Hard Candies History: Everything You Need to Know!

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A bowl of colorful hard candies from Japan.

With a colorful appearance and sweet taste, hard candy is loved by many people of all ages. Japan has a lot to offer when looking for the best hard candies to buy. These candies come in different shapes, sizes, and flavors. Various Japanese candy makers produce creations that fuse modernity with tradition.

With tons of flavors, people will find candies that suit their tastes. Hard candy is sure to continue developing as an irreplaceable type of sweet among Japanese people. Keep reading to learn more about Japan’s history and the many types and flavors of hard candy!

How did hard candies become popular in Japan?

Hard candy first appears in historical documents from the Nara Period, precisely the first half of the eighth century. This means that candy originated in Japan almost 1,300 years ago. Emperor Jinmu, Japan’s first emperor, is said to have made candy to bring happiness to people with its sweet taste. Candy became more widespread as part of people’s lives in the Edo Period. When they were eaten as sweets by ordinary people. 

An assortment of Japanese sweets.
Hard candy uses mizuame, a type of syrup. Image via Shutterstock

During this period, black sugar began circulating in Japan, and candy sellers started making unique Japanese hard sweets. Candy sellers began to appear on the streets in the Edo Period, selling candy while playing musical instruments. 

They entertained people by showing how they bent and expanded the candy before it hardened. This candy is known as candy sculpture and is a traditional Japanese art form. Although Japanese hard candies have changed over the years, these sweet treats are still consumed daily. 

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What are the most common flavors?

Japanese hard candy comes in various flavors: fruit, sour, and milky. However, most hard candies are use real fruit juice and taste like orange, lemon, or other fruits. Soda is another popular flavor that tastes exactly like Japanese soda but in a candy form. Milky hard candies are also among some of the most beloved flavors of Japanese hard candies. In addition, brands like Lion, Kasugai, and Asahi all create hard candy with a delicious taste and outstanding flavors.

What are the different types of traditional hard candies?

Here are some of the most popular types of traditional hard Japanese candies!

Konpeito

A bowl of konpeito candy.
Konpeito originally came from Portugal. Image via Shutterstock

Konpeito is a star candy with a long history, yet so many flavors to choose from! Made from cane sugar, they are sweet and look delightful. The round-shaped candies look like stars with their spikes. They also come in different colors, including blue, pink, white, orange, violet, green, and more. All in all, this sweet delight makes a perfect treat for the young and old. 

Amezaiku 

Amezaiku (candy sculptures) handmade Japanese candy are unlike any other, with their hyper-realistic animal designs and lollipop-likeness. It requires a distinct skill set that only a few people have anymore. The sculptor heats up the candy and manipulates the shape with their hands and Japanese scissors. The sculpting process takes minutes since they only have so long before the candy hardens again. 

A clear goldfish amezaiku lollipop.
Amezaiku is a form of traditional Japanese candy structure. Image via Shutterstock

After the taffy has been shaped, it’s painted and dyed, creating a beautiful finished product that resembles a glass sculpture. This culinary art form gained popularity during the Heian period when people would leave hard candy as temple offerings. It goes without saying, but there has never been an art form like amezaiku. Who wouldn’t want to eat a sugary piece of art? 

Kyoame

Kyoame (traditional Kyoto candy) is hand-made to perfection. The artisans boil the sugar and make into candy paste; then they add the flavor as it cools. Then, this delicate hard candy is kneaded and rolled into a long, thin line and cut into bite-size pieces. It’s all done by the craftsman’s hand.  

A plate of Kyoame, which are hard candies from Kyoto.
Kyoame originated in Kyoto. Image via Shutterstock

No artificial flavors or coloring are in these candies. As with any food from Kyoto, the flavors are subtle and delicate. Don’t expect over-the-top sweetness! With an extensive range of flavors and stunning designs, selecting just one is undoubtedly a delightful and satisfying challenge.

Why should I try traditional hard candies from Japan?

You should try traditional hard Japanese candy if you enjoy trying something different. Many hard candies help with health and other areas besides being tasty. Such as throat drops that soothe a sore throat when you have a cold. And candy that is kind to your teeth with xylitol that helps prevent cavities. 

A bowl of colorful Japanese hard candies.
What kind of Japanese hard candies would you like to try! Image via Shutterstock

Hard candies have quite an assortment of flavors and designs. Some hard candies are an actual work of art! Japanese confectioneries and food companies successfully created a variety of hard candies that can cater to people of all ages. From fruity treats that will delight the young ones to sweets with a unique taste, there is something for everyone. 

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