Japanese traditional candies are a work of art. Both unique and beautiful. In this article find out where to experience candy making. Creating Amazaiku, Konpeito and Kintaro Ame is tons of fun!
Amezaiku is famous Japanese folk art. Candy is sculpted into animals and flowers of various shapes. The main ingredient is colorful and called Mizuame. It’s a toffee made from sugar that has been converted from starch. Artisans carefully use their crafting skills with the aid of traditional Japanese scissors.
Its history dates back to the Heian Period (794 ‒ 1185). People made offerings to temples in the form of these candies. During the Edo Period (1603 ‒ 1868), Mizuame became widespread. Street performers sold it while entertaining passers-by. Before long Amezaiku was popular throughout Japan. Today’s artistic style was developed based on the Edo performers’ techniques.
How do we craft it?
Amezaiku is a form of sculpture and as such, the candy base needs to have just the right viscosity. To do this, it is carefully adjusted depending on the season, weather and temperature.
When it comes to crafting Amezaiku, what tools and ingredients are required? +Base candy +Food colorings +Sticks such as chopsticks or plastic straws +Scissors for snipping +Fine point paintbrushes for coloring +A wooden box for keeping materials and tools at the right temperature
Soften the candy base by heating it to 90°C. It is then rolled out and is skewed onto the top of a stick. Then shape it into any sculpture you want by twisting, pulling and clipping. You have to finish off this process before it becomes too soft. Generally, you have a few minutes. Speed is the key. Finally, paint it using a sharp-pointed brush to add features and details.
Have a look at this fantastic artisan’s technique!
Look how beautiful this is! A variety of Amezaiku
There is a wide range of designs to choose from; birds, monkeys, dolphins, pandas, goldfish, and rabbits. If you’d prefer something other than an animal there are also manga characters and flowers. The list to choose from seems to be endless!
Why not discover many more creations?
Places to buy and experience the fun
There are less than one hundred Amezaiku craftsmen in Japan. To list a couple, Ameshin in Asakusa and Yoshihara in Yanaka Ginza. They provide Amezaiku workshops and are very popular amongst both Japanese and foreigners.
Ameshin in Asakusa
Ameshin has two shops in the Tokyo cosmopolitan area. One is located in Asakusa. The other is on the 4th floor of Tokyo Sky Tree Town Solamachi in Sumida ward.
Workshops are only available at the Hanakawado studio in the Asakusa shop. Fees are 3,000 JPY for adults and 2,500 JPY for children. It lasts for 2 hours. In this time, you can make a rabbit. Bookings are required. Opening hours: 10:30 am ‒ 6:00 pm. Closed on Thursdays.
In the Solamachi branch, artisans perform their Amezaiku craft before your very eyes. The sheer number of artistic candies will make your day. Opening hours: 10:00 am ‒ 9:00 pm.
Yoshiwara candy shop in Yanaka Ginza
Yoshiwara Yanaka shop is located in Yanaka Ginza. It provides 60 minute workshops on weekdays. You can create three Amezaiku candies from a choice of rabbits, birds, bears, and dolphins. It costs 3,000 JPY for anyone over ten years of age (incl. tax). Bookings are required. Opening hours: 10:00 am ‒ 6:00 pm (weekends).
The Sendagi flagship shop has Amezaiku live performances. A craftsman creates your order right before you. You will enjoy every moment of the process! Opening hours (weekdays): 1:00 pm ‒ 6:00 pm. Closed on Tuesdays. Opening hours (Sundays and holidays): 10:00 am ‒ 6:00 pm. The live performances end at 5:00 pm.
Konpeito is a tiny cute sugar candy. Despite it not originating in Japan, it has been loved for over 400 years. It came from Portugal in the early 16th century when a Portuguese missionary presented a glass flask of the candy to a famous warlord known as Oda Nobunaga. It was crafted by artisans that had trained for over 20 years. Back then, sugar being a commodity meant that only nobles could enjoy Konpeito.
Gamers and anime lovers are both familiar with Konpeito as it appears in the Pokemon series and Super Mario RPG as an item to attack with. It has also appeared in several Japanese animated movies, such as Spirited Away, Bleach, Hamtaro, Sailor Moon and Kobato.
The Japanese Royal Family uses Konpeito as a commemorative gift on various occasions.
How cute! Varieties of Konpeito
Konpeito is a small and cute candy about 5mm ‒ 10mm (0.20 ‒ 0.39 inches) in diameter. Originally, Konpeito only had a plain sugary flavor, but nowadays, there are many colors and flavors ranging from strawberry, plum, mango, cherry, and yogurt. Look out for the limited edition flavors too! Seasonal candies include sakura flavor in spring, peach in summer, Chesnut in autumn and plum in winter.
If you fancy trying one with a liquor taste, why not try the Japanese sake, plum wine or whiskey flavors?
How Konpeito is crafted
Konpeito is made of sugar, water, food colorings and flavorings. It is created by coating sugar syrup over many cores of rock sugar. A craftsman ladles sugar syrup into a machine called a “Dora” which rotates rock sugars slowly. Production takes about 14 days. It seems very long, but in the past, it took a whole two months! Even using modern machines, the expertise of craftsmen is still required for shaking and pouring the syrup with precision.
Here is the traditional Konpeito crafting process.
Where can we buy and experience it?
Rokujuan Shimizu in Kyoto
Konpeito is available all over Japan. However, if you are after high-quality, Rokujuan Shimizu in Kyoto is the best place for you. They use the same traditional method seen in the above Youtube videos. They offer about 60 types of sweets. There are also unique limited edition flavors including chocolate, wine and brandy too!
Konpeito Sakai Museum
If you want to try making Konpeito yourself, the Konpeito Sakai Museum located in Osaka is a great choice. They offer a 1.5 hour course which includes a video of the manufacturing process and history. The experience of handcrafting lasts 30 minutes. You will get a Konpeito certificate upon completion of the course. The course fee is 1,000 JPY (for anyone over two years old).
3. Kintaro Ame
Kintaro Ame is a unique artisan candy. It is similar to western rock candy. The same face of Kintaro, the hero of a Japanese folk tale, can be seen wherever you slice it. The candy was first created during the Edo Period and is even crafted by artisans today.
Who is Kintaro? In several folk tales, Kintaro is a strong and stocky boy who wears a bib. Written on it in Kanji is “Kin” which means gold. He is admired for his strength. He even beat a bear in a sumo wrestling match and fights demons and monsters. Thus, from ancient times, he is a heroic figure to many in Japan.
How is it made?
Kintaro Ame is made of sugar, thick malt syrup and food colorings. It is created by layering and elongating many different sugar pastes while heated. It is cut into equal lengths and slicing into equal size pieces. Each process requires unique traditional techniques.
How pretty! Varieties of Kintaro Ame (Kumi Ame)
Kintaro Ame is a form of Kumi Ame (Assembling candy). Before Kintaro Ame became famous, the images of a funny-faced woman called Okame and a Samurai named Fukusuke were used as the Kumi Ame motif. Presently, many more motifs are available to the customers. Included are anime characters, such as Pokemon, Hello Kitty. Flowers and Kanji characters can also be chosen. A brand new sweet, Reiwa (令和) candy has been created to commemorate the new Japanese era that started in May 2019. It makes for a great souvenir for your loved ones!
Where can you buy it?
Kintaro Ame Honten has 140 years of history. It is located in Tokyo and has the registered trademark of Kintaro Ame. They produce a variety of Kumi Ame, such as Seven Gods, Daruma, and Reiwa. All candies are very cute and pretty. The shop is open 9:00 am ‒ 5:30 pm and closes on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
Japan takes pride in its traditional artisan candies. Since its creation, it has evolved alongside the development of new technologies. However, the techniques and the passion of the craftsmen remain unchanged even today. Watch, touch, and taste! Discover real Japanese art!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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