Yesterday I stopped at the Japanese sweet shop to buy sweets (rather than to stand in front of the shop and direct children across the crosswalk.) Usually when I arrive at the crosswalk in the morning the sweet shop lady and her son are just pulling door and window shutters up and then they spend the next half hour washing all the glass in their large windows. (In this freezing cold too! It is an everyday routine!)
Yesterday when I stopped in I could see the son and his wife (and their baby) in the kitchen part of their shop busily making sweets. I asked if I could watch AND take pictures!
This is the "kitchen" in their shop. Traditional is a good word for it. The "stove" is a fireplace made of local stone and the two huge rice pots set into the top of the stone. The wooden lids are just heavy enough to keep the steam from escaping but not enough to pressure cook (and smash) the rice kernels. The son was explaining to me that originally they would push firewood into the hole at the bottom of the stone stove... but now they have it rigged with gas. He seemed to think it funny that I asked if they still used firewood. I didn't think it was such a funny question because I know that they cook their beans in an outside firewood stove. The smokey aroma fills the air when I am at the crosswalk!
The son (with a sleeping baby on his back... you can see the papoose cross straps over his apron) and his wife were "wrapping" sweet beans in colored steamed rice. These are called "Sakura Mochi" a typical spring Japanese sweet named for the light pink cherry blossoms (Sakura). The wife was weighing the rice and making balls and then the son would scoop sweet bean paste with a bamboo paddle and "wrap" the bean paste in the rice with his other hand. All done in swift, graceful movements.
A tray of Sakura Mochi.
This sweet shop must make 10 of 15 different types of sweet bean paste sweets of all colors and shapes and every so often I'll buy a couple (or be given a couple) for Tetsu and my evening tea time.
Here is the sweet shop's cat planning her escape into the snowy outdoors. No one is happy that this cat has decided that every time a customer comes into the shop she will dash through their legs and into the outside...While I'm at the crosswalk I blow my whistle at her when I see her prowling around the door so the cat doesn't like me. I figure maybe I'm saving its life by keeping her away from the street so who cares if we're not friends. The cat didn't realize I was the same whistle blower yesterday and made a dash for the door, but I'm wise to her tricks. She had to watch the outside from her window perch while I was buying sweets.