Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu Sweetfish Shaped Confection

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Do Not Miss

Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)

Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)

Meet ayugashi! A river fish shaped confection with waffle for a skin, bubbly soft mochi for innards and facial and fin features branded on with hot iron.

Ayu, or sweetfish in English, is a favorite trout-like river fish in season from late spring to mid-summer. Ayu is very delicious and usually enjoyed in the shio-yaki style (salt grilled).

Ayu like the koi is an important symbol in Japanese culture as it is a fish that swims upstream, battling rushing currents, rapids and waterfalls. This symbol is often associated with children in hopes for their growth and development.

Ayugashi (ayu confection) or waka-ayu (young ayu) is a very popular confection in early summer. Ayugashi — more or less — looks like the ayu fish. The body is made of a waffle-like crepe and folder over gyuhi, then the eyes, mouths, gills and fins are branded on the waffle with a hot iron.

Peko is actually a big ayugashi fan and has wanted to do a ayugashi ‘taste-test’ on the web long before the birth of KyotoFoodie. Also, in our Make KyotoFoodie Better Survey, people asked for a ‘Do Not Miss in Kyoto’ series. So, here we go.

We purchased some ayugashi from five of our favorite shinise wagashi shops in Kyoto. They are all wonderful and if you are in Kyoto from late spring to mid-summer, check out their ayugashi. They are fun to compare and contrast. Here is a list of the shops that we tried.

Nakamuraken 中村軒
Heianden 平安殿
Sentaro 仙太郎
Daigokuden 大極殿
Tawaraya Yoshitomi 俵屋吉富

Ayugashi, Waka-ayu – Our Selection in a Basket
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)

Ayugashi from Nakamuraken (中村軒)
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)
Nakamuraken’s ayugashi is very famous.

Nakamuraken 中村軒
P & P say: Relatively hard, chewy and very tasty, rather filling. The waffle is very well-made and seems very machine-made. The waffle wrapper was most ‘waffly’ of the five that we compared. The gyuhi was quite firm.

We think that Nakamuraken’s Ayugashi is technically very well-made and tastes very good. While some may say that is lacks uniqueness it strives for and achieves perfection. This is a classic ayugashi. Aesthetically, the appearance is somewhat unremarkable. It is just packaged in clear plastic.

Ayugashi from Heianden (平安殿) – Package
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)
Excellent package. Those are the rapids that the ayu has to navigate. The ‘あゆ’ on the upper right says ‘ayu’.

Ayugashi from Heianden (平安殿)
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)
Inside the beautiful package is a rather homely ayugashi, but at least it does have a fish face and gills.

Heianden 平安殿
P & P say: The beautiful package expresses visually what people love about ayu. The ayugashi itself is sort of frumpy and a bit crumpled, not particularly well-made technically. However, this is one of our favorite tasting ayugashi. The waffle is thin and delicate, nearly falling apart in some places. The gyuhi inside is huge and very, very soft, — bubbly soft. This was our favorite gyuhi.

Ayugashi from Sentaro (仙太郎)
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)
Nice, classic ayugashi. Technically, well made.

Sentaro 仙太郎
P & P say: Another classic ayugashi similar to Nakamuraken’s, however Sentaro’s ayugashi really looks like an ayu. We like that! It is the most realistic of the five we tried with an articulated and decorated tail. Again, very ‘waffly’ waffle, thick and firm with a nice portion of gyuhi inside. Overall, very delicious.

Ayugashi from Daigokuden (大極殿)
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)

Ayugashi from Daigokuden (大極殿)
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)
Excuse me, that is a fish head? I get it, I get it! It’s conceptual art! (I have a BFA)

Daigokuden 大極殿
P & P say: This is one homely ayu, but tastes excellent. See, you can’t judge a book by its cover and you can’t judge an ayugashi by its waffle wrapping, either. We reckon (Paku’s favorite word) that this is ‘on the theme of ayu‘ rather than merely trying to look like an ayu. This ayugashi is filled with gyuhi from head to tail. The waffle has a very hand-made look to it. This is another of our favorites for taste, but the appearance is a little too crumpled. By Japanese standards, this ayugashi needs some styling.

Ayugashi from Tawaraya Yoshitomi (俵屋吉富) – Package
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)
Some poetry on the packaging and tied with a string at the top.

Ayugashi from Tawaraya Yoshitomi (俵屋吉富)
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)
Completely unique ayugashi, in two flavors and spattered with sugar like froth on whitewater.

Ayugashi from Tawaraya Yoshitomi (俵屋吉富) – detail
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)
Beautifully articulated little ayu faces.

Tawaraya Yoshitomi 俵屋吉富
P & P say: Tawaraya Yoshitomi’s Kamogawa Ayu are very unique and has been one of Peko’s favs for several years now. The white one is new this year and is shiso flavored and the bluish one is yuzu flavored (Peko’s fav). This ayugashi doesn’t employ a waffle, but a hard, crunchy shell. Think taco and the others fajita.

This tasty work of art is even spattered with sugary froth like that on white water. Japanese love this kind of thing – aesthetic AND functional.

The taste is both novel and delicious. While some purists may not like this one, but we think that it is a home run!

Ayugashi, Waka-ayu – Compare and Contrast
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)
Aren’t they cute?

Ayugashi, Waka-ayu
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)

Ayugashi Cutaway – Gyuhi Inside
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)
Compare the ‘innards’.

Ayugashi Cutaway
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)
Nakamuraken vs Heianden

Ayu – Sweetfish
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)
Real ayu look like this, averaging just 15 cm.

Ayu Shio-yaki – Grilled with Salt
Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu, Early Summer Sweetfish (Ayu) Shaped Confection (鮎菓子 若鮎)
This is how people normally eat ayu.

About the Confectionaries and Locations

Nakamuraken 中村軒
Nakamuraken started out making mochi for farmers to eat while doing their field work. Their representative product is called mugitemochi, literally ‘wheat pay mochi’ because the farmers purchased the mochi with wheat. This mochi is still popular and very delicious, though it cannot be purchased with wheat any longer!

Nakamuraken is located in Katsura, near the Katsura Imperial Villa which is a must see for visitors to Kyoto. If you are going to visit the villa, be sure to stop by Nakamuraken. If you are not heading out to Katsura, you can find Nakamuraken’s products in Takashimaya Department Store.

English:
English website: no
English menu: no
Location and Access: Approximately 20 minute walk north-east from Hankyu Katsura Station, located just around the corner from the Katsura Imperial Villa. (There are signs along the way. Alternatively a taxi or bus can be taken.)
Address: Kyoto-shi Nishikyo-ku Katsura Asahara-cho 61 (京都市西京区桂浅原町61)
Telephone: 075-381-2650
www.nakamuraken.co.jp (Japanese language only)
Map:

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Heianden 平安殿
Heianden is located near Heian Shrine and Okazaki Park, a popular destination for visitors to Kyoto. Okazaki Park is where most of Kyoto’s prominent museums are located.

Heianden makes not only Japanese sweets, but also Western sweets and always uses notable Kyoto places and cultural objects as a motif on their products.

English:
English website: no
English menu: no
Location and Access: Approximately 5 minute walk from Higashiyama Station (Tozai Subway Line), south of Heian Shirine.
Address: 605-0038 Kyoto-shi Higashiyama-ku Sanjo-agaru Jingu-michi Horiike-cho (京都市東山区平安神宮道三条上ル堀池町)
Telephone: 075-761-3355
www.heianden-wagashi.jp (Japanese language only)
Map:
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Sentaro 仙太郎
Sentaro, established in 1886 and maintains it’s own farm lands in the agriculturally rich area of Tamba. Sentaro’s wagashi has a decided natural look to it, nearly everything in the showcase is shades of brown with occasional punctuations of green (yomogi) and pink (salted plum blossoms). Sentaro has a strict policy of not using any preservatives, artificial colors, or even much sugar.

English:
English website: no
English menu: no

Location and Access: Sentaro Honten (main store) is located on Teramachi Street about a 2 minute walk south from Shijo Street.
Address: 604-8032 Kyoto-shi Shimogyo-ku Teramachi-dori Bukkou-ji agaru Nakanomachi 576
(京都市下京区寺町通り仏光寺上る中之町576)
Telephone: 075-344-0700
www.sentaro.co.jp (Japanese language only)
Map:

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See previous KyotoFoodie article here.

Daigokuden 大極殿
The first castella in Japan was brought from Portugal and was very, very expensive food. The second generation owner of Daigokuden heard about castella and went to Nagasaki where the Portuguese were to learn how to make castella. He then returned to Kyoto to make affordable kasutera for common people.

Daigokuden developed the first electric oven in Japan in order to make even better kasutera. This oven is now in the Kansai Electric Power Company museum.

English:
English website: no
English menu: no
Location and Access: Approximately 5 minutes walk from Karasuma Station (Hankyu Railway) near Nishiki Market.
Address: 604-8117 Kyoto-shi Nakagyo-ku Rokkaku-dori Takakura Higashi-iru Minamigawa
(京都市中京区六角通高倉東入南側)
Telephone: 075-221-3311
www.inoda-coffee.co.jp/miyabi/shohin/daigokuden/index.html (Japanese language only)
Map:

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Tawaraya Yoshitomi 俵屋吉富
Tawaraya Yoshitomi established in 1755 and is now a very well known throughout Japan. Tawaraya Yoshitomi even has a wonderful confectionary history museum that is free and open to the public. They have a new store and cafe near both Omotesenke and Urasenke School of Tea H.Q.

English:
English website: no
English menu: no

Tawaraya Yoshitomi Honten (Main Store)
Location and Access: Approximately 5 minute walk from Imadegawa Station (Karasuma Subway Line).
Address: 602-0029 Kyoto-shi Kamigyo-ku Muromachi-dori Kamidachiuri-agaru (京都市上京区室町通上立売上ル)
Telephone: 075-432-2211
www.kyogashi.co.jp/b-1.html (Japanese language only)
Map:

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Tawaraya Yoshitomi Museum 京菓子資料館
Location and Access: Approximately 5 minute walk from Imadegawa Station (Karasuma Subway Line).
Address: 602-0021 Kyoto-shi Kamigyo-ku Karasuma-dori Kamidachiuri-agaru Yanaginozushi-cho 331-2 (京都府京都市上京区烏丸通り上立売上ル柳図子町331-2)
Telephone: 075-432-3101
www.kyogashi.co.jp/b-3.html (Japanese language only)
Map:

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Cafe Tawaraya (茶ろんたわらや)
Location and Access: Cafe Tawaraya is a new and delightful cafe. It is located in a fairly inconvenient but very historic neighborhood. If you are a tea ceremony fan and planning to visit Urasenke or Omotesenke, or going to the Nishijin historic weaving district, stop in at Cafe Tawaraya. See map.
Address: 602-0062 Kyoto-shi Kamigyo-ku Teranouchi-dori Ogawa-nishiiru, Hokyoin Higashi-machi 592 (京都市上京区寺之内通小川西入ル宝鏡院東町592)
Telephone: 075-411-0114
www.kyogashi.co.jp/b-2.html (Japanese language only)
Map:

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16 Responses to “Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu Sweetfish Shaped Confection”

  1. Awww they look like little Ayu.

  2. kat says:

    I’ve passed on a “Yum Yum” award to you, please check it out on my blog :)

  3. nuria says:

    Hola Peko Peko! You’ve got a fantastic blog here!!!! My man loves Japanese food and yours will be the place to look for original recipes :D . Today I bought some fresh tuna and salmon… wanted to do it with some rice… is it sushi? and other funny combinations.

    Thanks for leaving a comment in my blog :D

  4. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Everybody — Sorry for the slow reply to your comments!

    Marc, Yep, they are indeed ayu. (Marc posted this comment before we did the whole story, there was just a ‘coming soon’ sneak peek type tease pik up.)

    kat, I did, thank you VERY MUCH!!

    Hello Nuria, Thank you to you and your man and welcome to KyotoFoodie! I will check out your blog now.

  5. That’s pretty clever. I love that in Japan almost everything comes well-designed.

  6. I’ve never had ayugashi before, but it looks yummy. I love going to those seasonal shacks setup at the side of rivers where they setup fire pits to make ayu shioyaki.

  7. P-T says:

    Oh my god, these are wicked!!! Thanks for blogging about them, it gives me pleasure to read about these types of things. Especially seeing as you gave little reviews of each………. the things you have to do to serve us blog readers eh?? ;) LOL.

  8. [...] discovered this unusual and very tasty wagashi from Tawaraya Yoshitomi while working on the ayugashi [...]

  9. [...] Chofu (調布) Chofu is similar in construction and taste to ayugashi but has a longer history. Chofu, historically was a handwoven linen cloth. People wove them, rolled [...]

  10. [...] Okuribi senbei came from Tawaraya Yoshitomi which we reviewed in our ayugashi confection article and wasanbon sugar [...]

  11. [...] Ayu Related Articles on KyotoFoodie Wagashi: Ayugashi or Waka-ayu Sweetfish Shaped Confection Wagashi: More Kawaii Father’s Day [...]

  12. Paul Hays says:

    Shijirarenai!

  13. [...] fish shaped wagashi are ayugashi, or wakaayu, which I love and reviewed extensively in this article last summer. This koinobori chofu (more about chofu) is a clever riff on ayugashi, but is made for [...]

  14. [...] favorite shops in Kyoto, so I will not go into great detail on that here. You can read that article right here. (It is, I think, my favorite KyotoFoodie [...]

  15. DaiMa says:

    I went to Kyoto and went to a lot of places you put in your blog. I went to Kichisen Restaurant and it was great! The waiter was a monk. I also bought a lot of the items you recommended such as the miso cake, and soy sauce candy. The soy bean doughnut was really good as well, but I prefer the soy bean roll cake because even after a day later it still tasted fresh. Thank you for posting this! It has helped me so very much.

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