Two Wagashi Events at JANM

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Visitors to the Japanese American National Museum, First and Central in Little Tokyo, can learn about Japanese sweets on Saturday, Nov. 19.

At 2 p.m., JANM will present “History and Culture of Japanese Pastries, the Chocolate Alternative.” Tokyo-based pastry chef Chikara Mizukami and food writer Sonoko Sakai will discuss the healthful aspects of Japanese pastries, perspectives on Japanese pastries and tea, and Japanese influence on Western pastries.

Mizukami, who has been making wagashi for more than 30 years, was born in Yamanashi Prefecture. He comes from a family of wagashi makers. Traditionally, it is the oldest son who inherits the business and the younger sons will pursue other careers. As the fourth son, Mizukami initially studied accounting but realized that wagashi was his calling.

Mizukami began his career as a wagashi maker in Kyoto, where he worked at Shioyoshiken. He later went to work at Kawaguchiya in Nagoya, then moved to Tokyo and opened a wagashi shop at the age of 29.

His shop, Ikkoan, is visited by people from all over the world. Mizukami is passionate about wagashi and is interested in promoting and preserving the 1,400-year tradition. He has traveled to Paris, Milan, Barcelona and Montreal to do workshops and lectures. This is his first two-city tour in the U.S. (Seattle and Los Angeles).

The program is free with museum admission.

At 3 p.m., a hands-on wagashi-making class will be held. Mizukami will demonstrate two classics: nerikiri and kuzukiri.

Nerikiri are hand-molded bean cakes made with azuki bean paste and natural vegetable dyes for coloring. Participants will learn about the seasonal themes in wagashi and its varieties of shapes — the abstract and impressionistic designs of Kyoto and the realistic designs of Edo (old Tokyo).

They will also make kuzukiri served with brown sugar syrup. This is a refreshing and healthy jelly dessert that can be put together very easily.

The wagashi will be served with green tea. The cost is $75 for members, $85 for non-members, includes admission and supplies. Limited to 15 students.

For more information, call (213) 625-0414 or visit www.janm.org.

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