Traditional Kyoto Hard Candy

February 9, 2006

kyoto ame

Kyo-ame. The large, brown ones are ginger with black sesame seeds, and the cute faces and flowers are fruity flavored.

Today, I went cookbook shopping, and on my way home picked up some matcha green tea to enjoy with my new books. To really enjoy matcha, you need sweets to pop in your mouth before you sip the sometimes bitter tea. It effectively sweetens the tea. Of course, there are the elaborate, traditional sweets you normally have at tea ceremonies, but that was too formal for lazing away, reading cookbooks. So, I stopped by a small traditional sugar candy (Kyo-ame) shop.

They had little bags of candies in different flavors and shapes. I instantly snatched up the ginger (shōga) kind, having never seen it before and loving ginger, but couldn’t decide on a second flavor. When I asked her, the shopkeeper recommended the little faces and flowers, which I hadn’t noticed right away. They’re called Hana Koyomi.

As I made my purchases, the shopkeeper said the shop had been in existence since the Meiji period, over a hundred years. It was Japan’s period of modernization, and I could just imagine fathers in bowler hats taking their yukata-clad children to the store for a treat on a beautiful summer day.

And so it is that I don’t think these candies are very popular in the winter, because they have generally a summery feeling to them, being smooth, hard, and crunch-able, sort of reminiscent of ice. But today for me they were perfect for being lazy. When I got home, I instantly made myself some tea and got out the sweets.

The ginger ones are spicy and warm flavored with a few black sesame seeds that give it a slight nutty contrast. The little faces and flowers are sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. Each color is a different fruity flavor, so the effect in your mouth promises spring will come with plenty of flowers. Both flavors were delicious!


Address: 京都府京都市中京区寺町通夷川上る久遠院前町679
Directions: On the south side of Teramachi street, 2 minutes walk south of Marutamachi street. It’s just north of the Ippodo tea shop on the opposite side of the street.

3 Responses to “Traditional Kyoto Hard Candy”

  1. McAlpine Says:

    Nice write up. I discovered your blog while searching google for Kyoto hard candy and found you. Thx for sharing.

  2. […] superstar Meaghan Mountford was inspired by old-fashioned Japanese-style hard candies known as Hana Koyomi. We’re thinking this would be a great edible craft for older kids, and a fun loot bag filler, […]

  3. Jayant Jayakrishnan Says:

    Searching out information on kyo-ame I found your write up to be the most informative so far. I’m working on a project for someone who is introducing new kyo-ame flavours into a whole new market but sadly most of the information I find online is in Japanese or very, very basic. Thank you for yours

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