A yellow paper bag with a cute dove logo on the side and dove-shaped cookies inside is a typical Kamakura souvenir. Almost all school kids coming to Kamakura on class trips have it! They always buy these large, sweet, buttery Hato Sablé (sah-bu-reh) cookies at Toshima-ya, as a memento of their trip to Kamakura.
Back in 1897, not so long after Japan opened her doors to the world, one dedicated confectioner was given a cookie by a foreign visitor who was staying at a famous inn in Kamakura. The confectioner ate the cookie and fell in love with it immediately. He wanted to make it himself, and so started to do research, totally devoting himself to the project for months on end. When he finally succeeded, he thought he would make it in a shape of a dove, which was a messenger from God and symbol of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu shrine near his shop. Because he appreciated the God of the shrine, he wanted to show his gratitude by using the image of the dove.
He named the cookie Hato Sablé and 115 years later it has (finally) become incredibly famous and popular. But in those days, Japanese people weren’t used to the taste of thick, rich butter and weren’t interested in eating it. The expression, “stinks of butter” eventually came to mean a Japanese person who acted too Western, or who had strong Western tendencies.
Besides the Hato Sablé cookie, Toshima-ya sells a variety of other sweets. These are my favorites:
Kobato-mamerakuis a hard, dainty sweet made of soybean flour and sugar. It is also in the shape of a dove. It is cute and can be stored for a long time. Jonama-gashi is a small artistic sweet, designed to resemble seasonal flowers, vegetables and nature. It is quite fresh and can’t be kept long.
Yato-arukiis mashed sweet potatoes with a chestnut in the center. It is only sold in autumn.
Only the honten (main shop) sells western confectionaries such as apple pie, cheesecake, apricot jam waffle cookies, chocolate and so on. The waffle cookies are very nice.
They also sell stationary such as letter sets, ballpoint pens, paper clips, rubber bands, and so on in the same dove logo motif.
Dove collection and Lounge area
Because of the famous dove logo,Toshima-ya has a fine collection of dove ornaments on display on the second floor of the main shop. You can freely come into the showroom, and look around at a variety of dove figurines from a variety of countries. There are some comfortable lounge chairs here where you can rest for a while, but drinking and eating is not permitted. If you want to have some tea and sweets, please enjoy this tearoom located just behind the shop.
Toshima-ya has a lot of branch shops in Kamakura. And also they have stalls in many department stores in Kanagawa and Tokyo. But if you travel to Kamakura, do come and see the main shop. You can get Hato Sablé cookies and Kobato-mameraku at all their branches, but the other items are difficult to find anywhere else.