Art resonates in all the aspects of Japanese culture, even in the simplest forms such as desserts and candies. Even though candies are meant to be eaten, sometimes you can’t help but feel guilty once your taste buds touch this masterfully crafted Japanese candy called amezaiku.
It is believed that the traditional art of candy craft was brought in Japan by the Chinese during the 8th century (the beginning of Heian period). Amezaiku was used as offerings in temples in Kyoto and eventually spread during the Edo period when street performances also flourished in the cities. Some amezaiku artists and street performers were also showing magic tricks and storytelling while they were crafting the candies to entertain the audience. Today, the art of amezaiku in Japan is on the verge of being forgotten. There are still some young dedicated amezaiku artists who are committed to preserve this dying tradition, such as Shinri Tezuka and Takahiro Mizuki.
The candy base is made out of a starchy syrup. Careful monitoring is needed to prepare the base for ensuring the right consistency and appearance. The mixture is then kneaded and pulled by hand forming a large ball before it is stored and used for sculpturing. Before an artist starts to create his candy craft, the candy ball is heated to make the mass pliable. The artist must be able to tolerate the heat of hot mass so that he touch it. Upon quickly rolling and mounting the hot mass of candy on the stick, the artist then shapes it into the desired animal or character. He pulls twists and clips the hot candy into a form and adds every intricate detail. An edible paint is sometimes added to add some color to the animals and characters. It takes speed and precision to be able to complete the candy sculpture before it cools and hardens again.
In the early days, a blowing technique similar to glass-blowing was also used as a way of creating an amezaiku. However, this method was prohibited as it was deemed unhygienic. But there are probably some other methods that were developed for blowing air into the hot mass of candy!