By Elizabeth S
Whether you are counting calories or strictly observing a vegan diet, wagashi, Japanese traditional sweets, are a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth the Japanese way. Perhaps you are more into savory, complex flavors. Kikuya, a wagashi confectionery shop in Japan’s soy sauce capital, Noda City, has just what you crave.
Japanese sweets, unlike western confections and sweets that depend on dairy products and eggs, are primarily made from plant products, including rice flour, bean paste, nuts and fruits. For example, a common Japanese confection, daifuku, is made of red bean paste, glutinous rice flour, and sugar. For many conscious eaters, wagashi are an appealing alternative to calorie- and animal-fat laden western-style cakes and sweets.
Perhaps you have sampled mass produced daifuku, or dorayaki, baked sweet bean cakes at convenience stores. There is nothing that can compare with the hand-crafted version made by traditional confectioners. Kikuya is one of the few independent sweet shops where craftspeople make these sweets daily.
Kikuya prepares both baked and raw types of sweets. Among their baked products are Kikuya’s two interpretations of dorayaki. “Noda Monogatari”, wrapped in a paper describing the story of Noda City, has tsubuan bean paste. Another is “Nodakko”, Child of Noda, a sweet that comes in three varieties. The sweets are a tribute to the spooky nursery rhyme, “Kagome Kagome”, said to originate in the town.
Kikuya's raw sweets include carefully sculpted and delicately colored sweets for a tea ceremony. Even if you don't have time or skill to put on a full tea ceremony, you can enjoy these delights with green tea. Another iconic sweet produced by Kikuya is shoyu iyokan, bean paste flavored with soy sauce reserved for Japan’s imperial family. Kikkoman soy sauce factory, located in the city, produces a premium quality soy sauce for the emperor. Kikuya has incorporated this premium soy sauce in its iyokan sweets since the beginning of the emperor’s reign. Through 30 years of trial and error, Kikuya's confectioners have perfected the sweet and savory combination.
When you visit Noda City, combine visits to Kikkoman Soy Sauce Museum to learn about soy sauce production, the beautifully preserved Edo Period Kamihanawa Historical House, Sakuragi Shrine to celebrate the cherry blossom, and Shimizu Park for the seasonal colors and field athletics adventure park.
Kikuya is about six minutes on foot from Atago Station. Walk west to Nagareyama Highway. Look for a way finding sign that says 喜久屋. Kikuya is in a side street on the west side of the highway.
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You will see many of my stories on Japan Travel are about places and events outside of big city centers and tourist destinations. While I highly recommend the big name sights and experiences, I encourage visitors to see and feel the atmosphere off the beaten path, too.