I linked my post to a friend's blog and she and her husband are having a SHOW ME JAPAN weekend. I'm participating but I forgot to put their widget (or whatever this is called) on my post yesterday so I'm adding it late. Sorry A and Y!
I decided to show you pictures of where I work every weekday morning from 7:30 to 8:00. At the crosswalk! This is where I stand in front of a Japanese sweet shop which is in front of the elementary school.
The Japanese sweet shop has been in this same place for 80 years! The owner's grandfather started it when the roads were still gravel but since the road was paved there is a lot of traffic and that means more business for the shop. Still... It is run by a grandma and grandpa and their son... They sell Japanese bean paste sweets.
Every morning when I come to the corner the grandpa has rolled up his shop's metal shutters and dressed in his white apron and hat he busily washes the windows. Every morning! And when the weather is nice his wife carries their potted flowers and plants out under the awnings (and brings them back inside at night).
A couple of times a week the grandpa will set an outdoor stove going by the roadside and simmer up a pot to sweet beans. Oh! The air is filled with the aroma of wood burning and sugar bubbling! Yum! And in the kitchen the grandma is cooking up pots of sticky rice and rice gruel to be used in the Japanese confectioneries.
Not a large display case, but manju (sweet dumplings) and tea cakes (the colorful ones also made of sweet beans) and the standard dorayaki which are sweets with bean paste sandwiched between some mini pancakes, satisfy the community's sweet tooth. A few western looking cakes can be found in the display case on some afternoons because the owner's younger son owns a french pastry shop.
Sometimes when I go past the shop on my way to open the school gate, I find the wife outside drying her beans on bamboo mats and in metal baskets. She says they grow some of their own beans but actually they like to buy very delicious beans from Hokkaido in Northern Japan.
It is true that many foreigners do not like the texture of sweet bean paste and some are disappointed when what they think is going to be chocolate turns out to be bean paste. But with a hot cup of bitter green tea, sweet bean cakes are wonderful!