In which the Sumikko toy with the basic laws of time and space, you know, as one does. And there are snacks!
Aoringo means green apple—well, actually it literally means “blue apple” because what’s called blue and what’s called green often differs between Japan and America for complex reasons. Mochi is Japanese rice, uh, sort of pounded and pulled until it’s either quite chewy (as here) or the softest, fluffiest thing ever (the fancier stuff — I’ve gotten some heavenly mochi as souvenirs from friends after returning from a trip home to Japan).
Like I said about the Tokyo Apple Pie Umaibou, Japanese apple flavor tastes…well, very apple-y, especially compared to candy around the States. And that’s true with this mochi too, with a light sweet taste at first that really ends like an apple. These are extremely chewy, though, like the type of chewy that stays in your mouth for a long time. I don’t seek them out a lot, but there’s something oddly fancy about eating this little snack with its included toothpick.
Next we have Maruta Hanabatake Konpeitou. Hanabatake means a place where flowers are grown like a field or garden, and this is one of the most famous types of Japanese candy: konpeitou. Konpeitou has an interesting name. When it’s written in kanji, 金平糖 is used. 金 means gold, 平 means sort of wide and flat, and 糖 means sugar. Of those, doesn’t only the last one seem right? It’s because 金平糖 is ateji, where kanji characters are assigned for sound without necessarily considering meaning.
An example of ateji comes from the ways the word for America can be written in Japanese. Most of the time America isn’t written in kanji but instead in katakana (used in part for foreign words): アメリカ amerika. Katakana have only sound, no inherent meaning. But if you want to write America in kanji, the kanji used to represent the same sounds, 亜米利加, break down oddly in terms of meaning: you’ll find 亜 usually defined as “Asia” (though that meaning comes from its ateji use), 米 means rice, 利 refers to profit, and 加 means to add. I don’t know about you, but there are other nations I think of more than America when I hear about Asia and rice and such. 🙂
Similarly, the word konpeitou comes from the Portuguese confeito, which basically means candy and is related to the English word confection. The kanji make the correct sounds (or those sounds adjust to the Japanese syllabary at least) so their meaning is not the focus.
Konpeitou often does not have any flavor added; it’s just sugar, as I’m pretty sure the case is here (the flavor is often very faint, and if there is a flavor here it’s incredibly faint and almost certainly psychosomatic) But the light sweetness is really pleasant, and my friends’ kids always seem to get really excited about receiving it as a gift. It just has this cheerful, fancy aspect to it I really like as well.
Some Japanese candies seem more like something Americans would eat for breakfast than dessert — which is mostly just to say wow American breakfast is so freaking sweet. But if you’re like me and cereal and such already seems just like candy, the low-key flavor can be very pleasant. One example of this is the Yaokin Ninjin (from the same company that makes Umaibou). Ninjin means carrot, but what’s inside is puffed rice.
I like Japanese puffed rice snacks, not only because again they’re not blasting me in the face with sweetness, but also because they seem a little denser than, say, Rice Krispies and therefore nice to crunch, The two are otherwise quite comparable (if you’ve had Frosted Krispies, think of them, but with half the…frost). The Japanese snacks chew a little more like actual grains of rice. Maybe they’re slightly less puffed.
I just think the Ninjin is cool. Especially when you think of dagashi as targeting the things that would catch a little child’s eye and pocket money, I can just see me as a kid choosing the big freaking carrot, because a big carrot filled with snacks is awesome, and that’s just how I, uh, roll.
The last dagashi for today is the Chiirin Kagikko Chocolate. This is yet another type of dagashi that tastes pretty much exactly like an American treat—in this case, M&Ms.
I wasn’t sure whether this was supposed to be a musical note or a key at first, but then I actually turned the package over and saw the name (kagikko actually means “latchkey kid!”). I was all ready to say they taste like cheap M&Ms, given the low price of dagashi in general, but upon trying them again I’d say if you gave me a blindfolded taste test I couldn’t imagine actually telling them apart from regular full price M&Ms.
Well, that’s it for this round of my occasional dagashi-related stuff! I’ve kept things pretty tame in my choices, sticking to flavors and ingredients pretty close to the American palette, but at some point we’ll get to some of the more unique ones.
And as for where Tokage went, I’m still not quite positive. But I’m sure he’s just wandered off somewhere and nothing strange is going on…