Wagashi: Types and Brands of Kyoto Yatsuhashi Sweets
Kyoto was the capital of Japan in the old days and served as a political and cultural center, where various things were developed.
As a result, the city has a wide range of specialties today, including traditional crafts and confections.
As for me, every time I go on a sightseeing trip to Kyoto, there is a souvenir I definitely buy.
The Kyoto specialty I have loved for a long time is “Yatsuhashi (八ツ橋)”.
It is a type of Wagashi, a traditional Japanese sweet with over 300 years of history that originated in Kyoto.
Yatsuhashi is one of the best-known Kyoto sweets. So there are few Japanese who don’t know the confection.
A statistical survey shows that about 96% of tourists to Kyoto choose sweets for souvenirs or gifts, and 45.6% of the total sales come from Yatsuhashi (Nama Yatsuhashi: 24.5%, Katayaki Yatsuhashi: 21.1%).
Yatsuhashi is a kind of Senbei classified into two types; Katayaki Yatsuhashi and Nama Yatsuhashi.
Katayaki Yatsuhashi (堅焼き八ツ橋)
Katayaki Yatsuhashi is a hard rice cracker with a thin, rectangular, curved shape made by baking a dough of rice flour, sugar, and cinnamon called “Nikki (ニッキ)”.
One legend holds that this Wagashi Senbei was first offered in 1689 by a teahouse that existed near the Buddhist temple “Shogoin (聖護院)” in Kyoto.
This type has a pleasant crunchy bite featuring the distinctive cinnamon flavor from Nikki.
Nama Yatsuhashi (生八ツ橋)
On the other hand, Nama Yatsuhashi, first released in the 1960s, is a soft, chewy Yatsuhashi made by steaming rice dough without baking.
This Yatsuhashi comes in two types; one only consists of rice dough, while the other is made from a rice dough folded in two, filled with “Anko (餡子)” sweet red bean paste.
Nama Yatsuhashi may have fillings such as matcha cream, chocolate cream, fruit cream, or jelly.
Besides, the dough may be flavored with things other than Nikki, like matcha green tea powder or sesame paste.
Unlike Katayaki Yatsuhashi, Nama Yatsuhashi is often sealed in the vacuum pack to improve its shelf life.
In terms of the brand name, the following confectionery companies in Kyoto are especially famous for their Yatsuhashi sweets.
Shogoin Yatsuhashi (聖護院八ツ橋)
Founded in 1689, Shogoin Yatsuhashi is said to have its roots in the teahouse that lay near the Buddhist temple Shogoin.
Honke Nishio Yatsuhashi (本家西尾八ツ橋)
Honke Nishio Yatsuhashi, which started its business in 1689, is also considered one of the originators of Yatsuhashi.
Izutsu Yatsuhashi (井筒八ツ橋)
Izutsu Yatsuhashi is a long-established Yatsuhashi maker that opened in 1805. This company’s signature product is “Yuko (夕子)”, a Nama Yatsuhashi with Anko.
Otabe began producing Yatsuhashi in 1957. Their Nama Yatsuhashi named “Otabe (おたべ)” has successfully increased the market share despite its late release in 1966.
Where to Buy
The Wagashi Yatsuhashi can be bought at almost any souvenir shop in Kyoto. For example, you can easily find the products in the JR Kyoto station.
(Reference Page: Wikipedia 八ツ橋 )