Our reporter samples Sendai’s most popular food souvenir for the first time and is overcome by emotion.
When I was living in Yamagata City for a couple of years, the city of Sendai and all of its yummy treats were always an easy train or bus ride away. In addition to sending packs of the region’s zunda-flavored Kit Kats in my care packages back home, another local specialty that often made the box were Hagi no Tsuki, which I could even buy inside of Yamagata Station.
Hagi no Tsuki (meaning “Bush Clover Moon”–bush clover is the prefectural flower of Miyagi Prefecture, where Sendai is located) is a specialty souvenir (omiyage) from a well-established Sendai store called Kasho Sanzen. The confection is a soft sponge cake in the shape of a round moon with a small dollop of firm custard inside.
▼ A typical Hagi no Tsuki display at a rest stop in Tohoku (northeastern Japan)
Despite its regional fame, our Japanese-language reporter Daiki Nishimoto had always wanted to try Hagi no Tsuki but had never gotten the chance. Whether it was because he was too lazy to look up which stores in the Tokyo area might carry it or because none of his friends and acquaintances had ever brought it back as a souvenir, he almost felt a little bit guilty. In fact, he might even go so far as to call himself a societal “omiyage dropout.”
However, enough was enough. Daiki resolved that this was the year that he was going to try Hagi no Tsuki. Even if he didn’t hop on the Shinkansen to go physically up north, he could still order some online. After a bit of exploring on Kasho Sanzen’s website he decided to purchase a pack of eight for 1,730 yen (US$12.90).
When it arrived and he finally opened the box, he was greeted by neat rows of individual boxes decorated with the elegant image of a woman in traditional clothing in front of a full moon and a castle’s silhouette. This stylish yet refined packaging only heightened his expectations for the real thing.
Daiki opened one of the boxes to reveal a round yellow sweet. A tendril of blooming bush clover graced the plastic wrap over the “moon.” He finally understood how the confection had gotten its name.
▼ Bonus trivia: the kanji for hagi (萩) also includes the kanji for autumn (秋), which is typically when bush clover blooms.
▼ Have you ever seen a more delicious-looking yellow moon?
Now was the moment of truth. Daiki cut the small cake in half, popped a piece into his mouth, and swallowed. He then sat in silence for at least a minute.
His silence wasn’t the result of surprise. To be precise, he was surprised that he didn’t feel surprised at all because it tasted just as heavenly as he could have imagined. Its soft castella cake-like exterior and smooth custard interior were absolutely dreamlike. Each element was perfectly in balance with the others. Dare he say that this was a flawless confection–there were simply no words. The only thing to do was be still and enjoy the moment.
It was easy for him to imagine just how many smiles Hagi no Tsuki had inspired since its creation up until now. He kept picturing such scenes in his head as he continued to eat.
All in all, he didn’t think there was any other food omiyage in the country that people would be likely to enjoy as a whole more unless they hated custard in all forms or had some kind of trauma associated with bush clover.
Daiki encourages anyone who hasn’t tried Hagi no Tsuki to get some for themselves in order to experience the same moment of bliss as he did. Better yet, you may want to just hop on a train up to Sendai to also experience everything else that the city and surrounding area has to offer.
Reference: Kasho Sanzen
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