Mochi cuisine and bucolic scenery
Some four centuries ago during the Edo period, a unique tradition involving mochi (rice cakes) was born. It began with offerings of mochi that the Date Clan made to the gods and Buddha for peace and good health each month, but soon pounding sweet glutinous rice into mochi and eating it became a custom at weddings, funerals, and other important life events, as well as on New Year’s Day and other seasonal occasions. This tradition of hare-no-shoku (ceremonial foods) is maintained in Ichinoseki-Hiraizumi to this day and provides a rare opportunity to experience the extensive variety of mochi cuisine in Japan.
Regional foods: Mochi Honzen
The mochi honzen (full-course meal) derives from the culture of the samurai, who placed great importance on rituals and the rules of conduct. Representing the highest level of hospitality, the mochi honzen is prepared for important occasions. The meal comprises three soups and seven vegetable dishes, each incorporating mochi, as originally adopted by Lord Date Masamune of Sendai. Enjoy a mochi honzen and experience a culinary tradition that has remained unbroken for centuries.
Since its inception, the mochi cuisine of Ichinoseki-Hiraizumi has evolved separately from that of other parts of Japan. Today there are more than 300 variations. Although contemporary ingredients can now be found in such combinations as pizza mochi, mochi cabbage rolls, and mochi spring rolls, look also for established standards, such as anko (red bean), walnut, and fusube (burdock root, daikon and chili pepper with chicken, or more conventionally, pond loach). There’s even a mochi parfait to satisfy sweet-tooth cravings.
Chuson-ji and Motsu-ji Temples are just the beginning of the wonderful scenery to be found in Ichinoseki and Hiraizumi. Among the spellbinding sights is the Honedera Village Estate, where you can take in the pastoral atmosphere of yesteryear and even participate in farming activities. Two other scenic locations well worth visiting are Geibikei Gorge, whose cliffs tower a hundred meters high, and Genbikei Gorge, a designated Place of Scenic Beauty carved out by the river’s powerful erosion.
While at Ichinoskei and Hiraizumi, make sure to partake in a mochi honzen meal or try your hand at pounding mochi while singing a mochi-tsuki song that has been handed down for generations. Consider also participating in some of the many fun agricultural activities offered in the area, such as at Tategamori Ark Farm or the Honedera Village Estate—a great way to learn about farming while interacting with locals.
Start your journey at the World Heritage Sites of Chuson-ji and Motsu-ji Temples and then participate in a farming activity at the Honedera Village Estate which once belonged to Chuson-ji. After a mochi honzen meal, take a boat ride through Geibikei Gorge. In the evening, find your home away from home at a traditional folk house.
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