Fukuoka, a treasure trove of delectable delights, shines particularly in its array of sweets. This city offers an enticing blend of time-honored confections cherished through generations and inventive new treats. Fukuoka’s fame for exquisite sweets is not without reason. Along with its rich history, let us explore a selection of sweets that make perfect souvenirs.
Unearthing the Roots of Japanese Sweets in Hakata
In Gokusho-machi, Hakata-ku, a locality enriched with numerous temples, two hold the title of being the cradle of Japanese confectionery.
Firstly, there’s Jotenji Temple. This historical temple, intrinsically linked to the celebrated “Hakata Gion Yamakasa” summer festival, hosts a monument declaring its significance as the birthplace of the beloved traditional sweet, “manju”. Established in the mid-13th century by the monk Enni, a scholar in Song dynasty China, Jotenji Temple is where he introduced watermill milling technology upon his return to Japan. This innovation sparked the creation of manju and paved the way for Japan’s flour-based culinary traditions, including staples like udon and soba noodles.
Next is Myorakuji Temple, recognized as the origin point of “uiro,” a steamed sweet made from rice flour. In the mid-14th century, a Chinese medical family sought sanctuary here. They began selling a medicinal concoction from China, initially called “uiro”. Due to its bitterness, it was paired with sweet treats to improve its palatability. Over time, these confections gained popularity and eventually adopted the name “uiro”.
In the secluded Edo era, Nagasaki stood as the sole port for importing sugar, a vital ingredient for confections. The Nagasaki Kaido, the lifeline connecting Nagasaki and Edo (modern-day Tokyo), was famously dubbed the “Sugar Road,” instrumental in sugar transportation. The Fukuoka Domain, responsible for Nagasaki’s security, held exclusive rights to procure sugar. Consequently, a diverse array of sweets, utilizing the then-scarce sugar, emerged in Fukuoka, enriching its culinary landscape.
13-6 Gokusho-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
Popular Fukuoka Souvenir Sweets
The “Hakata Torimon” is a quintessential Fukuoka/Hakata souvenir, exclusively available in and around Fukuoka City. It represents a delightful melding of traditional Japanese confectionery art with Western culinary elements, such as fresh cream and butter. Its soft, white bean paste offers a melt-in-the-mouth experience that is universally cherished across all ages and genders.
This unique snack, a crunchy senbei (rice cracker) infused with Fukuoka’s signature spicy cod roe, is versatile enough for casual snacking or as a sophisticated pairing with drinks. It is also a suitable choice for those less inclined towards sweets. The range includes not only the classic spicy cod roe flavor but also variants with added zest such as spicy and mayonnaise. Additionally, there are unique versions featuring collaborations with specialty products from Kyushu, showcasing local flavors.
Yamaguchi Aburaya Fukutaro
Crafted over a century ago in 1910, Tsurunoko is a charming confection resembling an egg with its soft, round shape, consisting of luscious yellow bean paste enveloped in delicate white marshmallow. Born from the innovative reuse of excess egg whites from other confectioneries, it also boasts an artisanal variant, “Kenjo Tsurunoko.”
Evoking the spirit of Hakata’s traditional “Hakata Niwaka” impromptu comedy, these senbei (rice crackers) mimic the playful masks used in the performance. Launched in 1906, they captivate with their straightforward flavor and satisfying crunch. Each package thoughtfully includes a paper “Niwaka” mask for an immersive cultural experience.
The endearing chick-shaped “Hiyoko” sweet, beloved by adults and children alike, is a hallmark of Fukuoka’s confectionery heritage. Created in 1897 by the visionary second-generation owner of Hiyoko Honpo Yoshinodo, inspired by a chick from his dream, Hiyoko has evolved into various regional and seasonal iterations.
Hiyoko Honpo Yoshinodo
Suzukake, renowned for its commitment to using select natural ingredients and upholding the legacy of its founder, a recognized “Modern Master Craftsman,” presents the beloved “Suzunomonaka.” This treat features a rich black bean paste coupled with a freshly baked monaka exterior. For an authentic experience, there’s the option to personally fill the monaka with bean paste.
The “Doraking Ace” is a prized creation from Ito King, utilizing the exclusive “Amaou” strawberries of Fukuoka Prefecture, known for their large size and perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. This popular dorayaki encases a delectable Amaou strawberry mousse within a soft, chewy exterior, embodying the essence of Fukuoka’s fruit delicacies.
Chikushi Mochi is a delightful treat where mochi (Japanese rice cake) is coated with kinako (roasted soybean flour) and then drizzled with kuromitsu (sweet black syrup), renowned for its gentle sweetness and sophisticated flavor. The idea for this confection traces back to the childhood memories of the current chairman, whose grandmother used to prepare kinako mochi for him. The producer, Joshuan, has a rich history dating back to the 16th century in Hakata, known for initiating the art of confectionery making. They also offer an exquisite range of sweets, including monaka (sweet bean-filled wafers) designed in the emblem of the Kuroda family, historic rulers of the Fukuoka Domain.