Wafudo confectionery in Kumamoto
Kamidori-arcade at 9:00 PM
While staying in Kumamoto, I made use of the limited free time between business obligations for taking a walk in the city.
Kamidori-arcade was just a few steps away from the hotel where I stayed. I went there after our early business dinner at around nine o'clock in the evening. Many shops were still open: bookstore, pet shop, convenient store, fast food restaurant and so on. When I bought a book on Kumamoto Castle
, it suddenly came to my mind that I had to buy some sweets or tidbits as souvenirs for my family and colleagues in the office.
Of course, it is possible to buy souvenirs at the airport, but they are usually mass-production goods and not much interesting because every passenger has the possibility to acquire them. In many cases they are also available in Tokyo and this availability reduces the value of products as souvenirs. Producers know such consumer mentality and often manufacture products which are "only available in the region". But, this labeling does assure the quality of the goods in the package. It could satisfy our friends much better, if I would find something which is good in quality, available only within certain region and hand-made if possible.
Therefore, I started to look around and tried to find an attractive shop. It did not take much time before I came across a confectionery. An old man was standing behind a counter and looking after the shop. The display of the shop was not much sophisticated but old-fashioned. The assortment of its products was old-fashioned as well. Exactly these outdated characteristics of the shop attracted me.
"Higotsuba" is the original confectionery of Wafudo and imitates the shape of handgard on sward, a specialty of Higo (old name for Kumamoto). Crispy skin wraps white bean paste.
Roll cakes and other Western style sweets
The old man, the owner of the shop, was a talkative man and complained about the situation of traditional confectionery manufacturers in Japan. There were 845 confectioneries in greater Kumamoto region, when the man was the president of the confectioneries organization of the region at the beginning of the century. But now the number is now reduced to around only one hundred. Change in consumers' preference is of course one of the reasons for the drastic reduction of the number. But, the more serious reason is the unavailability of successors, because traditional Japanese confectionery is not a much profitable business, though long-lasting training is needed for becoming a full-fledged confectioner. His confectionery is big and has a factory behind the shop, but even there only old craftsmen and women are working.
My companion, a colleague in my office, happened to be the hair of a confectionery in Hiro-o, Tokyo, where I used to buy some sweets such as daifuku and mitarashi-dango. The confectionery was run for two generations by the family, but he gave up and became employer of a big organization and this decision was supported by his farther. I think that Japanese confectioneries as a whole are not out-fashioned. However, family run shops are in general less popular and shops managed by big capital come to dominate the market, and confectioneries are not exceptions.
Wafudo produces not only Japanese but also Western confectioneries, though they look very old-fashioned. However, the old man explained me, nowadays they produced more and more Japanese style sweets, because their customers were mostly old people and they preferred Japanese sweets and tidbits. I bought several kinds of sweets at Wafudo. Many of them tasted really good. Higotsuba and assorted mini-Monaka were the best. You might try some when you are in Kumamoto.