Nara is not only famous for its museums and tourist places but also for its desserts that are deeply rooted in its history – kofun cakes (or Tomb cakes). Burial mound cakes or tomb cakes were named after the Kofun period (300-710 AD). For those with a sweet tooth, one of the best and most famous places to try these cakes is Petit Marche!
Located in 22 Higashi-Terabayashicho, Nara, the small company Petit Marche has not only captured the sweet tooth of archaeologists but its kofun cakes are also extremely popular among tourists and local residents. With the company’s claim to fame, it is no wonder that their Kofun cakes (Tomb cakes) which measure 16 centimeters in length cost 3,500 yen while their 23-centimeter cake costs 6,200 yen; not included in the cake is a shovel spoon which costs about 350 yen. This shovel spoon gives a feel of digging out fossils, the “haniwa” and “magatama” (some of the treasures inside the kofun).
The magtama is represented by cashew nuts, while pecan nuts represent shards of potteries. There are also crushed cookies which represent broken mirrors as well as banana slices inside the kofun cakes. Petit Marche uses crumbled matcha sponge which looks line a grass stuck to the chocolate cream earth. There are also cocoa meringue cylinders which double as the unglazed “hanizawa” along the surfaces of the burial mounds.
The “magatama” are some of the many treasures buried inside the kofun which also provide clues about the social status of those who are buried such as clothes and other items that were used in their daily lives. However, the significance of including “haniwa” and “magatama” in kofun is yet unknown. While there are several theories, legends and fictions that have tried to explain what these clues stand for, the significance of these treasures still remains a mystery. In fact, Petit Marche does not provide any explanation what these banana slices inside the kofun cake actually represent on their website either. Although further studies about the kofun have been suggested to understand people’s lives during the ancient Japanese times, archaeological access to the real-life tombs where emperors were thought to be buried is highly restricted by the Imperial Household Agency. Only experts are allowed to conduct a research. However, sometimes occasional visits by non-scientists can be allowed.
Replicas of kofun cakes may be found all over Japan in case you can’t make it to Nara’s Petit Marche. However, nothing beats the original!
Petit Marche *Japanese
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