Welcome to Chapter 4 of ‘The Mochi Diaries’ (餅の日記) ☆〜（ゝ。∂）
In this post I shall be introducing Kibidango 吉備団子, now I’m well aware that dango and mochi aren’t exactly the same thing, but they are both made from mochiko 糯粉 (rice flour) and I’d like this segment to cover a wide array of omiyage and traditional Japanese sweets!
Anyhow, the reason for featuring kibidango today I will tie into a future post, about the annual mandatory Japanese summer school for new incoming JETs in Kobe each year. After studying for 2 days in groups under the instruction of a Japanese sensei, on the third day each study group had to present their Japanese language skills in front of all the other new arrivals and the staff at the KEC (Kobe board of education, essentially our employers).
My group decided upon a play the Japanese Fable of Momotaro ももたろ (Peach Boy), which is a famous Japanese fairytale and I was cast in the lead role as Momotaro. After learning our lines and making our costumes, our sensei surprised us by bringing us authentic Kibidango to use as props (and later devour) in the play.
So onto the actual kibidango, the box that sensei presented us with is surely the most intricately packaged omiyage I have ever set eyes upon, the outer art detailing the characters of the Momotaro tale in a cute childish watercolour kind of style.
Upon opening the box there was a little card with similar artwork to the exterior and the story inside. The kibidango themselves were each individually wrapped in little wax paper balls with one character from the fable printed on each. Now prior to tasting these I would have picked mochi over dango any day of the week, however this I suspect was due to the fact I had never tasted proper dango prior to this and only the cheep and nasty combini versions.
Although tiny in size the flavour was amazing, subtly sweet, delicate and melt in your mouth. Lets just say I was tempted to eat them all whist watching the other groups give their speeches after the play was over, rather than sharing them with the rest of my group!
These came close to what I would consider the perfect Japanese confectionery. 4.5/5
This is a statute of Momotaro in Okayama 岡山, residents claim that Okayama was the original setting of the fairytale its main street is named Momotarō-Odōri in the Peach Boy’s honor and annually in August an Okayama Momotaro Festival is held annually for three days. According to locals it was based on the legend of Prince Kibitsuhiko’s battle against the ogre Ura, who is said to have lived in Kino-jo (Demon’s Castle) in the area around Soja 総社.
This is a short and sweet version of:
The Story of Momotaro the Peach Boy
Once upon a time there was an old man and his old wife living in a village in Japan.
The old man, called Ojiisan was a woodcutter and his wife, Obaasan, a
washerwoman. They lived alone as they had no children.
One day the old woman went to the river and had just begun washing the clothes
when, to her surprise, a giant peach came floating down the river. It was the biggest
peach she had ever seen and she coaxed it out of the river and took it home for
As she was getting ready to cut the peach in half, the sound of a human voice came
from inside the peach. “Wait! Don’t cut me!” said the voice. Suddenly the peach split
open and a beautiful baby boy jumped out of the peach.
The old people were astounded. But the baby said, “Don’t be afraid. Heaven saw
how lonely you were without any children and sent me to you.”
So the old people happily took the baby to be their son. Since he was born from a
peach, they named him Momotaro (Momo means peach, Taro is a popular boys name) They loved him very much and raised him to be a fine boy.
Years went by and Momotaro grew into a fine young man, making his parents even
happier. But times were changing and people were having a very hard time because
more and more oni (ogres) were ravaging their coasts and nobody knew what to do.
When Momotaro was about 15 years old, he went to his parents and said, “In a distant part of the sea there is an island named Onigashima (ogre island.) The oni
often come to our land and do bad things like carrying people away and stealing their
things. So I’m going to go to Onigashima and fight the oni and free the prisoners
there and bring back the stolen treasure.”
The old people were surprised, but proud of Momotaro for wanting to help other
people. Obaasan fixed him his favourite food of millet dumplings called kibidango
which she wrapped up in a furoshiki cloth and he went on his journey.
On the way, Momotaro met a spotted dog (inu), a monkey (saru) and a pheasant
(kiji) and gave them each a kibidango which encouraged them to join him. Being a
good leader, Momotaro relied on the special talents of each animal and encouraged
them to work together and become friends.
When they reached the sea Momotaro had to find a boat in order to sail to the
Onigashima where the oni had built a fortified castle. The companions had to find a
way into the castle in secret to surprise the oni. The pheasant flew over the walls, the
monkey climbed up and opened the gate and Momotaro and the dog rushed in and
overpowered the gatekeeper. Finally, Momotaro forced the oni leader to surrender
and to promise never to do wicked things again. Then Momotaro and his friends took
home all the prisoners and the treasure they’d found locked up in the Onigashima.
Ojiisan and Obaasan rejoiced to see Momotaro return home safely.
I found this really cute video of the story of Momotaro, and although its in Japanese you can get the jist, its kinda funny for me as most of our lines in the play were ripped right from this =P
Want to read more Mochi Diaries Posts?
The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 3 – Yatsuhashi 八つ橋
The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 5 – Custard Matcha Motchi カスタード抹茶餅