Wagashi: Gion Chigo Mochi

Wagashi: Kyoto Sanjo Wakasaya Gion Chigo Mochi (三条若狭屋 祇園ちご餅)

Wagashi: Kyoto Sanjo Wakasaya Gion Chigo Mochi (三条若狭屋 祇園ちご餅)

Gion Chigo Mochi covered in sparkly ice-like flakes, filled with sweet and salty miso has been a Kyoto favorite for about 100 years!

This is a very popular and historic wagashi mochi treat in Kyoto. It is simple; gyuhi mochi dusted in sparkles on a stick filled with a sweet and salty white miso.

Gion Chigo Mochi with ‘Sparkles’
Wagashi: Kyoto Sanjo Wakasaya Gion Chigo Mochi (三条若狭屋 祇園ちご餅)

Gion Chigo Mochi is made not in Gion but at a quaint shop called Sanjo Wakasaya at the Sanjo-Horikawa Street intersection, in the entrance to one of Kyoto’s largest ‘shotengai’ shopping arcades. Gion Chigo Mochi is the Sanjo Wakasaya’s famous product.

Actually, this mochi is for the Gion Festival but it is available all year.

Icy Sparkles
The sparkles that cover this mochi are made from kori mochi (氷餅), literally ice, or frozen mochi. Kori mochi is from northern Japan. To make it, blocks of mochi are wrapped in paper and hung under the eaves of houses in the winter to freeze dry.

In times past people ate kori mochi but now it is more often used to decorate wagashi. Kori mochi when crushed into flakes looks similar to ice crystals or freshly fallen snow.

The Gion Festival is held at the height of the summer heat and Japanese love this kind of icy look to provide some psychic relief from summer.

Gion Chigo Mochi is only slightly sweet and contains salt, this is a taste that traditionally Japanese found appropriate to combat summer.

Gion Chigo Mochi Bag and Pamphlet
Wagashi: Kyoto Sanjo Wakasaya Gion Chigo Mochi (三条若狭屋 祇園ちご餅)

Gion Chigo Mochi ‘Chimaki’ Package
Wagashi: Kyoto Sanjo Wakasaya Gion Chigo Mochi (三条若狭屋 祇園ちご餅)

Gion Chigo Mochi Unwrapping ‘Chimaki’ Package
Wagashi: Kyoto Sanjo Wakasaya Gion Chigo Mochi (三条若狭屋 祇園ちご餅)

Gion Chigo Mochi – Served
Wagashi: Kyoto Sanjo Wakasaya Gion Chigo Mochi (三条若狭屋 祇園ちご餅)

Gion Chigo Mochi – Served
Wagashi: Kyoto Sanjo Wakasaya Gion Chigo Mochi (三条若狭屋 祇園ちご餅)

Gion Chigo Mochi – detail
Wagashi: Kyoto Sanjo Wakasaya Gion Chigo Mochi (三条若狭屋 祇園ちご餅)

Gion Chigo Mochi – Sweet and Salty Miso Filling
Wagashi: Kyoto Sanjo Wakasaya Gion Chigo Mochi (三条若狭屋 祇園ちご餅)

World War II Rationing and Wagashi
During World War II, in the interest of rationing, the government forbade the production of non-essential and luxury products and sweets were included in this prohabition. Gion Chigo Mochi was only one of 18 wagashi products in Kyoto that were permitted production during the war. Many traditional Kyoto shops did not survive the war, though Kyoto was never subject to airstrikes.

Sanjokai Shotengai
If you want to see an old shotengai (shopping arcade) the one here, Sanjokai is a good one, though not as remarkable to a foodie as Nishiki Market Street. Shotengai were the shopping centers of Japan before big-box shopping centers began to sprout up. There are a few other interesting shops in Sanjokai but mostly it offers a look into the prosaic lives of regular folks’ shopping habits. Sanjokai is quite long, running the distance between Horikawa and Senbon Streets on Sanjo Street.

12 Responses to “Wagashi: Gion Chigo Mochi”

  1. P-T says:

    I’ve noticed you really like wagashi! Not that I’m complaining LOL.

    Talking about Gion, when I was there earlier this year I tried to find the Tanuki Shrine which is a really small shrine somewhere in Pontocho – there’s a photo of it in my guidebook and it looked really pretty so I wanted to see it for real, but I couldn’t find it! And there are sadly no directions to it in my guidebook, nor can I find any on the net. Would you by any chance know anything about it and where in Pontocho it is?

  2. Katey B says:

    Thanks for the heads up about the ‘aomikan’. I tried some last night and they were good.
    Shall definitely give these mouth-watering mochi a try-maybe even today!

  3. kat says:

    I will have to try some of this the next time I go to Kyoto.

  4. Peko Peko says:

    Hello P-T, I am glad to hear that you are not complaining, because there is lots and lots more wagashi to rant about (and of course eat!)!! LOL

    I am not familiar with the Tanuki Shrine in Pontocho. I will investigate though.

    Katey B, Oh, great! Glad to hear you tried the aomikan! Let us know what you think of Gion Chigo Mochi, I think they are pretty good. Worth a try.

    Hi kat, Yeah, as Paku would say; ‘You try. You try.’

  5. farida says:

    Hi PekoPeko:) thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. Just came to check our yours. You have an interesting blog here – so culturally enlightening! I have never had mochi in my life but it looks like something I wouldn’t say No to:) I am really curious about its taste. Off to subscribe to you:) Take care.

  6. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Farida, I REALLY love your blog! Azerbaijani food looks pretty excellent. It seems to be at a cross-roads of several cultures, which makes for lots of novel yummies!

    I was just over looking at your Recipe Index, nice! Saffron Infused Chicken With Quince looks incredible!! Quince will be in season pretty soon here in Kyoto, so I think that I will try this one. Japanese love saffron, I will try this recipe at an upcoming ‘dindin party’. Of course, Stuffed Grape Leaves rule! I can only dream of these, I am afraid. I don’t recall ever seeing grape leaves in Japan. I will look though!

  7. Hillary says:

    How interesting. I’ve only heard of mochi ice cream before this!

  8. diva says:

    such gorgeous mochi and the packaging is so darling. i’m absolutely convinced that i need to visit kyoto asap which of course i’ve convinced my girl pal tht we will be doing so next summer 😉

  9. Peko Peko says:

    Hillary, Mochi Ice Cream is actually quite unusual, a very modern and recent twist on mochi!

    diva, Yeah, I know. I keep telling you that! 笑

  10. Wow that’s so cool looking. I don’t think I’ve ever had it before. I’ve taken to turning Japanese desserts into western savoury dishes lately (I borrowed the flavours of kuzumochi to make pork chops for last nights event), maybe this one will be next;-)

  11. Katey B says:

    I got some of the chigo mochi yesterday and it was really good. Will definitely buy some again. Thanks again for the heads up.

  12. Mela says:

    AWW! It looks so wonderful! Almost brings a tear to my eye! Wish I could be in Japan to sample these wonderful treats!
    Atleast I have a few Japanese shops around and restaurants..but still (;_;)

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