The First Iced Coffee

If April is the time of new beginnings it must be time to learn the prefix “hatsu.” It simply means “first” or “beginning” but I like to use it to mark something seasonal.

My kids have all gotten used to me announcing the “hatsu aisu kōhī.” You could drink it all year round, but it has to be a certain unseasonably warm day in the spring for me to make the call. I mean, doesn’t that make it more special? It’s kind of like taking out your shorts and sleeveless shirts for summer, but when it is one specific item that you look forward to, it really does make it special.

Japanese hatsu include a hatsu sekku, which indicates the first Girl’s Day or Boy’s Day that is celebrated after a baby is born. In my daughter’s case, my neighbor who also had a newborn girl, and I delivered sekihan to our nearby neighbors. Sekihan may also be prepared when a girl gets her first period. There is many a scene in Japanese dorama where sekihan appears at the dinner table and the father puts on a puzzled face and asks what is being celebrated. The mother may give a meaningful look and it will dawn upon the father who will then look at his daughter who will look down in embarrassment but also a bit of pride. I might be describing the scene from the 1960’s. I have no idea how it goes down these days.

Sekihan isn’t one of my favorites and I can’t imagine you’ll ever find it in a Japanese restaurant in America. Since it uses mochigome it isn’t easy to cook and there are catering shops in Japan that will cook it for you.

  • hatsu – 初 first or beginning. Used to modify so many things. There’s hatsukoi 初恋, or first love and hatsumimi 初耳 or “first I’ve heard” which is literally first ear.
  • hatsu aisu kōhī – 初アイスコーヒー first iced coffee. Always an event for me!
  • hatsu sekku – 発節句 first festival. If you’re a boy, it is on May 5 and if you’re a girl it is on March 3.
  • sekihan – 赤飯 red rice. Just as delicious as it sounds? It’s made with azuki beans and usually sprinkled with black sesame seeds
  • dorama – ドラマ drama. Refers to tv programs
  • mochigome – 餅米 a kind of sticky rice that is used for making mochi and other special dishes called okowa.

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