The art of Amezaiku sugar modelling was imported to Japan from China during the Heian period and was originally used for offerings to temples. The craft spread beyond the temples during the Edo period, when many forms of street performance flourished in Japan and when its base ingredient, mizuame, became widely available.
An amezaiku artist takes multi-colored sugar paste and, using their hands and other tools such as tweezers and scissors, creates a sculpture. Amezaiku artists also paint their sculpted candy with edible dyes to give the finished work more character. Animals and insects are common amezaiku shapes created to appeal to children.
Talk to us if you would like to include a class in amezaiku making during your trip to Japan!
On the day I went to try out Amezaiku, Tokyo was ablaze with sunshine, and a 90%+ humidity ranking to match. I was relieved to enter the workshop, and it’s cool, air-conditioned, wooden interior was very welcome! Inside, we were each shown to our seats, and as a foreigner I was given a seat close to the demonstrator to make sure I could fully understand the process. The craftsmen here only speak Japanese, so we recommend a guide accompanies you to act as interpreter. The tricky part is that an Amezaiku creation has to be finished within just a few minutes of removing the candy from the pot. The candy is softened when heated, and hardens when it cools. During our workshop session, we were making a rabbit. The craftsmen had placed a finished product in the centre of each table as inspiration for us all, and we were all very keen to begin working on our own beautiful, elegant creations. Watching a professional demonstrate the process to us, it soon emerged that we had quite the challenge ahead of us though! We were given three practice goes, and in between each practice the professional craftsmen would demonstrate again to give us additional hints and tips. The practising phase proved very entertaining with many of us creating animals which more closely resembled pigs or elephants! We quickly learnt, as we inadvertently cut off limbs and tails, that whether you were pleased with your creation or not, there was a good reason why the craftsmen told us that once the candy had cooled, we needed to leave it alone and resist the urge to make additional tweaks! After a final practice, it was time to move on to the real thing. This time we were each given white candy to use. We had all improved significantly since the first attempt, but mastering Amezaiku certainly takes more than just a couple of hours! Having moulded our rabbits, we were then given a tiny bottle of red dye and a cocktail stick to enable us to add features and little details. Amezaiku is just one of the brilliantly quirky things which makes Japan, and Tokyo, so unique. Experience the weird and wonderful for yourself, and include an Amezaiku experience in your trip! Read more about my experience HEREReviewed by Hannah