Happy New Year!
I have highly appreciated your support throughout last year, and this is my new year's resolution and intention to introduce Fujifabric's wonderful music to Japanese rock fans abroad through my blog.
The first song of 2011 is "Mizu-ame To Wata-ame" (Mizuame Candy and Cotton Candy) in Fujifabric's 2nd album, "FAB FOX".
Unusually for the band, music was written by Soichiro Yamauchi, the lead guitarist, and the lyrics was by Masahiko Shimura. The song is about the way home back from a local festival on a summer night. (Sorry to the readers living on the North Hemisphere, that the topic is a bit out of season!)
Let's take a look at Mizu-ame Candy first.
Mizu-ame candy literally means "Watery Candy" in Japanese language, and it is often called millet jelly in the west. I intend to differentiate millet jelly and mizu-ame candy in this particular context, as the former is often used as a food additive and the latter can be enjoyed as sweets.
Mizu-ame candy is believed to have been brought into Japan from China a long time ago - in Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan), it is described how to make mizu-ame candy, so it must be before 720 A.D.
By saccharifying starch with acid or enzyme, the candy is produced. Clear coloured mizu-ame candy often sold in supermarkets is made by starch added acid and water, but old-fashioned mizu-ame made in the classical process of manufacture contains a lot of minerals derived from malt, one of the main ingredients. This unique amber colour is called 'ame-iro' (literally means coolour of candy) in Japanese and the candy is full of unique malt flavour.
Here is one of the most famous mizu-ame shop in Kanazawa. How about buying as a souvenir when visiting Japan next time? Jiroame in Tawaraya
Mizu-ame candy can be enjoyed as a sweet, and also it is used as a food additive for a purpose of giving a glossy effect or extra moisture to the Japanese dishes and sweets. For instance, Kuri-manju (chestnuts bun), boiled beans, daigaku-imo (caramelized sweet potato), Teriyaki sauce.
Many stories can be found all over Japan that mizu-ame candy was fed to babies instead of milk in old days because of its aromatic unique flavour from millet and rich nuturition.
Let me introduce one of those folketales, 'A Woman Who Buys Mizu-ame Candy' written by Patrick Lafcadio Hearn.
Once upon a time, there was a candy shop.
Every late night, there was a lady come to buy mizu-ame at the shop.
Because she looked so pale and thin, the shop owner was worried and asked her if anything wrong, she just stood still and did not answer a word.
One night, the shop owner wondered what kind of circumstances she is involved in, and followed her.
The lady went in a graveyard, so he suddenly got very scared and rushed back home.
On the following night, she came to the shop again.
This time, she did not but mizu-ame candy, but instead, she beckoned him to come with her.
The shop owner followed her with his friend, and she went into the graveyard again like yesterday, and when she reached one of the tombs, she disappeared suddenly.
They were so surprised and stood out and they were even more shocked that they could hear baby's voice under that tomb stone.
They helped each other to open up the tomb, there they found a newborn baby being held by the dead body of the lady who came to buy some candy every night.
A small bowl with mizu-ame candy was placed beside the baby.
There are several versions of the story - the baby becomes a Buddhist monk when he grows up, and so on.
Mizu-ame candy used to be an important nutrition source for babies, pregnant women, ill people, and elderlies in Japan.
There is another story of wit Ikkyu, a famous Zen monk referring the candy.
When the monk was away from the temple, Ikkyu and the other young bonzes ate up the monk's favourite mizu-ame candy in a pot. The monk got furious about it, and called everyone into his room. Ikkyu and his friends cried loud and said, "Master, you always tell us that this is poisonous for young children, right? We broke your favourite vase, so we tried to commit suicide by eating all mizu-ame candy. By somehow, we cannot die!!"
In a paper slide-picture show, which used to be Japanese children's favourite, mizu-ame candy was a popular sweet.
If you give some coins to a man who carries a paper slide-show, he scoops up some mizu-ame candy in a can or a glass bottle with chopsticks. While watching the slide show narrated by the gentleman, children knead the candy using chopsticks. The colour of the candy turns cloudy, and then...eat!
Mizu-ame candy is sold in a fair or a local festival, too.
The one sung in "Mizu-ame and Wata-ame" is the one sold in a fair.
In the next post, allow me to describe what a mizu-ame stall is like in a festival in my hometown, Yamanashi Prefecture.
I wish I can help you to understand what Mr. Shimura tried to tell you in this song - a fantastic festival on a summer night and a magical atmosphere at night time in our town.
Enjoy listening to "Mizu-ame to Wata-ame"