We don’t wish upon a star in this house — we eat them instead.

Every year July 7 marks the start of Tanabata: a festival celebrating the reunion of Japanese celestial deities Orihime and and Hikoboshi, respectively represented by the stars Vega and Altair.

The festival originates from the Chinese folk tale “The Silk Weaver and the Cowherd” and incorporates the tradition of hanging a paper with one’s written wishes on bamboo stalks. While these star-crossed lovers use the Milky Way to meet once every summer, us mortals have the more delicious option of eating the Milky Way instead.

With traditional Japanese sweets shop Oumiya (@oumiya_toyota), based in Toyota city in Aichi prefecture, you can eat the Milky Way as a piece of traditional Japanese confection, otherwise known as wagashi.

“New Oumiya Wagashi Debut
【Milky Way】

Done in kingyoku style and flavored with lemon juice, we created a rendition of the Milky Way that can fit into the cusp of your palm! We used multiple colors to imitate the heavenly clouds. First, be sure to enjoy the gorgeous colors with your eyes, and then lastly, enjoy the subtle taste of lemon representing Orihime and Hikoboshi’s bittersweet love with your mouth.”

Gold flecks imitate the shining brilliance of stars, and the vivid spectrum of a blue gradient seeping into deep purple serve as a delight for the senses. The “Milky Way” wagashi’s beauty is further accentuated by the see-through nature of its kingyoku style.

Kingyoku, literally comprised of the Japanese characters for “brocade” and “sphere,” is a style of translucent sweets made by mixing heated agar and sugar, then cooling them until they harden. This specific style is popular for traditional Japanese summer sweets due to their higher water content and refreshing appearance.

▼ Besides kingyoku-style wagashi, Oumiya has several high-quality, novel wagashi creations debuting this summer such as this homage to Van Gogh…

“New Oumiya Wagashi Debut
【Van Gogh’s Sunflower】

We were inspired by Van Gogh’s paintings of sunflowers, and tried to capture the spirit of his paintings by using Van Gogh’s colors and brush strokes. Definitely take your time to absorb all the details!”

▼ …a fireworks-inspired wagashi…

“New Oumiya Wagashi Debut
【Oiden Fireworks】(Note: Oiden Matsuri is an annual summer fireworks festival in Toyota city.)

Though the local fireworks festival for this year was canceled, we decided to make this wagashi to inspire a feeling of summer nights. Because these are only available in limited quality, be sure to swing through soon!

▼ …and this sugary interpretation of fireflies drifting through tall grass.

“New Oumiya Wagashi Debut
【Glowing Fireflies】

Made with agar mixed with black sugar. We wanted to create a sweet that depicts glowing fireflies at night. To create this one, we sourced our black sugar from a local producer in Kouchi prefecture for an impeccable, distinctive sweet taste. This is a special wagashi with black sugar that almost tastes like matcha!”

While many of Oumiya’s newest lineups include sweets depicting traditional Japanese summer motifs, some of Oumiya’s summer wagashi are also more on the playful side, such as these tongue-in-cheek ones imitating grilled corn and mosquito-repelling incense.

“New Oumiya Wagashi Debut

Made in nerikeri style. (Note: A style of wagashi that uses sweet bean paste mixed with either sticky rice flour or mountain yam.) We made one of summer’s most iconic vegetables in wagashi form: the corn.”

▼ Not going to lie, eating sweets in the form of mosquito-repelling incense wasn’t a priority on my bucket list, but it looks pretty darn tasty.

“New Oumiya Wagashi Debut
【One Summer Day】

Made in nerikeri style. Though now you don’t see them at all, we’ve decided to make a wagashi in the shape of a mosquito coil holder. On a more personal note, during summer vacation, whenever I visited my grandparents, there’d always be a mosquito coil set on the veranda where we’d sit fanning ourselves while eating ice popsicles. This wagashi certainly brought back nostalgic memories!”

Oumiya doesn’t only just make seasonal wagashi. The 80-year-old sweets shop was able to create wagashi for the times with their rendition of amabie, a supernatural creature in Japanese folklore believed to protect against disease.

▼ Instead of scales, Oumiya opted for stripes to give a pop of color to the amabie.

“Tomorrow as well the Great Amabie will come through our humble store!
However, this time the Great Amabie will be stopping to take a rest.
Thank you for everything so far, and we hope the world will be healed of COVID-19 soon, even without the Great Amabie’s help!”

Oumiya isn’t the first store to create sweets inspired by amabie’s image, but it’s heartwarming to know how this well-established, locally-owned wagashi shop strives to spread positivity during an uncertain time, especially with their creative takes on the traditional form of Japanese sweets.

And if you really like Japanese sweets, then you can wear them too, with Nike’s Air Wagashi line!

Source, images: Twitter/@oumiya_toyota
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