One Saturday morning, I was eating an apple. A good, healthy choice, right? Well, then my post-braces retainer along the back of my teeth broke off. Thanks, apple.

A big non-sarcastic thanks to my dentists, though. They were able to get me in that afternoon to fix it and give me a brief cleaning. As happy as I am with their service, I was a little grouchy about having to spend my Saturday at the dentist. I was wearing in new shoes, and they hurt. As I was taking the neighborhood streets back home, it started to rain, and I was without an umbrella.

But, what was this? A little tiny shop decorated with flowers? Selling wagashi (Japanese confectioneries)? Yes, please!

Was this an act of enishizuku, perhaps? A little ironic to go straight to a sweets shop on the way home from a dental cleaning. I have no excuse–I’m really, really not keeping up on that New Year’s resolution to cut down on sweets. They just keep jumping out from every corner around here, I don’t even have to go looking for them! I’ve identified the places where I’m most likely to encounter the temptation to buy Western sweets, though I still occasionally find myself seated with a slice of some fancy concoction in front of me and wondering how I got there.

Not that I was going to say no once it was in front of me.

But the wagashi! They’re everywhere here, everywhere!! There are the major shops with long histories that provide the signature wagashi of Matsue (which, along with Kyoto and Kanazawa, is known as one of the major wagashi-producing cities of Japan), and there are little shops like this scattered throughout town. This is Isshunan, and while there isn’t much space inside for more than one person to shop at a time, there is quite a bit to look at.

Since I entered, I felt I couldn’t leave empty handed. I got a small, simple manju, but that wasn’t all I walked out with. The shop owner, a very cheerful, grandmotherly lady, insisted I borrow an umbrella.

Which meant, therefore, that I would have to make another trip there to return the umbrella. Oh, darn! (I’m being sarcastic here.)

I couldn’t just go home empty handed then either, could I? On the day I returned the borrowed umbrella, I got these “Matsue Picture Scrolls.” I could have gotten one, but whether I’m gluttonous or generous, I don’t know. I got a whole package to share with my neighbors (really, I did share!).

Inside these lightly sweet pancake-like scrolls is semi-crushed azuki.

One of the nice things about wagashi, besides the variety of shapes, flavors, and sweetness levels, is that they are typically free of artifical perservatives and are typically lower in sugar and fat than their western equivalents.

Therefore, I don’t feel as guilty about consuming them multiple times a week.