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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on January 18, 2017
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 75] January 18, 2017

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 75]
January 18, 2017
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1. Seasonal Confectionery:
The tool for preaching Christianity?: Japanese sugar candy, "Konpeito"

2. News from JTCO:
New article released!

1) Echigo-Sanjo Uchi Hamono: Echigo-Sanjo Blade
2) Banshu-gama: Banshu Sickle

:: 1. Seasonal Confectionery

"I served red or white wine for drinkers. For the people who can't
drink, I offered Castella (sponge cake), Bolo (a small round biscuit),
Honeycomb toffee, Aruheto (candy), and Konpeito, etc."

-"Taikoki" by OZE Hoan, biography of TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi written in the

Many Japanese people visited a shrine on New Year's Day this year
again in Japan. Some of them received some Konpeito as shared food
from god. Konpeito is a traditional candy sweet which is covered with
tiny bulges. This auspicious sweet is used as an offering to god as
well as a present for guests at the royal family's weddings. Alongside
Castella and Bolo, konpeito was a confection adopted from Portugal.
How come only Konpeito become a part of Japanese life so much?

Konpeito (originated from the word, sugar confectionery "confeito" in
Portuguese) was brought by the Portuguese who dominated sugar
production areas at that time in the Sengoku period (15-16c). They
came to Japan for trading and preaching Christianity. To get
permission from leaders in the area, they gave some presents such as
glasses, Portuguese Raxa woolen raincoats, spices, as well as sugar
confectioneries, and Konpeito was one of them. In 1569, a Portuguese
missionary of a Society of Jesus called Luis Frois who wrote valuable
historical materials "History of Japan" in the Sengoku period, met ODA
Nobunaga in Kyoto (West Japan) and offered him a glass pot of Konpeito
along with a couple of candles. Having a sweet tooth, Nobunaga loved
this present so much. Moreover, he could no longer tolerate the way
Buddhist society was doing, so he approved the Christianity preaching
in Kinai (areas around the then capital Kyoto and the Imperial Palace).

As described in "Taikoki", Portuguese missionaries of the Society of
Jesus were actively preaching with the use of rare foreign liquors and
sugary confectionaries which was very valuable at that time. It seems
that tasty things also fascinated people back then just like they do

In the late 17th century, Konpeito was produced in Nagasaki (Southern
Japan) for the first time in Japan. In "Nippon Eitaigura (a novel
about townspeople, 17c)" written by IHARA Saikaku in the Edo period,
there is a sentence that "It seems foreigners also like to hide good
things." It depicts that foreigners were not willing to tell the
method of producing Konpeito. Afterwards, a man worked out a
manufacturing method of Konpeito and made a large profit.

The manufacturing method of Konpeito reached the capital city Edo
(present day Tokyo, East Japan) and it became the Japanese original
unique sweet in which its shape, distinctively spiny and colourful,
still continues to the present day. Some of the Konpeito were
specially made to offer to the shogunate government. The number of
spines on its surface must be exactly 36 to show "Rikugo (六合, Heaven
and earth, north, south, east and west, dominated area; namely
country)". They even appointed the officials in charge of checking
on the Konpeito one by one before offering to the government.

Konpeito started to be manufactured on a national basis in the Meiji
period (19-20c) and Konpeito became a standard item in sweet shops.
However, it was not as popular as caramel or candy in the Taisho
period (20c), and then it was considered an old-fashioned sweet in the
early Showa period (20c). Ironically it got people's interest again
during the Pacific War. It was because unlike other candy sweets,
Konpeito can be kept for a long time without getting damp. Konpeito
healed soldiers mentally and physically by its sweetness in the battle

It's been 450 years since Konpeito was brought into Japan. It is still
loved as an ordinary sweet or a luxury present. The reason why it is
used as an offering for god or a gift for weddings is probably that it
used to be presented to shoguns, and also, its good keeping quality
that conserves its flavor over many decades, implicating eternity.

Translation by: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Chan Yee Ting

:: 2. News from JTCO:

New Article Released!

1) Echigo-Sanjo Uchi Hamono: Echigo-Sanjo Blade

In the Sanjo region (central part of Niigata Prefecture, Central
Japan), people produced farm tools like "Kama (sickles)" and "Kuwa
(hoes)" from the Middle Ages. They built mentoring relationships,
improved existing items and worked to brush up their skills through
the production of "Wakugi (Japanese nails)" as a side business during
agricultural off-season.

Translation by: Shione Furuta, reviewed by Marie Mine

2) Banshu-gama: Banshu Sickle

Ono city is quite a unique city which has various local industries
such as abacus, metal works and wood crafts and all of these local
industries have the largest share in each domestic market.
Home cutlery including scissors, sickles (Kama in Japanese), kitchen
knives and razors has a 250 years of long history. Especially
Banshu-gama which occupies about 70% of domestic manufacturing is
called "razor sickle" because of its sharp edge.

Translated by: Sawaka Kawasaki, reviewed by Marie Mine

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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