According to “The Calendrical Handbook”, Shunbun of The 24 Seasons of Japan is the day that “the Sun goes past the center of the sky, marking the time when daytime and nighttime are equally divided.” The path of the Sun is called “the ecliptic”, and we also have something called “the celestial equator”, which is an imaginary circle directly above the equator. Because of the difference in angles, there are 2 points where the ecliptic and the celestial equator intersect. We call one of these the “vernal equinox point”, and the other the “autumnal equinox point”. The vernal and autumnal equinoxes are defined as the time when the Sun passes these points.

Every year on the 1st weekday in February, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan releases the date of the following year’s “Shunbun-no-Hi” or “Vernal Equinox Day”, a Japanese national holiday which corresponds to this celestial movement. This year, and next year too, it falls on March 21st.

In the world of Buddhism, this day has been considered to be the time when we get closest to gokurakujodo or the Buddhist paradise. Yes, this is the day of “Higan”. “Both heat and cold last till Higan” as we say, after which the temperature gradually stabilizes and we can finally feel the arrival of Spring even in the northern regions.

In Sendai, the City of Trees, cherry blossoms are yet to bloom but plums are blossoming to the fullest. The zelkova trees along the streets have new green buds coming out, naturally uplifting our spirits. When we look down at our feet, we can spot the white and yellow dandelion flowers blooming gently yet firmly.

Plum flowers, dandelions and cherry blossoms…. It might be lovely to go on a trip to the north, going after Spring.

These dolls make us realize that kokeshi dolls are not just souvenirs but actually art pieces. We can appreciate the artisanal techniques carefully passed down amongst kokeshi craftsmen for generations.

These kokeshi dolls are categorized as “Togatta style” amongst the traditional kokeshi dolls of Miyagi Prefecture. First of all, the biggest is the Parent kokeshi. As you open the torso, you have a Child kokeshi. Opening the torso of the Child kokeshi, you find a Grandchild kokeshi. If you remove the topknot of the Parent kokeshi, there are lots of small Grandchild kokeshi dolls inside. 1 parent, 1 child and 11 grandchildren. In total, there are 13 kokeshi dolls!

When they line up, they look quite impressive. But please be careful not to leave them in direct sunlight.

Ogasawara Kokeshiya Magomochi Kokeshi: ¥12,960
Sendai Mitsukoshi

*This product will be available from Thursday, March 27th till Monday,
April 2nd at “Mutsumeku TOHOKU” on the 7th floor of the Main building.

Now, the power of the young generation is carving out a new sphere in the world of traditional craftsmanship in Aizu Wakamatsu, the mecca of Aizu lacquerware. The spearhead of the movement is Takao Togashi, the 3rd-generation “Ichitomi the Lacquer Painter”. He offers us lacquerware that is rooted in tradition with stylish contemporary aesthetics.

At first glance, it looks like a metal plate, but it is actually a piece of lacquerware made using a technique called “shibuichi-nuri”. “Shibuichi” originally meant an alloy made of copper mixed with 1/4 silver. “Shibuichi-nuri” was named for its color resembling this alloy. Tin and charcoal powder are sprinkled on the surface of the lacquerware plate to produce this deep silver-black hue. As a stylish piece of tableware it fits perfectly with a western-style table and chair lifestyle decor.

Nurishi Ichitomi shibuichi-nuri plate (small) ¥7,560
Sendai Mitsukoshi

*This product will be available from March 27th till April 2nd
at “Mutsumeku TOHOKU” on the 7th floor of the Main building.

These pickled wild vegetables are sold by AOBA FOODS. The company started when a dressing made of local Akita ingredients created by a restaurant chef in Yuzawa City became popular. With the motto of “bottling the cornucopia of Akita ingredients just as they are and offering this value to many customers”, the company has produced one innovative item after another. These pickled wild vegetables are one of those items.

The wild vegetables they use are all from Akita Prefecture. Mountain vegetables such as mizu and warabi fiddlehead fern are pickled with their crispy texture still intact. As you snack on these easy-to-eat sweet pickles, visions of the nature of Akita will dance in your mind.

These tasty pickles also go well with wines and sake.

AOBA FOODS pickled fiddlehead fern (warabi): ¥756
Sendai Mitsukoshi

*This product will be available from March 27th till April 2nd
at “Mutsumeku TOHOKU” on the 7th floor of the Main building.

Parks around the time of Shunbun are all very refreshing to visit. It might have to do with the fresh air produced by the sprouting buds of trees. Koutoudai Park in Sendai is just so. The name of the park apparently comes from Koutou Hanamura, a kyoka poet of the time of Masamune Date. The area is a lovely expression of the town’s beauty and history, with Sendai Mitsukoshi standing just near the park. Sendai Mitsukoshi always has everything I want, so I walk back and forth between the sections of beef tongue, kamaboko (cured processed fish), sake and local sweets. What I learned recently is that the department store offers select items of the Tohoku regions for a limited period of time. It is also a new way of enjoying “the selection of items inspired by the 24 Seasons of Japan”.

Some time ago, I was looking for something in Sendai quite urgently, so I visited this store and asked about it on the 1st floor. Unfortunately they didn’t have the item, but a shop clerk showed me a map and kindly told me “this store has the product you are looking for”, pointing out a spot on the map. I thanked him and went outside. As I was walking, I felt happy to have met this “concierge of the town”.

*For floor guide and opening hours of Sendai Mitsukoshi, please click here.
Information / Sendai Mitsukoshi TEL: 022-225-7111 (Main Switchboard)

*All prices include sales tax