It’s that time of the year again — the Golden Week holiday! This year, we have Showa Day on Sunday and its replacement holiday on Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday are regular work days but people will take them off if they can. Then Constitution Day is on Thursday, Greenery Day on Friday and Children’s Day on Saturday. For Japanese people, this “golden” week of public holidays is like a reward for all of the hard work and overtime they regularly do.
We know Golden Week is fast approaching when we start to see Koinobori flying on balconies across the country. Children’s Day used to be called Boys’ Day and its been tradition for a long time for families with boys to fly these carp streamers in the weeks leading up to May 3. As well as private balconies, there are many colourful displays the general public can go see. My favourite place in Tokyo is no doubt Tokyo Tower’s festival—333 streamers, one for every metre the tower is tall.
With the beautiful carp streamers everywhere at the moment, a cooking class I recently joined decided to use Children’s Day as its source of inspiration.
Decorative sushi, or “deco sushi” is an example of Japanese housewives taking bento lunch boxes to a whole new level. It started out as arranging different foods in a thoughtful and fun way, rather than just plonking it in a container. For wives, it was a way to show affection for their husbands. For mothers, it was a way to get their children to enjoy eating. Some kindergartens and elementary schools have become famous for ‘mother wars’ where kids show off how creative their lunch boxes are! A TV show I watched once showed mothers getting up super early in the morning just to make these special lunches – some were really passionate about it, while others admitted to feeling the pressure.
But the creativity didn’t stop there. Lunch box-making took another step… creating images within the food. In a similar fashion to rock candy that rolls different colours together to create amazing pictures and words, this latest sushi trend is very impressive. Now, not only do the lunches as a whole look beautiful, but individual pieces are works of art in themselves.
The deco sushi phenomenon has taken on a life of its own. There is specific equipment you can buy – like seaweed hole punches in various shapes. There are recipe books in every bookstore. You can join deco sushi classes and attend deco sushi expos. It’s even being used by the government as a way to promote Japan to foreign visitors.
Professionally made hydrangeas, roses, butterflies and pandas
Making Deco Sushi
I was so excited for this class held at the annual Japan Hobby Show in Odaiba. I actually love doing cooking classes when I travel to different countries, but for some reason I’d only ever participated in one cooking class in Japan before.
I was surprised at how few ingredients were needed: seaweed sheets, vinegar rice, honeyberries, Japanese omelette and a cheese/fish stick. We got the green and red colour naturally through mixing the rice with seaweed flake seasoning and honeyberries from Hokkaido. From there, it was a matter of measuring, pushing, cutting and wrapping the ingredients. It was hard to imagine the final product, so we just had to trust the teacher!
Et voilà! The white tips of the tail turned out a little wonky, but other than that I was very happy. It was so much fun! Now that I’ve had the experience of making deco sushi, I finally understand how they make it. If I see a deco sushi picture, I can imagine what the process would have been – basically you have to imagine you’re creating a picture from side on. But the difficult part would actually be creating something from scratch. A lot of trial and error… and imagination! Who knows what the next step in sushi-making will be?!