Amezaiku: the ancient art of candy crafting

29 Mar 2017 in Food Culture

Fancy eating a dragon on a stick? A sugar-sculpted snake? Or candy in the form of a flower? Discover the Japanese tradition of amezaiku, the edible art form that’s a treat to see and taste.

Shan-Ichiyanagai

Amezaiku are sculptures made from candy. But these are no jelly beans or chocolate coins made on an industrial scale. Japanese amezaiku are intricately-crafted works of art, all the more impressive because they have to be made in a matter of minutes!

To sculpt an amezaiku, artists heat coloured candy to around 90°C (200°F) so that its softens and can be easily manipulated. Then the clock starts ticking, as this taffy-like candy will harden within about five minutes. Using their bare hands, artists shape the candy and then use special scissors to pull, bend and cut the sugary blob into a perfectly-crafted sculpture. The most elaborate designs are then painted with small details using food dye.

Customers can usually request the form they want their candy to take. As amezaiku are traditionally for children, animals are a firm favourite – and many artists study the movement of real animals to make their sculptures as lifelike as possible.

Amezaiku artist

The art of amezaiku is thought to have started back in the 8th century, when the sugar sculptures were made as offerings at temples in Kyoto. By the 18th century, amezaiku was a popular way of life for travelling artists who set up on street corners. Today, hygiene laws mean this is no longer possible, but a handful of amezaiku craftspeople continue to keep the art form alive.

飴タコ。 #飴 #飴細工 #タコ#octopus #candy #japan #アメシン

Une publication partagée par Shinri Tezuka (@amezaiku_ameshin) le

If you’re staying at HOSHINOYA Tokyo, you have a few options to see amezaiku artists at work – and pick up an original gift. A 20-minute train or taxi ride away is the shop of young artist Shinri Tezuka (Tokyo Skytree Town, Sumida), while the Amezaiku Yoshihara Company (Tomoe Building, Bunkyou) is about the same distance away.

Old tokyo map

But don’t forget: these artworks are made for eating. So, once you’ve finished feasting your eyes on the fine details of your amezaiku, it’s time to find out what great art tastes like!

Photo credits:

the_exploratorium / CC BY-NC-SA
Florentino Luna / CC BY-NC-ND

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