As a Japan Cultural Envoy, I organized a total of 12 wagashi (Japanese confectionery) workshops in five cities (Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Strasbourg, and Frankfurt) in three European countries (Spain, France, and Germany). It was amazing to receive requests for wagashi from 52 countries across the world. When UNESCO added traditional Japanese cuisine to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2013, I thought it was appropriate because confectioneries are the most familiar culinary culture in our everyday life.
I was happy to offer the participants of the workshops from around the world the opportunity to know and taste Japanese traditional wagashi and to share a cozy and harmonious atmosphere with them. The topics of my lecture included the long history of traditional wagashi of over 1,000 years and its wide variety (over 3,000 types), explanation about adzuki and other beans as well as the widest variety of sugars in the world, and the relationship between confectioneries and cultures. I believe that the lecture helped participants know more about the attractions of wagashi.
In Spain, culinary instructors of cooking schools participated in a three-day workshop during summer holidays. I was impressed by their enthusiasm for learning and surprised at their deep interest in wagashi when they bombarded me with questions about how to cook adzuki beans and sweet bean paste. At Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (University Carlos III of Madrid), 30 people attended a Japanese culture class. On that occasion, I made a courtesy visit to MIZUKAMI Masashi, the Japanese Ambassador to Spain. In Barcelona, I held a workshop at Takashi Ochiai Pastisseria and introduced wagashi for tea ceremony. At a workshop held in a confectionery school, approximately 70 participants, including WATANABE Naohito, the Japanese Consul General in Barcelona and his wife as well as the Moroccan Consul General, enjoyed cooking wagashi. It seems that their interest in wagashi is rooted in the boom of Japanese foods in the past couple of years.
In France (Paris and Strasbourg), I have worked to popularize wagashi for the past decade. In Paris, 200 people participated in the workshops. I am truly grateful for the participation of many people in the workshops even in the summer heat. It became possible to grow adzuki beans in the Alsatian region four or five years ago. I have heard that adzuki beans harvested in this region are the same as those harvested in Japan.
In Strasbourg, food industry leaders, including food business owners and Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) chefs as well as SATO Takamasa, the Japanese Consul General in Strasbourg participated in a workshop held at the Japanese Consulate General. In Germany (Frankfurt), I had a wonderful time with the participants, including food business owners, tea ceremony experts, and friends of KAWAHARA Setsuko, the Japanese Consul General in Frankfurt at workshops held at the official residence of consul general and at a cooking studio.
I would like to express my gratitude to a total of over 400 participants for sharing a cozy and harmonious atmosphere with us.