japanese scents: 1 post

Peach Flowers and Cherry Leaves : 5 Fragrances for Hinamatsuri

This week as Belgium and the rest of Europe was battered by Siberian winds, I’ve enjoyed thinking about peach blossoms and pink confections. March 3rd is celebrated in Japan as Hinamatsuri, also known as Girl’s Day or Doll’s Festival. Starting in February, families with daughters put up elaborate platforms representing the imperial wedding, complete with the emperor, empress, court ladies, famous poets and musicians of the Heian era (794-1192). These doll sets are usually given by grandparents to their granddaughters as they wish them health and happiness. Since most Japanese live in tiny, cramped apartments and doll sets cost around $2000, only a few still keep to the old customs. Nevertheless, girls are still feted on this special day.

The reason I enjoy Hinamatsuri is not for the dolls but the flowers and food. March 3rd is known also as Momo no Sekku, the festival of peach blossoms. Peach trees blossom even before spring makes its first claims, and the flowers are as beautiful as they are symbolic–delicacy need not come at the expense of resolve. The fragrance of peach blossoms has a hint of bitter almond and creamy jasmine, but it’s fresh and bright. The pale color of flowers inspires the meals served on Hinamatsuri, like chirashi zushi, a bed of vinegared sushi rice scattered with raw fish, salmon roe, egg threads and pickled lotus root slices, or hishi mochi, diamond shaped rice cakes in delicate pastel shades. My other favorite is sakura mochi, glutinous rice cakes filled with red beans and wrapped in a salted cherry leaf.

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