A Taste of Autumn in Japan

Last week, I had an appointment in Omote-Sando, a neighborhood in central Tokyo adjacent to Meiji Shrine, a Shintō holy site located on the grounds of a former Imperial garden. The shrine enshrines the Meiji Emperor and his Empress consort, who were deified after their deaths and now serve as Shintō guardians of Japan.

I love to visit Meiji Shrine when I’m in the area–and I’ll post more photos from the visit soon.

When I’m there, I also like to stop into the small cafe near the large Torii at the entrance to the shrine. They have some of the best and loveliest seasonal treats in Tokyo–and this trip was no exception.

The autumn offering was a cassis-marron tart:

The tart, outer cassis mousse surrounded an inner layer of chestnut mousse filled with chunks of roasted chestnut. The best Japanese desserts are not overly sweet, and this one hit that mark–the fillings were a lovely balance of sour and sweet, with neither dominating the other.

Autumnal flavors like cassis, chestnut, and sweet potato are everywhere in Tokyo right now. Seasonal eating is not just popular, but deeply etched into the culture. It’s both a delight and a comfort to watch the seasons turn on your plate each year.

It also can be difficult to show restraint when living in Tokyo with a sweet tooth like mine . . . fortunately, serving sizes here are fairly small, so it’s possible to indulge without too much guilt.

Are you a fan of cassis? Chestnut? What are your favorite autumn flavors?