Sponsored by Saga Prefectural Tourism Federation
When you mention the town of Ogi, many people think of its most famous delicacy – Ogi Yokan.
A sweet delicacy loved for hundreds of years
This unique kind of sweet has a long history dating back hundreds of years. Although yokan can be found around Japan, Saga is the prefecture where it is purchased the most due to this unique kind born in Ogi’. Made with sugar, agar and red beans, Ogi Yokan has a thick texture and is shaped into blocks of various sizes.
Yokan originally came from China and was at first a kind of delicacy made from sheep gelatin, which is why the first Chinese character in “yokan” is sheep! As it was introduced to Japan, a new kind of sweet paste was created. Since it was made for Buddhist monks, the ingredients were changed and instead of sheep gelatin, the sweet beans were used making it vegetarian for them to eat.
How is Ogi Yokan made?
Yokan is made with sugar and agar which is then mixed with red beans. It is boiled to form a thick paste. This paste is then mixed and poured into a flat pan until it becomes hardened. Depending on the type of yokan being made, various kinds of beans and sugar are used. It is then taken out of the pan and cut into blocks, ready to be packaged. Traditionally, each block is first wrapped in bamboo leaves, before being put into packaging.
The best place to discover and try Ogi Yokan is at Muraoka Sohonpo. This yokan store also has a museum and resource centre dedicated to Ogi Yokan. This museum is just a 15 minute walk from Ogi Station and also just across the road from Suga Shrine. Here, you can sample a piece of Yokan with traditional matcha, the perfect complement to Yokan with its bitter flavour. This is free so its the perfect way to try Ogi Yokan for the first time!
While you eat you can watch a video about the history of the sweet and see how it is made. This is on the first floor of the museum where you can also find a selection of leaflets with information about Yokan and the local area.
Find out about the ingredients and tools used to make this delicacy
If you go upstairs there is an exhibition of the various tools and ingredients used to make Ogi Yokan. Here there are samples of the kind of sweet beans and sugar used to make it, as well as some original tools and other items used in its production. There are also displays of a kind of Japanese sugar which is used in some yokan production. This sugar, called “wasanbon” is also used to make sweets in shapes like flowers, and even some more elaborate sculptures you can see in this museum. You can also see the various designs of packaging used in the past, and kinds used in other countries including Korea. Looking around this exhibition gives you a feel for the deep history surrounding this well loved sweet.
The perfect Gift to bring home
As well as the original flavour, Ogi Yokan is also available in flavours like matcha, Japanese pumpkin and azuki. One characteristic of Ogi Yokan which makes it different to other kinds, is its sugar film around it. The longer yokan is left out of its packaging, the harder this gets – for some local people this is a popular way to eat it. The inside of the yokan remains soft.
Plenty of flavours and types to try – find something you like!
In the store, many of the flavours have samples for you to try. Along with the traditional style yokan there are also newer kinds of yokan sweets. Some of these are little pies filled with yokan and other ingredients like apple and amanatsu – a Japanese citrus fruit. You can sample all these kinds and find something you like to take home! There are plenty of different sized blocks of yokan so you can even take some small ones with you.
Another interesting thing to try is the seasonal yokan which changes each month. For example, in March during the cherry blossom season, you can try sakura flavoured yokan! If you visit in September you can try their chestnut and sweet potato flavour yokan. Whenever you visit you can find something unique to try for that month.
When you eat yokan, it is served on a small plate with a wooden knife to cut it into pieces. It has a very rich, thick taste so you will probably find a small cut is enough.
If you want to bring this unique sweet back home with you, yokan doesn’t spoil easily – in fact you can keep it for months so it’s easy to take home and give as a present. It is said that Ogi Yokan was sent to soldiers fighting in wars as it could last for a long time without losing its flavour.
Its compact shape also makes it easy to pack into your suitcase! Once you have discovered the historical and cultural background of Ogi Yokan, why not bring this unique delicacy home for friends and family to try too?
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|Category||Japanese sweets shop|
|Address||861 Ogi-machi, Ogi City, Saga Prefecture 845-0001, Japan|
|Access||[map]861 Ogi-machi, Ogi City, Saga Prefecture 845-0001, Japan[/map]|
|Opening Hours||8:00-20:00 (Museum 8:00-17:00)|
|Price Range||100 yen -|