Produced using traditional methods and only in east Shikoku, Wasanbon is a type of refined high quality sugar.
The most important tool when using wasabon to make dried sweets is the wooden mold.
In Takamatsu city, a class is offered where you can make wasanbon sweets using molds created by Yoshihiro Ichihara, the master wooden mold craftsman of Sanuki, Kagawa.
The name of the class is Mamehana.
When we visited, we were welcomed by the extraordinary smile of Ms. Ayumi Uehara who represents the lecturer. Actually, Ms. Uehara is the daughter of Yoshihiro Ichihara, the maker of the wooden molds.
The classroom was established to introduce as many people as possible to the beautiful sweets that, based on traditional natural themes, give a shape to Japanese seasons and culture as well as the wonders of the wooden molds that have been in production since the Edo period (1603~1867).
The class is held in an old renovated house, an impressive space where traditional crafts are agreeably displayed with modern art.
This was created in the hands of Mr. Takuya Kamiike, a local Kagawa born artist. As both a canvas and a sculpture, the whole room is a magnificent.
Here you can try making wasanbon and nerikiri sweets.
Well then, let’s try making wasanbon sweets. It may seem difficult at first, but after listening to Ms. Uehara’s explain the preparation method, it sounds surprisingly simple.
First we lightly spray some moisture on the wasanbon sugar in the bowl, and mix it by gently squeezing.
Once the wasanbon mixture reaches the appropriate hardness, it is pressed into the wooden molds with the top and bottom mold boards piled together. As the wasanbon sugar dries immediately, the knack is to work quickly. Any excess sugar is scraped off with a spatula.
After giving it a gentle knock with a spatula, the top mold is removed carefully, revealing delicately formed dried sweets. It really is surprisingly easy! The biggest charm of the experience is that it can be enjoyed by anyone from children to adults.
As well as characters and animals, etc. there are around 10 different wooden molds in use depicting themes related to the seasons. Each time you can make around 12-14 sweets.
The beautiful pastel colored wasanbon dried sweets are truly ” pieces of edible art”… it seems a shame to eat them!
You can enjoy your freshly made dried sweets immediately with matcha green tea – they crumble in the mouth. Just when you think they’ve melted on your tongue, a mild sweetness spreads throughout your mouth, a taste of supreme bliss.
You can pack the rest of the sweets in a box and take them with you.
The reason we can enjoy these sweets both with our eyes and taste buds is thanks to the skillfully made wooden molds.
If you wish, after the wasanbon experience you can take a tour of Yoshihiro Ichihara’s workshop (Kigata Kobo Ichihara), which is located right next to the classroom. It’s a unique chance to can see the works and craftsmanship of Mr. Ichihara who has even been selected as “the modern craftsman” and been awarded a medal with a golden ribbon!
Today, there are few craftsmen left in Japan who make wooden sweet molds. Mr. Ichihara, the only one left in Shikoku, receives inquiries from all over Japan. Customers coming from afar just to buy his wooden molds are not a rare sight, either!
Mr. Ichihara makes frequent appearances in the Japanese media, and has an outstanding sense of humor. He enjoys giving answers to all kinds of questions, so it feels like you become more and more familiar with the world of making sweet molds.
After properly drying 100-year old mountain cherry timber for about 2 years, he hand-carves the wooden molds one by one.
Various molds from traditional to modern ones, to those related to seasonal ceremonies and even to those that seem like works of art are on display in the showroom.
If you’d like to try making wasanbon sweets at home, you can purchase a set that includes a wooden mold, a wooden spatula, wasanbon sugar and an instruction manual.
Use the wasanbon experience to take a peep at the world of wooden sweet molds – the backbone of sweet making!
Address: 1-9-13 Hanazono-cho, Takamatsu city, Kagawa prefecture
Parking: For 4 cars
Access: 5-minutes walk from Kotoden Nagao Line Hanazono station, 10-minutes walk from JR Kotoku line Ritsurin station
Homepage: http://www.mamehana-kasikigata.com/ (Japanese)
Wasanbon molding experience & Nerikiri experience
Capacity: Up to 10 people
Admission: JPY1000 per person (includes materials & matcha green tea)
Both experiences: JPY2000
Time required: About 1 hour
Reservations only (the nerikiri experience must be reserved at least 2 days in advance)
The Setouchi Finder Editors
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