Candyland

I have recovered sufficiently to do a proper post again. So let’s get to it.

The 25th Annual National Confectionary Convention was held in Himeji in the grounds of the castle this year. It promised sweets to eat, beautiful sweets to look at, rare sweets to buy and generally an extravaganza of sweets. Fran being Fran this appealed to her greatly and off we set to candy land.

What it actually delivered was sweets to eat, beautiful sweets to look at, rare sweets to buy, and insanely hot day and enormous crowds. So it wasn’t quite the brilliant day I had envisaged.

It all started when we got to the castle and negotiated the signage to get into the convention grounds. Neither of us can really read Japanese and the English signage was infrequent so we could only hazard a guess at what each tent contained. We opted to try our hand at something we think was called “Glico land.” Glico is the company that makes pocky and any regular readers will know that I am a big big fan of the pocky. Anticipating free pocky I eagerly got in line.

The better part of an hour later I got into the tent and was sorely disappointed. The thing was absolutely crawling with kids and had exhibits up for all the major confectionary brands in Japan, Meiji, Glico, Calbee, Fujiya and a few others. The problem was whilst there was a lot to do in there; there was nothing for adults to do. We got some free poifull (a kind of jellybean) and a free donut and had exhausted the possibilities of the tent for adults. Having queued for the better part of an hour I was really quite annoyed.

Still I endeavoured to cheer myself by buying an ice cream. It being exceedingly hot this had the added bonus of cooling me down too. My ice cream was excitingly bright blue but it had a flavour that was quite vanilla like but yet a little bit off. Fran claimed to recognise it but neither of us could identify it. Nice though.

Finding an English sign we set off for the main exhibit in the convention, the collection of sweets from all over Japan. This was a tent divided into sections for the different prefectures of Japan and inside each section were traditional sweets unique to the region. Japan is very keen on its regional distinctions and regional varieties abound in everything from sake and sweets to rice crackers, snacks, savoury food and even just rice. Other than the rice (although Japanese people will strongly disagree with me) you really can tell the difference a lot of the time. This is not a homogenised country like Britain where food is much the same from one end to the other. For example the Takoyaki (octopus dumplings) in Osaka, a city significantly closer to Kobe than Leeds is to Manchester say, are phenomenally different (and much better). In fact in Kobe’s neighbouring city Akashi they serve Akashi-yaki which is octopus dumplings floating in a soup.

However I am no expert of the regional foods in Japan and English signs were non-existent so I contented myself with staring open mouthed at some of the phenomenal creations that the chefs had made for this exhibition.

Before I did that though, I had to get into the tent. The queue for this was much shorter (it was a bigger tent) but just as we got to the front we were suddenly stopped by some commotion. A load of photographers and television cameras started to gather in front of me; obviously some VIP was going to emerge shortly to have their photo taken. Eventually a kindly silver haired man and assorted hangers on started to arrive from inside the tent and set up a table in front of the entry. Japanese people started cheering and some people took photos of him. I asked someone in the queue who he was and in broken English he told me that he was the “Osaka number one boss. President.” I take this to mean that I met the Mayor of Osaka. Better than that though, shortly after he arrived they started the queue again and the mayor started handing out free sweets to people going into the tent. Not only did I meet the mayor of Osaka but he gave me some doriyaki too!

It was good doriyaki as well.

Anyway we eventually got into the tent and started gazing at the fabulous creations.

Creations such as:

This married couple that I think was some kind of cake.

“bye bye Miss American pie”

This temple constructed of sheets of mochi (rice cakes).

The blackest most evil looking Youkan I have ever seen.

Taiyaki!!!

This unbelievably nice looking mochi.

More fish.

Little sakura flowers.

Purple crisps.

This baked castle.

These amazing sea anemone style things made from sugar I assume.

And bunnies! For some reason Fran attracts rabbits wherever she goes.

We also saw:

This recreation of a famous Japanese artwork in mochi.

Another Japanese painting re-created. I particularly liked the jelly river with the koi carp swimming in it.

This quite disturbing boar’s head cake.

This AMAZING sakura tree.

These are a traditional sweet that is usually eaten in summer festivals.

And now I am going to sign off because blogger is playing up and being annoying. More pictures soon along with a site re-design hopefully.

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