Wagashi, a Feast for the Eyes

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Looking at the Kohakuto (literally translated as “amber sugar”), I hesitated for quite a while before putting it into my mouth. This kind of candies are made as a feast for the eyes — wrapped inside the translucent outer layer is a spectrum of beautiful colors. The outer layer appears as a river or an ocean enclosing a miniature universe, a lush forest, or as simple as a seasonal color. It is fair to say Kohakuto is always related to a season, or more precisely, summer. Thanks to its refreshing appearance, the candy is often treated as a summer treat.

The history of Kohakuto can be traced back to the Edo period (17th to 19th century).  The ingredients may sound very basic as the candy is made with a mixture of agar and sugar. However, back in the days when sugar was a prestigious ingredient, the candy was widely seen as a luxury item by the general public. Kohakuto was once called Kingyokuto, which means gold- and jade-like candy. It is a name that matches well with its value during the time. The name Kohakuto once belonged to a dish made with egg, but it is not traceable as to why afterward it became the name of this colorful candy.

Moving on to nowadays, Kohakuto is one of the most basic types of wagashi. The making process is simple — first, melt the agar and add in sugar; wait until the mixture gets dried up to be cut into small pieces. The sugar will get crystalized and give the candy a crunchy coating while retaining the soft texture inside. Kohakuto is a product easily found in most wagashi shops, to make their products distinguishable, many shops would also add fruit peels and other ingredients to give more layers to the flavor. Some of them would also cut the pieces into different shapes or add more sides to the candy.

Nanasan from Shiga Prefecture is an innovative wagashi brand. Their Kohakuto named MIO is made with boysenberry grown in Japan. The candy is extra crunchy thanks to its heptagon shape. The sweetness is absolutely tempting, but looking at its beautiful appearance, would you hesitate to bite into the perfect looking candy?