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The History and Guide to “Yatsuhashi” – A Delightful Kyoto Sweet Treat

Have you heard of Kyoto’s “Yatsuhashi(八つ橋)”? It is a traditional type of Japanese confectionary similar to Senbei and can be enjoyed in luxurious settings with green tea. This article will introduce Kyoto’s Yatsuhashi, which can be enjoyed on your trip or taken home as a souvenir. We hope you can find your favourite among the various types of Yatsuhashi that you may find on your travels.

What is “Yatsuhashi”?

Yatsuhashi Kengyo(1614-1685)

Yatsuhashi first came about in 1689, and was named in honour of Yatsuhashi Kengyou, who was a revered Koto and Shamisen musician who composed many famous Kyoto melodies.

After his passing, Yatsuhashi was buried in a sacred ground of Konkaikōmyō-ji temple, but this did not feel like a sufficient homage to his memory for the people who visited his grave. It was for this reason that four years after his death, a sweet similar in shape to the Koto harp that he played was created in his name, and sold in local tea shops.

The main ingredients of Yatuhashi are rice flour, sugar and a special fragrant spice known as “Nikki”. It is a simple sweet but requires the optimum amount of water and length of time for steaming. The distinctive taste of Yatsuhashi comes from “Nikki” which is a spice similar to cinnamon.

The Yatsuhashi described above is the traditional dry Yatushashi type, but the history of the common “raw Yatsuhashi” which is enjoyed today is relatively short, and came about in around 1960. Generally the Yatsuhashi is wrapped in red bean paste (Anko), but there are now several different types which are made. These can be found in souvenir shops near tourist attractions in Kyoto, particularly around Gion and Kyoto station. It is also possible to try various samples of these different Yatsuhashi sweets in such establishments.

The various types of Yatsuhashi

Various types of Yatsuhashi are sold by the respective brands, with a dazzling array of colours on shop shelves.

The original dried type of Yatsuhashi, unchanged from its inception.

This type first came about in 1689 and is unchanged from how it was made back then. There is a strong cinnamon taste with a crunchy cookie-like texture. It appeared as an item of interest at the 1889 Paris Expo, receiving the silver prize, which has given Yatsuhashi world prominence for over 130 years.

The famous “Raw Yatsuhashi”

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—-Yatsuhashi—- A Kyoto speciality sweets brought by my friends who has just come back from Japan! Thank you so much for this deliciousness!!😋💛💚💛 . —-八つ橋--- 京都のお土産に八つ橋をいただきました。緑茶と大切にいただきました。八つ橋食べたのなん年ぶりだろう? . ご馳走さまでした😋💛💚💛 . 2018.8.28. . #八つ橋 #やつはし #おやつ #おやつタイム #おみやげ #おみやげありがとう #緑茶 #ほっこり #ごちそうさまでした #おうちカフェ #おうちごはん #和菓子 #エルグルメ #デリスタグラマー #暮らし #foodielife #yatsuhashi #munichfood #japanesefood #teetime #greentea #grünentee #japanesesweets #haveabreak #onthetable #foodphotos #foodphotography #hanekineko #089

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Yatsuhashi as it is known today is normally wrapped in red bean paste, with a strong sweet taste and a cold, soft texture, and popular with those who have a sweet tooth. As the best before date is not normally that long after purchase, it is best to consume within ten days if buying as a souvenir.

The cute “Nikiniki” Yatsuhashi

This Yatsuhashi known as the “Nikiniki” Yatsuhashi comes in a range of pastel colours with motifs of Japan’s four seasons, and look almost too good to eat. It is only sold in two stores in Tokyo, with the designs only being on offer for limited periods only. It is possible to check the Facebook page of the “Shogo-in Yatsuhashi” shop in Kyoto to find out which designs are currently available. Information on the two stores in which they are sold is as below:

・Kawaramachi Store:  91 Shinchō, Shimogyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 600-8001
・Kyoto Station Store: JR Tokai Kyoto Station 1F, Higashishiokoji Kamadonocho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto 600-8216

There are also other types of Yatsuhashi, including westernized variations of chocolate with Yatsuhashi fillings, or “Kotabe” treats, which are often a sight to behold in shop displays.

We hope this article tempted you to find and try some Yatsuhashi for yourself. With so many types to choose from, one can easily enjoy finding one as a souvenir gift, as well as discovering your own unique type!

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