Kyoto gets even busier during the autumn. Traveling to Kyoto during this season will give you a chance to grab the limited fall-inspired souvenirs from this region. Here are five of the particularly popular souvenirs and presents from Kyoto.
Yatsuhashi is one of the representative wagashi (traditional confectionery) of Kyoto. The type that is made by steaming dough made with rice flour, sugar and cinnamon that has red bean paste at the center is called “nama yatsuhashi” and it has gained popularity as a Kyoto-inspired sweet for its mochi-like (rice cake) texture and just-right sweetness. Otabe, a long-established shop for yatsuhashi, sells their Aki Otabe with either chestnut or purple sweet potato paste inside but only during the autumn season. The chestnut paste, made with bits of chestnuts, has a strong sweetness characteristic of chestnuts, while the purple sweet potato paste made from soft and flaky purple sweet potatoes tastes as though you're biting directly into the potato even though it is wrapped in dough. You can buy this delicacy not only at the Kyoto Station branch of Otabe, but in various places around Kyoto, too.
*Photo is for illustration purposes
1. Otabe's Aki Otabe
Shichijo Kansyundo is a longstanding sweets shop in Kyoto established in 1865 whose main branch is located in front of Sanjusangen-do. It offers a lineup of various Japanese sweets and delicacies such as senbei (rice crackers), youkan (sweet bean jelly), and namagashi (fresh wagashi). Out of all its sweets, however, one of the most popular items is the Yawaragi Mont Blanc (972 JPY (incl. tax)) made with plenty of chestnuts and is only available during autumn. It is generally sold from September through February (schedule may change depending on the year). The Yawaragi Mont Blanc is a new kind of youkan that blends Japanese and Western styles, as it a two-layer youkan that is made by putting a layer of kuri kinton (candied chestnuts) and smashed marrons glaces on top of youkan mixed with fine chestnuts. With one bite, you'll feel the sweetness of the youkan and the chestnut flavor spread throughout your mouth. This treat looks gorgeous on the outside and keeps well, so it is perfect as a souvenir! The main shop also has a cafe, making it a great place for taking a break during sightseeing and then buying souvenirs on your way home.
2. Shichijo Kansyundo's Yawaragi Mont Blanc
Crème de la Crème is a cream puff specialty shop in Kyoto that takes pride of its carefully made cream using high-quality ingredients. They have many cream puffs, but the Kyo-Vegetable Chou has gained a reputation for being quite unique. It is a work of art by a pastry chef that was created after careful research on how to give the cream a tinge of the taste of Kyoto vegetables. The vegetables used change depending on the season, but every fall this shop offers cream puffs using vegetables like Shishigatani squash, purple-hood soybeans, and Tanba chestnuts. In particular, the soybeans is an highly valued vegetable specially cultivated in Kyoto that has a more robust, intense flavor than edamame. The original taste of the soybeans is kept intact when they make the smooth cream, making it taste quite fresh. This is a great souvenir that represents Kyoto perfectly.
3. Crème de la Crème's Kyo-Vegetable Chou
Nishiri is a long-established shop that sells Kyoto-style pickles made with Kyoto vegetables. This is a popular shop with 10 branches around Kyoto that offers enough of a variety of pickles that you won't be sure what to buy. You might think tsukemono (Japanese pickles) may be salty and strong, but Nishiri's pickles are easy to eat thanks to their light yet salty characteristics. It's perfect as a side dish for rice and when drinking. They also sell seasonal pickles, such as Japanese ginger and daikon radish made by soaking daikon with chopped Japanese ginger and perilla. This is only available in September and October. The Chinese yam and red perilla pickles, available from September to November, has the crunchy yam texture and aroma of the perilla so you might get addicted! This is a perfect souvenir for those who don't like sweets.
4. Nishiri's Kyo Tsukemono
Demachi Futaba is a famous shop in Kyoto that has been using the same recipes for their wagashi since it first opened. This shop mostly sells mochi-based sweets, including their specialty daifuku (mochi filled with sweet bean paste called anko) called myodai mamemochi. During a limited time in the autumn, they sell kurimochi. This mochi is stuffed with whole newly-harvested chestnuts, shipped directly from Tanba, and covered in smooth anko. These chestnuts are a little salty to bring out the sweetness of the anko, making it more delicate and delicious. You will be able to taste the expertise of traditional wagashi artisans if you eat kurimochi.
5. Demachi Futaba's Kurimochi
Long-established shops and popular stores in Kyoto are often sell seasonal food items that make full use of ingredients that are in season. Try them if you get the chance!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.