Have you ever dreamed of traveling to Kyoto? The shrines, the temples, the tea and snacks! Well, if you’re looking for snacks to take back from Kyoto, we have just the list for you.
The former capital of Japan until 1869, Kyoto is the largest city of Kyoto Prefecture. Home to beautiful natural parks, several Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, along with some more metropolitan areas, Kyoto is a popular tourist destination and cultural hotspot.
Kyoto is also a great place to pick up both miyagegashi, or souvenir snacks, and wagashi—traditional Japanese confections. Since Kyoto Prefecture is centered on what was once the historic imperial capital—with an important landmark still being the Kyoto Imperial Palace—traditional foods and cooking methods continue to influence the local cuisine.
Experience a blast from the past with a traditional sweet or go for a popular tried-and-true treat. Whether you prefer your snacks crispy, chewy, or jelly-like, check out this list of some of our favorite iconic Japanese sweets that hail from Kyoto.
Yatsuhashi (left), Nama Yatsuhashi (right)
Being one of the more famous snacks from Kyoto, yatsuhashi make a great souvenir sweet. The long, slightly curved shape of yatsuhashi looks like both a Japanese harp called a “koto” as well as a piece of halved bamboo.
Yatsuhashi are made from rice flour, cinnamon, and sugar. When baked, they become delightfully crispy, similar to a thin Japanese rice cracker, or senbei. Yatsuhashi are occasionally covered in chocolate or flavored with green tea, and most variations pair well with tea.
Made from the same dough as yatsuhashi, nama yatsuhashi is the unbaked, triangle-shaped version boasting a soft texture similar to mochi.
Similar to ravioli, squares of nama yatsuhashi dough are rolled thin, stuffed with a sweet red bean paste known as anko, before being folded diagonally to make a triangle. Although cinnamon is the traditional flavor, more modern variations—like mango, matcha, peach, plum, strawberry, black sesame, and tofu—can also be found.
Konpeitō is an iconic Japanese sugar candy. It can be spotted in many Japanese anime and movies, ranging from shows like Sailor Moon and Hamtaro to the film Spirited Away.
They come in a wide variety of fruity flavors and colors, including but not limited to blue, green, orange pink, purple, and white. When it comes to the relationship between konpeitō and Kyoto, these colorful candies are available for visitors of the Imperial Palace to use as miyagegashi.
A traditional Japanese confection from Kyoto, ajari mochi are shaped to look like a monk’s bamboo hat—a reference to Kyoto’s many temples and shrines. Ajari mochi are also available at Mangetsu, a famous confectionary shop in Kyoto.
Like regular mochi, this dough is made from glutinous rice, but additional ingredients like egg and powdered sugar make it a bit more bun-like. The dough is kneaded before being wrapped around some red bean paste and baked until golden brown.
Ohigashi is a traditional Japanese confection made from a fine-grain Japanese sugar called wasanbon.
This Kyoto sweet is made using molds—traditionally made from wood—that shape each candy to look like different flowers, leaves, and other shapes that represent each season. Colors like green, pink, purple, and yellow are added to make the treats look more realistic. Ohigashi are cute, sweet, and pair well with a cup of green tea.
Yōkan is a jellied dessert made from red, and sometimes white, bean paste, along with sugar and ajar, which is what makes the gel-like texture. Yōkan typically comes as a block or bar and is eaten in slices.
A truly traditional Japanese treat, yōkan dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868). Zen Buddhists—who were vegetarian—could eat yōkan because it wasn't made with gelatin, which comes from animal bones.
Today, many yōkan are produced by the Toraya Confectionery Co., which was founded in Kyoto. These yōkan come in a variety of flavors, including black tea, brown sugar, honey, matcha, and night plum.
Mitarashi dango are skewered rice dumplings covered in a sweet soy sauce glaze known for its glassy look and strong fragrance. They originated from the Kamo Mitarashi Tea House in Kyoto.
Dango means dumpling while the rest of the name supposedly comes from a reference to the bubbles of a mitarashi, or purifying water fountain typically found at the entrance of a shrine.
From traditional Japanese wagashi confections to tasty miyagegashi souvenir snacks there’s a wide variety of snacks that hail from Kyoto. As the former imperial capital of Japan and home to numerous Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, Kyoto’s traditional culture influences the area’s cuisine.