Thursday, May 6, 2010

Yōkan 羊羹 Omiyage

Yōkan is a thick jellied dessert made of red bean paste, agar, and sugar. It is usually sold in a block form and eaten in slices. Yōkan may also be flavored and or contain chopped chestnuts, persimmons, dark brown sugar, whole sweetened azuki beans, figs, or sweet potato. Pictured are various flavors of Yōkan received as gifts; gift-giving in Japan carries great importance and is done not only on holidays and special occasions but it is also an integral part of business and home cultures. The Japanese also appreciate regional gifts - it is proper that when one goes on a trip to bring back regional specialties. Omiyage means gift or more specifically the type of gift one brings back from holiday, the gift that one brings when visiting another's home, or a "return" gift - which you give to the person who has just given you a gift. Because gift-giving is so prevalent in Japan "generic" gifts are quite acceptable and many shops are stacked with boxes of various regional/local foods for travelers to bring back with them.

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