A Lingering Sweetness: Confectionery Celebrating Seattle's Japantown

Julia Harrison
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Sweets are a significant part of many Japanese gatherings. Intended to appeal to all the senses, artisanal sweets may be as visually striking as they are delicious. One common type of dry sweet, higashi, is a sugar/starch mix formed by pressing the ingredients into a carved wooden mold. Old designs range from flowers and abstract water patterns to sumo wrestlers and full-sized fish.

This summer, the higashi tradition will be revived in honor of Seattle’s Japantown. Longtime residents will generate designs that commemorate the neighborhood’s history, culture, and tenacity. From these designs, I will carve 20 wooden molds that will be used to make a supply of higashi.

Throughout the month of July, the sweets and a complimentary cup of tea will be offered to visitors at Higo, an historic department store in the heart of Japantown. Higo is now occupied by a gallery called KOBO, but many of the original displays and features have been retained. The higashi project will coincide with the opening of a small tatami mat area where visitors will be welcome to sit and relax. It is expected that this area will attract both tourists and local residents, for whom Higo is already a popular gathering place.

Higo’s owners and I believe that the opportunity to sit and enjoy a specially designed sweet will encourage visitors to reflect upon the legacy of Japantown. We hope that this project will stimulate discussion by triggering the memories of older visitors and sparking curiosity among the young.

Keywords: Japan, Confectionery, Community, Traditions
Stream: Art in Communities, Festivals
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Julia Harrison


Ref: A06P0518