Friday, February 20, 2009

Yakudoshi Birthday Cake

If you live in Hawaii, or anywhere with a large Japanese population, you are probably familiar with the term "yakudoshi." Since we started making cakes here, we have been asked on a number of occasions to design a cake for a yakudoshi birthday. If you are asking "What does yakudoshi mean?", I found a great explanation online:

Yakudoshi are the years of calamity. This is a Japanese belief that people at the ages of yakudoshi are likely to experience misfortunes or illness. It is generally believed that men's yakudoshi are the ages 25, 42 and 61, and for women 19, 33 and 37, though there are local and historical variations. One's yakudoshi is measured by adding one to the actual age.

The ages of 42 for men and 33 for women are considered to be particularly bad years, honyaku (great calamity). This is probably because the numbers 42 and 33 are phonetically unlucky numbers. 42 can be pronounced "shi-ni" which is homophonous with the word " to death," and and 33, when pronounced as "sanzan" means "hard," "terrible," or "disastrous". When reaching yakudoshi, many people go to Shinto shrines for exorcism (yakubarai). Although this is just a superstition, it may not be improbable because people seem to go through hard times with their health or jobs around these ages.

Knowing this, it makes perfect sense that a cake to celebrate one's Yakudoshi would include symbols of luck and fortune to offset the various possible misfortunes brought about by a yakudoshi. This was the case on Valentine's Day, a day usually honoring lovers, was also our client's yakudoshi, and we did our best to give as much good fortune as one cake can contain. Speaking of luck, it's lucky that Rick has such a steady hand because the amount of detail on this cake was amazing! There were dragons, cranes turtles and bamboo on the cake, all symbols of luck and fortune and on the middle the Kanji character for "Dream". It was a beautiful representation and it makes me feel calm and happy just looking at it.

Aloha, 'til next time!

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