Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

#8 Foods my island is famous for

on January 25, 2012

I love Japanese food, both the main food items and the dessert items.  I have yet to be disappointed by Japanese food, provided it is Japanese food it’s trying to be.  When Japan produces a pizza for example, it tends to be sub-par.  It’s the same with bagels, though English muffins are okay.  Japan does have chocolate, but seems to fail at chocolate-flavored things like some cakes and cookies and breads that have only the slightest hint of chocolate flavor, or hardly has any flavoring resembling chocolate at all.

Anyway, what I want to talk about for this post is some foods the island I live on, in rural Japan in the Seto Inland Sea, is famous for.

First off, my island is known as the “Blue Lemon Island.”  I know what you’re thinking….blue lemons exist!?  Actually no they don’t.  That’s just how the word Japanese word Aoi (青い・あおい)gets translated.  It means blue usually, but it can also mean green.  Seems confusing, right?

The answer lies in history.  Did you know that the way cultures distinguish colors have changed over time?  I learned about this in linguistics class.  The first basic distinction between colors is white vs. black, which is more commonly understood as, light vs. dark.  The next color distinction people adopted was red, probably from seeing blood from their bodies.  The next color demarcation adopted was a term for either blue or green, meaning, a single term that represents both of them (think earth and sky seen together as a single category).  Thus, in the past, Japan simply had one term to demarcate both colors.  As the Japanese culture and other cultures around the world evolved, they adopted further distinctions, such as different wods for green or blue.  Now the old term simply means blue, while a newer term,  Midori (緑・みどり) means green.Thus, my island is called the 青いレモンの島 or “Aoi lemon no shima” which uses the old term that could mean either green or blue, and since today that term simply means blue, that’s how it’s translated.  However, the color of lemons my island actually produces are these:.

Because my island grows so many lemons, they use lemons for a variety of things, such as alcohol:

As well as an extremely delicious, moist, lemon cake in a sort of bundt cake shape.

Here it is in its package:

And here is how people usually cut and serve it:

Yesterday we actually had a slice of this cake in our school lunch.  Usually school lunches don’t have desserts, but when they do, it’s usually some sort of fruit like a small orange or apple slice, or maybe fruit jelly.  Cake is still fairly rare, even for my island, but it’s always a treat when it comes up

My island also sells a different variation on the lemon cake.  Instead of buying a whole cake you can buy individually packaged small cakes.  Instead of being just a slice of the bigger cakes though, these are shaped like a lemon and are frosted.

You can sometimes buy these individually, but I think they more commonly come in gift boxes:

(For those of you that can read Japanese/Chinese, I just realized that these packages use a different character for the “Blue” part.  Actually, I found these pictures online, so they might not be the exact versions sold on my island – I’m sure my island doesn’t have the monopoly on lemon products – other places must grow lemons too).

Besides lemon products (of which there are also things like jams, hard candies, tea, and lemon-flavored pork), my island has a specialty that I greatly enjoy.  It’s actually a type of food produced in other parts of Japan as well, and you can often get mini packs of them at convenience stores.  That food is…..drum roll please!

Candied French Fries!

I bet you’re jealous!  :-P  It’s a delightfully sinful snack consisting of French Fries coated with a sugar coating such that it makes them hard on the outside, but a tad bit softer (though not as soft as regular French Fries) on the inside.  I’ve shared these with some friends both in the US and in other places in Japan and they’ve all really enjoyed them.

You can buy them in bags at my supermarket or at the port building that look like this exactly:
These bags are also sold on neighboring islands.

You can also buy them by the box, which looks nicer and is more appropriate for giving as a present in Japan.

They are officially called either Imogashi (芋菓子・いもがし)which basically means “potato sweets,” or Kenpi (けんぴ)which I’m not sure the meaning of, but might be more just like a name.  I’m sure there’s a history behind it but I don’t know it.

Have you ever eaten anything like these candied French Fries?  Is the area you live in famous for any kind of food?  Do you absolutely love lemons and wish you were here?  Feel free to leave comments!  Thanks for reading.


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