Omiyage: Kurikinton Autumn Chestnut Confection 栗きんとん
Kurikinton and Omiyage Culture
Omiyage, or the giving of souvenirs, usually famous products from ones own region or a visited destination is an extremely important aspect of Japanese culture. Last week, a business associate from Gifu Prefecture came to see me in Kyoto bearing kurikinton from a small but very famous shinise. Gifu, the mountainous prefecture near the big city of Nagoya is very famous for its chestnuts and persimmons. The store that makes this kurikinton, Tsuchiya in Ogaki city is this year celebrating its 250th year in business and has a grand total of 4 products producing about $22,000,000 a year in revenue. That’s a lot of chestnuts!
Authentic kurikinton only has two ingredients; chestnut and sugar. Not even any water. Fine Gifu chestnuts are boiled and then mashed with sugar. They are then hand-formed into a ball inside a piece of cloth which is twisted at the top, producing the distinctive kurikinton shape. The taste is like much else in Japan; deceptively simple, rich, not too sweet and delicately refined. While the recipe may sound like it would produce a pasty confection it is not. The consistancy and some aspect of the taste might tempt one to think of cookie dough, but the flavor is neither immature nor half-baked.
The night my friend arrived, at dinner he passed out beautifully wrapped packages of Gifu kurikinton omiyage to several lucky people including myself. The next day, after we took in some Kyoto sights and lunch, before departure he was hunting down some novel Kyoto omiyage to take back to family and employees. In Japan, one would imagine that no matter the economic downturn, the omiyage business never suffers.
In true shinise form, Tsuchiya has a really crappy website from which you can order by fax. How’s that for modernity? I guess that makes getting their creations for a visiting friend all the more special!
Kurikinton Under Wraps
Kurikinton – detail
Tsuchiya website (Japanese language)