Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Wagashi

Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi  いちょう 生菓子

Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi いちょう生菓子
I collected some fallen ginkgo leaves on the grounds of a shrine and a church in northern Kyoto for this article, while shooting these photos I was particularly struck at how similar the namagashi really resembled the actual leaves, both in form and in color.

Ginkgo Leaves Inspire Confection
The ginkgo, or icho in Japanese, is a tree that has a leaf said to be shaped like a duck foot. Kyoto is best known for it’s maples in the autumn but around the city there are a number of remarkable and towering ginkgo trees that turn yellow and rain down thick, heavy leaves that never seem to dry out and thus are not easily scattered by the wind. They amass like snow beneath the tree.

The ginkgo leaf is the inspiration for a namagashi from a 300 year old shop in Gion called Kagizen Yoshifusa.

Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Wagashi
Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi いちょう生菓子
Ginkgo leaf shaped namagashi and real ginkgo leaves.

Sightseers Taking in the Autumn Colors in Kyoto 紅葉
Hanami
花見, or cherry blossom viewing of the spring in Japan is well known abroad, in the autumn koyo 紅葉 is just as popular. Kyoto has numerous places for koyo.

Kyoto Autumn Colors – Sightseers
Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi いちょう生菓子

Kyoto Autumn Colors – Sightseers
Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi いちょう生菓子

Kyoto Autumn Colors – Ginkgo Leaves
Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi いちょう生菓子

Kyoto Autumn Colors – Ginkgo Leaves
Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi いちょう生菓子

Kyoto Autumn Colors – Fallen Leaves on Shrine Roof
Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi いちょう生菓子

Kyoto Autumn Colors – Ginkgo Tree and Shrine
Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi いちょう生菓子
This ginkgo tree is one of Kyoto’s biggest.

Kagizen Yoshifusa Wagashi Shinise in Gion 鍵善良房
While we were walking back from some errands near Kiyomizu Temple, Miwa took me around to several of her favorite shops in the neighborhood. As she lived in the neighborhood for two years when she worked at Gion Hatanaka, she has many. Last we dropped into Kagizen Yoshifusa, a shinise known for it’s kuzu based wagashi that started around 1720. Kagizen Yoshifusa is especially known for it’s confections made with kuzu root.

When we walked in, this ginkgo leaf shaped namagashi immediately caught my eye. The simplicity and restraint in expression is representative of Kyo-gashi 京菓子 (Kyoto wagashi).

Kagizen Yoshifusa Noren
Kagizen Yoshifusa Noren 鍵善良房
Kagi means key in Japanese. That is a key on the shop curtain, or noren. Now that’s an old fashioned key!

Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi from Kagizen Yoshifusa – Wrapping
Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi いちょう生菓子

Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi and Ginkgo Leaves
Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi いちょう生菓子

Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi – detail
Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi いちょう生菓子

Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi and Ginkgo Leaves – detail
Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Namagashi いちょう生菓子

Taste
As is typical of namagashi, the confection looks remarkably like something in the natural world that with artful folding, pressing, wrapping or sculpting is formed from mochi and filled with a sweetened bean paste, either white or red.

The actual taste though refined and delicately sweet does become less unremarkable with time.

Perhaps I digress but; Please, someone try making namagashi that tastes like something different! Enough with centuries with nearly zero variation. How about some kaizen?!

Kuzu Root – Photo in Kagizen
Kagizen Yoshifusa Kuzu Root 鍵善良房
The Yoshino region of Nara Prefecture is famous for it’s kuzu root which is used to make some kinds of traditional Japanese confections. This photo is in the entry to Kagizen. By the way, kuzu was not used in this namagashi.

Reference and Links
Kagizen Yoshifusa website (Japanese language)
Kuzu Wikipedia article

5 Responses to “Kyoto Autumn Leaves and Ginkgo Leaf Shaped Wagashi”

  1. Arun says:

    Wow, that looks so cute and delicious! Did it have any filling?

  2. Chris says:

    “Perhaps I digress but; Please, someone try making namagashi that tastes like something different! Enough with centuries with nearly zero variation. How about some kaizen?!”

    THANK YOU! I wouldn’t mind at all if everyone mostly made things like this, so long as a few people were doing creative, weird new things. Considering what they sometimes get up to in kaiseki, you’d think there’d be more variation in namagashi!

  3. Did did get the color pretty close. We used to have a Gingko tree in our front yard when I was growing up and all I remember about it was how bad it smelled when the fruit started dropping.

    Speaking of kuzu I’ve been playing around with it lately in savory dishes. I’m trying to make “ravioli” out of it, but haven’t gotten it quite right yet.

  4. Peko-P says:

    Hello Arun, Yes, it has a ball of sweet azuki bean paste inside.

    Hello Chris, There is a SERIOUS derth of innovation in namagashi, which is very un-Japanese. Your point about kaiseki is right on because namagashi and kaiseki are both intimately connected to the tea ceremony. There is some pretty crazy kaiseki out there!

    Hello Marc, Ravioli with kuzu?! I’ve got to see that!! I am looking forward to that one. The color of the ginkgo namagashi kind of reminded me of a fishing lure. Especially when well-lit. I want to do an article soon on the stinky, but yummy ginkgo fruit (seem like nuts but aren’t) soon.

    P

  5. Really nice food photography. Keep up the good work!

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