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Konpeito: The Emperor's Gift of Candy

        posted by , August 20, 2015

Konpeito are small, colorful, aesthetically pleasing Japanese candies made almost entirely of sugar. They are more than just another hard candy, they enjoy a unique spot in Japan's history and culture:
The Portuguese introduced sugar and konpeito to Japan in the 16th century. Sugar was completely new to Japan and was initially extremely valuable.
In 1569, Luis Frois, a Portuguese missionary, used gifts of konpeito to earn favor with Oda Nobunaga, a powerful daimyo. He was able to obtain a permit for his Christian mission using such gifts.

Konpeito has always reminded me of the old Lewis Black joke about Candy Corn:
Candy corn is the only candy in the history of America that's never been advertised. And there's a reason -- all of the candy corn that was ever made was made in 1911.
~ Lewis Black
Konpeito looks as if it was all manufactured in 1911. High quality Konpeito is made by artisans who still use techniques developed in the Meiji-era.
Konpeito start with a tiny core of sugar. Each Konpeito undergoes a process of rotating, heating and adding sugar syrup for many days in a gong shaped machine called a Dora. This process gives the konpeito their characteristic tiny bulges. It also makes them very hard with a grainy texture.

Susuwatari are a type of yokai (Japanese ghost) that are translated into English as Soot Sprites or Wandering Soot. They appear in the popular anime films My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away.
Soot Sprites eat konpeito.

Konpeito is the standard thanks-for-visiting gift of the Imperial House of Japan and has been for many years. It's presented in a very nice box known as a bonbonieru (no photo available).

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