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Winter limited “Taisho-Ame” and “Nihonichi Kibidango” from Tanida Seika in Kuriyama-Cho

栗山町、谷田製菓の日本一きびだんごと大甞飴


Have you heard about winter limited confection “Taisho-Ame” which can be purchased from November to February and “Nihonichi Kibidango”, a plate-like mochi confection? 

Tanita Seika in Kuriyama-Cho produces both confections. Those who know about it must definitely be a Hokkaido person! 

 

Table of Contents

- Winter limited confection “Taisho-Ame”
- How Taisho-Ame are made
- People in Hokkaido imagine of a plate-shaped Kibidango, not the ball-shaped ones: that is Tanita’s Kibidango
- Tanita Seika: Taisho-Ame, Kibidango, sometimes Tofu and Enoki mushrooms
- Getting noticed as athletes’ power food and emergency provisions


 

Winter limited confection “Taisho-Ame,” sold from November to February

“Taisho-Ame” are candies produced by Tanita Seika in Kuriyama-Cho from 1915. It celebrated the 103rd anniversary in 2018. 

Since candies get soft when it’s warm, they produce and sell the confection from November to February which makes it a winter-limited confection. 


谷田製菓の大甞飴▲Taisho-Ame is a plate-shaped candy with 13 centimeters height, 10.5 centimeters width, and 7 millimeters thickness. 


大甞飴、冬期菓子の王▲The king of winter confections! 


Those of you see Taisho-Ame first time might not believe this plate-shaped confection is a candy. 

It’s entirely different from regular ball-shaped candies. You don’t put in the mouth, play it in the mouth, and bite when it gets small. 


オブラートに包まれた大甞飴▲It looks like a thin mochi at a glance, but it is a candy. 


How do we eat it? We crack the plate-shaped candy with a hammer or hand. 


大甞飴をハンマーで割る▲Crack the candy with a hammer or hand. 


You can feel the natural flavor from slight sweetness and roasting smells of sesame. 

It gets soft soon after putting in the mouth and starts to melt. 
Wafer paper sticks in your mouth at the beginning but don’t worry. It melts quickly. 


割った大甞飴▲Candies are wrapped with wafer paper. You can eat with the paper. 


As you lick, candy becomes like a hard caramel or a nougat. 

Those who have tooth fillings, be careful! You feel like you want to chew when Taisho-Ame gets soft, but tooth fillings come off sometimes. 
The chief editor of Hokkaido Likers, Takako Chiba has experienced it. So be careful. 

Taisho-Ame is a candy you enjoy slowly by melting it with the temperature in the mouth. 

Tanita Seika’s factory produces “Kibidango” all the time, however, they stop producing Kibidango for a while from late October to produce Taisho-Ame. 

They produce a certain amount first and produce again according to the stock. They repeat the process several times during the winter season. 

Luckily, Hokkaido Likers could visit Tanita Seika’s factory on the day they were producing Taisho-Ame.

 

How Taisho-Ame are made

 Let me show you how they produce Taisho-Ame. 


栗山町にある谷田製菓の工場▲The factory of Tanita Seika in Kuriyama-Cho. 


The ingredients of Taisho-Ame are malt syrup, sugar, and sesame only. 


大甞飴の原料、砂糖と麦芽水飴を煮詰める▲Boiling down sugar and malt syrup. 


大甞飴、煮詰めたものをひしゃくですくう▲Scoop the sugar and malt syrup after boiling down…


大甞飴のもとをつくる▲Then make the element of candies. The white parts are pieces of Taisho-Ame which are made in the previous term. They can knead all together again, so there are no wastes. 


大甞飴のもとにゴマを加える▲Adding sesame…


大甞飴のもと▲And make the element of candies by kneading with hands. 


 
▲Then knead again with a machine and add some air to it. They were doing this process manually before. It must have been tough work. 


I learned the first time that this kneading process to add some air to the elements produced the slowly melting texture of Taisho-Ame. 


大甞飴のもとを定量分ける▲Divide the completed element of candies into fixed amounts. 


大甞飴のもとを伸ばす▲And rollout with hands. It is similar to making a thin mochi. 


大甞飴を機械で薄くする▲Using the machine to make it thinner. 


大甞飴を四角に切る▲Cutting into square shapes. 


大甞飴を乾燥させる▲And finishes after drying. 


大甞飴を手作業で包む▲The plate-shaped Taisho-Ame is wrapped with wafer papers one by one without using machines. The 20-years experienced professional was involved in this process, he was extremely fast! 


And it becomes like this when completed: 


できあがった大甞飴


一口サイズの大甞飴▲They also produce a bite-sized Taisho-Ame. They call it bite-size, but it is about 5 centimeters. It was the smallest they can make without changing the package design. 


I thought the candy was named Taisho-Ame because they started selling it from Taisho Era. However, it came from “Daijousai,” the enthronement ceremony of Taisho Emperor. 


大甞飴の商標登録▲Taisho-Ame’s trademark registration. The flavor and the package design of Taisho-Ame have inherited for a long time without changing. 


Taisho-Ame is not like usual candies, but it’s loved over generations from grandparents to children to grandsons and granddaughters. 

 

People in Hokkaido imagine of a plate-shaped Kibidango, not the ball-shaped ones: that is Tanita’s Kibidango

People from most parts of Japan imagine a ball-shaped dango which Momotaro distributed to his servants in the old tale when they hear the word “Kibidango.” People from Hokkaido imagine a long and narrow shaped dango.

Yes, that is “Nihonichi Kibidango” from Tanita. 


谷田製菓のきびだんご▲Tanita Seika’s Kibidango. The size of one Kibidango is about 13 centimeters * 4 centimeters. 


I only knew about this Kibidango since I was a kid, so I only know about those ball-shaped Kibidango from old tale stories of Momotaro. 

Tanita’s Kibidango came out in 1923. The Great Kanto Earthquake happened in September of the same year. Kibidango can be a preserved food and to put their will to prepare for troubles and unite to help each other, they used the Kanji “起備団合” to Kibidango. 

The ingredients of Kibidango are malt syrup, sugar, glutinous rice, and bean paste. They use Toramame for bean paste. They once tried using red beans but it was too delicate for Kibidango. 


昔のきびだんごの包装紙▲The old package of Kibidango. 


昔のきびだんごの包装紙2▲There were times using this design. 


現在のきびだんごの包み紙▲Above is the Kibidango now. 

The flavor of Kibidango is not too sweet, and you can feel the deep flavor of malt syrup as you chew. 

Although they use glutinous rice, it doesn’t stretch like usual mochi. 

In my personal opinion, the texture is like mochi that became a little hard or cut mochi two steps before it becomes soft. (Can you imagine this subtle nuance?) 

Kibidango becomes hard and soft depending on the temperature. People have different likings of the hardness. I like the harder Kibidango and make it softer in the mouth slowly as I chew. 


オブラートに包まれたきびだんご▲Kbidango is wrapped with wafer paper, and you can eat it together with Kibidango. 


It has been 95 years since Kibidango first came out. People in Hokkaido imagine of Tanita’s “Nihonichi Kibidango” when they think about Kibidango. 

 

Tanita Seika: Taisho-Ame, Kibidango, sometimes Tofu and Enoki mushrooms

Tanita Seika, which manufactures confections from Taisho era is located in Kuriyama-Cho. The town is about one hour drive from Sapporo City or Shin-Chitose Airport, and the population is about 12,000. 

The town is known as the location of the house of Hideki Kuriyama, the director of Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters baseball team and the hometown of Barbie of “Falling Love,” a Japanese comedian. 


谷田製菓工場▲The factory of Tanita Seika. 


The founder of Tanita Seika, Kashizou Tanita, moved from Awaji Island to Kuriyama in 1898. He was 13 years old at that time. 

Tanita Family was involved in producing miso and soy sauce at Awaji Island, and he inherited his family business in Kuriyama. 

Kashizo became independent from his family in 1913 and founded a syrup manufacturing company. He created the long-seller product until now “Taisho-Ame” in 1915, and it became a huge hit. It built the basis of Tanita Seika. 


谷田製菓株式会社 代表取締役社長 谷田進太郎さん▲The president of Tanita Seika, Shintaro Tanita. 


“Kashizo used syrups to produce confections at the time when ingredients were scarce. It was great; however, candies became soft in summer, and it had to be a winter confection. Therefore, he wanted to create a confection for summer, too.” The president of Tanita Seika, Shintaro Tanita told us. He is the third generation, and Kashizo is his grandfather. 

Few confection wholesale store opened in Hokkaido as ordinary people’s lives got easier in Taisho era. However, it took too long if they had to import confections from Honshu and confection needed to last for a long period of time. 

“Nihonichi Kibidango” came out to fulfill the needs in 1923. The confections wholesale store wanted confections that last for a long period of time, and Tanita Seika wanted to create confections for summer. 

Tanita’s Kibidango became popular throughout Hokkaido as it lasted for a long time, did not go bad, and the flavor did not change. The market expanded to Sakhalin. 


谷田製菓のレンガづくりの工場▲The factory built from 1945 to 1950 still works now. 


Japan enters the period of war. As Tanita’s Kibidango was filling and lasted for a long time, it was designated as the supplement of armies. They built new factories in Hyogo Prefecture and Tianjin in China. 

After the war, Hokkaido’s economy became rich from the coal industry. Then Tanita’s Kibidango became popular as supplements and snacks for people who work in coal mines. 

Tanita Seika created Kibidango, which lasts for a long period of time after Taisho-Ame and syrups. It was as if the tide of time supported their growth. However, their business gets difficult in 1955 to 1965 after snacks come out in the market. 


谷田製菓工場入口


They did not produce Taisho-Ame for 7 years when the second generation president was running the company. The company almost had to close the business; however, they found a way to survive in producing tofu. They created packaged tofu, which is a standard now, and it became a huge hit! 

After that, they started producing Enoki mushrooms. There were times when all areas of the factory, including areas they produce Kibidango and Taisho-Ame now, are dedicated to producing Enoki mushrooms. 

They were producing their supposed-to-be main product Kibidango at the vacant storage during that period. 

They produced tofu from around 1965 to 1998. Many tofu specialized manufacturer came out after 1989, and their market share decreased. Also, Kibidango started to become noticed again as a confection made with natural ingredients. When the business was inherited to the third generation president, Shintaro Tanita, they ended all food manufacturing business and started focusing on confection business again. 


谷田製菓三代目谷田社長▲The president Tanita told me that he is particular about producing Hokkaido-like flavors for Kibidango such as milk, corn, and melon. 


They accept visitors to their factory according to reservations. Their factory is small but you can see their handmade process. It is worth a visit if you have a change. 

Taisho-Ame and Kibidango are not beautiful and instagrammable nor have fashionable topics which can be spread through the social network. 

Their confections are rather plain. 

However, the natural flavor which was passed down through generations from Taisho era surely printed in Hokkaido people’s genes. 

I felt that I want to pass the flavor to the next generation as one of the most famous confections in Hokkaido. 
 


Getting noticed as athletes’ power food and emergency provisions

By the way, Kibidango is also popular as athlete’s power food as it was a supplement for armies during the war. 
And because it can last for a long time, it is gaining attention as preserved food and emergency provisions as we experienced Hokkaido Eastern Iburi earthquake on September 6, 2018. 

If Kibidango became hard, it becomes soft again if you heat a few seconds using the microwave or frying pan with wafer paper.


Since Taisho-Ame is a winter limited product, you can only purchase in winter, but you can find Kibidango throughout the year. Tanita Seika does not have their own shop. However, Kibidango can be found at any supermarkets and souvenir shops in Shin-Chitose Airport. 


栗山町の谷田製菓本社▲The headquarter of Tanita Seika in Kuriyama-Cho. They don’t have a shop, but you can purchase at their office directly. 
 
 

Related Link

- Tanita Seika
  • Winter limited “Taisho-Ame” and “Nihonichi Kibidango” from Tanida Seika in Kuriyama-Cho

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Takako Chiba

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