Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sweet Seasons / May 2008 - Iris -

"Iris" by Nishigawaya

Maybe some of you have heard of Japanese old custom of taking a herbal bath called "shobu-yu" on the 5th of May? It was part of several traditional customs to celebrate Boy's Day (which is now "Children's Day" to be more politically correct). And the herb thrown into bathtub for this custom is called shobu. It seems that shobu is usually translated as "iris," but to be precise, the shobu used for this herbal bath does not have flowers like those in above photo; it looks more like cattail (typha). (See the photos of shobu plant and shobu-yu here.)

Nevertheless, many Japanese still associate iris flowers with this old custom and with the month of May. Actually, late May and early June are iris season around here, so it is no surprise to see lovely iris-shaped wagashi at most wagashi shops at this time of the year here.



Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

So beautiful and refined!



Rachael Hutchings said...

You always make such beautiful wagashi!

Anonymous said...

The iris seems to have been a replacement for mugwort, which is pretty good for repelling insects. Not nearly as pretty, tho.

obachan said...

K & S
that there are I remember once visiting Shobu-en in Hirakata, Osaka. It was really something.

Yeah. Have you noticed the dew on the leaf?

Fuji mama
Oh, thank you for the compliment, but unfortunately I can't make a beautiful wagashi like this. This is store-bought. :)

Anonymous commenter
Mmmm.. that makes sense. I also heard that ancient Japanese thought the sword-like shobu leaves would chase the evils away, and the custom -- like many MANY other old Japanese traditional customs -- originally came from China.It's called 浴蘭節 there.

froy said...

Those sweets are so beautiful, I don't think I'd have the heart to eat them! :)

obachan said...

I feel the same way, Ea.