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.
Estrela Koicha ( Strong Matcha ) Konpeito
/ ￥1,260 (Excl. Tax)
Ryokujuan Shimizu’s Estrela Koicha( Strong Matcha ) Konpeito are one of their “Select Konpeito” – a range of konpeito made with improved ingredients and techniques that are offered year-round. Ryokujuan Shimizu’s series of Koicha( Strong Matcha ) konpeito have adopted the Portuguese word for star, “Estrela,” for their name, and feature a glossy finish worthy of this namesake.
These koicha konpeito use a high-quality strong Uji matcha. Koicha is whisked in a way as to avoid creating bubbles and contains a refined aroma and rounded flavor. The konpeito themselves are carefully made to crystallize in a way that holds on to as much of the fragrant aromas as possible. Tasting the konpeito, the flavors and aromas of the matcha fill your mouth to the point where it actually feels as if you’re drinking matcha.
In addition to matcha, there are a total of four flavors in the Estrela series, including coffee, black tea, and roasted green tea. If you have the opportunity, treat yourself a bit and try all four!
Gion Exclusive Assortment of Two *Pictured above: Peach and pineapple konpeito
/ ￥1,280 (Excl. Tax)/per box
This assortment of two konpeito flavors is exclusive to Ryokujuan Shimizu’s Gion store.
The cute boxes each contain two flavors of konpeito. The box with the figure of a maiko (young geisha in training) contains apple and grape flavored konpeito, while the other box, which features a design inspired by konpeito themselves and tsunagi-dango (a series of connected circles), contains peach and pineapple konpeito. Depending on which packaging you pick, the assortment of konpeito inside will differ.
The choice these assortments give between choosing for design or choosing for flavor makes them just that much more fun.
3Check it out!
Gion Exclusive Cloth Bags
/ ￥2,800 (Excl. Tax) Each
These cloth bags are exclusive to Ryokujuan Shimizu’s Gion store.
These lovely cloth bags, which feature the family emblem of Ryokujuan Shimizu, were designed by long-time fan and world-famous designer Keita Maruyama. While designing the bags, Maruyama paid special attention to the colors, and this can be clearly seen reflected in the final product. Known as “Shingenbukuro” in Japanese, this type of bag has come to be widely used as a sort of handbag for those in traditional Japanese dress.
The bags come in two colors, blue and pink. The blue color is called “kamenozoki” in Japanese, which literally translates to peering into an earthware bottle.
The color is the lightest color used at the beginning of a dyeing process which sees a piece of cloth soaked in an earthware bottle used for storing indigo dye. The color of the bag is meant to reflect the refreshing flavors of the spring water cider and lemon-flavored konpeito inside.
The color of the pink bag is called “Momo-hana-iro” which literally translates to the color of a peach flower. The pale red tinge, like a peach flower, perfectly reflects the name.
Inside the bag are two konpeito, strawberry and apple, which like the color of the bag, bring about images of red.
Additionally, taking a look at the tassels and konpeito shaped decorations on the bag, you’ll see that every last detail of these bags has been diligently designed.
These lovely traditionally Japanese bags are fantastic for those wanting something to hang on to after enjoying their konpeito.
4Check it out!
Konpeito Assortment of Six
/ ￥3,540 (Excl. Tax)
This assortment of six different konpeito brings a sense of joy and excitement the moment the box is opened.
Inside are melon, strawberry, spring water cider, lemon, mandarin, and grape flavored konpeito. These konpeito have all had a great amount of thought and care put into them. For example, the mandarin konpeito use still green mandarins in order to achieve a more refreshing flavor, while the grape konpeito contain bits of grape and use their peels for coloring.
As each flavor is given its own pouch, this assortment is all you need if you want to give your friends and family different flavored konpeito. Ryokujuan Shimizu also offers an assortment of 10 konpeito. So if you’re wanting to try a range of different flavors, or wanting to pass them out to more people, then this bigger assortment is a great option.