A couple weeks into August is the start of Obon, a holiday for many Japanese who return home to their hometowns for about a week or so. During Obon, it is believed that ancestors who have already passed on return for the duration of the holiday. Thus, many go home to visit their families and clean the graves of their loved ones, and overall spend time with those they haven’t seen in a while. Festivals are held in abundance around this time, and at many of them, bon odori (a special type of dance) can take place.
Totsukawa is pretty special in that it has a unique history surrounding the people of this village. Many years ago, Totsukawa was once so badly flooded, that many of its inhabitants ended up relocating to an area in Northern Hokkaido. They decided to call their new environment, ShinTotsukawa, (lit. “New Totsukawa”) as a homage to their original home in the Kansai area.
To this day, there are many events that center around the bond between Totsukawa and ShinTotsukawa. At the junior high school I help teach at, the third year students go on an annual field trip in May to ShinTotsukawa to learn about the history of both villages and to experience what life is like for those there. This year, the village held a special event during the week of Obon, essentially welcoming back the residents of its child town. Obon week was planned by the village to be a very fulfilling and eventful period of time, with events ranging from bon odori at different locations around the village, a vigil for those who lost their lives to the flood, and special limited time market bazaars where you can buy ShinTotsukawa goods and treats without even having to plan a trip to Hokkaido.
Since ShinTotsukawa is located in Hokkaido, it only makes sense that anything fruit or vegetable related would taste amazing (Little did I know…). After all, Hokkaido (pretty much the Wisconsin of Japan) is farm-central, where all the good vegetables and dairy come from. On the first day of the village’s Obon week, Trevor and I went to our local michi-no-eki (I think of it as a rest stop) to take a peek at some of the items brought all the way from ShinTotsukawa. Asides from interesting looking treats such as sake candy, there were also foods grown or made in Totsukawa and there were many small gifts and trinkets made by the locals of this village.
After peering through the mounds of goods and products, we settled upon a case of sweet melon jelly, some tomato chocolate, a jar of tomato ketchup, and one bar of chocolate corn (all from ShinTotsukawa), and some fresh green peppers locally sourced.
The first thing we tried when we got home? The tomato chocolate. Let’s just say that tomato chocolate is an abomination to all chocolate. It smelled exactly like tomatoes and the taste was… weird. It’s as if someone stirred a chocolate bar into tomato soup or vice versa, someone stirred some tomato soup into a bowl of white chocolate…
To get rid of the taste, we resorted to the sweet melon jelly, which surprisingly tasted very fresh- as if someone mixed in real yubari melon into a gelatin mixture. It doesn’t have that artificial fruit taste you get from some of those plastic buckets of individual jellies you get from the Asian store (although, those are really good too). It’s really good, Trevor and I both love it and try to savor it as much as we can.
The corn chocolate was surprisingly not bad at all, especially when compared to the tomato chocolate. It reminded me of a rice krispie bar, but instead of rice puffs, it’s puffed corn, and instead of marshmallow, you taste white chocolate. I wish we bought a box of these, they were nommy! (No picture because we ate it and forgot :()
We haven’t tried the tomato ketchup yet, but Trevor says he wants to use it the next time he makes omurice (chicken ketchup rice in an egg omelet). Can’t wait!
限定期間 is a nifty little phrase that can be translated to “Limited Edition.” I think Japan is a genius when it comes to limited edition things because it has that notion to customers that once it’s gone, you won’t be able to get it again until who knows how long! (Or even, ever?) I bet businesses thrive off this idea. It definitely got me to buy some things. Who knows, I hope one day Trevor and I can visit the town of ShinTotsukawa too. It would be nice to see what Totsukawa’s sister city is like and how similar and different it is from Japan’s largest village.
Now… how to get rid of the tomato chocolate without being もったいない…
And speaking of 限定期間, please look out for my upcoming post about Japan’s McDonald’s Olympic Special!