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Ginkaku-ji – The Silver Pavilion in Kyoto


Temple of the Silver Pavilion

Official Name:
Temple of Shining Mercy

  • Website:
  • Address: 2 Ginkakujicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8402, Japan
  • Nearest Stations: Mototanaka Station (28 min by foot)
  • Nearest Bus Stop: Ginkakuji-michi Stop
  • Bus Routes: 4, 17, 100, 203, 204
  • Entrance Fee: ¥500
  • Hours: 8:30 – 17:00 (Spring, Summer, Fall), 9:00 – 16:30 (Winter)

While not actually covered in silver leaf, Ginkaku-ji embodies grace in the form of a temple set in a wondrously lush landscape at the foot of Kyoto’s eastern mountains. No matter where you decide to stop and take in the view, you cannot help but let the delicate details and serene beauty sink deeply into your heart.

Sengetsusen – A waterfall at the north end of the pond

Ginkaku-ji History

Beneath the Ginkaku-ji’s ornate buildings, mossy under-growths, and handsomely lush trees, is a history spanning a thousand years. Long before the Ashikaga shogunate, the area around Ginkaku-ji was and is considered “as possessing a feminine gentleness” with numerous poems citing its natural and ancient beauties. Seeing this innate splendor, Buddhists in the 800s built a temple complex, but it fell into disuse after roughly 70 years. By the 11th century, it caught the eye of a grandson of an emperor, who rebuilt the temple and used it as a residence to live out his life as an abbot. This started off a trend in the Kyoto area to install royal descendants (both imperials and shogunates) as the head of heads of temples for the centuries that followed, including Jishō temple.

The Jishō-ji that we see today is a 1600s recreation of the 1480s version built by Yoshimasa, the prior version was destroyed in a fire during the Onin civil war. Back then, it was officially named Higashiyama-den and was built as Yoshimasa’s golden-year artistic retreat. It took roughly a decade to fully build the Jishō-ji complex, and Yoshimasa died before he could see its completion in 1490. Following his death, the Higashiyama villa was converted into the Zen temple and officially named Jishō-ji.

In 1550, a battle between the fifteenth Ashikaga shogun and an ambitious daimyo destroyed nearly all of Jisho-ji’s buildings in a fire — only the Silver Pavilion and Togudo survived. In 1615, the beginning of the Edo period saw the large-scale restoration of the temple which created much of the present Ginkaku-ji.

Finally, in 2008, Ginkaku-ji underwent major restorations. Modern preservation techniques were used to ensure what remains of the 1615 structures are enshrined for generations to come.

Kannonden Ginkaku from across Kinkyo-chi (Brocade Mirror Pond)

How to Visit Ginkaku-ji

Stay at a local Ryokan – Ginkaku-ji sits on the southern half of Sakyo Ward, neighboring Higashiyama Ward is home to several beautiful traditional Japanese inns. Do not pass up the opportunity to have the full cultural experience that Kyoto has to offer. If you stay for at least a night or two, you have will access to several temples and gardens. You will also save a few yens in transportation costs.

If you Must, Take the Bus – You can get to Ginkaku-ji by direct bus numbers 100, 17, and 4 from Kyoto Station in about 35-40 minutes and for 230-yen one way. You can also take the Karasuma Line (green line) north to Imadegawa Station, then take bus numbers 203 or 204 for 490-yen one way.

Go early, Go Mid-week – Due to Ginkaku-ji’s popularity, I suggest visiting early on a weekday. The temple grounds open at 8:30 AM during spring through fall, and at 9:00 AM in winter.

Stunning Autumn Colors – Some of the best autumn leaf spots in Kyoto are found around Ginkakuji Temple and Nanzenji Temple. One could spend 3 to 4 hours or more leaf-peeping.

Go Beyond – Ginkaku-ji is one of a few stops to see in the area. I suggest visiting other temples and gardens nearby.

Popular Spring – Everyone including locals loves Higashiyama’s temple area in spring. Bright greens and fluffy pink cherry blossoms are truly idyllic but be prepared for tourist crowds

Ginsyadan – a zen garden made of sand with the Silver Pavilion

Highlights of Ginkaku-ji

Kannonden Ginkaku – 観音殿 銀閣 – “Silver Pavilion”

The symbol of Jisho-ji. Though not really covered in silver-leaf, the Silver Pavilion is the central focus of this temple complex. Truly a photogenic building when framed by lush greens and the reflective pond.

Ginsyadan – 銀沙灘 – “Silver Beach”

In front of the abbot’s chamber are waves of white sand. Traditional Japanese Zen gardens use selectively combed rocks with sand to represent islands and seas. Ginkaku-ji’s Ginsyadan uses only sand, forsaking rocks completely. Why? Legends say that it was built to mimic the reflection of moonlight being held atop by Higashiyama.

Ginkaku-ji from the Upper Garden

Path to the Upper Garden

Just past the southeastern end of Nishiki Kagami Ike pond, and beyond the waterfall, is a path that leads up to the back garden. Here you will find mossy panoramas shaded by delicate trees. The path also leads to one of the best photography spots overlooking Ginkaku-ji.

Kinkyo-chi – 錦鏡池 – “Brocade Mirror Pond”

The tiny waterfall near the north end sends ripples along the pond’s surface, supposedly to “wash away the moonlight” when gazing on a clear night. During the day, the pond reflects the dark Silver Pavilion and the surrounding trees. At the south end of the pond, is a particularly lovely spot to view the Silver Pavilion nestled among the greenery. I am particularly fond of the view in the fall when the maple leaves turn bright red.

Lush beautiful moss

Get Out There and See More

Honestly, it does not take that long to view Ginkaku-ji and her gardens. If you walk at a fast pace, you could see all of it within 30 minutes. Therefore, I suggest that this temple be one of many stops of you tour in the area. For more details on what to see, read my Philosopher’s Walk article.

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Philosopher’s Walk

Ojizo-sama on Along the Philosopher's WalkOjizo-sama on Along the Philosopher's Walk

Walk Like a Philosopher Among Shrines & Temples

“Path of Philosophy”
  • Distance: 4 km (2.4 miles)
  • Start: Jisho-ji (aka Ginkaku-ji, “Temple of the Silver Pavilion”)
  • End: Nejiri-mampo (Spiral Brick Tunnel)
  • Google Route Map:

The Philosopher’s Walk is a pedestrian path that follows a cherry-tree-lined canal in Kyoto, between Ginkaku-ji and Nanzen-ji. Named after Philosophy Professor Nishida Kitaro who walked the path for daily meditation, you can use this route to some very charming shrines and tranquil gardens. It passes several temples and shrines including well-known ones such as Hōnen-in (法然院), Ōtoyo Shrine (大豊神社), and Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji (永観堂禅林寺).

Tetsugaku-no-michi or Philosopher’s Walk in early spring

It took me a whole day to complete this course at a leisurely pace. During Hanami or cherry blossom viewing in spring, both tourists and locals crowd the path. If you want to avoid the crowds, try visiting during fall on a weekday and start early in the morning.  Most temples open at around 8:30 AM or 9:00 AM, and close around 4:00 PM or 5:00 PM.

Stop 1 – Ginkaku-ji, “Temple of the Silver Pavilion”

Officially named Jishō-ji (慈照寺, “Temple of Shining Mercy”), Shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimasa originally constructed the temple grounds of Ginkaku-ji as a place of rest and solitude, much like Kinkaku-ji. The Jishō-ji really deserves its own blog post, so I’ll go into detail later. But in short, I found the wooded grounds covered with a variety of mosses superbly beautiful. Here nature doesn’t just surround the Silver Pavilion – leaf, wood, stone, and water provide a serene context for the composition of the structure.

Jishō-ji or Ginkaku-ji or Temple of the Silver Pavilion

Stop 2 – Hōnen-in Temple

Just a five-minute walk from Ginkaku-ji, Hōnen-in offers a cozy atmosphere when compared to the grand towering shrines of Kyoto.  The moss-covered gateway and the two purifying sand mounds patiently welcome visitors. Humble dirt paths lead through trees to parts of the temple grounds and a cemetery. Lovers of Japanese literature will often stop at the lonely grave marker of illustrious Jun’ichirō Tanizaki.

Hōnen-in Temple’s purifying sand mounds

Stop 3 – Otoyo Shrine

Tread slowly or you’ll miss the entrance to Otoyo Shrine, a perfect hidden refuge from the crowds found at Ginkaku-ji. Two mice statue guard the entrance along with other quirky figures scattered throughout the grounds. The mice are supposedly related to an ancient story about Okuninushi, the god of marriage.  Okuninushi fell in love with a princess, but the god Susanoo became envious and ensnared Okuninushi in a fire. A courageous mouse helped Okuninushi escape, and in the end, he and his princess happily eloped.

Calming Refuge of Otoyo Shrine

Stop 4 – Kumano Nyakuoji-jinja

Kumano Nyakuoji-jinja enshrines the god of academic success and business prosperity. According to legends, Yatagarasu, the 3-Legged Mythical Raven, resides within the temple serving the god as a messenger. If you look carefully you’ll be able to find tri-legged raven symbols in the roof tiles, as well as in the “Kumanogongen” lettering of the main shrine. Since other stories also call Yatagarasu the God of Victory, sports teams will put his symbol on jerseys or in their logos.

Can you spot the the 3-legged crow? Kumano Nyakuoji-jinja

Stop 5 – Eikan-do Zenrin-ji

Tourists flock to Eikan-do Zenrin-ji for the autumn splendor, but I suggest visiting during any season for its fantastic gardens. Nearly every local can recognize the profile of Eikando’s poised Tahoto Pagoda, even when partially sheltered among the trees on a hillside above other buildings.

A tahōtō is a form of Japanese pagoda with an even number of stories.

I also found Hojo Pond wonderfully picturesque, especially when framed in the vivid colors of fall. The best time to visit is the second half of November when the temple is opened in the evening for special illuminations.

The dreamy Hojo Pond in fall.

Stop 6 – Nanzen-ji Temple

Nanzen-ji is more of a complex rather than a singular temple, but the whole area is named after the largest temple found there.  The central temple grounds are open to the public free of charge, but separate fees apply for entering temple buildings and sub-shrines. Before the grounds became a religious complex, it was a retirement villa for the 90th Emperor of Japan. One could spend the whole day wandering the grounds of Nanzen-ji, but the worthiest stops are the Sanmon Gate, Tenjuan’s rock garden, Konchi-in Temple, and an aqueduct built in the Meji era.

One of many temples at Nanzen-ji Temple

Stop 7 – Keage Incline

During the Meji era, there was a need to transport water, freight, and passengers from Lake Biwa to the city of Kyoto and the result was the Lake Biwa Canal. Not only did it provide much needed waterworks, but also provided Japan’s first public hydroelectric power generator.

To get to Keage Incline from Nanzen-ji Temple, there are several routes, but the way I took was a narrow path along parts of the Lake Biwa Canal. It starts near the Suirokaku Water Bridge and follows along a waterway toward the south. I would suggest taking an alternate route during the rainy season because the path can get muddy.

During the cherry blossom season, the Keage Incline is a place of magnificent scenery.  Gorgeous rows of cherry blossom trees on both sides of the railroad tracks. From late March to early April, roughly 90 cherry trees explode in floriferous clouds of pink.

Early Morning Spring at Keage Incline

Stop 8 – Nejirimanpo (Spiral Brick Tunnel)

The Nejirimanpo provided easy access routes to various points along the Lake Biwa Canal. This quick stop provides a whimsical Instagram post — especially if you use your imagination and have enough light to capture the spirally laid bricks.

The tunnel is right near the entrance to Keage Station, which you can take the Tōzai Line back into downtown Kyoto just in time for a nice dinner.

Nejirimanpo – Look at those spiral-layered bricks!
FoodJapanese SnacksLife in Japan

Umaibo – The Delicious Stick

Umaibo - Delicious StickUmaibo - Delicious Stick

“Delicious Stick”

I’m not into kid snacks and sweets. In America, sweets for children are usually too sweet and dyed in unnaturally bright colors that make me question its cancer-causing potential. Meanwhile, savory snacks are too salty and usually too starchy. Through my teen years, I often picked puff corn snacks as my go-to junk food. After a lengthy discussion with a friend on Japanese junk food, I was told to visit a dagashi shop (Japanese candy shop) and try Umaibō.

Given my nature, I’m not a person who goes blindly into dagashi shop. Research must be done!

History of a Delicious Stick

Umaibō literally translates to “delicious stick.” What kind of stick is delicious? A cylinder of puffed corn which kinda looks like a short stick when you hold it. To be honest, it’s more of a tube since its hollow through the center, but according to the packaging, it makes the snack more “サクサク” (sakusaku) or crispy. I also suspect that the tube design also creates a stronger product which prevents it from being crushed during transportation and probably improves the final texture by allowing it to be cooked evenly from the inside.

Umaibo was first produced by the Risca Corporation and distributed by Yaokin Co. in 1979, making it a snack that’s almost as old as I am! At the time, Umaibō sold for the cheap price of 10 yen per stick. Much to the delight of Japanese children and their parents, that price hasn’t changed for the last 41 years. But according to Japan Wikipedia, the weight of Umaibō was ever so slightly reduced over the decades as much as 3 to 5 grams less than the original 1979 product due to the rise in the cost of raw materials.

Umaibo – Cheese Flavor

Umaibō Mascots – Are They From Outer Space?

The mascots of Umaibō really stand out, far more than American advertising characters. Each character seems to have their own persona complete with birthdays and hobbies – at least according to the official website.

Umaemon (うまえもん) – The main mascot of Umaibō is a round-headed gaping-mouthed character usually dressed in a costume. According to the Umaibo website, his hobby is cosplaying which explains why each Umaibo wrapper features him in some kind of costume. Umaemon is totally different from Doraemon (blue color, red nose) because he is grey in color and lacks whiskers.

Umami-chan (うまみちゃん) – This anime girl sporting a half-Umaibō hat first showed up in 2017. She’s the long-lost 17-year-old sister of Umaemon and uses an Umaibō for a microphone. As far as I can tell she shows up on the cover of large bags with 30 Umaibō inside and is typically bought by adults at Don Quijote stores. She has her own website, theme song, is found on Instagram, and posts on her Twitter account. Yes, she knows she doesn’t look like her brother and often points that fact out.

Umicheal (ウマイケル “Umaikeru”) – Umami’s pet cat debuted in 2018. Umicheal looks like a cat with a face that looks just like Umaemon. According to his bio, he’s a spy from space sent to investigate Umaemon and Umami because he suspects that they are aliens. Yeah. Space spy cat.

Naked Umaibo

Umaibō Flavors

Let’s get back to the snack. As far as I can tell there are 15 to 16 different “regular” flavors of Umaibō that can be found in stores in Japan. There are also regional flavors as well, meaning they can only be found in certain areas of Japan. And then there are “limited release” flavors, which only run for a single season sometimes never to be seen again.

No, I haven’t tried all the Umaibō flavors. But I might try one or two as I see them. I will reserve eating all the flavors in one go to the younger Japanophiles. Getting high blood pressure from all the salt isn’t worth it. But just for giggles, I’ll list all the flavors of Umaibō here:

Umaibō Regular Flavors

  • Mentai – cod roe pickled in chili peppers
  • Corn potage – creamy corn soup
  • Cheese
  • Pizza
  • Teriyaki Burger
  • Salami – One of the original flavors
  • Easy salad
  • Chicken curry
  • Tonkatsu sauce – Another original flavor
  • Shrimp and mayonnaise
  • Takoyaki
  • Chocolate
  • Beef tongue
  • Natto
  • Sugar rusk
  • Premium Mentaiko
  • Premium Mozzarella & Camembert
  • Premium Japanese style steak with wasabi sauce

Umaibō Regional Flavors

  • Kirtan Snack (Akita Prefecture only)
  • Monjayaki grilled taste (Tokyo only) – Monjayaki is a pan-fried batter similar to okonomiyaki, but with different liquid ingredients
  • Honey Kabayaki Sauce (Shizuoka Prefecture only) – a soy grill sauce used on grilled eel
  • Okonomiyaki (Kansai only)
  • Hot pepper noodles (Kyushu / Western Yamaguchi Prefecture only)
  • Delicious Beef tongue salty (Tohoku only)
  • Sugar cane (Okinawa only)
  • Cinnamon apple pie (Tokyo only)
Eating a chonky Umaibō sometimes is messy with crumbs

Eating a Umaibō

To date, I’ve only tried Umaibō twice: Corn potage and cheese flavors. Both were savory. So the corn potage tasting like sweet corn, while the cheese tasted kind of like Cheetos, but a bit sweet. The texture of an Umaibo is certainly crispy but also dry. Eating too much in one mouthful sometimes uncomfortably desiccates the mouth.

Upon opening the package, I found a rather chonky corn puff – about 2 cm in diameter and 10 cm long. Biting into this super crispy awkward snack was certainly tasty, but also messy since it produced a lot of crumbs. Its hardly finger food yet alone easy eating for kids.

I also discovered instructions on how to prepare an Umaibō for “beautiful eating.” I presume so that kids and dainty ladies can eat the snack without too much of a mess. Here are the translated instructions:

  1. First, place the Umaibō on the table.
  2. Place your hand flat over the package (middle finger aligned with the Umaibō).
  3. Press down as you would give a heart massage and stop when you hear the Umaibō break inside.
  4. Open the wrapper, and you have a Umaibō split lengthwise in four!

Here’s the original illustration posted by Mr. Watanabe:

Sig’s tasting commentary

Sig here. So, Anne asked me to try some of these out. I had cheese, Salami, and Tonkatsu. The cornmeal is fried so that it is very light and airy, and quite crispy and stiff. It crackles and then melts quickly in your mouth. The flavor is pretty much all on the outside of the stick in the form of a salty powder.

The flavors do a good job of evoking what it claims to taste like, though always salty and a little sweet. The consistently light texture of the snack is nice but feels a little insubstantial. I’m not a big fan but these would be a great thing to offer at a party for people to try.

Grab some of these things to try out: Our Amazon affiliate link for a variety Umaibo pack.

A Fun Japanese Snack

Overall, I find Umaibō adorable and the variety of flavors interesting. I kind of want to try them, but I also worry about my health. If you’ve tried the other flavors let me know what you think of them!

FoodLife in JapanMatsuri & More

Amanatto – the Edo Period Treat!

Amanatto SetAmanatto - Sugar Coated Beans

Sugar Coated Beans

I first discovered Amanatto while wandering around Tsukiji Outer Market. A woman with a bright smile held up a bowl of dark-colored beans up to me and said: “Try!” I plucked one from the bowl expecting a kind of savory bar snack.  I was surprised when a sweet sugared flavor blossomed in my mouth. The soft chewiness confused me, especially as the texture turned slightly grainy. “It’s sweet beans,” she explained. I was so amused by this candy that I bought a small bag to bring home.

Tasty sugar-coated bean treat

The Edo Period Treat

Originally called amananattō (甘名納糖), this confectionery was first cooked up by Hosoda Yasubei, during the 1860s at his Tokyo wagashi store, Eitaro Confectionery.  Eitaro still exists today and you can visit one of several shops found in Tokyo. I highly suggest stopping by the one at Nihonbashi near Tokyo Station. You can buy all sorts of wagashi treats in addition to amanattō and marvel at a store that’s been there for roughly 200 years in the same spot!

Yasubei used azuki beans (red mung beans), cowpeas (black-eyed peas), and soramame (fava beans) to make the first amanattō. Today, amanattō is particularly popular in Japan. Although I’m told its especially associated with older generations and is regularly served during teatime.

Hokkaido’s Red Bean Rice

As a side note, throughout Japan, there is a rice dish called sekihan, where sweet sticky rice is steamed with adzuki beans. Usually, sekihan is a dish associated with celebration and is made during weddings and birthdays. Here in Hokkaido, instead of just pain adzuki beans, they’ll use amanattō instead – the result is an even sweeter rice dish.

A Simple Candy

Typically its served with green tea but is perfectly fine by itself. I have yet to cook with it Hokkaido style with steamed rice, but maybe you can try it and tell me what you think.

You can find bags amanattō in grocery stores or as boxed omiyage (souvenirs) in train stations here in Japan. I’ve seen them sold online at, but not Amazon proper. If you can’t find it and would like to try it yourself, I’ve included a recipe below. Enjoy!

Amanatto Mix

Amanattō Recipe

Ingredients for bean preparation

  • 1 lb beans such as red mung beans, black beans, fava beans, or navy beans
  • water, to soak and cook beans
  • ½ teaspoon of baking soda

Ingredients for sugar coating the beans

  • 3 cups of water
  • 4 ½ cups of fine granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups superfine sugar

Prepare Your Beans

Rinse beans, picking out any stones, broken beans, or odd-shaped beans. Soak overnight in ample water.

After soaking, drain beans and rinse with plenty of cold water. Pick through again to get rid of any cracked, halved and beans with no skin.

Put beans in a pot with plenty of cold water – about an inch or two above the beans – and a good pinch of baking soda. The baking soda will help to maintain the color of the beans.

Simmer beans gently for 1 hour until beans are just cooked through. Be careful not to boil the beans or overcook them. The beans should tender and hold their shape, not mushy nor falling apart

Drain beans and rinse gently in cold water. Carefully sort through the cooked beans, discarding any that are out of the skin, or where the skin has cracked open. Keep in mind that this will decrease the number of beans by as much as a third depending on how carefully you cooked the beans. Save discarded beans to make a bean soup or bean salad.

Sugar Coating the Beans

Prepare sugar syrup by combining the 3 cups of cold water, granulated sugar, and salt. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the syrup is starting to thicken a bit.

Carefully add the beans to the syrup mixture and continue simmering for 1 1/2 hours. Try to stir gently and as little as possible – the goal is not to break any beans.

Turn off the heat and allow beans to cool for 10 minutes. Drain.

Put the superfine sugar into a bowl. In batches, toss the beans into the sugar and then lay them out onto a cookie sheet in a single layer.

When all the sugar-coated beans are on the cookie sheet, put the cookie sheet in an oven preheated to 175 degrees F for 5 minutes.

Remove the cookie sheet and toss the beans, returning them to the oven for an additional 5 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the beans in the oven for 5 minutes.

Cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container. Stored amanattō can last for about 3 to 4 days in the fridge.

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Kinkaku-ji – The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji Golden PavilionKinkaku-ji in Kyoto

Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Official Name:
Deer Garden Temple

  • Website:
  • Address: 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan
  • Nearest Stations: Kita-Oji Station, Kitanohakubaicho Station
  • Nearest Bus Stop: Kinkakuji-michi
  • Bus Routes: Kyoto City Bus Routes #205 or #101
  • Entrance Fee: ¥400
  • Hours: 9:00-17:00

I’ve been told countless times, that a visit to Kinkaku-ji is a requisite when in Kyoto. Before visiting, I thought it was hype: something said to just snag the typical tourist. I did my research as I always do before a trip by reading over its current information and its history. Interestingly enough, I even found a fictionalized account written in the first-person perspective of the man who burned Kinkaku-ji into a charred husk in 1950. (Give The Temple of the Golden Pavilion a read if you’re interested in true-crime novels.)

I’m happy to report, that I was pleasantly surprised by the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. I expected thick crowds and an overpriced venue with overrated souvenirs.  Instead, I found a beautiful Zen garden with iconic Japanese structures. The entry fee was the low price of ¥400 ($3.80 USD) per person. Plus, showing up a few minutes before the gates open at 9:00 AM proved to be a good idea — the tourist crowds that I was apprehensive about were nearly non-existent.

 Shariden Kinkaku – 舎利殿 金閣 – “Golden Reliquary Hall” that gives Kinkaku-ji its name
Shariden Kinkaku – 舎利殿 金閣 – “Golden Reliquary Hall”

Kinkaku-ji History

Although the Golden Pavilion is over 600 years old, the land upon it has ties to religious traditions over 800 years. There are records and remains to date back to the Heian period (794 -1185 CE) indicating a temple complex with tombs, burials and cremation sites.

In the Kamakura period (1185–1333 CE), the wealthy aristocrat Saionji clan built a luxurious villa and named it Kitayama-dai (North Mountain Residence?). Although no documents remain of its design and construction, there are personal accounts boasting of a magnificent clan temple upon a land designed for “Taoist Immortals” along with an amusing “a forty-five-foot waterfall and a beautiful pond as blue as lapis lazuli.” Sadly, by the end of the Kamakura period, the Saionji Clan fell out of wealth and the villa into disrepair.

The land caught the eye of shōgun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, who bought and then converted the villa into his palatial retirement residence in 1397 CE. Yoshimitsu designed the Golden Pavilion as a relic’s hall and the garden as “a paradise on earth.” Much of the garden’s design uses various elements of Ming Dynastic aesthetics. He planned to coat the outer surface of the Shariden Kinkaku with gold leaf, but only managed to coat the ceiling of the third floor before dying. Yoshimitsu requested that the residence be converted into a Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple upon his death and following his internment in 1408 CE, the complex was officially renamed to Rokuon-ji. Today Yoshimitsu is considered the founder of Kinkaku-ji.

Much of what you see at Kinkaku-ji today isn’t of the original construction. The Golden Pavilion barely survived a war and fire in the 1470s but was burned a husk in 1950. The buildings and gardens have been faithfully rebuilt and restored over time. The latest restoration being in 2003 with extensive work done on the interior of the Golden Pavilion and roof.

View of the Golden Pavilion across Kyoko-Ike Pond in Kinkaku-ji
View of the Golden Pavilion across Kyoko-Ike Pond in Kinkaku-ji

How to Visit Kinkaku-ji

Go Early, Go Midweek – Kinkaku-ji is a very popular tourist spot, I expected crowds when I set out even on a weekday morning. I felt rather lucky when I showed up a few minutes before 9:00 AM and there were only five people going in by the time the gate opened. But by around 11:00 AM the tour buses had dropped off more than four dozen tourists.

Stay in the Area – If you can I would suggest spending a night or two at a ryokan or hostel within walking distance. There are plenty of other things to do in addition to the Golden Pavilion. One of my few regrets while staying Kyoto was not taking my time to enjoy all the temples, gardens, and other cultural spots in Kita Ward.

Autumn Leaves – My first pick for which season to visit is when the leaves turn to fantastic hues red and gold. The season starts in mid-October and tends to peak in mid-November. November tends to be dryer than October, which is the tail end of the typhoons season.

Winter Snow Temples – Around January to February snow covers the temples, creating just a wonderful almost mystical landscape. Sadly, snow in Kyoto has been scarce in the last few years, and when it does the snow tends to melt quickly.

Spring Cherry Blossoms – From March to April is when Kyoto is splashed with the soft pinks and billowy whites of cherry blossoms. Its also jammed packed with tourists both domestic and international, such that driving or taking a taxi into any site let alone Kinkaku-ji is near impossible. Book your hotel months in advance area and rent a bike or walk.

View of  Shariden Kinkaku from the back garden of Kinkaku-ji
View of Shariden Kinkaku from the back garden of Kinkaku-ji

Highlights of Kinkaku-ji

Shariden Kinkaku – 舎利殿 金閣 – “Golden Reliquary Hall”

I’ll say this now: no one can visit inside this building, but you can marvel at the exterior. I personally think that the best spot is from across Kyoko-ike Pond, where the Golden Pavilion reflects off the water. The second spot is near it through the pines. Frankly, it’s a fantastic edifice to behold. Gold leaf gilds the third and second floors, contrasted to the cypress shingles of the roof. A brilliant bronze phoenix called Hō-ō, brings its benevolence as it descends from the heavens to its apex. The first story seems simple in comparison, due to the older architectural style known as shinden-zukuri, which was popular in 10th century Japan.

Rikushū-no-Matsu – 陸舟の松 – “Land Pine”

This pine is over 600 years old and is said to have been transplanted from a bonsai tree that Yoshimitsu himself trained.  If you look from a certain angle the tree is in the shape of a sailing boat with its bow pointing to the west. Most visitors overlook this tree without a second thought. As for myself, it gave me a bit of a tickle that Rikushū-no-Matsu is roughly two and a half times older than the United States is as a country.

Fudo-do – 不動堂 – “Fudo-do Hall”

This is the only building in Kinkaku-ji that looks like a temple. The original 1225 temple burnt down in the 1400s, but later rebuilt in the late 1500s. Technically it is the oldest existing building on the grounds of Kinkaku-ji, even older than the Golden Pavilion which was burnt down in the 1950s and later rebuilt in the 1980s. Fudo-do is an active temple and regularly holds service for holidays and festivals.

Anmin-taku – 安民沢 – “Peaceful Resting Marsh”

In the middle of this pond in the back of the garden, is a small island. A top the mound rests a five-ringed stone pagoda known as Hakuja-zuka, or White Snake Mound, and houses the Saionji family spirit deity. The island is a perfect birding spot and often hosts several waterfowl such as grey herons, spotted billed ducks, and great egrets.

Hakuja-zuka and a resting grey heron in one of two ponds in Kinkaku-ji.
Hakuja-zuka and a resting grey heron in one of two ponds in Kinkaku-ji.

More to See in Kyoto’s Temple District

Despite the hordes of tourists, Kinkaku-ji is assuredly worth the visit. Especially, if you take your time and include it in a multi-stop visit to the numerous temples and shrines in the Kinukake-no-michi area. Other locations I suggest visiting are Ryoan-ji, Ninna-ji, Myoshin-ji, Toji-in, Hirano Shrine, and Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. All of which are easily enjoyed either on foot or by bike.  

FoodGaijin Survival GuideJapanese SnacksLife in JapanMatsuri & More

Eating Gobo



Also known as Great Burdock. U-eong in Korean. Niúbàng in Chinese. And Arctium lappa in Latin.

When living in a new country for the first time you notice all sorts of things. For me, it’s the small details while on regular everyday outings. That’s what happened when I encountered a strange root at the local grocery store in the produce section. Language books and online courses don’t explain the small nuances of everyday life in Japan, let alone the name or use of a vegetable root.

During my first encounter, I was kind of surprised to see dirty yard-long sticks for sale in the right next to sweet potatoes and onions. But, after a quick inspection and a little help from Google translate, I discovered that it was a burdock root, also known as gobuo or gobō in Japanese.

Gobo for sale. Yum.

Tea, Herb & Weed

I’ve seen burdock tea in the US, but it’s hard to find and usually in small tea bags. In Japan, there’s a lot more burdock tea on the grocery shelves and I’ve even seen it bottled.

I also know about burdock as a medicinal herb. Burdock is often found in teas or dry powders packed in tiny pills sold at vitamin and herbal health stores and of course online. Used in western folk herbalism and Chinese medicine for thousands of years, this root supposedly cures a litany of aliments such as reducing inflammation, lowering blood sugar, and preventing infections.  

As a past gardener and plant hobbyist, I am also familiar with the common burdock (Arctium minus – a relative of the Japanese version Arctium lappa). Common burdock is a tenaciously invasive weed. Sprouting from unkempt back yards, abandoned lots, and in between cracks of sidewalks all over the USA. This plant from the thistle family is more of a nuisance since its seed burs cling eagerly to clothing.

I can’t recall ever seeing cleaned burdock root sold fresh at the grocery store in the states. I might have seen it at an Asian food market, not realizing what it was.

From left to right: Dried burdock root, bottled burdock tea, burdock burs.

War Crimes?

I once heard a story about how American POWs in World War II were being “forced to eat tree roots” for testimony in a war-crime trial. I did some background research and one document did confirm it, but it was noted as a miss translation for Gobō rather than an actual crime of “cruel and unusual punishment.” Nattō was also mentioned as “rotten beans” in the report – having tried nattō I can completely understand why!

Fresh Great burdock roots.

The Vegetable

Since eating gobō, I’m happy to report its hardly a punishment, but rather a tasty and healthy root vegetable.

I learned that burdock is as common as carrots in Japan. The most common way to cook burdock in Japan is Kinpira Gobō (recipe below). Kinpira is a Japanese cooking style where you stir fry and simmer usually with sugar and soy sauce, maybe some other seasonings as desired. With burdock, carrots and other vegetables are also added. This traditional dish is commonly found in supermarket bento boxes. I can honestly say that it’s far more appetizing when julienned rather than the “dirty stick” raw form.

The taste of burdock reminds me of artichokes (also apart of the thistle family) and the texture is similar to parsnips. It’s crispy and a bit sweet especially when cooked. There a hint of bitterness, and sometimes it can have a harsh muddy taste but only if you don’t pre-soak the roots for about ten minutes before cooking.

The burdock roots are a bit bothersome to cook from scratch since they tend to oxidize to a brown color quickly if you don’t submerge them in water with a teaspoon of vinegar immediately after cutting. I have seen pre-cut packages of burdock, usually in the frozen foods section.

Burdock sold in Japanese Grocery Stores.

Worth Trying

If you want to try a new vegetable, I think gobō is worthwhile. Packed with fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants it is defiantly good for you, but then again the same is true for all vegetables.

Kinpira Gobo

Kinpira Gobo

¼ pound carrot (about 1 medium), peeled, top and bottom trimmed
¼ pound burdock (1 root), peeled, top and bottom trimmed
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
2 tablespoons of dashi or water
1 teaspoon of vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
pinch of toasted sesame seeds

Julienne the carrot and burdock into long matchstick pieces, about 1-2 mm × 1–2 mm × 4 cm.

Fully submerge the burdock in cold water with 1 teaspoon vinegar, mix and let soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain well before cooking.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add the sesame oil, and when it begins to smoke, add the vegetables. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables begin to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mirin and dashi/water and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or so, then add the soy sauce. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more, then stir in the sugar.

Continue cooking, stirring frequently and reducing the heat if the vegetables threaten to color. Continue cooking until vegetables are tender with a slight bite and just begin to stick to the skillet, 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top.

Burdock flowers
FoodLife in Japan

Mitsuya Melted Peach Soda


Snack Attack #2

三ツ矢 とろけるもも
Mitsuya Melted Peach

Package Style: PET bottle, 500 ml
Price:  ¥100 to 140

  • Taste:  4/5
  • Smell:  4/5
  • Texture: 3/5
  • Value: 2/5

Mitsuya was a famous beverage producer here in Japan, brewing cider since 1884. Today it’s a brand name owned and made by Asahi Soft Drinks. They have all sorts of flavors in addition to cider, but all drinks regardless of flavor are carbonated.

Each season the Mitsuya brand puts out the special flavor, this winter its Melted Peach. Not sure what “melted” means in this context, but I imagine it has to do with the fact there are bits of peach pulp in the soda.

Both the smell and flavor is like a peach on steroids, but without being sugary. Honestly, I find that peachiness better than a real peach, only because I’ve chosen too many bad peaches. 

The texture of the peach pulp is subtle and overpowered by the carbonation. Like most Mitsuya drinks, the CO2 is on overdrive such that I suggest that you slowly sip and let the bubbles fizz away in the mouth. Drinking it too fast would just waste the flavors in addition to giving you excessive burps.

Overall, it’s a fun and refreshing fizzy drink that kind of reminds me of a Bellini minus the Champaign.

Mitsuya Melted Peach Ingredients: Sugars (fructose-glucose liquid sugar (domestic production), sugar), thigh juice / carbonic acid, acidulants, flavors, vitamin C, thickener (xanthan)

Thick peach puree with pulp!

Currently, you can buy Mitsuya Melted Peach on

Matsuri & MoreNew Year

Kadomatsu: Three Friends of Winter


“Gate Pine”

Japan loves its New Year’s decorations. It’s reminiscent of western Christmas decorations, something to bring verdant cheer to grey winters.

Just after Christmas, the New Year’s decorations known as kadomatsu “門松 – Gate Pine” are placed in front of homes, department stores, and businesses. It’s an evergreen ikebana arrangement that reminds me of Yule Tide Garlands. Kadomatsu can be spotted nearly everywhere up until January 13th.

A large and fancy Kadomatsu

“Pine, Bamboo, and Plum”

Shochikubai originated from China, where it’s commonly known as 岁寒三友 (Suihan Sanyou) or “Three Friends of Winter.” Koreans and Vietnamese also share a similar New Year art motif. But in Japan, it’s specifically known as Kadomatsu. Hawaii also loves its kadomatsu given its communities of Japanese descent.

These three symbols represent longevity (pine), prosperity (bamboo), and steadfastness (plum). Not only are they found as decorations on doorways, but I’ve seen them on greeting cards and embossed into winter confections.

Various sizes of Kadomatsu at a Hawaii florist shop

Kadomatsu come in all sizes, but the basics are the same: three stalks of bamboo cut on the diagonal at various heights standing vertically. Pine branches are arranged around the bamboo and then twigs of plum blossoms are inserted. Sometimes they are bound together using a straw or rope. Kadomatsu are always found in pairs, on either side of the entryway and embody the male and female genders.

Originally, kadomatsu were placed to honor and receive the toshigami (deity), who will then bring a bountiful harvest. Today, they are symbols of good luck, wishing a bountiful year to the residents and the users of the building.

A kind friend sent us a cute New Year’s Postcard greeting with kadomatsu! It’s so adorable!


When the holidays are done, the decorations in America are tucked away in boxes to be saved for next year. Here in Japan, Kadomatsu and other decorations are burned on a special holiday season called “Little New Year’s” also known as Koshogatsu.

On the night of January 14th and the morning of January 15th, kadomatsu, other New Year’s decorations, and old lucky talismans are ritualistically burned in a Shinto ritual called Sagichō (not to be confused with the famous Omihachiman Sagicho Fire Festival near Kyoto). The festival also has many other regional specific names including tondo, dondo-yaki, saitōyaki, bokkengyō, and sankurōyaki.

A pile of kadomatsu, daruma dolls, and other talismans before the burning.

Regardless of its name, they all have one thing in common: The building, stacking and burning the New Year’s door ornaments and charms of luck, usually at a location near the village border or in a field. It’s mostly a family event with an intricate spiritual significance. The burning of the charms represents breaking up with the past and showing a desire to turn forward toward progress. Sometimes a short ritual is performed beforehand, but they always roast mochi or rice cakes over the fire for everyone to enjoy.

A pyre for Dondo-yaki

FoodJapanese Snacks

Shinshu Apple Kit Kat Minis

Snack Attack Series

信州りんごキットカット ミニ
Shinshu Apple Kit Kat Minis

Package Style: Regional souvenir box, 12 kit kat minis
Price:  ¥900

  • Taste:  4/5
  • Smell:  5/5
  • Texture: 4/5
  • Value: 3/5

When I first picked up the box at the local confectionery store, I notice the bright red apples and then “信州” or Shinshu.  Where is Shinshu? My Japan geography is sorely lacking. I later learn that Shinshū, also known as Shinano Province, is the traditional name for Nagano Prefecture on the island of Honshu.

Upon opening the box, Sig immediately exclaims, “Certainly smells like apples!”  And boy does it ever! Although the fragrance of sweet apple is intense like a perfume, I find it very pleasant, and we found ourselves anticipating the flavor. Shinshū apples, also known as Shinano apples, from Nagano are famous for their juicy and crispness, making it refreshing eating, and even better baking, apple. Let me just say, if you can go Shinshū apple picking, do it – you will be rewarded with some of the best apples that Japan has to offer.

Japan loves its individually wrapped snacks, and Shinshu Apple Kit Kat Minis are no exception. I’m almost disappointed to only find a dozen. As with most things Kit Kat I want more, maybe it’s a good thing that we’ll only get six each between us, and that box costs roughly nine to ten dollars per box! *Sigh* Oh the difficulty of practicing moderation and self-control!

Opening one of the mini wrappers, I am delighted to find milk chocolate instead of white chocolate. I often find white chocolate very sweet, near treacly in flavor. Biting into it, I get that chocolate-covered wafer bar confection I expected, but while the odor of apple wafts into my mouth and my nose. The flavor of the creamy milk chocolate and the apple is well-balanced and absolutely delicious. 

Shinshu Apple Kit Kat Mini Ingredients: sugar, whole milk powder, vegetable oil, cacao mass, flour, lactose, cocoa butter, apple juice powder, cocoa powder, yeast, emulsifier, fragrance, baking soda, yeast food, acidulant, (some of the raw materials include soy)

Currently you can buy Shinshu Apple Kit Kat Minis on

FoodLocal FavoritesMatsuri & MoreNew Year

The Rooster Festival – Tori No Ichi


Tori No Ichi

When we lived in Tokyo, we really wanted to experience a matsuri or festival — Tori No Ichi ended up being our first.  So on a brisk November afternoon, we set out to the Otori Shrine in Asakusa area within Taito Ward of Tokyo.

When we reached the Tori-no-ichi Fair, a lively and loud shoulder-to-shoulder crowd greets us. The grounds are packed with colorful stalls selling festive “good luck rakes.” Food stands, billowing with steam, assault us with savory and sweet odors. Wandering and slightly confused we couldn’t help but wonder: “What is it all for?”

Making a Wish at Tori No Ichi

What is Tor-No-Ichi?

Torinoichi, Tori No Ichi, and Tori-no-Ichi.

Regardless of how its spelled in English, its true name is 酉の市 and in short, “Tori No Ichi” means “Market of the Rooster” or “Rooster Fair.”

– “Tori” means “The Rooster.” It also means “bird,”  but this specific kanji stems from the Chinese character for the tenth zodiac sign.

– “No” means “of”

– “Ichi” means “market” or “fair.”

Every November on the Day of the Rooster (according to the old Japanese calendar system), over 30 Otori Shrines throughout Japan hold a Tori No Ichi.  Just like the Chinese zodiac animals, Rooster days happen every 12 days, so a Rooster Market usually twice or three times so long as it falls within the month of November.

One of Many Kumade Stalls

The Ritual

Hours before midnight, crowds line up the main gate hundreds long and 4 to 5 people wide consisting of families or business groups. When the clock ticks over, the shrine announces the opening with a loud drum.  Inside the shrine, priests say prayers and opening rights, all of which is quick and takes no more than 15 minutes. As monks ring the bell, additional priests clade in white pray over the crowd for good luck and good health. All of this is mostly going unseen by the vast crowds outside, only to be witnessed by attendants inside and glimpsed by those just beyond the shrine thresholds.

Just outside the shrine itself is obscured by a wall of lit paper lanterns, each inscribed with the names and businesses of those who donated to the shrine. The air is so thick with incense supposedly warding off any bad spirits and misfortune. The deep rumbling of drums seems to cut through the din of crowds, announcing the start of Tori No Ichi.

Numerous Lanterns Obscure the Shrine

Lengthy lines of people pass under the tori gate, while two shrine officiants wave a purifying Ōnusa (a kind of wand with paper streamers) over them. When worshipers reach the front of the shrine, they throw their coins in the collection box, ring the bell, and then pray for good fortune. They then move off to the side either to buy additional fortunes or look for a “kumade” or rake to buy.

Kumade – Rake Talismans of Good Luck

After making our offering at the shrine, we move off to ogle at decorative rakes or kumade. The kiosks come big and small, each packed to the brim with rakes of all sizes and of various degrees of ornateness.

Business owners big and small especially make it a point to attend Tori No Ichi every year to help their businesses “rake in” wealth and good fortune. At a large shrine, such as the Otori Shrine in Asakusa, there are over 150 kumade vendors, each offering their special designs on a lucky bamboo rakes

Kumade brimming with Good Luck Decorations

A kumade talisman is made of a base bamboo rake, very much like the kind you use to sweep the leaves off lawns. Many are decorated with a chubby-cheeked female mask, which is in the likeness of Otafuku, the Goddess of Mirth. Other decorative good luck charms and symbols of wealth include:

Maneki Neko – Beckoning Cat, usually a gold-colored with the left paw raised and a gold coin in the right. This is in the hope to bring in more customers while wishing for wealth and prosperity.

Daruma Doll – A hollow, round, Japanese traditional doll modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen tradition of Buddhism. Daruma is a talisman seen as a symbol of perseverance and good luck.

Sho Chiku Bai or “Three Friends of Winter” – Pine, bamboo, and plum blossom. These three symbols represent steadfast longevity (pine), vigorous perseverance (bamboo), and resilience (plum).

Tai or “Sea Bream” – Tai (鯛) is the same phonetics as the Tai as used in “omedetai” which means congratulations, or happy.

Crane and Turtle – Both animals are considered symbols of longevity. There is a Japanese saying, “‘tsuru sen-nen, kami man-nen”, which means “the crane lives 1,000 years, the turtle 10,000”

Shichi Fukujin or “Seven Lucky Gods” – many anime fans will recognize who the seven lucky gods, but in Japan, they important figures in Buddhism often invoked for good luck and fortune.

Kazari Goma with Reverse “Horse” Character – A large decorative wooden plaque in the shape of a shogi piece. If found on a rake, the kazari goma will have the kanji Hidari Uma (The Left Facing Horse). So instead of reading “Uma” for “horse” it would be said as “Ma-u” which means dance. Traditionally, a dance was performed for celebrations, and thus it became synonymous with good luck.

Watching a sale of a rake for the first time is a treat in itself. The buyer and seller engage in a passionate mock haggle battle over a selected rake, going back and forth until a price is settled. After the show is done, the buyer pays the original price. She then refuses any change given by the seller, all while saying “This is a gift for you.”

Buyers who follow this traditional faux haggling ceremony will be treated by a three-fold clapping chant by the rake vendor owner and staff over the rake itself – as if pouring good luck into it by sheer will. This chant and rhythmic clapping can be heard in threes everywhere in the kumade vendor area:

“Yooo! Sore! Sore! Sore!”

Congratulations! Once the clapping chant is complete, the buyer takes the luck infused and often oversized amulet to their business to put on display.

The Spirited Luck-Infusing Kumade Chant

History of the Festival of the Rooster

Three hundred years ago, when Tokyo was known as Edo, the first Tori No Ichi was held in a hamlet called Hanamata-mura, which is now known as Hanahata-chō, Adachi-ku, Tokyo by. Farmers and Ujiko (worshipers) would gather and hold a thanksgiving festival to the local diety, Ōtori Daimyōjin. Families would offer roosters or other kinds of live birds to the shrine, then hold a market to sell their goods and produce. Worshipers would then set the birds free the next day in front of Asakusa’s Kannondō temple, now known as Senso-ji temple.

Secondary shrine for prayer

Yatai – The Food Stalls

As per tradition, shrines that celebrate Tori No Ichi would offer space to merchants and allow them to hold a market. Today that takes place in the form of Yatai or “food stalls.”  It just wouldn’t be a Matsuri or “festival” without food stalls, and a large festival like Asakusa’s Tori No Ichi will have hundreds of Yatai.

Sig Eating Meat on a Stick
Sig Eating Meat on a Stick from a Yatai

There are tons of Matsuri foods and it merits its own blog post of its own, but three treats are worth mentioning here because they are specific to the Tori No Ichi festival.

Kashira no Imo (頭の芋) – Literally means “head of taro” and is usually steamed. Worshipers ate its corm in the hope that they would become a leader or “head” of a prosperous business.

Kogane Mochi (黄金もち) – “Golden Rice Cake” usually made with Japanese millet, which gives it a gold color. This Edo period sweet was said to help bring in wealth but has gone out of style since then. Today they sell Kiri-Zansho (切山椒) in its place.

Kiri-Zansho (切山椒) – “Cut Pepper Rice Candy” A chewy rice candy made from a mixture of sugar, powdered Japanese Sansho pepper, and rice flour. According to the ladies at the stand, eating Japanese Sansho Pepper will help prevent catching a cold. The recipe is below.

An Old Tokyo Festival Worth Celebrating

Even though the first Tori No Ichi of the November is considered auspicious, it is always held a second time, and sometimes a third, later in the month. Regardless of when you go, this festival is a fantastic way to dive deep into Japanese culture, while wishing for good luck and maybe a rake of fortune to bring home!

Kiri-Zansho (切山椒) Recipe

  • 600g Glutinous short-grain Japanese rice flour
  • 250g Unrefined dark brown sugar
  • 250g Light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Japanese Sansho Fine-Ground Pepper
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • 3 cups Water


  • Steamer
  • Sautee pan
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Mixing Spoon
  • Directions


1. Over medium heat, mix salt, sugar, and pepper in a pan in water until sugar is fully dissolved. When the sugar has melted into a dark syrup turn off the heat, let it cool down until it’s safe to touch.

2. Add the glutinous rice flour to the sugar syrup and knead well. The mixture will become stiff, but still pliable.

3. Flatten the flour-sugar ball to about 1 to 2 cm thick and such that it fits into the steamer. Place into a paper-lined steamer and steam for about 15 minutes.

4. Remove from steamer and let cool. Then sprinkle with potato starch and cut it into strips. Make sure to coat strips in starch such that the candies don’t stick to each other. The candy should be soft, but a bit firmer than mochi.

Kiri-Zansho or Cut Pepper Mochi Rice Candy