Shinise (XVI): Kikkodo

Kurashiki City is located in Okayama Prefecture, Japan which has become a captivating destination for many. Known for its rich cultural heritage and picturesque scenery, Kurashiki offers visitors a delightful blend of history, art, and natural beauty.

One of the highlights of Kurashiki is the charming Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter. This well-preserved district takes you on a journey back in time to the Edo period with its ancient cobblestone streets, traditional wooden machiya houses, and tranquil canals. Strolling through this atmospheric quarter, you'll feel as though you've stepped into a living museum, where history comes alive.

Kurashiki is also renowned for its art scene. The Ohara Museum of Art, the first Western art museum in Japan, showcases an impressive collection of European masterpieces. Here, you can admire works by renowned artists such as Monet, Gauguin, and Picasso. The museum's serene surroundings, including a beautiful Japanese garden, add to the overall cultural experience.

Nature lovers will be delighted by the beauty of the surrounding landscapes. Take a leisurely boat ride along the scenic Takahashi River or explore the verdant Kibi Plain, known for its cycling routes and picturesque views of rice fields and the countryside.

In addition to its cultural and natural attractions, Kurashiki offers a delightful culinary scene. Taste regional specialties such as "sawara-zushi" (Japanese Spanish mackerel sushi), "kurashiki-age" (local deep-fried snacks), and delicious seasonal fruits from local orchards.

Kikkodo——Founded in 1877

KikkodoKikkodo is a traditional Japanese confectionery shop located approximately an 8-minute walk from Kurashiki Station or just a 1-minute walk from the Motomachi Bus Stop. The name of the shop, "Kikkodo," which literally means, "Hall of Citrus Aroma," pays homage to the fragrance of citrus, which is considered the oldest cultivated fruit in Japan and the foundation of Japanese sweets.

During the Nara period, sweets made their first appearance in Japan. Prior to that, the term "sweets" referred to fruits themselves. The citrus tree holds the distinction of being one of the earliest cultivated fruits. Hence, it is regarded as the "ancestor of sweets." Inspired by this ancestral connection with sweets and the delightful aroma of citrus, the visionary Ichio Hayashi chose to name his confectionery shop Kikkodo.

The shop offers more than thirty different types of sweets, and one of the most renowned delicacies is called Murasuzume. It is a confection made by wrapping sweet bean paste in a crepe-like dough. The thin and round outer layer is delicately cooked with fresh eggs and wheat. The filling consists of meticulously simmered whole red beans, carefully selected for their flavor. When savored, these elements blend harmoniously to create the unique taste of Murasuzume. During its development, sweets made with wheat and eggs were said to be relatively scarce, making it quite pioneering.

Murasuzume draws its inspiration from the woven hats worn during agricultural work and the golden color of ears of rice. During the Edo period, Kurashiki gained the name "Kurayashiki" due to its abundance of rice storehouses, serving as the central distribution point for Bitchu rice.

Rice crops held significant importance in the lives of the locals, who performed a dance called Honen Odori during the Bon festival. They donned hats woven from Igusa grass, symbolizing their prayers for plentiful harvests. The dancers' movements were said to resemble sparrows (suzume) flocking around ears of rice.

In the Meiji era, the founder of Murasuzume sought to create a signature local confectionery. Drawing inspiration from the shape and color of those woven hats and the golden hue of the ears of rice, they crafted the Murasuzume sweets. Since then, Murasuzume has been cherished as the flagship confectionery of Kurashiki, famous throughout the country.

Guided by the principle of cherishing once-in-a-lifetime encounters, Kikkodo remains unwavering in preserving the essence of tradition. While honoring its heritage, Kikkodo also explores new flavors, with each employee dedicated to understanding customers' desires and crafting exceptional products that prioritize the use of premium ingredients. In doing so, Kikkodo endeavors to create unforgettable experiences for every customer, embodying the true essence of Japanese confectionery heritage.

Address: 2-19-28 Achi, Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture

photo from: 橘香堂 8/18/2023

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