Traditional Japanese sweet maker, Zen Kashoin, is a purveyor of the sweet things in life. Located in Muromachi, it has a shop, a cafe, a studio and a gallery. The store has updated a machiya, an old wooden Japanese shophouse, with sleek, contemporary details.
Like all Japanese sweets, the ones at Zen Kashoin look as delectable as they taste. They are particularly famous for their Ranmitsu or "Zen" Castella, paper-baked castellas made with eggs from Kyoto chickens. The eggs are renowned for their intensely yellow and flavoured yolks. Castella is a popular Japanese sponge cake made of sugar, flour, eggs and starch syrup, and was an import from Portuguese merchants from days of yore. Wrapped in paper and tied with string, the castellas make ideal gifts too.
Other popular cakes and sweets include seikakan, a cup-shaped castella filled with a choice of either custard or green tea filling, and honwakamaru, a dorayaki pancake made with homegrown flour and stuffed with red bean paste from Tokachi. Zen Kashoin also has kombucha rice crackers and karintos, a type of sweet Japanese snack, packaged in the prettiest of gift boxes.
You can partake of some of the cakes at the cafe with a choice of coffee, kocha (regular black tea), or Japanese tea. The cafe is a nice blend of contemporary and traditional, and overlooks a small garden for contemplative reflection while enjoying your tea and cake. A light lunch of rice with soybeans and kelp with a side of pickles is also available.
Its exhibition space, Gallery Sugata, is located at an adjoining wing, and showcases an eclectic variety of art and crafts. At Kyotographie 2016, it held French artist/photographer Sarah Moon's Late Fall. At other times, the gallery would display artisanal tableware or accessories, including Hasamiyaki ceramics and "grass soil/WASABI" cutlery. Curated products are available for sale at the shop.
For Tokyo dwellers, it is possible to sample Zen Kashoin's delights at their cafe and shop in Shibuya Hikarie ShinQs. You can also do online shopping at zenkashoin-shop.com.