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Meigetsudo

Hosei Hasegawa: What did you pray for at Koshida Jinja (Shrine)?

Young woman: “It’s a secret.” “What about you, Hosei-san?”

Hosei Hasegawa: “Well, it is also a secret.”

Young woman: “You are mean.”

Hosei Hasegawa: “Well, why don’t we eat some Torimon.”

“Delicious Manjyu. Hakata! Torimon!” 

We are sure that there are a lot of people out there who will have seen this commercial before! It’s an advert that will definitely seem familiar to Fukuoka-natives! It’s the CM for the famous local delicacy Hakata Torimon!

For this feature we stopped by the Kawabata branch of Meigetsudo, the creators of the much loved treat Hakata Torimon!

Meigetsudo Kawabata Branch

For this article we sent Zack (our Dutch member of staff who is of Indonesian descent) to visit the store and find-out more!

The purpose of this feature!

We had two main aims for this article!
· To find-out about the history of Meigetsudo and their delicious Hakata Torimon.
· To get some insight into how Dutch visitors to Japan might find traditional Hakata sweets.

This well-established sweet company has strong roots in the local community, but there is actually still a lot we don”t know about their products and history!
And we were very curious to learn more about what international customers think of Meigetsudo’s confectionary!

To answer these questions we decided to go and investigate. Here’s what we found….

The history of Meigetsudo

(Website: http://www.meigetsudo.co.jp/)

Have you ever heard about the history of Meigetsudo? The company was first established in Wakamiya-machi, Imaizumi back in 1929.

The company’s earliest incarnation saw them succeed in the production and distribution of rice crackers. It was the founder Yuichiro Akimaru’s desire to sell their goods directly to the public that was the driving force behind the establishment of the Kawabata-machi in 1934.

The outside of the store has a truly eye catching, almost majestic appearance. This branch of Meigetsudo is also very accessible, and can be found located in the Nakasu Kawabata Shotengai (shopping aracde), right beside Kushida Jinja (Shrine).

The story behind Meigetsudo’s name and logo!

How have you ever heard about the history of Meigetsudo’s name and logo? The company’s founder Yuichiro Akimaru’s birthday is at the same time as the Mid-Autumn festival full-moon. By chance, the two Chinese characters that are used to write “Akimaru” literally translate as “Autumn” and “circle,” which links to the full moon that can be seen during the harvest festival. So perhaps it is no surprise to discover that the company name Meigestudo and their logo make reference to the full moon.

This is such a charming story! The way that everything is intertwined is quite remarkable!

(Our staff are big fans of Meigetsudo and their products. We particularly like the delicious taste and texture of Hakata Torimon!)

Hakata Torimon

One of the most famous characteristics of the Hakata Torimon snacks is the way the white bean paste in the center almost melts in the mouth! It seems that there are many key ingredients to that go into creating this tremendous treat!

Fukuoka is known for its famous sweet companies. In order to distinguish itself from competitors in the market, Meigetsudo fused traditional Japanese sweets with influences from abroad. The company called this new concept that Western-style Hakata confectionery.

However, the product was not a smash hit straight away. A lot of efforts went into making it the sell-out item that it is today.

The company set out on its journey to try to create the most delicious manju in Japan in response to their customer’s demands. Hakata Torimon is the product that they ended up creating!

After a great deal of research and repeated efforts, the company has created a product that is widely praised for its quality. It has been recognised as gold standard at the annual Monde Selection for 17 consecutive years!
(Click here to find out more about the Monde Selection Awards!)

So, what exactly does Hakata Torimon mean?


Have you ever heard about the origins of Hakata Torimon?

The history of this delicious treat is heavily linked to Hakata Dontaku, one of Fukuoka’s biggest and most exciting festivals.

The name “Dontaku” comes from the way people in Hakata pronounce the Dutch word for holiday “Zondag,” which was something of a buzzword in Japan during the Meiji era. (Perhaps the Hakata locals back then did not have the opporunity to check with any Dutch natives the way do today!)

Dontaku is seen as something of a Western-style holiday. The city center is always bustling with activity during the festival. You can find people having a great time and enjoying the atmosphere in every direction you look! The parade that happens during the festival sees participants dress in special costumes, and play traditional instruments such as the shamisen lute, the fue flute, as well as the taiko drum. In the Hakata dialect this procession is known as the “Torimon.”

Most of the Meigetsudo’s products have been given Hakata-related names! It is clear how much the company loves the local area!

Sampling Meigetsudo products!

At the Kawabata branch of Meigetsudo you can actually sample the products before you make a purchase! This is the only store that stocks the full range of Meigetsudo snacks and sweets!

We tried all kinds of delicious treats during our visit! They were so tasty that we couldn’t help but rush through them!

A big smile appeared on Zack’s face as was about to got stuck into the Meigetsudo confectionary. You could see the enjoyment in his face!

And then after he had finished his first piece…

He seemed even more happy and totally satisfied with what the store had to offer!

We asked Zack to provide us some feedback and give us a few comments about each item we tried!

The Kawabata branch store manager

At the Kawabata store, there is always a friendly, smiley member of staff on hand waiting to great customers!

The manager was kind enough to suggest that we take some products back with us, so we picked up a lot of delicious souvenirs before we left!

All the staff were so helpful! We’re so grateful for all the kindness they showed us during our visit!

We sampled a range of different Meigetsudo sweets!

Our Dutch member of staff Zack sampled the store’s products and gave us some feedback. Keep on reading to find-out what he thought of each item. We hope that it provides you some valuable insight into Meigetsudo’s sweets and confectionary.

Hakata Torimon

First up…  Hakata Torimon. We’ve read a few reviews about this famous Fukuoka sweet, so were very keen to sample it ourselves!

Zack’s comments and feedback:
“You’ll definitely be struck by how the sweet taste spreads in your mouth. That’s quickly followed by a fantastic buttery, milky flavor. The balance is perfect. The fantastic silky texture really helps accentuates the Torimon’s sweet taste. It’s a powerful sweet. The flavors almost explode in your mouth (lol)! I wanted to eat more, but unfortunately I started feeling full. This is definitely one of my favorite sweets.”

Hakata Torimon are packed full of delicious white bean paste! Our Dutch member of staff was particularly impressed by their taste, and praised them for their balance of flavor while we were sampling the products.

Hakata Gyokuro Manju

The next treat we sampled was the delicious Hakata Gyokuro Manju. This product has proven incredibly popular with international customers. But how do they taste? Why is that they have gone down such a storm with tourists?

Zack’s comments and feedback:
“This has a really deep, rich green tea taste! It is also a little sweet! I’m sure people who like match will love this! It’s my favorite out of all the snacks that we sampled.  But it does have the kind of  texture that leaves you wanting more, so once you’ve eaten one the chances are that you will go back for another (lol)!

The product is made using high quality tea leaves known as Yame-cha Gyokuro, and it undoubtedly this ingredient that gives the sweet its luxurious, rich matcha taste.

Hakata Jiman

The next item we sampled is known as Hakata Jiman. It takes its name from the local area, but what about the taste? That is what we really wanted to find-out!

Zack’s comments and feedback:
“The flavor of the azuki beans is not too strong! It is also has a slightly sweet quality. The slightly more subtle taste of the azuki used in this product creates a balance that is ideal for someone who likes confectionary that is not too sweet. If that’s the kind of thing you are trying to find, then this is definitely the choice for you! Compared to some of the other sweets we sampled, I found this one to have a soft texture, but very deep flavor.”

Hakata Torimon is made with white beans, whereas this item uses red azuki beans. Maybe that is one of the reasons why they have such different textures?

Hakata Yabu-an

Hakata Yabu-an was the next treat that we sampled! The charming packaging makes it clear that this is a traditional Japanese-style sweet! We really love the design! But how does it taste? That is what really wanted to find-out!

Zack’s comments and feedback:
“The flavor of the peas is very strong! And I could detect a slightly bitter taste. But the sugary powder a gives it a sweet quality that is absolutely exquisite! The tea leaves used in the production leave a faint aftertaste. The texture is a little bit slippery, and the taste isn’t too strong; it doesn’t linger in your mouth too long.”

By the way, this item uses ugusui (bush warbler) bean paste. This tasty mixture is created by boiling green beans, crushing them down, and then adding in sugar or honey, along with a sweet bean paste.

A different bean is used in this product, which gives the sweet quite a different texture. There are so many things to think about and consider when it comes to the world of confectionary! It is a lot deeper than we realised!

Hakata Tsubo Yakifu Imopo

It seems that the name of this product harks back to a time when potatoes would be hung inside pots (tsubo) and then grilled over a charcoal fire. This method of preparation is said to have intensified the potato’s sweet taste.

It seems that Meigetsudo have taken inspiration from that traditional style of cooking and looked to reproduce similar flavors in this snack.

Zack’s comments and feedback:
“This treat has an intensely sweet taste. That definitely comes from the sweet potato. But I could also detect a slightly bitter quality coming from somewhere. The unique bitter hit coming through the sweet potato flavor is really interesting!”

At first you might be a bit surprised by the sweet nature of these tasty snack’s! There are also a few sesame seeds on top, so you might also pick-up a faint sesame taste.

“Hakata Mentaiko Pie” (Hakatakko)

Mentaiko is a almost synonymous with the Hakata area. It is one of the first foods that comes to mind when people think of Fukuoka, and so perhaps it’s surprise that it is used in this product.

Zack’s comments and feedback:
“At first these reminded me of German cookies, but then as I continued to chew I was hit by the famous taste of Fukuoka mentaiko. I didn’t realise it to begun with, but the snack got increasingly spicy as I continued eating. But it is definitely not too hot! You won’t feel like your mouths on fire, or anything like that (lol)! The size and texture have a really nice balance. I also liked how it has a nice crunchy quality.”

Most of the other manju products use bean paste as a key ingredient and so have a smooth texture, but this snack is more crispy. The fusion of mentaiko spice and a crunchy texture is unique and very exciting!

And finally…

Thanks to our Dutch member of staff Zack for his excellent feedback. We hope that it helped provide everyone some insight into Meigetsudo and their products. It seems that their confectionary has a balance of flavor that is appreciated by people who are familiar with sweets from the Netherlands and other European countries.

In general, it seems that European and Western confectionary tends to a little sweeter than traditional Japanese sweets. So it might take a little bit of time for your taste buds to adjust to the store’s products.

Meigestudo’s sweets are well recognised throughout the globe. Their products have been awarded gold at the world famous Monde Selection awards for 17 consecutive years. The company has cultivated an incredible level of knowledge and expertise over the years. They have also undoubtedly contributed to Hakata society through creating world famous confectionary that is strongly associated with the local area in which it is developed.

Seeing photographs and reading an article is one thing, but nothing beats actually sampling food in person! That’s why we strongly recommend that you head over to Meigetsudo and try their delicious sweet snacks for yourself!

Address

Our Address:

5-104 Kamikawabatamachi, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture 812-0026

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