Today I have come to Hirado City in Nagasaki Prefecture, located on a beautiful island off the Saikai coast. As Japan’s first port to trade with the west around 400 years ago, Hirado has long been a location for interaction with foreign countries.
Here in Hirado, there is a local sweet which has been enjoyed by locals for generations. Let’s take a look…
The name of this confection is ‘Gobou Mochi’. In Japanese, ‘gobou’ is the name for the burdock plant, usually eaten as a vegetable. Is this really a sweet?! What does it taste of?
This is the first time I have tried Gobou Mochi, even though I have wanted to for a while…
And where better place to try it than the oldest sweet shop in NagasakiPrefecture, ‘Hirado Tsutaya’.
I was surprised to find out that Hirado Tsutaya was founded in 1502 (right in the middle of the Warring States period)!
I spoke to the owner, Mr. Matsuo.
Gobou Mochi (￥648 for a pack of 12)
Apparently, the name ‘gobou’ comes from the sweets’ appearance – they resemble the burdock root. This traditional sweet is made very simply, using only rice flour and sugar.
The original recipe was supposedly brought over by a Chinese merchant around 440 years ago.
The feudal lords of the Hirado domain, the Matsura clan, used the sweet in their samurai tea ceremony, and even regular households had the custom of handing out Gobou Mochi on special occasions such as at memorial services.
In those days, the sweet was kept long, like a burdock root, and then cut into as many pieces as were needed to feed the guests.
So, as you can guess, the Gobou Mochi was a very useful product – however many guests there were, the Gobou Mochi could be made to serve them all, simply by changing the thickness of the slice! ☆
Right, let’s try it!
The texture is soft and elastic!
Crunchy poppy seeds dot the surface, and the whole sweet has a gentle old-fashioned flavour (*^-^)
As it happens, the building which houses the Hirado Tsutaya store is a merchant’s store, built 300 years ago on the site of what is said to have been the home of William Adams. Adams, also known by the Japanese name ‘Miura Anjin’, was involved in the establishment of the Dutch trading post at Hirado, and served as a diplomatic advisor to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan.
The building is also known as ‘Anjin no Yakata’, or ‘Anjin’s House’, and is open to tourists as a rest spot.
Inside the store, self-service coffee is also available for \200 (on the right in the photo above)☆
On the left of the photo above, you can see another Hirado sweet, golden and sparkling! This is the ‘Cas-Doce’, originally from Portugal (\972 for a pack of 5). This gorgeous sweet is made by dipping castella (sponge cake) into egg yolk, covering it in heated molasses, and dusting with sugar. Such a rich sweet flavour!
After a stroll around the castle town of Hirado, I highly recommend taking a break and enjoying some traditional local confectionery ☆
Hirado Tsutaya (Anjin no Yakata)
Address: 431 Kihikida-cho, Hirado City, Nagasaki Prefecture
Open: 9:00 – 19:00
Closed: New Year’s Day