Soft Candy from Japan: The Amazing Genkotsu-Ame 

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Two plates of genkotsu ame.

Soft candy can come in many varieties, styles, shapes, and tastes. In Japan, a very popular and traditional type of candy is genkotsu-ame or “fist candy.” Traditionally made with only three simple ingredients, this local candy is affordable and accessible at home. It might have an odd name, but genkotsu-ame is a delicious snack everyone with a sweet tooth should try!

Where did this soft candy genkotsu-ame come from?

A plate of a type of Japanese soft candy called genkotsu-ame.
Genkotsu ame is a soft candy of black sesame soybean flour. Image via Livedoor

Genkotsu-ame is a specialty of the Hida region in Japan. Takayama and Hida, cities in Gifu Prefecture, are famous for creating this special candy. While it is possible to find this candy in other places across Japan, it is mainly found within this region, where it is made by hand. The exclusivity and history of this soft candy within the Hida-Takayama region make it a trendy tourist gift, as visitors can purchase some that are made fresh right in front of them.

Why do people call it “fist candy”?

As strange as its nickname may be, gekotsu-ame is translated into “fist candy”, not because of any martial arts-related history but simply because of how it looks. After the ingredients are combined and the candy is ready to be shaped, each piece resembles the relative shape and size of a small fist. After being mixed and heated, the candy mixture is rolled into small sticks, and then cut into little fist-shaped pieces. It’s a cute and fun name that adds a sense of personality to the snack.

How do you make genkotsu-ame?

The process of making fist candy is straightforward as it only has a small number of ingredients. First, heat starch syrup over low-medium heat, taking care not to burn it. Next, add some sugar and stir until well combined (add a little water.) Add kinako flour and remove from heat. On a surface covered with more kinako flour, carefully roll the mixture into 1 cm sticks. 

Someone stirring genkotsu ame dough.
It also uses kinako flour. Image via Hidatakayama

Then, cut the sticks into smaller pieces and allow them to set fully. And that’s it! Some varieties also include matcha powder or sesame for flavor. Fist candy is a very cheap and easy snack to make, which makes it a perfect gift to give (or snack to enjoy yourself when at home!)

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Where can I enjoy this soft candy?

Fist candy can be bought at traditional shops in Hida and Takayama, but it is also available in other parts of Japan. It can be found in various supermarkets and convenience stores for those looking for a quick snack who can’t travel to either city. However, the best place to find genkotsu-ame is Takayama.

Hida/Takayama

These are where fist candy was created and still serve as the best places to get it. Countless stores, markets, and shops sell the candy, either made fresh or pre-packaged. If you ever find yourself traveling through Gifu prefecture, these places are worth stopping at just for this candy.

A plate of traditional Japanese soft candy.
You can pick it up at many confectionaries in Japan. Image via Ibukien

Miyagawa Morning Market (Takayama)

A market situated within Takayama, this is an excellent place to purchase handmade candy. The lines can be extended as many people queue to buy the hand-made treats. The confectioners are polite, and the wait is worth it as few places can offer fist candy as fresh and delicious as this.

Hanamaru Japanese Mart

An online store based out of Syosset, New York, USA, Hanamaru Japanese Mart sells various Japanese goods. Among the many snacks available on the website is fist candy. The site offers Seiki Genkotsu-Ame Kurogoma or black sesame-flavored fist candy. This is a handy website for those who want to try the candy but can’t travel to a physical store selling it.

Why should I try genkotsu-ame?

Traditional Japanese candy is steeped in history and tradition and can be a fun way to experience Japanese culture sweetly. The candy has become a regional favorite in Japan and helps attract tourists worldwide. Not only does eating the candy help keep the past alive, but it’s also really good. With simple ingredients and simple flavors, genkotsu-ame is a no-frills snack that can appeal to a wide variety of palates. It’s not too sweet and has no particularly odd ingredients. Its excellence through minimalism is a testament to its popularity and longevity as one of Japan’s favorite sweets.

A plate of traditional Japanese soft candy.
Have you ever had genkotsu ame before? Image via Seiki.net

Have you ever had genkotsu-ame before? If so, where did you have it? Did you travel to Takayama for it? Was it plain, or did you have some with matcha or sesame? Please let us know in the comments below! We would love to hear how you enjoyed this traditional Japanese snack!

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