Amezaiku

February 13, 2010

by Chiho Inaba, Yukari Maruoka, and Airi Ishikawa

History

Chitose Candy from Kyoto

There are a lot of cultural items in Kyoto that can boast a history of 1,000 years or more, and Amezaiku is one of them. Basically, Amezaiku is sugar sculpture, or the art of producing artistic centerpieces composed entirely of sugar and sugar like ingredients. Originally, Amezaiku was made as an offering for when To-ji Temple was erected in Kyoto in the Heian era. The Amezaiku we see today are often very beautiful, but the first kinds were actually very simple, using only the colors red and white. The craftsmen who made this candy brought it from China, and this meant Amezaiku was one of the true spectacles of the time. Later, the production and visual appeal of Amezaiku made it a form of entertainment for the common people of the Edo era.

The candy craftsmen who settled in Kyoto made a kind of Otafuku candy, known as Kintaro candy. This type of candy had the face of Kintaro imposed on it throughout its length. This meant, when a section of the round stick of candy was cut off, Kintaro’s face was exposed. These craftsmen put all their ingenuity into their work and made various-shaped Amezaiku figures to peddle around the town of Kyoto. The candy craftsman came to Edo in the Edo era, and the specialization of candy workmanship was born. The daily sales of candy would often require up to 36 liters of starch syrup a day, and the candy makers of old came to be recognized as fully-fledged craftsmen. It was extremely hard work to prepare the candy every day, as each morning they had to make a fire, boil the starch syrup and then let it cool down. Before the syrup cooled completely, they would have to then knead it and shape it into the small candy pieces.

When a candy craftsman got old, and this hard labor was no longer possible for him, he made elaborate plans to peddle candy in various forms in the downtown area. Nowadays, there are some craftsmen who make a show of shaping candy figures as a kind of street performance on the side of the road, which they then try to sell. In addition, Amezaiku has now gained a real reputation as an art form in foreign countries. Therefore, from this point on we would like to explain Amezaiku as one of the Japanese traditional arts.

Kyoto Candy

There are so many kinds of candy in Kyoto it is impossible to show them all, so we will introduce just a few kinds here.

Kompeito

Kompeito is usually a very small candy 5 to 10 mm long, but it takes about 1 or 2 weeks to make and is still handmade even today. Kompeito are also sometimes used as an emergency provision because they are made from sugar, and therefore can provide a lot of calories. Moreover, it is said that they can have the effect of reducing stress when a disaster happens because they are colorful and make people happy. There are a number of flavors to choose from, including brandy, Calpis, chocolate, and more recently tea. The bright colors of this candy make it very popular among children and also foreign tourists.

Chitose Candy

Chitose candy is given to children at the time of Shichi-Go-San. This important event involves praying for growth and health at a Shinto shrine for “Three-year-old boy and girls, five-year-old boys, and seven-year-old girls” on November 15th each year, and the ceremony itself is a symbolic act of purification. The original Chitose candy was a long, thin, red and white candy, which symbolizes healthy growth and longevity.

Recently, there are various shapes of Chitose candy on offer, and among them is Kintaro candy with the image of a popular character’s face running through it. Moreover, Chitose candy is now available in many convenience stores, so you can buy it easily when the time for Shichi-Go-San comes around.

Visual Treats

These days, more and more visual treats made from candy are available such as Bentos (lunch boxes) and sushi, and they look really real. In these treats, the rice is kompeito dyed pink, the red beans are represented by handmade candy, and even the salt and sesame are made from a small kind of kompeito. These authentic looking and truly genuine items make fantastic souvenirs, and the person who receives them is sure to be surprised and delighted.

Hiyashiame and Ameyu

Hiyashiame

In English, ‘hiyashi’ means cold and ‘ame’ means candy, so you may imagine a candy which is iced. You would, however, be wrong. In Japan, this is a popular drink, particularly in the Kansai area. The roots of it are not clearly known, but the word began to appear in either the Taisho or Showa eras. The biggest feature of this drink is the use of ginger and starch syrup. On long, hot summer days, it is good to drink Hiyashiame to refresh yourself. The ginger in the drink is also extremely stimulating.

Ameyu

In English, yu means hot water, so ameyu means hot Hiyashiame. In some stores, they serve ameyu to people who come in shivering from swimming in the sea or river. Their bodies have gotten cold and they drink the ameyu to warm themselves up. Thanks to the ginger, they can feel the warmth right to their bones.

How To Make Hiyashiame

Ingredients (for 4 people):

  • Starch syrup 120g
  • Sugar 3 tablespoons
  • Water 400ml
  • Tea 1 × large teabag
  • Ginger root 3 pieces

Instructions:
1. Wash the ginger in clear water and wipe dry. Slice up 2 of the pieces and grate and squeeze the juice from the other.

2. Put the sliced ginger, sugar, water and starch syrup in a pot, and heat over a medium flame. After bringing to the boil, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for one minute. Take off the heat and place the teabag in the pot. When the color becomes to your liking, remove the teabag.

3. Remove the sliced ginger and pour in the ginger juice. Immerse the bottom of the pot in iced water and cool right down. When the drink has cooled enough, place it in the refrigerator.

In the old days Hiyashiame was sold in a cup and people enjoyed it at the store. However, Hiyashiame is now available in bottles, so you can buy it from a vending machine. In short, you can enjoy Hiyashiame far more easily now.

As we have introduced, there are many individualistic candies in Kyoto. We have also heard that most temples have their own unique candies, but we don’t have enough space to show them here. It may be interesting to try and find these candies on your own. We hope you find your own special items and through this become more familiar with Kyoto

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