Each year on the 3rd of March is Hinamatsuri – Girl’s Day in Japan. For many in central Japan, this coincides with cherry blossom season which sets the perfect backdrop for ornamental displays of dolls and family celebrations to pray for the health and happiness of young girls.
A traditional sweet that is made for Hinamatsuri originates from Aichi prefecture, in the heart of Japan. Here, households make okoshimon, delicately coloured rice flour that has been pressed into a variety of fitting motifs. Flower shapes such as cherry blossoms, plum trees and chrysanthemums are common, as well as lucky charms such as purses and butterflies.
Often eaten with sweet soy sauce or kinako, roasted soybean flour with a nutty taste, okoshimon is a relatively simple sweet, both to enjoy and make. Rice flour is kneaded with boiling water, and colourings such as matcha or soured plum are applied before being pressed the dough into a mould and steaming it.
While the ones made at home may not have the same beautiful balance between different colours, making okoshimon provides a joyous family occasion that is very much enjoyed by young girls, and the results are an endearing culmination of well wishes, effort and celebration.
There a handful of traditional stores littered around Aichi Prefecture that offer the okoshimon and the moulds used to make them. As a seasonal treat, any traditional ‘wagashi’ (traditional Japanese sweets) store will have Okoshimon if visiting around the end of February and beginning of March. For those looking for the traditional moulds, they are available at Buddhist altar shop such as the Miyoshi Butugu Store or home improvement stores like Living Center Marunaga, but a tip for the present day – many households simply use modern bakeware and cookie moulds, as focus remains on celebrating Girl’s Day and bringing together the family.