This is the Year of the Tiger and I got my tiger themed new year namagashi from Toraya again, same as last year. It is called Sachi Tora (幸とら), or Happy Tiger. Like last year’s ox, this delightful design is quite abstract and uses cinnamon to create both flavor and fragrance but moreover a novel visual effect.
Eto: Twelve Chinese Zodiac Animals and Japanese New Year’s Confections
According to the Chinese Zodiac cycle there are 12 animals and each year is associated with one of the twelve. 2010 is the Year of the Tiger and most wagashi companies and stores in Japan have Eto themed wagashi. The tora in Toraya also happens to mean tiger, literally tiger shop. So, I have to imagine that they went all out for 2010! Every year Toraya creates a unique Eto namagashi for New Year’s which I first discovered last year, the Year of the Ox. The design combines a fairly modern abstract sense the Japanese ‘kawaii’ cute.
Many of Toraya’s wagashi designs are centuries old like the frosted red plum blossom from 1699 but this one is a first timer. Toraya holds an internal competition soliciting designs for some of their namagashi, including this Sachi Tora. The design competition is open to all employees, from paper pushers in the office, store and cafe waitstaff to the wagashi craftsmen in the ‘workshop’. This year’s winner, the proud creator of Sachi Tora, was a male Toraya ‘veteran’ wagashi maker.
About the Design of Sachi Tora
The staff member at Toraya I spoke to about Sachi Tora said that it is intended to express a tiger face in a cute way and bring a year of much happiness and good fortune.
I asked about the cinnamon, assuming that it is brushed on as powder but that is incorrect. It is first dissolved in a syrup and then painted on wet. Interesting!
I like the design a lot. I definitely see the brown cinnamon ears at the top, but the ‘stripe’ mark in the middle throws me off a bit as it reminds me more of a tigers back than the face.
Whatever your visual interpretation, I think that you would have to agree that it is a very charming and novel tiger!
How did Sachi Tora taste?
Namagashi (生菓子, moist confection) is for the tea ceremony, so the taste is intended to contrast well with bitter maccha. That means that namagashi are very formulaic in taste — they all taste the same. If you are a regular reader of KyotoFoodie you probably know that I think that some more adventure and ‘kaizen’ is required in terms of namagashi taste. Sachi Tora uses cinnamon as a visual element and that does add some complexity to the flavor profile and that is welcome by me!
Availability: December 29, 2009 to January 15, 2010