There are many treats that are unique and found only in Japan. There are the likes of their classic and traditional cuisine as well as the Japanese sea grapes that one can find here. There are also treats like their crepes, which didn’t really originate in Japan but has become a staple food there especially in the area of Shinjuku. This long list of amazing and delicious treats goes on and on but none of it can compare to the artistry found in Japan’s Amezaiku.
The History of the Amezaiku Candy and the Recipe
If you’re a person that appreciates artworks like glass blowing and molding, you will certainly love watching and learning about the amezaiku in Japan. It is a Japanese candy artistry that has been in Japan since the Heian period. Back then, the candies used as offerings at temples in Kyoto which is quite unique because it isn’t everywhere in the world that you can find a temple that accepts candy as an offering. They were a fitting offering though because of the beauty each piece had.
It might have started as a mere offering at temples but by the time the Edo period kicked in, the amezaiku started a craze that went beyond the walls of any temple. It became an amazing source of entertainment used by street performers because it was mesmerizing to watch its creation. With the liquid and viscous sugar mixture called the mizuame, these artists would make a lollipop-like figure with the dough-like candy mixture and they would be able to transform it into all kinds of solid and tasty creatures and shapes within a certain amount of time. Its creation is under a time limit because once the mizuame hardens, it cannot be reshaped anymore. This also happens to be the reason why this craft can be high relatable to glass shaping because the artists also have to work under a time constraint due to the cooling process of the hot glass being molded. Unlike glass shaping though, the only tools used in shaping the soft candy are traditional Japanese scissors and the bare hands of the artist.
The mizuame is made from the starch in rice that has malt added to it to turn it into sugar. It is actually a sweetener invented in Japan and it is used on many more traditional dishes like the wagashi. Some people think that making the amezaiku is easy because all you need is the mizuame and the other ingredients mixed in with it like water, sugar, and sometimes teabags as well as ginger root. This is quite far from the truth because the proportioning of the mixture for the amezaiku is dependent on the conditions it is made it. This means that it matters whether the place is dry, rainy, hot, or cold because it determines its heating and cooling properties which are vital in making these sweet treats.
There are many other tools used in the making of the amezaiku. Of course, you will need the chopstick or straw that you place the amezaiku on as you mold and sculpt it. You will also need fine point brushes to precisely paint on certain details of the animals or characters being made like their eyes and mouths to give the treat a bit more aesthetics. You need not worry about poisoning though because the paint they use for these candies is the edible kind. Aside from these basic tools, amezaiku artists also make use of a special wooden box that keeps all the tools they need as well as the amezaiku mixture that is usually kept warm inside the box with a use of a charcoal or electric stove. The mixture is usually kept at a temperature of 90 degrees Celsius to maintain its workability and pliability.
There were also some instances in the past wherein these candies were blown like balloons with the use of a straw but this method was discontinued due to health and sanitary reasons. Nowadays, if you wish to blow up the amezaiku to increase its volume and be able to create more designs, you will need to use a pump to introduce air into the candy rather than just blowing air into it through your mouth.
Where can buy and How to Make the Amezaiku through Tutorials in Tokyo
Since the amezaiku is considered as something traditional in Japan, you are sure to find a number of stores that either showcase incredibly creations of amezaiku or hold tutorials that teach both locals and foreigners the basics on how to make your very own amezaiku. Despite the number of stores, you can go, the majority of them can only be found in the areas of Tokyo and Osaka.
If you are in Osaka, you should look for the store known as “Amezaiku Nishikiori Kyo”. This place is found in Osaka, Higashiyodogawa-ku. They have a website and a phone number you can search for online in case you would want to inquire about certain promos or events they may be held during the time of your visit to Japan. Usually, they offer 120-minute courses that cost 6000 yen per person. In that amount of time, you will learn how to knead the mixture into a consistency that is ideal for making the amezaiku and much more basic knowledge about the process of making these delicious candies.
If you are in Tokyo, you can look for the shop called “Amezaiku Toshihara” that is located on the first floor of the Tomoe Building found in Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku. This place is ideal for children who wish to learn this craft because they offer 60-minute courses for people who are 10 years old and above. Be sure to inquire ahead of time before going here because their courses have a limit of 6 people per course and it would cost each person 2500 yen.
Alternatively, you may want to check out the store known as “Ameshin” and it is found on the 4th floor of the Tokyo Skytree Town Solamachi. They sell all kinds of amezaiku here and they also have amazing rates for their tutorial courses. They offer 60 to 90 minutes courses that would usually cost an adult 3000 yen. If you are a person in high school or younger, this course can be available to you for a lower price of 2500 yen per person. They are open every day from 10 AM to 5 PM. You can also opt to check out Ameshin’s head office that is located in Asakusa but unlike the Skytree branch, you cannot purchase any amezaiku here because they only have exhibits and workshops held here. They are open from 11 AM until 6 PM and it is important to note that they are closed on Thursdays so plan your trip here accordingly.
Amezaiku as a Traditional Japanese Art Form
There are many things that used to be only made by hand but with the introduction of AI and all kinds of advancements in technology, it has become easier to mass produce certain products. Cars can be a perfect example of such things because the first car models used to be worked on by many hands to create the masterpiece but nowadays, all you need is the latest equipment to create a stunning car. Although this advancement in technology is great for businesses because they are able to create and sell their products at a much faster pace, it cannot be overlooked that the tradition of making such things was changed because of these advancements.
Relating this fact to the creation of amezaiku highlights the fact that the tradition of making these sweet treats has been preserved because of the inability of machines to duplicate what human hands can do in terms of making these candies. Since the process of making these traditional Japanese candies used to be passed on from generation to generation, each creator or artist may be using a different style or method compared to another artist. Presently, the making of the amezaiku has become a dying art form because fewer people are practicing it nowadays but with the help of the stores and exhibits mentioned earlier, there is hope that it can once again be brought back to life in the younger generations of today.
By supporting and participating in these tutorials, you not only preserve a tradition that has been in Japan since the 8th century, you also give yourself a chance to have fun and express yourself in a way that cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the world. It is for this reason that making the amezaiku can be perfect a birthday party activity because of the entertainment it provides and the one of a kind souvenir candy that you get to take home as a remembrance or a treat to yourself for a job well done. The amezaiku are also perfect giveaways at events like weddings because of its rarity and uniqueness and the fact that it can fit so many events proves that it can definitely flourish once again in the right atmosphere.
With everything mentioned above, it is clear that the creation of the amezaiku is a tradition that is worth trying at least once when in Japan. Luckily, the well-known shops and tutorial establishments are located at frequently visited areas in Japan so that should make it easier for you to try if you wanted to. You can do this alone or with a friend, either way, you are sure to enjoy every minute of it because you get to let your creative juices flow and after all that hard work, you can enjoy your delicious work if you wanted to.