Kyoto carries an air of tradition to it that no other city in Japan can match, thanks to an abundance of temples and other historic buildings dotting the scenery. That sense of history carries over to the area’s culinary history, with some of the most iconic Japanese foods being at their finest here.
Among the many culinary delights dotting Kyoto is green tea (matcha in Japanese), and as WOWBOX celebrates the ancient capital this month in both our Tabi Box and Omiyage Box, that tea taste plays a prominent role in almost every snack present.
It’s practically cliche for any tourist coming to Japan — you have to visit Kyoto. While some of the most basic advice any friend or travel book can serve up, there’s plenty of truth to it.
Existing for centuries, the city of Kyoto sits in the Kansai region, and used to serve as the capital of Japan for over thousand year. Within the city one can find a seemingly endless assortment of temples, shrines and other historic venues, reminders of how historic Kyoto has been.
That’s, however, thanks to fortune blessed to the city during dark times — Kyoto was one of the few cities in Japan not firebombed by the United States during World War II, preserving ancient structures that in other metropolises vanished overnight.
Owing to this, Kyoto allows anyone the chance to see historical Japan — or at least traces of it, let you think this region of a million-plus lacks malls and karaoke and Starbucks, albeit ones with a scene-appropriate bend — which explains all those itinerary-must-include boasts.
A Taste Of The Town
This month, WOWBOX pays respect to Kyoto in both our Tabi Box and Omiyage Box, which come loaded with flavors and imagery nodding to this historic destination. Let’s begin by looking at some of the items featured in the prior.
Tabi Box: Deep Dive into Kyoto's History & Culture
Uji matcha is a name for all matcha produced from Uji, Kyoto. Since ancient time, Uji matcha is seen as high-quality and is often presented to the Imperial Family.
Many local farmers are still applying the traditional method, which has been passing down from generation to generation to produce high-quality tea.
Green tea grown in Kyoto is seen as a delicacy, and you better believe matcha flavor finds a way into a wide range of other treats created in the city.
1. Kyoto Uji Matcha Pudding - Double Rich Flavor by Kyo Migawa
Kyoto Matcha Pudding, Double Rich Flavor / Photo Credit: Instagram @myah_ex
One award-winning example comes courtesy of tea store Maruso, who turn the powder into a delicious pudding utilizing double the amount of green tea!
This captured the “Monde Selection” prize, further underlining just how tasty this dessert really is.
2. Uji Matcha Yatsuhashi by Higashiyama
Yatsuhashi is a famous and traditional Kyoto confection, featuring a soft mochi-like texture and a rich filling making it one of the top souvenirs the city offers.
One of the longest-running creators of the treat is Higashiyama. For over 80 years, they have been making high quality yatsuhashi and even have modernized flavors.
They create a matcha variant utilizing a rich green tea taste coupled with a matcha-scented red bean filling. You might not be able to find a better Kyoto treat than this one.
Want to taste these Uji Matcha treats? Subscribe by 4/30 & Taste it yourself!
Maiko on the left and a geiko (geisha) on the right / Photo Credit: 55maiko.net
One of Kyoto’s defining characteristics is the presence of geisha and maiko, a long-running Japanese tradition that can still be observed in the city today.
You might have already heard of geisha, and wondering what's a Maiko?
Front - Maiko v.s. Geisha Differences / Photo Credit: Kimono Tea Ceremony Mikoya
Back - Maiko v.s. Geisha Differences / Photo Credit: Kimono Tea Ceremony Mikoya
Maiko is apprentice geisha. They are yet to start performing on their own, and their job is to perform songs, dances, and playing traditional Japanese instrument.
Since geisha and maiko are an important part of the traditional culture; naturally, many foodstuffs take cues from the imagery of geisha and maiko, so we can take a piece of that unique culture home as souvenir.
1. Maiko-San Chocolate Cookies by Maicoto
A particularly Instagram-ready work comes via Maisendo, a Kyoto sensu (folding fan) brand known for crafting high quality sensu. They have also introduced different series of 'Kyoto inspired' treats, and one of them being a cookie series called 'Maicoto'.
Maisendo storefront in Kyoto / Photo Credit: Maisendo website
Maicoto, inspired by streets in Kyoto, have released a few 'too cute to eat' cookies. We've selected their Neko (Cat in Japanese) shaped cookies in previous months, and in this month's Kyoto Box is Maiko shaped cookies.
Crispy and sweet cookies resembling the ornate faces of maiko, or geisha apprentices. The details on the maiko face are delicate and elegant. To drive the Kyoto theme home even further, a subtle matcha taste flower shaped cookie is included too.
2. 'Maiko Han Hii~ Hii~' Spicy Curry Senbei by Maruya
'Maiko han hii~ hii~' product series / Photo Credit: ochanokosaisai
'Maiko Han Hii~ Hii~ (舞子はんひぃ～ひぃ～)' is a Kyoto local brand's togarashi (chili powder) using domestic habanero peppers and several other types of chili to produce that extreme spiciness and give it a 'Kyoto-like' smooth taste.
Habanero peppers, domestically grown in Japan / Photo Credit: ochanokosaisai
This Maiko han hii~ hii~ togarashi is said to be 10 times hotter than commercially available chili powder! This time we selected their Curry Senbei that uses the same chili powder for you to taste the authentic 'Kyoto Spicy'.
These rice crackers combine a blend of 'maiko han hii~ hii~' chili powder with a potent curry flavor. The resulting snack is one of the spiciest senbei you’ll find in Kyoto, adorned by images of maiko on the wrapper.
Subscribe to Tabi Box before 4/30 & taste the unique Maiko Culture from Kyoto to your doorstep.
Omiyage Box: A fun combination of two traditions, Kyoto & Children's Day
The Tea Keeps Coming
Jumping over to the Omiyage Box, the matcha treats keep on coming, this time in the form of popular Japanese snack brands using the rich taste of Kyoto-cultivated green tea to flavor their sweets.
1. Deep Matcha Pocky
Deep Matcha Pocky / Photo Credit: Instagram @engiinc.jp
The venerable stick-shaped offering Pocky goes deep with their version of a green tea sweet, loading up the frosting and pretzel base with matcha taste.
2. Fujiya Matcha Milk Milky
Milk meets matcha thanks to venerable brand Milky, who combine green tea with their titular ingredient. This particular variant uses raw cream from Hokkaido milk and Uji Matcha from Kyoto to bring out new perspectives on both in one filling sweet.
Enjoy two flavors in one candy with Matcha Milk Milky!
Inspired By Children’s Day, Made For Everyone
This requires a slight leap, but only a small one...while on the topic of tradition, let’s zoom in on Children’s Day, a traditional holiday celebrating kids. The defining sign of this day, which happens on May 5, are carp-shaped banners which get raised on the holiday all across the country.
1. Caramel Corn in Black Sugar Molasses Kinako Flavor
Many snack companies create limited-edition products to mark the occasion, featuring images of carp flyers and other visual cues for the national holiday.
Long-running brand Caramel Corn is one such example, supplementing packaging with a special black sugar molasses and kinako (roasted soybean powder) flavor, which are both traditional Japanese flavors, that goes well with the treat’s crispy texture.
2. Tirol Choco Children's Day
Simple DIY to transform the box into a Kabuto (traditional samurai helmet) / Photo Credit: Instagram @neorix2199
For something even more extravagant, Tirol Chocolate has packaged 20 chocolate pieces together as an elaborate diorama. It comes with a variety of different flavors, including ones inspired by traditional Children’s Day sweets with a fruity mochi taste.
With simple DIY, you can transform the box into a Kabuto, a samurai helmet, that is often used as a symbol on Children's Day for kids to protect them.
Big box comes with 20 pieces of chocolate and characters from Japan's folk tale / Photo Credit: Instagram @neorix2199
The packaging found in this photo-worthy offering features characters from the famous Japanese folk tale Momotaro, and those enjoying it can move around the characters as they like and have fun with it!
A Destination To Savor
Kyoto is one of the most beloved cities in all of Japan, and that carries over to the food made in the city. Whether using green tea or taking cues from other cultural staples, this month’s WOWBOX offerings allow anyone to get a taste of this historic metropolis.
Subscribe by 4/30, and in May you'll receive Tabi Box filled with Kyoto long-established shops' treats to taste the culture and local stories; and Omiyage Box brings you both Kyoto Uji Matcha, Children's Day, and many other flavors to double the fun Japanese snack time!
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