Back in November, JANM was honored to host wagashi* master, Chikara Mizukami from Tokyo, for his first Los Angeles visit. This special occasion began in the Tateuchi Democracy Forum where Mizukami sensei and our favorite food writer, Sonoko Sakai, discussed the over 1,400 year art of wagashi making including its inspiration from nature, Japanese poetry, and even modern day architecture.
After the lecture, we moved to a classroom for an intimate hands-on workshop. The sold out workshop was filled with excited participants—one student had traveled all the way from Minnesota to attend this rare event (Smart man!). We learned how to create two confections out of the sweetened bean paste made from both white and red azuki beans. No rice was used in this school of wagashi.
It was a bit of a struggle to make the wagashi look remotely like sensei’s samples (see photos). Our own Vicky Murakami-Tsuda’s husband Russel T. had a lot of potential—to become an apprentice. Sensei mentioned that the maximum apprenticeship would last four years. Hmmm, something to ponder.
After all that hard work, we were rewarded with bowls of lightly frothy matcha to drink, complimenting our wagashi creations. Delicious!
Being able to take lessons from Mizukami sensei was a privilege and incredibly special. But the other details from the workshop were wonderful as well. I can’t tell you how beautiful everything was—the various samples of wagashi from Mizukami sensei’s Tokyo shop, Ikkoan; the simple wooden tools used to shape the confections; the big bowls filled with that intensely green matcha; and Sonoko’s simple yet gorgeous autumnal display of leaves and branches. What a wonderful experience. Hopefully, Mizukami sensei will return to JANM, and we will have the privilege of hosting him again. I know it would be another sold out event!
*Wagashi is a traditional Japanese confectionary, usually offered with hot tea and made of azuki beans and other plant-based ingredients.
Photos by K Doi