Okayama confectionery brings folktale treat to life

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Three varieties of the “authentic kibidango” that have gone on sale at Yamawaki Sangetsudo in Okayama

OKAYAMA — Yamawaki Sangetsudo, a traditional Japanese confectionery in Naka Ward, Okayama, has begun selling “authentic kibidango,” a new take on the sweet treat depicted in the Japanese folktale “Momotaro.”

The company, which celebrates its 140th anniversary this year, says that although its new product is slightly too big to fit in the palm of a child’s hand, it’s just as large as the kibidango, or millet dumplings, described in the beloved story — the main character Momotaro (Peach Boy) offers kibidango to a dog, a monkey and a pheasant to entice them to join him on his quest to defeat oni demons.

Kibidango are normally about the size of cherry tomatoes, but many illustrations depict them as being as large as tangerines.

As a result of working to make the product large enough to meet children’s expectations and a diligent pursuit of the best flavor and texture, the authentic kibidango are about five times larger than their conventional counterparts, so big that they fall into a category of a larger sweet called daifuku.

The authentic kibidango, however, weren’t just made larger. Much effort was put into creating a good balance between the flavor and texture by making its sweet anko filling from high-quality, Hokkaido-grown azuki red beans and surrounding it with a soft mochi rice paste.

Kibidango are a popular Okayama souvenir item. The confectionery developed the new treat as a way to deal with a decline in souvenir demand amid the coronavirus crisis.

There are nine varieties of the authentic kibidango available, including some coated with kinako soybean powder and some filled with either cream or kinton chestnut paste. The price of each individual sweet ranges from ¥200 to ¥260, including tax, and can be purchased at either the Daifukuya Sangetsu store in the city’s Kita Ward or online via the company’s official website.