Day forty-one: Zunda Mochi
I learned a new Japanese saying recently: Miyagemono ni umai mono nashi, or "Among souvenirs, there are no delicious things". I found this a little hard to get my head around; given the Japanese emphasis on giving souvenirs, packaged delicacies wallpaper every train station and airport; historically, local food souvenirs have been seen as giving the folks at home a way of participating in the journey; and surely, food gifts, no matter how undelicious, gather less dust than a snow globe?
But today gave me a little more insight. I spent most of it backtracking to Tokyo in order to take my ailing computer to the Mac store. Several hours into my train journey (I'm still stuck on local trains) I realized that I had somehow managed not to pack the fresh, delicious and expertly-made sweets that my friends at the Tokinoka Yawargi shop had set aside for me; it was like waking from a dream where you're lolling on a pile of treasure to find yourself in a single bed on IKEA sheets.
Rooting around in my bag, I managed to find a box of souvenir sweets that had been with me since Sendai. On the north end of Japan's main island, Honshu, they make something of a speciality of zunda, young, fresh soybeans that are boiled, sweetened, and ground into mealy paste. Zunda shows up in a number of incarnations, but here it is slathered over tiny balls of mochi.
Perhaps the trick to getting delicious souvenirs is not buying foods that are packaged specifically as souvenirs?