Loading...

Sep 22, 2017

Claiming back roots: Kawagoe Green Tea Confectionery

Kawagoe’s official traditional foods are eel and sweet potato and it is also famous for Kaiseki. However, if you have been to Kawagoe in recent years, you may have noticed that Green Tea flavoured produce is almost as common as Sweet Potato produce. It is not uncommon in Japan for an area to be famous for a particular flavour, but it is usually because the key ingredient is grown in the region. Nowadays, Kawagoe does not harvest much Sweet Potato, but it is still an important hub of the vegetable as it imports it from all over the country. 


So, you may have wondered why Kawagoe makes Green Tea products with its obvious lack of green tea plantations. If you are thinking it is because the Sayama Green Tea region, the most notable green tea production area in the Kanto region, is nearby you are on the right track. However, it is not just because the Sayama tea plantations are nearby, but moreover because Sayama tea was in fact born in Kawagoe. Yes, years before the Sayama plantations took off, a whole thousand years before, green tea was actually produced in Kawagoe, not Sayama. In recent years, many shops in Kawagoe have latched onto this marketing opportunity and our claiming the literal and figurative roots of Sayama green tea, providing a selection of Green tea flavoured produce and developing the area as a Green Tea confectionery crux in the Kanto area.


Brief History of Kawagoe / Sayama Green Tea


It is said that tea first came to Japan in the Jomon period, but the first recordings of tea aren’t until much later, in the current Shiga prefecture in the 9th century. Kawagoe’s recorded history starts in 830 when a priest Jikaku brought tea seeds from Mt Hiei (Kyoto) and planted them in Kawagoe. He planted the seeds in Muryojuji Temple, which the current day Kitain and Nakain Temples were part of. The seeds were planted and cultivated for medicinal purposes, for at the time the primary use of green tea was to rejuvenate and refresh the body. It was believed that green tea could reduce a fever, detox the body and work as a diuretic. There are no further records of the Kawagoe plantation, but there are traces of the old tea plantation in areas of Kawagoe. It is believed that Kawagoe tea spread to the Sayama district at the beginning of the Edo period and was reintroduced as “Sayama Tea” in 1802. The Nakain Temple in Kawagoe proudly boasts a stone monument with “Sayama Tea was born here” etched into it. Beside it is another stone monument with a brief history of green tea inscribed. 


Green Tea in Kawagoe today


The surge of green tea produce, particularly confectionery, available in Kawagoe is quite recent. Some of the green tea shops have been around for centuries, but some of the shops offering green tea confectionery are quite new or the introduction of the contemporary flavoured confectionery has only happened in the last five years. Here is a selection of some of the more notable green tea confectioners in the Bell Tower area of Kawagoe Ware / Storehouse district. 


This is just a small selection of the shops in one concentrated area around the bell tower of the storehouse district of Kawagoe. There are even more shops and cafes with green tea produce in other areas of the tourist district. That’s not to mention some of the museums with green tea related exhibits or the places you can experience the green tea ceremony or the occasional events organised to promote and celebrate Kawagoe’s roots in Sayama Tea. If you are visiting Kawagoe, why not enjoy a nice glass of iced green tea or try a matcha flavoured ice-cream, maybe buy some green tea baum kuchen to take home for others to try. 

This post is a special tea blog report, part of our Shizuoka Green Tea Guide, and a chance through City-Cost for bloggers in Japan to engage in new “Japan” experiences about which to create posts.



Saitama

Saitama

Level 7 LocalGuide with Google. Blogging about life in Japan as an Irish WAHM to 4 kids on insaitama.com.


2 Comments

  • LovingJapan

    on Sep 26

    Hi Saitama, your photos are lovely and bright and great details in the blog. Another day-time trip to Kawagoe might be in order!