京和菓子 こう暑くとも 食べれへん Sweet Kyoto confections / So beautiful , even in heat / One hesitates to eat

It is not limited to Kyoto confectionery. Famous sweets from all over Japan are not only delicious but also so beautiful that one might hesitate to eat them. In spring, there are sakura mochi, in summer, mizuyokan, in autumn, kuri manju, and in winter, uguisu mochi. The ability to feel the beauty of each season through their appearance and taste is one of the charms of Japanese sweets. Japanese sweets typically use plant-based ingredients such as rice, wheat, and beans, allowing for a gentle sweetness and refined flavor. The tradition of Japanese sweets dates back to the Manyo era, evolving into new “wagashi” under the influence of Chinese “karagashi”, and “namban-gashi” brought from Portugal and Spain. Ordinary citizens began to eat wagashi regularly from the Edo period, driven by an increase in sugar imports. Many wagashi, such as Kyoto’s representative “Kyogashi,” that are still popular today, originated in the Edo period. While carrying on the tradition of wagashi, new types have emerged to suit the times.
According to a recent survey, the top five most popular Japanese sweets are:

  1. Strawberry Daifuku
  2. Warabi Mochi
  3. Mitarashi Dango
  4. Taiyaki
  5. Dorayaki

It can be seen that both traditional and modern wagashi are favored. Incidentally, the popularity of wagashi has also spread overseas. The top five wagashi favored by foreigners are:

  1. Dorayaki
  2. Taiyaki
  3. Daifuku
  4. Anpan
  5. Senbei

It is said that the influence of anime has been the starting point, gradually increasing the popularity of wagashi. Many foreigners visiting Japan wish to try the above-mentioned wagashi. Unlike Western sweets made with dairy products and chocolate, wagashi, made with plant-based ingredients, are gaining popularity amidst a growing health-conscious trend.


1.いちご大福 2.わらび餅 3.みたらし団子 4.たい焼き 5.どら焼き


1.どら焼き 2.たい焼き 3.大福 4.あんぱん 5.せんべい


梅雨の中 今日のメニューは 生身供 In the rainy season / The shōjingu is curious / About today’s menu

In Okunoin, there is a mausoleum where Kukai entered into nyujo (a state of deep meditation, where one becomes a Buddha while still alive). It is believed that Kukai is still alive on Mount Koya, and twice a day, at 6 AM and 10:30 AM, meals are brought to Okunoin. This ritual is called “Shojingu.” Until June 6th, a special exhibition was held at the Nara National Museum to commemorate the 1250th anniversary of Kukai’s birth, attracting over 100,000 visitors. Kukai, who
still gathers many devotees, was born in 774 in Sanuki, Shikoku. At the age of 31, he fulfilled his long-cherished wish to become an envoy to Tang China, aiming for Chang’an. The journey was unimaginable: 31 days by sea and 2400 km by land. Among the envoys was Saicho, who later founded the Tendai sect. Saicho was an envoy under imperial command, while Kukai was merely a practicing monk. Kukai had already mastered Chinese and completely mastered Sanskrit during his two-year stay in China. Kukai’s mentor, Master Huiguo, was the highest authority on esoteric Buddhism in China at the time. He recognized Kukai’s character upon their first meeting and devoted himself entirely to teaching him. Two years later, Kukai was chosen as Huiguo’s successor, surpassing other disciples, despite being a foreigner. After two years of training, Kukai
returned to Japan and established Mount Koya as the sacred site of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism as Huiguo’s successor. Mount Koya, which Saicho sometimes visited to seek Kukai’s teachings, now has about 200,000 graves. Among the notable figures interred there are Oda Nobunaga, who tried to attack Mount Koya, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Date Masamune, all famous “Warring States
period” generals. Additionally, there are memorial towers for the founder of the Jodo sect, Honen, and the founder of the Jodo Shinshu sect, Shinran. Both allies and enemies, and even different sects, are accepted here.

奥の院には空海が入定(瞑想をして生きたまま仏になること)した御廟があります。高野山では空海は今も生きているとされていて、奥の院には毎日朝6時と10時半の2回、食事が運ばれています。この儀式は「生身供(しょうじんぐ)」と呼ばれています。この6月6日まで、奈良国立博物館で空海の生誕1250年を記念して特別展が開かれ、10万人を超える入場者があったそうです。いまだに多くの信仰を集める空海は774年に四国讃岐に生まれます。31歳の時念願かなって遣唐使として中国長安を目指しました。海路31日、陸路2400㎞の想像を絶する行程でした。遣唐使の中にはのちに天台宗を起こす最澄もいました。最澄は朝廷の命を受けた遣唐使、空海は一介の修行僧でした。空海はすでに中国語はマスターしていて、中国留学中の2年間で梵語は完全マスターしたそうです。空海の師、恵果和尚は当時中国では密教最高峰の権威で、恵果は初対面で空海の人となりを見抜き、全身全霊をかけて教えを授けたそうです。2年後には他の弟子らを抑えて異国の地からやってきた空海を己の後継者としました。2年間の修業を経て帰国した空海は、恵果の後継者として真言密教の聖地として高野山を開きます。時には最澄まで教えを乞う為に訪れた高野山には、今では約20万基のお墓があり、 高野山を焼き討ちにしようとした織田信長 を始め、豊臣秀吉 、伊達政宗など名だたる「戦国武将」のお墓も所狭しと存在します。また浄土宗開祖「法然」の供養塔、浄土真宗開祖「親鸞」の霊屋まであり 、敵も味方も異宗派までもが受け入れられています。

梅雨入りを 待たずに上まで 立葵 Before the rainy season begins / Up to the top flowers bloomed / Tachiaoi

Today, June 21st, the Japan Meteorological Agency announced that the Kinki, Tokai, and Kanto-Koshin regions are likely to have entered the rainy season. This entry is 14 to 15 days later than usual. However, despite a slightly cloudy sky, we’ve had sunny intervals since morning. The nearby tachiaoi (hollyhock) has already bloomed up to its top, as seen in the photo. The scene doesn’t seem like the onset of the rainy season at all.
Tachiaoi typically starts blooming around the onset of the rainy season, and folklore says that once it blooms all the way to the top, the rainy season will end. So, this year’s rainy season entry in Kansai is significantly delayed. Upon checking, the earliest recorded rainy season onset since observations began in 1951 was May 6th, 1963, while the latest was June 22nd, 2007. Therefore, today’s onset ranks as the second-latest in recorded history.
By the way, looking at the end of the rainy season, the earliest end was June 29th, 2018, and the latest was August 4th, 1982. Thus, a late onset doesn’t necessarily mean a late end to the rainy season. This year’s rainy season is expected to be short in duration with concerns about concentrated heavy rainfall.
And today is the summer solstice. As we reach summer, according to the calendar, summer really begins today. The start of the rainy season and the arrival of summer are on the same day, so everything seems out of sync and it’s just confusing.


精一杯 今年も真っ赤に さくらんぼ With all their might / Sakuranbo are bright red / Again this year

It’s cherry season again. When it comes to cherries, I only know Satonishiki, but there are several types, each with its own peak season. They produce an indescribable cuteness with their transparent redness and perfectly round, moderately sized forms. I think cherries are more for enjoying visually than for eating. Truly ‘red jewels.’ This year, something unusual is happening with cherries. According to Yamagata Prefecture, the expected cherry harvest in 2024 is 12,100 tons, which is 93% of last year and 91% of the average year. It’s expected to decrease by about 1,000 tons from last year, potentially causing price increases. Abnormal weather conditions are behind the poor harvest, with the emergence of ‘twin fruits’—cherries with two pistils—being prominent due to last summer’s intense heat. Many of these fruits are unsuitable for shipment as products. Similar problems are occurring with ume plums; fruit set is down 30% from usual years, and shipping quantities are reduced by 40-50%. On the other hand, some fruit tree farmers are cheering due to a mild winter. In Minamiboso City, Chiba Prefecture, one of the leading producers of biwa (loquat), biwa are abundant with large, sweet, high-quality fruits. Fruit trees remind us of Japan’s seasonal changes—a cultural tradition built over a long history—and concerns are growing in producing areas that have nurtured their unique food culture. If global warming continues, there’s a fear that the map of suitable regions for fruit cultivation could be redrawn in the future.

さくらんぼの季節になりました。さくらんぼといえば佐藤錦しか知りませんが、さくらんぼにも何種類かあって、それぞれ旬の時期が違うようです。透き通る様な赤さとまん丸をわい適度な大きさが、言いようのない可愛らしさを生み出している様です。食べたいと思うより、見て楽しむ果物だと思います。まさに「赤い宝石」です。そのさくらんぼに今年は異変が起きています。 山形県によると、2024年のサクランボの予想収穫量は1万2100トンで、前年比93%、平年比91%だそうで、昨年より1000トンほど落ち込むとみられ、価格が高騰する恐れもあるとのこと。不作の背景にあるのは異常気象で、昨夏の猛暑で、めしべが2本になる「双子果(ふたごか」の発生が目立ち、商品として出荷するのに適さない果実が増えたからだといいます。同様なことがウメにも起こっていて、ウメの着果は例年の3割、出荷量は4〜5割減だそうです。一方、暖冬でうれしい悲鳴をあげている果樹農家もあります。全国有数のビワ生産地である千葉県南房総市では、ビワが大豊作で果実も大きく成長し、果肉も甘い一級品だそうです。果樹は季節の変わり目を実感させてくれる日本の風物詩です。長い歴史を積み重ね、独自の食文化を育んできた生産地では、このまま温暖化が進むと将来的に適地適作地図が塗り替えられる恐れがあると懸念が広がっています。

一日を ハイビスカスは 精一杯 A day in full bloom / Hibiscus giving its all / With all its beauty

Currently, the rainy season has already begun in Okinawa, Amami, southern Kyushu, and Shikoku only, while northern Kyushu to Tohoku has yet to experience its onset. Typically, the rainy season starts from early June in Kyushu through Kanto and Koshin, so this year seems notably delayed. There’s a high likelihood that Kansai will see its onset around the 18th or 19th, though even that isn’t certain. I’m not particularly yearning for the rainy season, but rather concerned about its impact on drinking water and crops due to drought. Amidst this, the hibiscus in a nearby garden blooms splendidly. Hibiscus flowers, known as ‘day flowers,’ bloom for just one day. Similarly, morning glories, daylilies, portulacas, and hawkweeds share this trait. They are all representative of flowers with a ‘transient’ image. Despite their vibrant and beautiful blossoms, the flower language ‘delicate beauty’ derives from the fact that they bloom for a brief time and soon wither. Hibiscus and bougainvillea evoke images of tropical flowers, yet now they are seen throughout Japan. Japan’s climate no longer fits temperate but rather resembles subtropical conditions.


蛍火に うつせみ見るや 儚夢 In the fireflies’ glow / When we look at this world  /  It seems like a fleeting dream

Every time I see the fireflies flitting through the pitch-black darkness, I’m reminded of will-o’-the-wisp I once saw. Back then, we didn’t have air conditioning like we do now, so after dinner, we’d go outside to enjoy the cool of the evening. Neighbors would gather on a small wooden bench, about the size of a tatami mat, fanning themselves with hand-held fans, chatting, playing shogi, or setting off fireworks. One summer night like that, as some of us sat chatting as usual, one person pointed beyond the wooden fence and exclaimed, ‘Look, there’s a will-o’-the-wisp!’ We all looked in surprise at the direction indicated, just in time to see a ball of light like a firefly vanish into thin air. Since it was in town, we knew there shouldn’t be fireflies around, and I remember everyone froze for a moment, huddling together. I heard the next day or so that the master of the house beyond the fence had passed away, and from then on, we moved the bench a little away from that house. Whether it truly was will-o’-the-wisp or perhaps someone’s pet firefly had escaped, I couldn’t say for sure upon reflection. Stories of will-o’-the-wisp have been told in Japan since the Manyoshu era and are spoken of throughout the world, so perhaps there’s some phenomenon like that. Phosphine, which can attach to human or animal bones, is a colorless, foul-smelling, flammable gas at room temperature, and it can spontaneously ignite in the presence of oxygen in the air at room temperature, so perhaps it’s some such substance that was wafting through the air.


あじさい園 真っ赤な紅葉と いわし雲 Hydrangea garden / Vermilion autumn leaves, and / Sardine clouds

It’s quite a peculiar combination. On the way to the nearby hydrangea garden in the park, there stands a bright red autumn foliage tree right in front of me. It’s a momentary scene reminiscent of autumn. Moreover, high in the sky, sardine clouds stretch across the entire expanse. I’m about to go see the hydrangeas now, but the scene that greeted me is of autumn. This red foliage tree is called the ‘Nomura Momiji (Nomura Maple).’ Some also call it the ‘Nomura Kaede (Nomura Japanese Maple).’ It’s bright red from early spring to early summer, turns deep green in summer, and then becomes red again in autumn. In early spring, it blooms flowers resembling small spider lilies. It’s a variety similar to the Iroha Momiji (Iroha Maple), which is the protagonist of autumn foliage, and it’s said to be often mistaken for the Iroha Momiji in autumn. It’s been treated as a garden tree since the Edo period, and in the past, it was highly valued under the name ‘Musashino.’ Looking at the history of ornamental plants like this, it seems that the Edo period was a much richer and more progressive era than imagined. Plant hunters from around the world brought Japanese ornamental plants back to their own countries and introduced ornamental plants from around the world to Japan. Many of today’s ornamental plants were also improved during the Edo period.


緑濃い 葉にクチナシは 咲いたけど Among dense green leaves / The gardenias have bloomed / but …

The site repairs are finally complete. From now on, I will occasionally send out a “Whimsical Haiku” whenever I feel like it. I apologize that most of the haikus are poorly written, but I hope you will continue to enjoy them.

The pure white flowers of the gardenia, which herald the arrival of the rainy season, have long since bloomed, but the rainy season has yet to be announced in the Kansai region. According to the forecast, it should start on June 6, but today the sun is shining brightly, making it feel like midsummer. Gardenias are plants with a long history, and from fibers excavated from the Shimonoike burial mound in Nara Prefecture, gardenia pigments have been detected. Since then, gardenia has been used as a dye pigment in Japan. Even today, it is used as a coloring material for New Year’s dishes like chestnut kinton, and instant ramen. The traditional Japanese gardenia has six petals in a single layer, but recently, many double-petaled varieties have been circulating. The single-petaled gardenia has a strong fragrance and bears orange-red fruit in the autumn. This fruit is used as a yellow dye and in Chinese medicine as “sanshishi.” On the other hand, the double-petaled gardenia, called “Ooyae kuchinashi,” is primarily ornamental and, although the flowers are magnificent, it does not bear fruit. Additionally, gardenia is called one of the “three fragrant flowers,” along with spring’s daphne and autumn’s fragrant olive. Its fragrance is celebrated in Tetsuya Watari’s hit song “Kuchinashi no Hana.”



ひと夏を ともに超そうと ホウキソウ With you, young kochia / Together we’ll make it through the summer / Under summer’s blaze


Kochia was planted in the nearby park. Although its appearance is still a bit scraggly, from early July it will quickly grow under the summer sun, developing into a cute, round shape of lime green. The spherical bushes reach about 80 cm in height, and their soft texture is also a characteristic feature. As they continue to grow, by the end of summer and beyond the equinox, the green gradually starts to turn red, creating a beautiful gradation of green and red. As autumn deepens, the vibrant red foliage spreads throughout the park, creating a truly breathtaking sight.
Kochia is also known by its Japanese names “Houkigi” or “Houkisou.” As the name suggests, it was traditionally used as material for making brooms. It is believed to have been introduced to Japan during the Heian period and began to be cultivated widely by the Edo period. Besides being used for brooms, it was also utilized as a medicinal herb for general health and to relieve skin itching. Additionally, the mature seeds are used in Akita Prefecture’s local cuisine called “tonburi,” often referred to as “field caviar” or “land caviar” due to its appearance. It is cooked and eaten with grated daikon radish or yam.
Nowadays, there are many famous kochia spots across Japan. The most well-known is Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki Prefecture, where about 30,000 kochia plants are planted on “Miharashi Hill,” which offers a view of the Pacific Ocean. Another notable spot is at Oishi Park on the northern shore of Lake Kawaguchi, where you can enjoy the view of kochia against the backdrop of Mount Fuji.


瀬戸内の 海の青さに 映えるビワ The loquat gleams bright / Against the azure sea / Of the Seto Inland

When I was a child, I often went to Awaji Island with my great-uncle, who was a master of Joruri (a form of Japanese narrative music). He had disciples and was teaching at a relative’s house. Around this time, when the rainy season was approaching, there were plenty of biwa (loquats) growing, and I enjoyed picking and eating them fresh. The biwa’s place of origin is in the southwestern part of China (Chongqing and Hubei Province), but it is said that they were brought to Japan over 1500 years ago. Especially during the Edo period, biwa cultivation flourished, and monks at temples performed biwa leaf therapy, which had been passed down from China, to the temple patrons. As a result, even today, you can see many biwa trees in temples. The biwa, with its leaves called “biwa yo” and seeds called “biwa kaku,” has been cherished as a folk remedy for coughs and other ailments up to the present day, being referred to as the “Great King Medicine Tree.” It was from the late Edo period that the cultivation of biwa as a fruit became popular. It began when a woman named Miura Shio from Mogi, Nagasaki received Chinese loquat seeds from a Chinese interpreter and planted them on her childhood home, and they have since spread throughout the country as Mogi loquats.This led to the spread of loquats, known as Motegi Biwa, across the country. Even today, loquats from Nagasaki account for more than 30% of the national production, making it the largest loquat-producing area in Japan.