Kohakuto candies exude a refreshing coolness

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ajisai (hydrangea) kohakuto

Kohakuto, which literally translates to “amber sugar,” is Japanese jelly candy with a beautiful, elegant, translucent appearance. As pleasing to the eyes as it is to the tongue, kohakuto serves as an ideal, refreshing treat in summer.

Kohakuto is a wagashi (traditional Japanese confection) made by adding sugar or mizu-ame starch syrup to kanten agar dissolved in water, and then letting the mixture harden. It is said to have originated in the Edo period (1603-1867) and is called kingyoku in the Kanto region and kohakuto or kohaku in the Kansai region. The sweets are characterized by their crunchy texture and are sometimes served as part of the tea ceremony. Thanks to its refreshing appearance, kohakuto is also given as a summer gift.

Wagashi artist Shiho Sakamoto said that kohakuto expresses the appreciation for nature that many Japanese people have. “I like their delicate and somewhat fragile nature,” Sakamoto said.

Sakamoto is highly regarded for her delicate kohakuto that conveys the beauty of nature.

Born in 1982 in Utsunomiya, Sakamoto became fascinated with wagashi and taught herself how to make them after working at a tech company. She currently teaches wagashi-making techniques at a culture center.

Kohakuto has recently been a popular topic on Instagram, too, and many young people post images of kohakuto they have made themselves. It seems that the sensitivity of many Japanese people to changes in the weather has led to the beauty of kohakuto being admired through the ages and across generations.

Sakamoto created ajisai (hydrangea) kohakuto in four colors: purple, blue, pink and white. The tones exude a subtle beauty, with each of the four being fresh and unique.

She has also made aokaede kohakuto, which resemble green maple leaves of early summer. Kakigori kohakuto, or kohakuto that looks like shaved ice with syrup, expresses the arrival of summer, while mikazuki (crescent moon) kohakuto conveys a quiet evening.

Courtesy of Shiho Sakamoto
Clockwise from top : Aokaede (green maple) kohakuto resemble young maple leaves : mikazuki (crescent moon) kohakuto expresses the beautiful shades of the moon : Kakigori (shaved ice) kohakuto are decorated with “colorful syrups.”

To make kohakuto, first, soften 10 grams of rectangular or shredded kanten agar in water overnight. Dissolve the agar in water, measured to total 500 grams together with the agar, in a saucepan over heat, add 700 grams of sugar and simmer until the mixture thickens. Add food coloring. Put the mixture in a mold or other container and leave it to cool and harden for about half a day. Cut into desired shapes with a knife or a pastry cutter, and then let dry.

“Wagashi expresses the colors of the seasons. Kohakuto, which is as translucent as glass, is a wonderful way to capture a fragment of seasonal tones,” said Sakamoto, whose motto is “to incorporate all my worldly impressions into wagashi.”

“Although it takes some time, I recommend trying to make kohakuto,” she said.