Ryokujuan Shimizu – Japan’s only Konpeito Specialty Store
In July 2019, Japan’s only konpeito specialty store, Ryokujuan Shimizu opened the doors to its latest store in Kyoto’s traditional Gion district.
Maintaining the original method of production, Ryokujuan Shimizu has been making the Portuguese candy known in Japanese as “konpeito” – which was brought over in 1546 – in the Kyoto area of Hyakumanben since 1847.
Ryokujuan Shimizu’s konpeito are made by repeating a process of coating an approximately 0.5mm rough sugar core with a sugar syrup and then drying it. After repeating this process enough times, bumps begin to form around the candy center. These bumps are what give Japanese konpeito their signature star-like shape.
Craftspeople hand-coat the small candies in massive spinning drums, and there’s a saying among them that goes, “You must listen to the konpeito to know when they are done.” As konpeito are strongly affected by the temperature and weather of any given day, workers must listen carefully to the candies as they roll around in the spinning drums. After listening to them, they must use all five senses to adjust the amount of syrup they use, and the angle and temperature of the drum.
To learn all the techniques and become a fully-fledged konpeito craftsman, it apparently takes over 20 years! After achieving this status, the craftspeople are then able to forget the commonly held perception that adding ingredients to sugar will cause it to not be able to crystallize and create approximately 85 different varieties of konpeito.
Because of how hard it is to become a pro, Ryokujuan Shimizu makes sure to cherish their traditions and techniques while passing them on from generation to generation.
As konpeito don’t grow even a millimeter a day, it takes from 16 to 20 days to complete a single batch. Additionally, these small candies can’t be mass-produced either. Because of this, the konpeito craftspeople work day in and day out to not only ensure the shape, flavors, and authentic colors of the handmade candy but to produce a final product worthy of their beloved customers.
Next time you find yourself in Kyoto, make sure to try out the carefully made jewel-like konpeito of Ryokujuan Shimizu.