BLOGKyoto travel tips2019.04.24

Kyoto tour in early summer to know "Minazuki"

ByNishigaki Aika

What are those triangular sweets that appear in Kyoto in early summer...?

In June, we often see those somewhat cool triangular shape sweets in Kyoto. "I really wonder what that is...". If you do not live in Kyoto, you may see them for the first time. This time, I went on a journey to deepen my knowledge about that "Japanese triangle sweet".

To the long-established Kyoto sweets shop "Kameya Yoshinaga"

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First, I headed to "Kameya Yoshinaga", a 10 minute-walk west of Shijo Karasuma intersection. They have been making beautiful and delicious Japanese sweets for over 200 years, in the area of "Samegai" (today's Maibara), which has long been known as a place with pure water. Here I was able to learn in detail about that triangular Japanese sweet.

The true "Minazuki"

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"This is the candy called Minazuki," told me the eighth-generation confectioner Yoshikazu Yoshimura. "Do you know the "Nagoshi no Harae"event?" On June 30, which marks half of a year, people cleanse themselves from misdeeds they have commited in the first half, praying for a healthy second half year without any evil. Minazuki is mainly eaten in Kyoto as part of this event.

Why is it triangular?

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The typical style of the Minazuki is uiro-mochi (rice cake) topped with red beans with a triangular shape. Its beginning goes all the way back to the Muromachi period. At that time, in the Imperial Court held an "eat ice and get rid of heat" event. However, ice was expensive and out of reach of ordinary people... The triangular shape of the Minazuki was adopted as an imitation of the ice. Also, "Azuki" red beans carry the meaning of driving evil away.

Going into the actual Minazuki making process

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I was shown the process of making Minazuki extra! "All the ingredients used are the same. But each store has a different taste. That's the fun of Japanese sweets" says Mr. Hinoyama, a craftsman with a 30-year-long experience. It is the texture that is important when making it. It's something to eat in the hot season, so it has to be easy to swallow. Azuki takes the most time and effort. It takes three days to complete, as the amount of honey we use has to be exact, to reach the right sweetness. I was also able to see the large Azuki beans from Hokkaido, in all their shining beauty.

Steam, cut

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Minazuki is completed through two steaming steps. First, steam the Uiro base, then add red beans and steam again. While waiting, I was fascinated by its sweet smell.... Steaming was complete in about 20 minutes. So this is the triangle Minazuki prototype! The perfectly compelling size! As it does not cut cleanly when it's hot, we cut it after it cools down. Cutting it into perfect beautiful equal pieces it's just a matter of skills. I couldn't take my eyes of the workflow.

Let's enjoy it in the Café space

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During the period when Minazuki is sold, it is also served in the on-site tearoom. The price is 292 yen (incl. tax); the seasonal raw sweets set with green tea is 918 yen (incl. tax). Refined sweetness and sticky texture ... but smooth over the throat. Indeed, it is perfect for the hot season! The symbol of the "Nagoshi no Harae" event, rooted in Kyoto. Only Minazuki are sold in the last three days of June!? That is how many customers come looking for Minazuki. Mr. Yoshimura says, "Japanese sweets connect different cultures and create a peaceful harmony between people." It could be great to get together for a taste of delicious Japanese sweets in tune with the early summer mood.

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■Kameya Yoshinaga

Kyoto-shi, Shimogyo-ku, Shijo Dori, Aburanokoji Nishi Iru, Kashiwaya-cho 17-19
10 minutes walk from "Shijou" Station, Karasuma Subway Line
075-221-2005
9:00 - 18:00
June 28th - 30th
https://kameya-yoshinaga.com
An experience of making traditional Kyoto-style confectionery:https://www.kyoto-chishin.com/en/culture/confectionery.html

My Minazuki recommendations

As the "Kameya Yoshinaga" craftsmen said, it's charming how Minatsuki have slightly different appearances and tastes from shop to shop. I'll introduce three recommended Japanese-style confectionery shops that you might want to pop into when taking a walk around Kyoto. You can compare their taste or remember them for next year. Every shop specializes in Minazuki.

The great sense of townhouse architecture in the "Daigokuden Hompo Rokkaku Shop"

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When going back from shopping in Shijo Kawaramachi, take a moment to stop at the "Daigokuden Hompo Rokkaku Shop". The color pattern of the noren curtain outside changes with the season. Their Minazuki are characterized by a chewy, good texture. Come in three flavors: white, green tea and brown sugar. It's hard to pick one. One for 200yen (incl. tax), the reservation price is 180 yen (incl. tax).

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■Daigokuden Hompo Rokkaku Shop

Kyoto-shi, Nakagyo-ku, Rokkaku Dori, Takakura, Higashi Iru, Horinoue-cho 120
7 minutes walk from "Shijo" Station, Karasuma Subway Line
075-221-3311
10:00 - 17:00
June 28th - 30th

I want to visit "Tawaraya Yoshitomi" on the occasion of walking in the Gyoen Park,

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When visiting Kyoto Gyoen, the Park around the Imperial Palace, do not miss "Tawaraya Yoshitomi". Founded in the fifth year of the Horeki period (1755!), this store was been established over 260 years ago in the actual Nishijin district. The texture of the large azuki beans is pleasant, and two types of sugar are used: white and brown. It will heal your tired body after the long walk. One for 303 yen (incl. tax).

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■Tawaraya Yoshitomi

Kyoto-shi, Kamigyo-ku, Muromachi Dori, Kamidachiuri Agaru
5 minutes walk from "Imadegawa" Station, Karasuma Subway Line
075-432-2211
8:00 - 17:00
June 1th-30th
http://www.kyogashi.co.jp/a-index.html

Modest sweetness and high-end quality feeling in "Tsuruya Yoshinobu"

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Seimei Shrine recently became famous for being featured in a song for the most famous figure skater in Japan. After the visit, I stopped by "Tsuruya Yoshinobu " and tried the Minazuki and green tea set for 1,026 yen (incl. tax) in the tea room. This Minatsuki is made using a large-grained variety of Azuki beans from Nantan and Umaji. You might get addicted to its crispy texture. Its sweetness is modest and elegant.

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■Tsuruya Yoshinobu

Kyoto-shi, Kamigyo-ku, Imadegawa Dori, Horikawa Nishi Iru
Close to the City Bus Stop "Horikawa Imadegawa"
075-441-0105
9:00 - 18:00
June 1th-30th
https://www.tsuruyayoshinobu.jp/shop/

After the trip...

The most characteristic triangular sweet that appears in Kyoto every June is without doubt "Minazuki." Minazuki is part of a long-standing culture. Because the size of Azuki beans and the texture of the Uiro base vary depending on the shop, it could be fun to compare them and search for your favorites! Why don't you try Minazuki when you go praying for good health this summer?

*Plsease note that the prices listed in this article were when we made the interview. (They might be subject to change. )

Writer
Nishigaki Aika

A writer living in Kyoto. It is fun on the weekend to take a walk for good things. Recently I'm addicted to collecting gosyuin, and I like goshuin I got at Nashinoki Shrine.

Photographer
Taniguchi Akira

A Kyoto resident photographer who works mainly in Kansai. Always smiling, calm character. In the private, there is also an active side that visits abroad frequently.