Many Japanese believe kibi dango of Okayama City is made from millet flour because kibi means millet. However, it is now made from glutinous rice flour mixed with sugar and starch syrup. Some are flavored with a small amount of millet flour, and others do not even contain the yellow flour. The spherical dumplings are available in various colors and flavors that are made by adding other ingredients such as the Muscat Of Alexandria and peach.
The confectionery reminds us of the folk tale of Momotaro known to all Japanese people. On the way to the Island where ogres lived to wipe out them, Momotaro shared kibi dango with a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant who agreed to help him.
Originally, the kibi dango was made by steaming millet flour, and being coated with sweet red-bean paste or pouring soup as those of other regions were. The square shaped dumplings could not be preserved for a long time. About 150 years ago, kibi dango was developed as a confection which can be kept for a long time by three men. After making many improvements under the advice of the head retainer of the Ikeda family, the founder of Koeido presented it to the Ikeda clan. Recognizing as one of the best sweets in the domain, the clan approved to use its seal as a trade-mark. At the time of Sino-Japanese War around the middle of the 20th century, the kibi dango was sold like hot cakes at Okayama Station as souvenirs to the families of returned soldiers in celebration of the victory. As a result, Okayama's kibi dango became known nationwide.
A long time ago, the area around Okayama Prefecture was called Kibi Province. It is said that the province had a good crop of millet so the area was named Kibi, pronounced the same to the grain but written in different Chinese characters. Now, the kibi dango is written in Chinese characters that refers to the dumplings of Kibi Province, not millet.
Eight kinds of kibi dango made in Koeido were certified as Halal products in 2014.
Hogakuzan Kyushoji Temple
Harenokuni Okayama Catalog
The herb tea called Shimbi-Midori is made of one kind of Japanese mint grown in Yakage Town. The southern part of Okayama Prefecture was one of major production areas of Japanese mint over 40 years ago. It lost the market share and then disappeared from the market due to the rise of inexpensive foreign products and the emergence of synthetic chemical menthol. In 2010, mint growing wildly at a riverbed in the town was found by chance. A local TV station found that it was the progeny of the lost mint, which had been cross-fertilized by a Japanese variety and a British variety. It is featured by the refreshing scent of menthol and the slight sweetness.
The mint is now produced by contracted farmers without using agrochemicals or chemical fertilizer, aimed at the revitalization of the regional economies. There are other products made from the mint, including candy, gelato and distilled spirit.
A mint distillery was built in the middle of Yakage Shopping Street in 2015. It is open on Saturdays and Sundays. Distillation is often performed on Sunday afternoon. Only 20 ml of essential oil is extracted from 40 L of the herb in three hours.
Yakage Kanko Net: Yakage Travel Net
Yakage Hakka Fukyukai: Yakage Extension Association of Japanese Mint
Yuzu is a yellow-golden colored citrus fruit. It is tarter and more acidic than other citrus fruits and rarely eaten as fresh fruit.
Yubeshi is one of the most popular yuzu sweets. There are yubeshis in various shapes, flavors and production processes, including yubeshis without yuzu made in the Tohoku region located in north Japan, almost all over Japan.
Takahashi City and Yakage Town in Okayama Prefecture have been known as yuzu production areas and have produced yubeshi since the Edo Period. The most common one of the steamed dumplings in the areas is made from ground yuzu peel, glutinous rice flour, and malt syrup, being coated with sugar or glutinous rice flour. It is characterized by soft, tender and gummy texture and rich yuzu. Maru-yubeshi is filled in an empty rind of yuzu. Bar-shaped bo-yubeshi, which is produced in Yakage Town, contains white miso and wrapped in a bamboo-sheath.
Bitchu Takahashi Brand by Takahashi Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Self-sufficiency in honey is only seven percent in Japan. Most honey consumed in Japan is imported from overseas. Besides, the domestic honey produced by Japanese bees accounts for less than one percent of the domestic honey.
The Japanese honeybee is a wild species native to Japan and a subspecies of the Asian honeybee. The species is smaller in size than European honeybees and slow-growing. The flying insect has a relatively narrow range of activities and takes nectar from diverse trees and flowers.
The pure domestic honey is rich but not heavy. Honey from Japanese bees is abundant in terms of nutrition. It includes plenty of propolis called natural antibiotics. The honey is harvested once a year whereas that of European honeybees is collected several times.
Their hives are so fragile that the honey cannot be removed by centrifugal force. The natural sweetener is collected from the honey bee colonies by hand labor.
In Okayama Prefecture, Japanese pure honey from Japanese bees is produced mainly in Maniwa City located in the north of the prefecture. It is collected in autumn. Shimo-Yubara Spring Himawari-kan, which is run by a cooperative association of honeybee business, is one of the shops where it is sold.
Japan Beekeeping Association
Shimo-Yubara Spring Himawari-kan
Nobeoka Tourist Association
At the beginning of the New Year, mochi, a rice cake, used to be given to inferiors by a superior like the patriarch of a family. It is believed to originate from the custom of breaking the New Year's mochi into pieces with a wooden hammer, and then distributing each of them to inferiors by superiors as the deputy of the New Year's god as well as eating them to be saved by divine protection. Legend says the spirit of the god lodges the rice cake for an offering when the New Year comes. A soup with mochi and vegetables called zoni is still eaten for breakfast on New Year's Day while the distribution of mochi has been replaced with that of pocket money.
Hime-no-Mochi is featured by comparatively light taste, pure white, the fineness of texture, stickier property and sweetness. It is widely cultivated in Japan. The sticky rice is suitable for the rice steamed with other ingredients such as vegetables, meat and marine products, called okowa. In many cases, the glutinous rice is used to make rice cakes which can fully utilize its characteristics.
Shinjo Village, located at the northwestern edge of the prefecture, is known for its Hime-no-Mochi. During summer, large day-night temperature differences occur in the village. That is a favorable temperature condition for the production of good glutinous rice. Crystal-clear water stored in primeval beech forests in a mountain flow through headstreams of the Asahi River. The water produces the rice together with fields blessed with organic debris that is produced from cows and clean air.
Okayama Tourism Web
Iyashi Trip Shinjo Village: Healing Trip Shinjo Village