Shinise (XIII): Sugiyama Juzando
The name "Akita" is believed to have its roots in a historical account from the mid-600s, during the Asuka period. It was during an expedition led by Abe no Hirafu to a region known as "Agita," which meant "a land with a jaw-like shape." In the early 700s, the Dewa Stockade, an ancient castle stockade, was relocated from Yamagata Prefecture to Okadate in what is now Akita City. Over time, this stockade came to be known as Akita Castle, and the name gradually became firmly established.
Today, Akita City serves as the political, economic, and transportation center of Akita Prefecture, making it the largest city on the northeastern coast of the Sea of Japan. During the Edo period, it thrived as the castle town of the Satake clan, later becoming the Akita clan. Additionally, Tsuchizaki Port (now Akita Port) at the mouth of the Omono River (currently known as Akita Canal) prospered as a port for Kitamae ships.
Renowned for its vibrant summer festival called the Kanto Matsuri (Lantern Festival), Akita City continues to preserve a number of well-established restaurants, traditional confectionery shops, and food stores. These establishments provide a glimpse into the city's rich culinary heritage and offer a taste of tradition that has been passed down through generations.
Sugiyama Juzandou——Founded in 1705
Sugiyama Juzando is a traditional Japanese confectionery shop founded in 1705 (during the Hoei era) by Ryosaku Sugiyama. It is located just a 3-minute walk from the Rinkai Junction bus stop, from a bus that can be taken from Akita Station. While detailed historical records of Sugiyama Juzando were unfortunately lost in a fire during the Meiji period, the shop remains a respected establishment. Today, it operates as a subsidiary of Kaorudo, a company founded in 1922.
Mr. Sugiyama, the founder of Sugiyama Juzando, is credited with inventing Morokoshi, a renowned Akita confectionery. When he presented Morokoshi to the fourth feudal lord, Satake Yoshinori, it received high praise. The feudal lord described it as surpassing all other confections in taste, leading to its name "Morokoshi."
His talent was further recognized when he became a designated merchant at the Sagano Imperial Villa in Kyoto. During the Battle of Ushitora, when three governors—Sawa Sanmi, Kujo Godai, and Kudai—were stationed at the Meitokukan School, Mr. Sugiyama presented his confections and received commendation for his excellent work.
"Morokoshi" is a type of dried sweet that falls under the category of "rakugan," which can be found across Japan. Rakugan is created by mixing various grain flours such as glutinous rice, non-glutinous rice, barley, soybeans, azuki beans, buckwheat, millet, or broad beans with sugar and a small amount of water or syrup. The mixture is then thoroughly kneaded, pressed into molds of different shapes, and dried. In the case of Sugiyama Juzando's "Morokoshi," the main ingredients used are azuki bean flour and sugar. No additives or coloring agents are included in the recipe.
The Morokoshi available in Akita City truly comes in a wide variety of flavors. The one from Sugiyama Juzando can be considered the most plain version, but this does not diminish its deliciousness. Morokoshi has a delicate and subtle taste that is both sweet and slightly savory. It has a smooth and melt-in-your-mouth texture with a pleasant chewiness. The flavor is primarily influenced by the combination of azuki bean flour and sugar, resulting in a subtly sweet and nutty profile. Sugiyama Juzando continues to uphold traditional production methods, actively participates in various competitions, and remains widely recognized as one of Akita's renowned confectioners.
Address: 010-0941, Kawashiri-machi, Akita City, Okawabata, 170-82
photo from: https://www.morokoshi.jp/index.html 杉山壽山堂8/9/2023