You know what’s crazy? It’s been almost a year since I studied abroad in Japan, and I still never have uploaded any photos of my adventures in Japan to Facebook or anything. I remember how I kept telling myself that I basically upload everything to this blog so it’s totally okay, except the last time I posted anything on the blog was October 9th, 2014 — almost 2 months before I left Japan. What the hell was I doing for my last 2 months in Japan? I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is that I have a bunch of photos sitting around that the world needs to see: specifically, all the Ethan Gorges Himself On photos that I’ve yet to upload. I’ve already endured the pain and internalized the calories (a bit too well); it would be a dishonor to my weight gain if I didn’t even share what I put my mouth for the sake of science. So, for the duration of this blog post, please pretend like I’m still in Japan and that you are still interested in what crazy things I decided to gorge on.
Back before the end of summer 2014, I went on a trip all the way from Tokyo (center/east-ish Japan) to Fukuoka (western most tip of Japan) with my pals; on the way there we made a stop in Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capital that houses a trillion beautiful temples where a gazillion important historical event happened. It was super exciting for a cultural and history freak like me to see all the places that I had only read about in books or saw in video games. What’s more interesting, however, was the myriad of super traditional Japanese food served in Kyoto’s restaurants that each had hundreds of years of history. What was the most impressive looking of them all? The sweets. All filled with delicious, delicious red bean filling.
I’ll confess: I’m not much of a sweet tooth: take me to brunch and I’ll pick savory over sweet 11/10 times. But these sweets are on another level. So, naturally I had to try one, and then another, and okay-Ethan-just-one-more, and seriously-bro-you-need-to-stop, and finally Jesus-Christ-fine-buy-all-15-of them.
Eating 10 pieces of various traditional Japanese sweets, all filled with red beans, also known as 餡子 (anko).
1. 八ツ橋 – Yatsuhashi
Yatsuhashi is a traditional snack from Kyoto that you’ll find mainly as a souvenir people who went to Kyoto bring their friends. It comes in all kinds of flavors, and a lot of the stores will just have 20 different bowls of cut up yatsuhashi sitting around that you can try out like in Costco; I got to try some weird flavors like cucumber and mango-cinnamon. The yatsuhashi pictured is filled with red beans and tasted like I can definitely have 30 more of those.
2. もみじ饅頭 – momiji manju
Like the yatsuhashi, the momiji manju is a special souvenir from Miyajima, where this famous and super recognizable Tori gate is from. The entire island is filled with beautiful mountain ranges, amazing views, majestic temples and tori gates, and at least 50 souvenir shops selling these momiji manjus and claiming they came up with it first. These also come in a lot of cool flavors like Chocolate, Cream and Peach; the one in the picture is red bean. I remember its taste as that of a red bean filled donut.
3. みず饅頭 – mizu manju
Looks like frozen jelly lava cake, taste like a frozen jelly lava cake. Though there is not cake, only jelly, and there the lava is just red beans.
This can probably be described best as a green tea munchkin with red bean filling. I’d eat those over Dunkin Donuts munchkins anyday.
5. ごじょうぎばし最中 – fish shaped waffles with red bean paste
I’ll just be honest and say that at this point in the gorging I had eaten so much sweet red bean things that I couldn’t taste sweet things anymore. The waffle’s neutral taste was very helpful, however, and provided a nice reference point though that helped me realize I was still eating something sweet.
6. くず饅頭 – kuzu manju
7. 麩まんじゅう – wheat manju
8. 笹しぐれ – sasa shigure
Another jelly munchkin, but this time with…grapefruit filling? The sourness of the grapefruit actually works really well. Not sure why it’s green though.
9. 手打ちよもぎ – teuchi yomogi
This one had really chewy skin.
10. 京の上生菓子 – Kyoto’s Jounamagashi
And finally we have arrived at the best looking snack of the bunch: the namagashi. Another special confectionery of Kyoto, these super cute looking sweets are usually served after traditional tea ceremony and are shaped to themes like nature and seasons. Their taste doesn’t match their appearance however; the one pictured above didn’t taste like peach, but it was really tasty in its own right.
I think I’m done with red-bean filled anything for a while.
Tune in next time where I’ll eat every single plastic food sample in this display window I found in at a cafe in Kyoto.
(and by the way, I did eat that huge parfait on top. It was like $35 bux.)