Ame Yoshihara is a traditional Japanese candy-craft shop/atelier, where a team of artists create cute figures in sugar according to the Ame-zaiku style that originated in the middle of the Edo period (1603-1868). Its flagship shop is located on Dango-zaka in Sendagi.
The Yanesen neighborhood with its old-style atmosphere is home to a wide variety of traditional craft stores. They go hand in hand with the revival of shitamachi culture in which craft-making is seen as a key component.
Ame-zaiku is, rather than a craft, a performance art in which the artists makes shapes out of mizu-ame (thick gomme syrup). Ame-zaiku artists used travel around and perform at events and festivals. The art has faded a little and honestly I had never seen anything like this at any of the festivals I’ve attended so far in Japan.
Takahiro Yoshihara is one of those few traveling Ame-zaiku artists and then decided to open a permanent shop in 2008. Now there are 3 Ame-zaiku artists working at this store.
The shop on Dango-zaka is very small and you easily pass by. Inside the shop is hardly space for 10 people. There is a wide selection of pre-made candy, animals, plants, stones and of course the shop’s mascot: amepyon, a cute rabbit.
Rather than buying a pre-made candy, it is much more interesting to order a candy-making performance. You can select from a catalogue and request numerous adjustments such as poses, colors and accessories.
The candy-making performance
I saw 2 performances, the customers before me ordered the amepyon mascot, and I ordered a cat. During the performace the Ame-zaiku artist first heated the mizu-ame to 80 degrees, popped the ball of sugar on a chopstick and then started bending and cutting away. Next the resulting figurine was painted and cooled off (on its head). All together it took 10 minutes.
They are also doing various seminars and give you the opportunity to make your own candy. Ame Yoshihara has 2 shops in Tokyo, one in Sendagi (flagship) and in Yanaka. Live performances are not available at the Yanaka shop.
More merchandize in the shop
1-23-5 Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Budget: a bit over JPY 1000 for one performance. JPY 500 or even less for the pre-made candy.
Name in Japanese: あめ細工 吉原