .
Pan class this April was our last one of the term, we became 1st grade pan graduates yesterday! We successfully completed our course with our ‘adopted mother’ Pan Sensei, starting in the dregs of the hot humid summer, slogging through the freezing white winter and here we are arriving pan-knowledgd into smiley spring.
We made ‘Melon Pan’ which is a very popular Japanese bread. Bread buns with raisins inside, flavored with melon oil and with a ‘cookie’ layer. The ‘cookie’ is like an extra crispy sweet crunch layer that lies on top of the soft bread.
We also made bread sticks, both with black seasame and some with a cheesey layer. On the special menu was a traditional Japanese dessert called ‘Kanten’. It was made with agar-agar, sugar, kanten and water boiled together and poured into little bags with anko-beans inside. Refridgerated until set and then the bag was removed to reveal a beautiful little dessrt, they are supposed to resemble crystals. The kanten comes in jelly-ish sticks that you melt down, we think it is similar to jellatine. Very odd stuff really.