Konpeito, a Candy Rooted in Japanese Culture

Do you recognize this crazy candy?

 

It’s called Konpeito, and is made of simple, unflavored sugar. It was introduced to Japan by Portuguese traders in the 16th century. The word “konpeito” comes from the Portuguese word “confeito” meaning “confection” or “candy”.

Did you know? These candies take 7-13 days to produce because they are made by repeatedly coating sugar syrup over a core consisting of a grain of coarse sugar. They usually are not flavored.

Because raw sugar was rare, kompeito was considered a very valuable gift. The Imperial House of Japan gave kompeito as a thank-you gift to important contacts, and continues to do so today. The gift is presented in a little box like the one above.

Konpeito in Anime

The soot ball spirits in Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” are fed kompeito.

In the anime and manga “Kobato,” Kobato, the main character, must heal people’s hearts to keep her magic bottle. When she does, she earns konpeito to keep in the bottle.

Konpeito Variations

Today konpeito comes in a variety of different colors and flavors and themes. These special konpeito are sometimes limited edition, made specifically for certain seasons or regions in Japan.

Sakura konpeito, popular in the Spring.

Peach kompeito, found in Summer.

Chestnut flavored konpeito is popular in late Fall.

Plum konpeito is beautiful in the Winter.

 

In Kyoto, one of the most traditional cities in Japan, you can buy konpeito from large containers like these at specialty konpeito stores.

This is a candy bento where the konpeito is the rice.

These konpeito look like the canes found in paperweights!

So beautiful, and edible too!

Konpeito are even the inspiration for this fun bracelet!

What do you think? Would you like to try this ancient candy for yourself?

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