Dec 3, 2017
Regional Eats: Yatsuhashi in Kyoto
Kyoto is one of the most visited tourist spots in Japan. It has many tourist spots and you can easily spend some days there exploring the city and the area around. But for sure, sightseeing is not everything. You shouldn’t miss the regional food and especially one sweet is very famous for Kyoto: YATSUHASHI (八ッ橋)!
Origin of Yatsuhashi
Let us first take a short look on the origin of Yatsuhashi. Actually there are two legends I found about it.
The first one already dates back to the year 1689 and the musician Kengyo Yatsuhashi. He told people not to waste rice and use to leftovers in the rice cooker to make crackers. Four years after the death of the well-known koto player, a confectionery shaped like a koto was invented and named after him. The Yatsuhashi were sold at the entrance of Shogoin temple to visitors and pilgrims and later called Shogoin Yatsuhashi because of this.
The other legend says that the shaped of Yatsuhashi was inspired by the eight planked bridges you sometimes can find in Japanese gardens. That would also explain the literally meaning of Yatsuhashi (八ッ橋) standing for eight bridges. Also the curved shape reminds on a bridge.
Yatsuhashi became popular as a souvenir from Kyoto after the beginning of 1990 and got even more famous by now. New versions were invented in the last decades including Nama-Yatsuhashi. In 1960 the triangle shaped version brought new life into the confectionery sales and made it to what Yatsuhashi is today: THE SWEET from Kyoto.
Shapes & Tastes of Yatsuhashi
There are generally three different versions of Yatsuhashi, but the main ingredients stay the same: rice flour, sugar and cinnamon.
First we have the original traditional version. The dough made out of the main ingredients is flattened and then backed. The Yatsuhashi becomes hard and gets its unique shape. You can buy it in the usual length but also in easy to eat half-size pieces.
At the second version the dough has the same shaped, however this time it is not backed but steamed. So the texture stays really soft and it is easy to eat.
- An-iri-Nama-Yatsuhashi (あんいり生八ッ橋)
This version of Nama-Yatsuhashi is probably the most famous nowadays. The dough formed into a square is steamed and folded to a triangle. Traditionally Anko (sweet bean paste) is filled in the middle which you can see from outside.
Especially within the last years many new flavors were created. Talking of the still traditional looking one with match, now you also can find Nama-Yatsuhashi with all kind of tastes. Look around the shops and you see chocolate, banana, peach, strawberry and more. The flavors are also changing through the seasons. Last time I even got small Crêpé Yatsuhashi which were filled with cream and other flavors.
While the original baked Yatsuhashi is lasting for around three months, you need to eat the raw versions quickly. These typically only last for one or two weeks.
Where to get Yatsuhashi
If you now want to get Yatsuhashi you should prepare your trip to Kyoto, because normally you only can find them there at certain Yatsuhashi shops or the many touristy souvenir shops and at the station. I personally always enjoy visiting the Yatsuhashi shop close to Kiyomizu temple where you can try out several flavors for free.
Famous Yatsuhashi shops are, for example, Shogoin Yatsuhashi, Izutsu Yatsuhashi and Otabe. While last one began manufacturing in the 1950s, the other two already have a 200 and 300 years long history.
Outside of Kyoto it is getting difficult. For sure you can order Yatsuhashi online, too - Amazon Japan and Rakuten have a big selection - but here you have to calculate the shipping costs.
Rilakkuma with the famous souvenir
Young German woman who made several trips to Japan, did one year Working Holiday and started living in Japan again since Oct' 2016. Love music, cats, traveling and food.
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