Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Best 15 Kyoto Souvenirs - Japanese Sweets, Matcha, And Snacks
Written by Inou masahiro
Kyoto is the capital of temples, tradition, and sweets! We have selected fifteen of the best souvenirs from Kyoto: cinnamon-filled yatsuhashi crackers, Japanese sweets infused with matcha, red bean paste wagashi, and other unique treats. These desserts make great omiyage from the ancient capital.
Top Food Souvenirs from Kyoto - From Matcha to Sugar Candies
Photo by Pixta
Kyoto is famous not only for its temples and historic spots, but also for its delicious food and sweets culture. Purchasing souvenirs and snacks for friends or the trip back is a great reminder of the charming ancient capital. From matcha green tea dango to red bean paste-filled Otabe nama yatsuhashi, this article introduces fifteen must-try omiyage, or souvenirs, that will delight all.
1. Yatsuhashi from Shogoin - Classic Cinnamon Cracker Treats
With a history of over 300 years, yatsuhashi, a type of senbei, is perhaps one of the most famous Kyoto treats and popular souvenirs. Yatsuhashi is a hard cracker made from rice flour, sugar, cinnamon, and water. The dough is rolled out into a thin sheet before being baked. Multiple brands sell it, but one of the easiest to find is the one by Shogoin, a long-standing Kyoto confectionery. Look for the iconic logo on the packaging if you want to try this high-quality, elegant treat.
Yatsuhashi is hard and very sweet, so we suggest you pair it with green tea or coffee. The classic yatsuhashi contains a strong cinnamon taste, but other flavors are available, like chocolate and matcha.
2. Otabe Nama Yatsuhashi from Bijuu - Treats that Make Great Gifts
Another long time favorite souvenir from Kyoto is the nama yatsuhashi. When yatsuhashi dough is steamed instead of baked, then filled with red bean paste, it turns into a confectionery called "nama yatsuhashi." Unlike typical yatsuhashi, this is soft and has a delicate fragrance.
Many companies make nama yatsuhashi in Kyoto, but one of the most famous is the nama yatsuhashi made by Bijuu Co. Ltd. called otabe. Otabe are bite-size and ideal for giving as souvenirs or gifts to friends. Classic flavors are cinnamon and the matcha green tea. Both aren't overly sweet and have an exquisite taste; this is a must-try when in Kyoto.
Otabe is sold at multiple locations in Kyoto, including souvenir shops in and around Kyoto Station. Pick up a box before or after riding the Shinkansen or train. Decorative boxes containing just a few otabe are the perfect present to give to someone special.
3. Nama Yatsuhashi from Shogoin - Fun Flavors
Similar to the otabe nama yatsuhashi, Shogoin makes a version of nama yatsuhashi called "hijiri," available in a variety of flavors, from cinnamon to matcha, to black sesame and seasonal flavors like chestnut and sakura. Hijiri is larger than otabe, and is slightly less expensive. The two taste similar but try both to find which one is your favorite. This classic treat is another favorite of many and can be found at locations throughout Kyoto as well as Kyoto Station, near the Shinkansen.
4. Tiny Konpeito from Maisendo - Adorable Sugar Candies
Konpeito is traditional sugar candy that originates from Portugal. It is popular in Kyoto and has been perfected to this delightful, colorful miniature version.
Maisendo, a famous Kyoto confectionery, produces these tiny jars containing white, green, yellow and pink konpeito that are as small as grains of sand. Known as the Kyoto Marun series, these treats are very tiny, but you can taste the wonderful flavor of the sugar with each piece. Pair it with tea or matcha for a delightful tea time. Use the petite jars as decorations after enjoying the konpeito candy.
Shops are located around Kyoto, in prominent areas like Gion and Arashiyama, and the products are sold at stores in and around Kyoto Station.
Fukkura Usagi Set - Themed Konpeito
Fukkura Usagi is a sugar confectionery part of the Kyoto Marun series. The sugary treats in the shape of hearts and bunnies are so cute that it's almost hard to take a bite. The bunnies are placed in a box that is filled with konpeito sugar candy. Cute designs such as this are common in Kyoto.
Please note that this themed set may not exist anymore. However, sushi, sakura, and other classic Kyoto motifs are available. Like the small konpeito jars mentioned above, look for these sets at Kyoto Marun stores in Gion and Arashiyama.
6. Matcha Anpone - Do-It-Yourself Dessert Set
Matcha anpone is a confectionery set with matcha green tea bean paste, homemade cheese cream and monaka (Japanese wafers). This set allows you to "build" your own monaka sandwich* by putting in the filling in yourself.
The set includes jars of two types of pastes, homemade mascarpone cheese, and bean paste using matcha green tea from Uji, Kyoto.
Matcha green tea and cheese may sound like a surprising combination to some. However, the bold flavor of the mascarpone harmonizes very well with the bitterness of the matcha green tea and the sweet red bean pastes.
Matcha anpone is available for purchase at locations in Gion and at major souvenir shops in Kyoto.
*Monaka is a Japanese confection consisting of a crispy waffle made out of thinly baked mochi rice cake, filled with red bean paste.
7. Chocolate Matcha Ganache from Nakamura Tokichi - Creamy, Green Tea-Infused Chocolate
Picture from 5 Must-Try Sweet Souvenirs From Kyoto - Matcha Chocolate And Traditional Treats
Lovers of chocolate will enjoy this Kyoto version of the rich, creamy treat. Containing high-quality, green tea from Uji, this chocolate ganache is silky and smooth, infused with rich cocoa flavors and deep green tea. Known as "Nama Cha no Ka" in Japanese, these sweets will entice and please all.
Try the ganache chilled for a refreshing chocolatey, matcha-filled experience. These desserts are made by the famous brand Malebranch, and are available for purchase at locations throughout Kyoto. Visit the store at Kyoto Tower on the first floor to see the complete lineup of these delicious ganaches and other tasty treats.
8. Matcha Langue de Chat Cookies from Malebranche - A French Kyoto Classic
Picture from 5 Must-Try Sweet Souvenirs From Kyoto - Matcha Chocolate And Traditional Treats
Langue de chat is a buttery, French-style cookie where a sweet filling is sandwiched between two light, crispy wafers. This type of cookies is popular in Kyoto and in Japan, so it is no wonder that one of the ancient capital's most popular treat is these matcha-infused treats.
These cookies are known as Nama Cha no Ka in Japanese and are baked and sold by Malebranche, a famous western-style confectionery in Kyoto. The high-quality ingredients include high-grade Uji matcha, which is incorporated into the cookie dough for the wafers. The middle of these cookies is a delicious, sweet white chocolate filling.
The result is a mix of slightly bitter tastes from the matcha, sweetness from the filling, and the rich flavors of the French cookies. These langue de chat cookies are a decadent treat with all the elegance and deliciousness of Kyoto.
You can these sweets at the Malebranche Kyoto Tower Sand Branch on the first floor of Kyoto Tower, located across from Kyoto Station.
9. Freshly-Made Japanese Sweets - Seasonal Confectionery Artworks
Fresh wagashi from the fall season, in the shape of a maple leaf
As one of Japan's capitals of green tea and culture, no trip to Kyoto would be complete without freshly wagashi (Japanese sweets). Known as "nama jogashi" in Japanese, these artful desserts are usually made of mochi, red bean, and incorporate seasonal ingredients, like plum, cherry blossoms, citrus, and chestnuts. Their distinguishing feature is their sweetness and beautiful presentation, and they are usually enjoyed alongside matcha during tea ceremonies. They are also delicious with green tea.
Nama jogashi is made by many confectioneries. We suggest exploring the basement floor of a department store near Kyoto Station, like Isetan, to see the variety.
Please note that this type of sweet must be consumed on the day of your purchase.
10. Ajyari Mochi from Ajyarimochi Hompo Mangetsu - Delightful Traditional Sweets
Ajiyari mochi is a popular Kyoto treat consisting of soft, chewy mochi and red bean paste. The first ajiyari mochi is thought to have been made in 1856, so this traditional treat has been enjoyed for a long time. This sweet contains high-grade red bean paste and eggs, so their shelf-life is around five days. Be sure to consume them before then for the best flavor and peace of mind.
Ajiyari mochi is sold at multiple locations in Kyoto, including the Takashimaya Kyoto Branch, Daimaru Kyoto Branch, and inside Kyoto Station, by the Shinkansen entrance.
11. Suhama Dango - A Classic Japanese Treat
Suhama dango are a cute tri-colored sweet made of domestically produced kinako and syrup that has been mixed together. Kinako is a powder made from ground soybeans, and dango are made from rice flour. The soybean powder has been mixed in so you can savor the taste of the beans from each bite.
The sugarcoating also helps bring out the sweetness of the bean as well. Since it comes in a nice bite-sized piece, it is hard to resist eating more than one!
Look for suhama dango at major souvenir shops around Kyoto, like at the Kyoto Isetan, and inside of Kyoto Station. It is made by a brand called "Mamemasa."
12. Matcha Dango - The Perfect Choice for Classic Kyoto Teatime
Similar to the suhama dango mentioned above, but for green tea lovers, this matcha-flavored dango is all that is needed for an elegant and delicious sweets break. Chewy and sweet, with a slight bitterness and richness from matcha, this treat comes with petite balls made from rice flour, skewered on sticks.
Enjoy a plate with friends and a mug of green tea for a combination of fragrant decadence. This dango is also made by Mamemasa, the same company that sells the suhama dango mentioned above. Visitors can find these treats at certain convenience stores and shops near Kyoto Station.
13. Rich Chocolate And Matcha Green Tea Cookie Set
This souvenir allows sweets lovers to enjoy three types of snacks in one box. Matcha cookies, matcha chocolate cookies and hojicha (*1) cookies come in a set.
*Hojicha is a light brown colored tea where the sencha green tea is roasted to bring out a toasty flavor. With mild bitterness and acidity, the flavor is very refreshing.
The matcha chocolate is rich. The moment you take a bite, you will taste the sweetness of the chocolate, followed by a bold matcha flavor. It almost feels like you are drinking a cup of tea.
The hojicha chocolate has a pleasant roasted flavor right from the first bite. The matcha cookie is like the chocolate, where you will taste the flavor of the tea in the aftertaste. These treats are not overwhelmingly sweet, so even those who aren't too fond of sweet snacks can also enjoy it.
You can find this product inside of JR Kyoto Isetan, right outside of the west exit of the JR Kyoto Station.
14. Yuumochi - Citrusy, Sweet Rice Cakes
Yuumochi are bite-size rice cakes with a yuzu flavor, inside a cute packaging in the shape of yuzu citrus. When you open the lid, you will smell the refreshing aroma of the citrus. Yuumochi is made by Tsuruya Yoshinobu, a prominent confectionery in Kyoto.
The mochi has a chewy texture, almost like something between a gummy and a normal rice cake. The yuzu citrus flavor is very bold and makes you feel like you are eating the actual fruit. You can also taste the mild bitterness of the citrus, making it an addictively delicious treat.
15. Matcha Kuzu Yu - A Sweet, Traditional Beverage
For those looking for something warm and soothing, try kuzu-yu, a type of hot beverage great for dessert or teatime. Kuzu yu is arrowroot starch powder used to make drinks. The souvenir versions in Kyoto come with various fillings and ingredients, like mochi and red beans. One of the most famous and most beautiful is from the confectionery, Tawaraya Yoshitomi.
To make the kuzu yu, add hot water and stir. The kuzu yu will be slightly thick and have a very sweet flavor. Pictured above is the matcha flavor, which has a distinct green tea taste and full fragrance.
Enjoy the Tastes of Kyoto
Sweets from Kyoto are delicious and beautiful. The souvenirs and desserts mentioned above are only part of the tastes one can find in the capital. Try as much as you can of these delectable, one-of-a-kind treats, and be sure to save some to share with friends and family.
Main image by Pixta