September 17, 2017

by Mayumi Otsuka, Mai Takezawa and Kanako Wakamatsu

If you come to Kyoto, what are you going to buy as a food souvenir? There are very popular food souvenirs in Kyoto, such as yatsuhashi, matcha, and so on. However, have you ever heard of kyoame? Kyoame is a candy and is one of the historical Japanese sweets in Kyoto. It has a pretty design and a very beautiful color, such as pink, purple, green, and yellow. Also, in Chinese characters, ‘candy’ means ‘be delighted by eating’. Therefore, you can be happy by eating the candy called kyoame.



History of Kyoame

There wasn’t any such thing as candy in ancient Japan. Instead of candy, there was starch syrup (the literal translation is ‘water candy’ in Japanese) that was made with rice and malt. However, it was used only as seasoning. In the late Muromachi era (1392~1573), Portuguese explorers came to Japan, bringing their religion and culture. One of the things they introduced was white sugar. However, it was not famous among the common people at that time. It was not until the end of Edo era (1600~1867) that ordinary people found out about white sugar. However, it was very expensive, so some of them could not eat it yet, much less see it. In the Meiji era (1868~1911), Japan began to engage actively in foreign trade. In addition, the skill of making candy was developed, so many kinds of candy were produced. In this way, kyoame was born by using traditional candy-making techniques with starch syrup and the new ones with white sugar.

How to Make Kyoame

At the beginning, the kyoame craftsman makes the paste of the candy. First of all, she boils the sugar up to 110° C, which is raw material of kyoame. Then he keeps boiling the sugar until it reaches 160° C. Then, she uses a special machine to drain the candy of its water. After that, she puts the candy paste on a cooling plate and blends in the flavor and food coloring. This is the basic process of making the kyoame candy paste.

Once the candy paste is made, what happens next depends on what type of Kyoame is desired. In general, there are two methods of making kyoame. One is made by pouring the candy paste into a variety of molds. Another is done by combining some big candy parts together, which differ by color and taste, to make one big candy paste mass. The craftsman then makes the candy paste long and thin and then cuts it into small pieces. That part is very similar to European-style candy making.

The craftsman work is very sensitive because the craftsman needs to adjust his work to a variety of conditions, such as season, temperature, humidity, and so on. To be a kyoame craftsman is a very difficult job because it requires both technical skill and management skill. As proof, some kyoame craftsman have been commended for their sensitive skill by officials from Kyoto city.

Of course, making kyoame is very difficult and almost impossible for ordinary people. However, there is one kyoame store that offers visitors the experience of making kyoame themselves. So, if you go there, you can try to make your own original version of kyoame. Many kyoame stores do not use machines much, as mostly the candy is made by the craftsman’s hand.

Kyoame is popular souvenir for foreigners because the design is very beautiful and it really has the feeling of a traditional Japanese souvenir. On the other hand, kyoame is also a popular souvenir amongst the Japanese, because it is so affordable. Often, Japanese people feel guilty for receiving a souvenir that is too expensive. And in the season of school trips, students often buy kyoame as a souvenir for their family or for their seniors. Kyoame is not so expensive, but the design is beautiful, so it is easy to buy for students. In sum, kyoame is suitable as both a formal or casual gift.



Where to Buy Kyoame

In Kyoto there are several famous Kyoame stores. We would like to introduce two of them.


The first one is called Ayano Kouji. It was founded in 1876. They have 5 kinds of kyoame and the names of each are related to traditional Japanese culture. For example, Shun is related to the change of the seasons, so you can enjoy a different taste at different times of the year. They also make specific Japanese tastes, like like plum, yuzu, kujyou welsh onion, etc.

TEL 075-351-0593

Open 9:00-18:00 (Monday-Friday)

Crochet Kyoto

The second kyoame shop is named Crochet Kyoto. Unlike Ayano Kouji, it is a very new shop, just founded in 2013. They offer 21 kinds of kyoame. All of them are flamboyant and their name is related to both Japanese and European culture. For example, Shiromuku is kind of traditional clothing that brides wear, and it’s taste is that of sakura, or cherry blossom. Another is named Antoinette, from Marie Antoinette. It is related to Europe and its taste is strawberry.

TEL 075-744-0804

Open 10:30-19:00

Kinds of Kyoame


Surprising Fact About Kyoame

In 2004, a company that makes fashion accessories with kyoame was established. It is called Nanaco Plus+. It reproduces traditional Kyoto confectionery with their accessories. If you go there, you can see jewelry or key rings that look just like kyoame. They want us to watch, wear, and eat kyoame. Their goal is to revive the heart of beauty and sensitivity that Japanese felt in times long ago.

Their accessories are made with real kyoame. The company invented a technique to cover the real candy with clear resin. Each piece is hand-made, so you can enjoy differences in size and design. In addition, they also sell cosmetics, such as a lip cream which smells like kyoame. In this way, traditional kyoame can be loved forever.

As you can see, kyoame is a traditional sweet in Kyoto that requires a special technique to make. There are a variety of kinds and tastes, and they have names related to both Japanese and European culture. In addition, you can enjoy Kyoame not only by eating them, but also by wearing them as accessories. Therefore, we recommend you buy a beautiful kyoame as a souvenir during your stay in Kyoto.

Candy Culture in Kyoto

by Akane Kitakido and Narumi Kitagawa

Candy has been loved by Japanese people for many generations, and is a great representation of traditional Japanese culture. Most people might imagine that candy is a solid, sweet, and circular thing. However, Japanese candy used to be in liquid form for a long time, and people used to use candy as a kind of seasoning. These interesting facts are reflected by the origin of candy in Japan.

One of the main ingredients of traditional Japanese candy was liquid from ivy, so it was mostly a sweet syrup. For this reason, candy was used as not only a sweet seasoning, but also as a precious source of nutrients. After refined sugar came to Japan from abroad, the candy culture quickly developed. At that time, it was considered to be a classy and expensive food.

In Kyoto, a unique way to enjoy candy appeared. It was called sculptured candy. It is said that a candy craftsman made a special red and white colored candy to present as an offering to a temple. Gradually, many craftsmen competed in the design and beauty of their sculptured candy with creative ideas. Even now, sculptured candy is developing more and more in wonderful ways, and some of them capture the eyes – and tongues – of the world.


Kinds of Candy

The single word ‘candy’ covers many shapes when it comes to Japanese candy. The most basic one is called tamamono. Sometimes people call it tamaame or teppoutama. ‘Tama’ means ‘sphere’ in Japanese. When we hear the word ‘candy’, everyone will imagine this spherical, round candy. There are single colored ‘tamamono’, which come in six or seven different colors. The most colorful one is called temariame because it looks like a temari, which is a traditional Japanese ball used as a toy since the Edo period (1608-1868).

Another kind of candy is kumiame. It comes from the word kumu, which means ‘to assemble’ in Japanese. This candy is made by assembling many kinds of ingredients. In this way, a complicated design like a pattern or flower, or a character’s face can appear on the surface of the candy. By changing the way to we set the candy during production, we can make a lot of designs on each candy. These candies are made from sugar and starch syrup. After stewing at 160 degrees centigrade, flavor and pigment is added, followed by kneading. While it is still hot, it is cut and made into a desired shape.


A Wonderful Shop: Nanaco Plus+

Nanaco Plus+ is a shop that sells accessories made from traditional Japanese candy. It respects the changing seasons that Japanese people have cherished throughout history to create their unique and modern crafts. Not only candy, but all of the Japanese sweets have sense of seasons because they show the beauty of nature. With this characteristic of Japanese sweets, Nanaco Plus+ has made handicrafts that make it easier for people to love both tradition and the change of seasons. The concept of this shop is “to enjoy seeing, wearing and eating candy,” so it can bring us the fun from traditional to modern candy culture.

nanaco plus

Products of Nanako Plus+

In this unique shop, there are many kinds of products. Accessories like earrings, hair ties, and hair clips are all made with real, traditional Japanese candies like tamamono or kumiame. All of these sweet accessories are really cute and especially they go well with traditional Japanese clothes like yukata or kimono. Not only does Nanaco Plus+ sell candy accessories, they also have charms for bags or smartphones. It might be nice gift for friends or foreign people. They must be surprised if they know that such a cute accessory or charms are made with real candy. These cute and unique products are a great combination of the traditional and modern in Japan.

Interview from Nanaco plus+

We visited this wonderful shop. It is located on a narrow street. Actually, the store is not large, but it was packed with people anyway. Not only young people, but also older people were enjoying seeing the products of nanako plus+.

Unfortunately, taking photos is banned inside the shop, but we were still able to talk with the clerks. They said their belief is in the importance of continuing something with creativity. “We hope to express the traditions of Japan through our products,” they said. They also said that recently they had opened a store in Tokyo, so now more foreign people are interested in their products. They were very happy about it.

During our visit, we bought a charm and earring there. The charm with green tea candy can be bought only at the Kyoto store.

candy nanaco

Left: piercing 1,296 yen / Right: charm 540yen



There are two Nanaco Plus+ shops in Japan, but the main one is in Kyoto. It is near the most popular street in Kyoto: Shijo-Kawaramachi, so visitors from overseas can easily stop by the shop while sightseeing. Moreover, they can feel the tradition of Kyoto culture on the way to Nanaco Plus+. If visitors are unable to visit the shop, they can still order their products online.


by Hosoda Eri, Okugawa Akane, Matsuura Rina

What is Kompeito?

Kompeito is a traditional Japanese sweet, which was introduced to Japan from Portugal in 1546 Because it was foreign, it became a very popular candy. The origin of the word ‘kompeito’ comes from the Portuguese word ‘confeitos’.  Originally, kompeito was eaten in wedding ceremonies in Portugal. Kompeito was given to the Japanese by missionaries, and it is said that the Japanese aristocracy were so surprised at the form and taste. It was an unusually precious candy to them. However, the manufacturing methods of the Kompeito was kept a secret.

Since that time, konpeito has been used in Japan as party favors or commemorative gifts for various occasions by the Imperial Family. In addition, it is has been used for sweets in the tea ceremony room and it for making cakes for children.

Generally, konpeito is said to be pretty, and it comes in various colors, for example: pink, yellow, orange, light blue, purple, white, green, and so on. It’s shape is irregular, and regardless of the color of each candy, the taste is generally the same. Traditionally, kompeito tasted like plain sugar, but nowadays, there are dozens of different flavors, such as fruit and cider to name a few.

These colorful and star like candies are still often made by hand, and the ingredients are simple: sugar, water and food coloring. Kompeito takes approximately 16-20 days to make. There is no special recipe for making kompeito, so manufacturing methods vary greatly. This results in differences in appearance and taste, according to the manufacturer. Also, the kompeito creators cannot make the same taste every year, because the humidity and temperature of the air is always changing. This means that no kompeito maker can manufacture the same kompeito for life.

Ryokujuan Shimizu

There is one store in Kyoto that specializes in making and selling kompeito. When making kompeito, they focus specifically on color, form, and flavor. Since the shop is much smaller than a common shop, customers must stand in line outside in wait to get in to purchase their kompeito during busy times. Of course, the taste is very delicious, but the product varies according to the season. However, advance orders are sometimes necessary.

The History of Ryokujuan Shimuzu

Ryokujuan was original founded in 1847. Senkichi Shimizu was the original founder started the business in the Hyakumanben area of Eastern Kyoto. He passed on the business to his son, Shotaro Shimizu, and he in turn passed it on to the third generation, Isamu Shimizu, who began to make cinnamon and tea flavored kompeitou. The fourth generation son, Seiichi Shimizu, began experimenting with the kompeitou making process using various types of materials. Then, in the fifth and current generation, Yasuhiro Shimizu, is making approximately 50 kinds of kompeitou now.

In the old days, they used coal to make a smokeless fire to make the kompeito. For this reason, it took two months to make just one type. Over the years, successive generations built upon the flavor and materials, resulting in an increase in variety of form, luster, and difference in taste. This exemplifies the handmade quality of craftsman ship for which Ryokujuan is famous.

Kompeito Products at Ryokujuan

Ryokujuan Shimizu offers its customers flavors of every kind, such as chocolate, tea, caramel, wine, brandy, nihonshu, perilla leaf, ume, yuzu, ginger, Japanese pepper, and more. Konpeitou at Ryukujuan is different from those of other stores. Especially delicious is their Black Sesame flavor – a taste of natural luxury: not too sweet, yet with hints of the aroma of roasting beans. It costs is 760 yen per bag.

Ryokujuan makes kompeitou in accordance with the change of seasons. For example, cherry blossom flavor is sold in spring when the cherry blossoms bloom. Also, mango and watermelon flavors are sold in the summer, when those fruits are ripe and ready to eat. Furthermore, the taste of Japanese chestnut, black soybean, and sweet potato are sold in the fall, when those vegetables are ready to eat. In this way, Ryokujuan offers many different options to customers who visit their shop. Here are some more examples:

Types of Kompeito at Ryokujuan

  • Chocolate (February – Valentines Day)
  • Caramel Arare (March – White day)
  • Brandy (June – Father’s day)
  • Ume Liqueur (July – Bon Festival)
  • Sake (November – Year-end Gift)
  • Vone Romanevan Rouge (December – Christmas)
  • Bean (January – Setsubun)

Seasonal Kompeito

January: Ume Arare
February: Peach Arare
March: Cherry blossom
April: Cherry
May: Blueberry
June: Yoghurt
July: Mango
August: Coconut
September: Lychee
October: Black soybean
November: Muscat/Chinese Quince
December: Pumpkin

Ryokujuan also sells cases to store kompeito. If you use one of these cases, you can store kompeito for a very long time. In fact, Ryokujuan has some kompeito from about 50 years ago. The staff says that you cannot eat it, even though its smell and color have not changed.

Have you heard of Kiyomizuyaki? Kiyomizuyaki is a type of traditional pottery in Kyoto, which comes from the Kiyomizu temple area in the Eastern part of the city. Kompeito cases in the Kiyomizuyaki style are also sold at Ryokujuan. To our regret, we were not allow to photograph any. However you can check it on Ryokujuan’s homepage.

One set of cases costs 22,000 yen, and just as a souvenir, so it is rather luxurious and expensive.

So with all of the delicious kompeito and unique storage cases, why don’t you visit Ryokujuan when you come to Kyoto?

Access to Ryokujuan

Ryokujuan is located close to Kyoto University in Sakyo Ward. Business hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

By Bus

Take bus #17 from Kyoto Station. Get off at the Hyakumanben stop. From there it is a 2-minute walk. Alternatively, take bus #206 from the Gion area. Get off at the Hyakumanben stop. From there it is a 5-minute walk.

By Train

(Keihan train) get off at the Demachiyanagi stop. From there it is a 10 minutes walk.


Kyoto city sakyo-ku yoshida izumidencho 38-2
Telephone: 075-771-0755
Fax: 075-771-0766


by Chiho Inaba, Yukari Maruoka, and Airi Ishikawa


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 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


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.


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

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