Shinise (V): Niitsumaya Senbei
Upon entering the Shinise, you are greeted by a delightful aroma and an inviting ambiance. The traditional sliding doors open to reveal a beautifully designed space, adorned with meticulously crafted desserts. Each sweet treat is expertly prepared and artistically presented, showcasing the pinnacle of dessert craftsmanship that embodies the timeless values and communal love for indulgent delights in Japanese culture. Thoughtfully curated dessert menus showcase a harmonious blend of traditional recipes and innovative creations, allowing patrons to savor both beloved flavors and exciting new confections. Despite the ever-changing landscape of dessert trends, the Shinise remains steadfast in preserving the art of dessert-making and maintaining its enduring significance within the realm of Japanese culinary heritage.
Niitsumaya Senbei—Founded in 1885
Maebashi City is located in the south-central part of Gunma Prefecture and serves as its capital. During the Edo period, it was governed by the Maebashi Domain for approximately 150 years (9 generations) under the rule of the Sakai clan, a hereditary vassal of the Tokugawa family, from 1601 until the Matsudaira clan from the Himeji Domain took over. For the following 99 years, it became the Maebashi branch territory of the Kawagoe Domain until the Matsudaira clan returned shortly before the Meiji era.
The name "Maebashi" is said to have been changed from the old name "Mayahashi," which referred to the "Umayabashi" (bridge for horse carriages) located near the former Carriage River (around the current Tone River), during the reign of the 4th domain lord, Sakai Tadayuki, who also served as the senior councilor of the shogunate. The region is known for its thriving agriculture, including dairy farming with milk cows and pigs.
Maebashi is famous for its local specialties such as pork rice bowls, sauce cutlet rice bowls, and baked manju (sweet buns). The city proudly preserves its long-standing establishments of restaurants, Japanese confectionery shops, and food stores.
Established in 1882, Niitsumaya is renowned for its famous confectioneries, particularly the "Gemasamurai" (literally meaning "mounted samurai"). Located about a 5-minute walk from Maebashi Station, Niitsumaya operates two stores within Maebashi City.
The shop is well-known for its signature confectionery called "Gemasamurai." It is a traditional sweet developed by the third generation of the shop, using eggs and rice flour as key ingredients. The name and inscription of "Gemasamurai" originated from the nickname of Sakai Masaragoto Tadayuki, the feudal lord of Maebashi Domain during the Edo period. In connection to this, the sweet is shaped like a golden horse saddle and named accordingly. In 1951, it first appeared in the tea ceremony at the Sakai family's former residence, Ryuukaiin, located in Maebashi City, Gunma Prefecture. Over the decades, it has been enjoyed by numerous customers.
The taste of Gemasamurai is characterized by a low-key sweetness that is not overly sugary. The level of sweetness may vary depending on the specific brand or recipe used. It typically has a subtle rice flavor, which adds a pleasant and slightly nutty undertone to the overall taste.
In terms of texture, Gemasamurai has a satisfying crunchiness. The cracker is usually thin and crisp, providing a light and airy bite. As you take a bite, you'll experience a delightful snap and then feel the cracker dissolve on your tongue. The texture can be described as both delicate and sturdy, offering a balance between fragility and firmness.
Address: 2 Chome-19-9 Omotecho, Maebashi, Gunma
photo from: https://www.okashi-niitsumaya.com/