Castella is a kind of wagashi (a Japanese traditional confectionery) originally developed in Japan based on the "Nanban confectionery" (confectionery imported from abroad to Japan). The batter is poured into large square or rectangular molds, baked in an oven and cut into long rectangular shapes. Since the recipe calls for Mizuame, a type of sugar syrup, Castella has a moist texture.
Monaka is a Japanese sweet made of azuki bean paste sandwiched between two thin crisp wafers made from mochi.
Asahimame Sohonpo Kyosei Confectionery's Asahimame
"Asahimame" (Asahibeans), created in 1902, has been a snack loved by the citizens for over 100 years. It is also a popular souvenir for tourists visiting Asahikawa thanks to its long shelf life and reasonable price.
Our reporter can’t even remember when he last ate some "Asahimame". This will probably be the first time in decades.
Nowadays, the Asahi beans come with various flavors such as peppermint, brown sugar, wine, and seaweed. But the citizens often buy the original, old-fashioned simple flavour to remember their childhood and get their dose of nostalgia.
Flavour isn't the only thing getting changes, the packaging is having new designs too. When our reporter was a kid, he had an empty can of Asahi beans in his house, he forgot what he used to put in it, but he used it.
Now it's sold in cans, boxes, bags, and covered with felt fabric gift bags, but the design of the Ainu woman is the same as before. This is a standard souvenir from Hokkaido.
Asahimame are sold where tourists usually stop by, such as the "Asahikawa Roadside Station", the "JR Asahikawa Station", the "Asahikawa Airport", and the "Asahiyama Zoo", so you come across a pack, try it out!
Facility: Roadside Station Asahikawa (Michi no Eki Asahikawa)
Address: Asahikawa-shi Kagura 4 6-1-12
Business hours: 9:00 - 19:00
Regular holiday: Year-end and New Year holidays
Parking lot: Yes
Tsuboya Sohonten's Tsubo Monaka
The "Tsubo Monaka" was released in 1933 by the long-established confectionery store "Tsuboya Sohonten," to commemorate the 5th anniversary of its founding. For over 80 years, the bean paste has been made with the same original recipe.
To be honest, our writer don't often buy monaka for himself, but he is happy to give some out as a small souvenir or gift to his friends.
Tsubo - Pot, jar
The “Tsubo Monaka” is made of two types of bean paste, the Dainagon Azuki and the Shiroingen. Both are crispy and have an elegant sweetness.
In addition to the pot-shaped monaka, there are other many popular sweets like "Kihana", “Zoukibayashi", and “Hyouten" at the Tsuboya Sohonten. When you go to the store, you may hesitate for a while before choosing your snack.
This time, our reporter bought the pot Monaka from "Kibana no Mori" in Minami 6-dori.
Here, the making of the popular “Kibana” can be seen through a glass window.
There is also a cafe, "CAFE Bunran," where you can enjoy various desserts which flavours vary with the seasons.
Facility: Kibana no Mori
Address: Asahikawa-shi Minami 6-jōdori 19
Business hours: 9: 30-19: 00
Regular holiday: Irregular holiday
Parking lot: Yes
Takahashi Confectionery’s Vitamin Castella
Takahashi Confectionery's "Vitamin Castella" was a staple snack when our reporter was a kid.
The snack was sold around everywhere like a regular sweet. It was only when he became an adult that our reporter realised that the Vitamin Castella was actually a local snack.
The "Vitamin Castella" was born in the 1921, but it seems that it took its current form in the ’50.
The same old-fashioned package didn't change after all those years except the newly written "Winner of the President's Award at the 15th National Confectionery Expo” label.
In the past, vitamins B1 and B2 were added to make the castella a bit more nutritious to be served in the school lunches.
To improve the shelf life, the eggs and sugar amount is reduced and the flour’s amount is increased.
This is why the snack itself may feel dry, as if your whole body’s water has been taken away.
Milk is the must-have drink to eat your vitamin castella with. It replenishes the lost water in your body, goes well with the castella, and since most milks is produced in Hokkaido, you eat (and drink) local.
The "Vitamin Castella" is sold at supermarkets and convenience stores in the city, but you can also buy some at the "Asahikawa Tourist Information Center" in the JR Asahikawa station. Roadside stations sells them too!
At the Asahikawa Tourist Information Center, it was lined up with the famous snack "41°C below freezing" (Hyotenka 41 do), Takahashi Confectionery’s speciality.
By the way, your translator also saw some Vitamin Castella in a Lawson convenience store in Sapporo.
Facility: Asahikawa Tourist Information Center
Address: Asahikawa-shi Miyashitadōri 8-chōme 3-ban 1-gō (JR Asahikawa Station East Concourse)
Business hours: June-September 8: 30-19: 00 October-May 9: 00-19: 00
Regular holiday: Year-end and New Year holidays (December 31-January 2)
How was it?
These are nostalgic sweets for many citizens. You can have a taste of Asahikawa locals’ childhood with these snacks. Moreover, all these sweets have a long shelf life so you can share some to your family and friends as a gift or eat it by yourself later.
Translated from Tora’s article.