Every new year, a beautiful wooden box containing Gozen Hoshigaki - dried persimmons arrive from Tsuchiya - the two hundred year old artisanal pastry shop in Ogaki, Gifu. It is a New Year's gift, Onenga, from Keiko Tsuchiya, the owner of the shop whom my family has known for more than forty years. Keiko was my Japanese tutor when I was living in Mexico city as a girl. When her family moved back to Japan, she married Tsuchiya, and has lived in Ogaki ever since. I have not seen her since my Mexico days but I spoke to her on the phone this year. She was full of nostalgia. She said my family is her connection to Mexico. My connection to both Japan and Mexico is this hoshigaki.
The persimmons used to make Gozen Shirogaki are the cream of the crop. The chosen fruit is carefully peeled, strung and hung on bamboo poles to dry for forty days. My father likes to take trips to Ogaki during the fall when hundreds of these bright orange persimmons are hanging out in the open air to dry. It inspires him to write haiku.
They say the cost and labor of making one Gozen Shirogaki compares to producing a bushel of rice. The persimmon makers sleep in the storage room to attend to the persimmons during the production season. Each persimmon is massaged by hand with a special brush - a process that creates a fine crystalized white coating on the fruit. These hoshigaki have tender skin with a very moist inner meat. They taste heavenly. I feel lucky if I can eat one in the new year. I am off to a good start.
Hoshi-gaki goes very well with tea. The tea master, Senno Rikyu, wrote about the hoshi-gaki of this region in his chronicles.
To obtain Gozen Shirogaki, you must special order them from Tsuchiya in the fall.