First, let me explain kiritanpo, a popular food commonly made from Akita rice.
Kiritanpo is a rice product often added to a chicken-based soup, but is also eaten alone as a snack. It can be store bought or made from scratch where ever you can build an open fire. All you need is some cooked rice, water, a container to mash the rice in, something to mash it with, and wooden stakes to shape the mashed rice.
After mashing the rice, mold it around the wooden stakes, making sure to round and close it over the top. Grill until the surface is firm and lightly browned.
Once done, you can add it to soup, or spread some spicy miso on it and eat it off the stake.
For the second half of this post, let me introduce to you the woman behind the Komachi name, Ono no Komachi.
Ono no Komachi was a 9th-century female poet recognized as one of the Thirty-Six Immortal Poets selected by Heian period nobleman Fujiwara no Kinto. She was said to have been very beautiful, but a frequent heart-breaker, and works of historical fiction, such as the Noh play Sotoba Komachi, often end with Ono no Komachi taking her antics too far, consequently spending the final years of her life as a lonely, unattractive, old woman. While literary scholars regard such depictions as myth, her waka, short five-line poems, usually addressed topics such as love, relationships, and the temporal nature of beauty.
What does this have to do with rice and kiritanpo? Well, Ono no Komachi was supposedly born in Ono village of Oguchi, Akita, which hosts an annual festival in June honoring the poet. Due to her alleged connection with Akita, her name is featured all over the prefecture, and has been used to brand both Akita-grown rice and the shinkansen that runs from Akita City to Tokyo. The dorm I lived in while studying abroad at Akita International University was even named “Komachi Hall.”
The legend of Ono no Komachi inspired the trope of the Akita beauty, resulting in a standard but stylistically varied image used on all sorts of Akita-related products.
Those who saw the pictures from my last post, notice anything about the clothing all these characters are wearing.
That’s right. Someone thought, “Why not?” and literally combined the trope of the Akita beauty with the rice product.
Next time, I’ll devote an entire post to the Kanto festival, since I didn’t get to it here. Until then!