&: Persimmons

Every supermarket has now at their front entrance racks of orange fruit: fist-sized Fuyu set in their holders pointy ass-up, reflecting the fluorescent lights, stout Hachiya, and, packed in trays of three or four, dried persimmons. These hoshigaki 干し柿 from Shimane Prefecture ripen and dried, suspended from a string, and the inside are soft like gummi candy. The hoshigaki are sweet, without the frosting of fructose that shibing have, and they're almost too sweet and sticky to eat without a cup of astringent tea.

Down in Ueno, there are piles of shibing 柿餅 now, too, in the Chinese shops on the shopping arcade, probably more in the underground market. Maybe the working girls from Yushima pick them up on the way home, students coming over from Kanda or from out in the suburbs, too, maybe. The shibing are saucers, dried on wooden racks or sheets of bamboo instead of hanging from strings, gently massaged into their shape; they're chewier, and I remember them tasting smokier, less sweet. I don't think I ate them until I was in Datong, bought from a shop beside the entrance to the Grand Mosque, or maybe it was further south, where in autumn in the night market I had deep fried persimmon cakes.