Mushi No Ne (Chirping of Insects)
As I wrote before, wagashi is often made to reflect seasonal themes, and named to tell us what it is depicting. This one is no exception.
Can you guess what they named this wagashi?
The answer is mushi no ne 虫の音 (chirping of insects). The two brown lines represent autumn grass, perhaps leaves of sedge or susuki (Japanese silver grass), and the black sesame seed is a cricket. The chirping of cricket is a typical autumn theme here, perhaps as in other countries, too, and many Japanese associate the sound with the serenity and a slight sadness of a long autumn night. We especially love the chirping of suzumushi (Homoeogryllus japonicus, Japanese bell cricket or bell insect), which sounds like this. (Click on the 56K next to the audio icon under the photo of the insect.)
This type of wagashi is called manjuu, which is basically steamed cake usually with sweet bean paste filling. If grated yam is added when making the skin, it is called joyo manjuu, and the skin turns out whiter, softer and moister. I assume that is what this is.
Sorry, I forgot to take a shot to show you inside of this manjuu. Instead, I added some trivia about the chirping of insects, so please read on if you are interested.
If you stayed overnight in a small village here in Japan in autumn and got fascinated by the beautiful chorus of the bell insects surrounding you, you might be tempted to let your friend in a bigger city hear it. So you hold the receiver of the house phone or your cell phone out of the window to let it catch the chirping sound. But your friend will not hear it. It is a widely-knonwn(?) fact here that the frequency of bell crickets’ chirping is too high for a phone to capture. According to some Japanese websites, a telephone can transmit the sound with the frequency below 3500Hz. But the frequency of the chirping of bell crickets is apx. 4500Hz, so it cannot be transmitted by phone.
Another well-known theory here is that Japanese people and Western people hear the chirping of insects differently. The theory says that when a Japanese person hears it, (s)he uses the left hemisphere of the brain, while a Westerner hears the same sound using the right hemisphere, where the sound, noise and the music are processed. I think this is based on a book called Nihonjin no No ("The Japanese Brain" 1978) by Tadanobu Tsunoda. He gave dichotic listening test to both Japanese and Westerners and made a comparison.
I haven’t read this book myself so I’m not 100% sure, but from what I've read in a couple of websites quoting this book, his findings seem to have indicated that Japanese do hear linguistic sounds using the left hemisphere of the brain and other sounds (music, noise, etc.) using the right hemisphere, just like Westerners do, with some exceptions: Chirping of insects and the sound of certain Japanese musical instruments are processed in the left hemisphere of the Japanese brain (or maybe more precisely, the brain of those who speak Japanese as the first language.) Does this mean that we Japanese are hearing those sounds as "linguistic sounds?" Are we perceiving that the insects or the musical instruments are "talking" to us???
Aren’t we strange people? ;)
* Wagashi by Shingetsu
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Posted by obachan at 9/30/2006 09:39:00 PM