Yatsuhashi: Types and Brands of the Traditional Kyoto Sweet
Kyoto is a symbol of the tradition and beauty of Japan. The historic city had been the capital of Japan for a long time and served as a political and cultural center, where various crucial elements of Japanese culture developed.
Consequently, Kyoto boasts a wide range of specialties today, which range from traditional crafts to confections. As for me, every time I go on a sightseeing trip to Kyoto, there is a souvenir I definitely buy, about which I will talk this time.
The Kyoto specialty I have loved is the sweet treat called “Yatsuhashi (八ツ橋)”. It is a type of Wagashi, a traditional Japanese confection with more than 300 years of history, which originated in Kyoto.
Yatsuhashi is one of the most famous, popular Kyoto sweets, and there are few Japanese people but know the confection.
As a matter of fact, a statistical survey shows that about 96% of tourists to Kyoto buy sweets for souvenirs or gifts, and 45.6% of the total sales amount comes from Yatsuhashi (Nama Yatsuhashi: 24.5%, Katayaki Yatsuhashi: 21.1%).
It is said that Yatsuhashi is a type of Senbei (rice cracker), and further, it is classified into two types, that is, Katayaki Yatsuhashi and Nama Yatsuhashi.
Katayaki Yatsuhashi (堅焼き八ツ橋)
Katayaki Yatsuhashi is a rice cracker with a hard texture which is made by baking a dough of rice flour, sugar, and Japanese cinnamon called “Nikki (ニッキ)”. The Wagashi Senbei is said to have been created in 1689 by a teahouse that existed along the street “Shogoin (聖護院)” in Kyoto.
Generally, Katayaki Yatsuhashi has a thin, rectangle, curved shape. It has a nice crunchy bite and especially is characterized by the cinnamon flavor from Nikki.
Nama Yatsuhashi (生八ツ橋)
On the other hand, Nama Yatsuhashi is a soft, chewy Yatsuhashi made by steaming the rice dough without baking, which is a relatively new product that first went on the market in the 1960s.
Actually, Nama Yatsuhashi comes in two types, one consisting only of the rice dough and the other consisting of the rice dough filled with Anko (餡子: sweetened bean paste). Specifically, the soft rice dough of the latter type is usually folded in two and the Anko paste is wrapped in the twofold dough.
In addition to the sweet bean paste, Nama Yatsuhashi can be made with a variety of fillings, like matcha cream, chocolate cream, fruit cream, or jelly. Besides, the rice dough is not only made using the Nikki cinnamon but also made with other flavorings, such as matcha green tea powder and sesame paste.
Nama Yatsuhashi is often sealed in the vacuum pack to improve the shelf life.
Next, when it comes to the brand name of Yatsuhashi, the following 3 confectionery companies in Kyoto are especially famous for their Yatsuhashi.
Shogoin Yatsuhashi (聖護院八ツ橋)
As I mentioned above, Shogoin Yatsuhashi has its roots in a teahouse that was on the street of Shogoin in the old days, so this company is known as the oldest Yatsuhashi maker.
Izutsu Yatsuhashi (井筒八ツ橋)
Izutsu Yatsuhashi is a long-established Yatsuhashi producer that was founded in 1805. This company is well known for the Nama Yatsuhashi with Anko fillings called “Yuko (夕子)”.
The confectionery company, Otabe began producing Yatsuhashi in 1957. The product that represents this company is Nama Yatsuhashi with Anko called “Otabe (おたべ)”, which has successfully increased the market share despite its late release in 1966.
Where to Buy
The Wagashi confection, Yatsuhashi can be bought at almost any souvenir shop in Kyoto. For example, you can easily find Yatsuhashi products at the JR Kyoto station.
(Reference page of this article: Wikipedia 八ツ橋 )