Many people know that kibidango (sweet dumplings) are a popular confection from Okayama. But if you are a true Okayaman, you also know that there’s another popular traditional sweet as well.
The legendary marshmallow dumpling called Tsurunotamago (crane egg).
This dumpling took the world by storm during the Meiji Period (1868~1912), and has since been a beloved confection in Okayama.
The Tsurunotamago was created by long-established confectioner Tsurunotamago Honpo Shimoyama Shokujen, which was founded in 1887. To this day, it is still visited by numerous local customers. The main store is located between the intersections of Nishikawa and Yanagawa on the Momotaro Odori road, the same road along which the tram between Okayama Station and Korakuen travels.
This is Keiko Shimoyama, the current president (4th) of the company, with her mother Wako.
The founder of the company was Harushiro Shimoyama. According to Ms. Shimoyama, he came up with the name “Tsurunotamago” (crane egg) while watching cranes in Korakuen – one of The Three Great Gardens of Japan. At that time marshmallows were very rare, and his new and creative way of filling them with egg yolk anko (sweet bean paste) and creating a stylish blend of western and Japanese sweet received a staggering amount of attention from local people.
With a somewhat firmer core of egg yolk anko in the middle, the soft marshmallows are white or light pink on the outside. The dumplings have many delightful qualities; a lovely egg shape, a down-like fluffy exterior, a soft texture, and a gentle flavor. It’s easy to get hooked on this great taste!
As they are not as sticky as regular rice dumplings, there is no need to worry about children or elderly folk getting a piece stuck in their throats.
Ms. Shimoyama further explains that as they only use healthy ingredients and keep the taste great, it can’t be helped that the price is a little high. The importance of making a safe product with a great flavor is something that has not changed since the early years of the company.
While most of the production is done by hand, no artificial colorants or food preservatives are used, and food additives are added as sparingly as possible. When it comes to ingredients such as water, eggs and oil, they endeavor to use only high-quality local products. Finally, they are particularly careful to only use organic ingredients and to make products that are safe to eat.
This is a box of 15 dumplings (1,530 yen). They also offer boxes ranging from 2 dumplings (259 yen) to 40 dumplings (4,020 yen), and many other sizes between.
As red and white are associated with good fortune, it goes without saying that the dumplings are popular at wedding ceremonies, birth celebrations and other occasions to wish good fortune and a long, healthy life.
In times of sadness, such as a funeral, some people buy only white dumplings.
Tsurunotamago also make an appearance in a novel by Fumiko Hayashi. In chapter 3 of “Diary of a Vagabond”, there is scene where a character reminisces about a time their father went to Okayama and brought back Tsurunotamago.
Loved by local connoisseurs of sweets, the Tsurunotamago is nothing short of legendary. No visit to Okayama is complete without picking up some to take home as souvenirs!
Tsurunotamago Honpo Shimoyama Shojuken
Address: 2-1 Heiwacho, Kita Ward, Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture
Open: 8:30 – 18:00
By the Setouchi Finder Editorial Dept.
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