Here are some key points that make Shogetsudo's Kurikinton worth trying.
Adherence to the same method since the shop's founding
Shogetsudo was established over a century ago and adheres to the traditional cooking of chestnuts in a pot. The burnt bits of chestnut in the pot are served to customers who buy items from the shop (*subject to availability), much to their delight.
Simply made with seasonal Japanese chestnuts and sugar
Kurikinton is made using only Japanese chestnuts and sugar. This allows the natural flavor of chestnuts to be enjoyed to the full.
Creative wagashi brilliantly reimagined
Shogetsudo also actively develops new products. The shop also has many repeat customers for its Kurizutsumi and Kurigaki varieties, both of which are reinterpretations of Kurikinton.
The home of chestnuts thrived as a post station
Nakatsugawa is at the eastern end of the Mino region of Gifu Prefecture. The town is blessed with a rich natural environment, as it is surrounded by the Kiso Mountains to the east and the Mikawa Plateau to the south, with the clear Kiso River flowing through the city center.
The city thrived as a key transport hub, and during the Edo period (1603-1868), a post town was built on the Nakasendo route linking Edo and Kyoto. As the area was a chestnut-producing region, wayfarers were treated to chestnut dishes and confectionery.
The custom has remained unchanged, and the city offers a wide variety of chestnut treats throughout the year. Kurikinton is a typical example of such a treat.
Many people think of Kurikinton as a confection that combines sweet potatoes and candied chestnuts. It is often found in so-called Osechi for New Year’s, but in Nakatsugawa, chestnuts and sugar are cooked and molded in muslin before being enjoyed as Kurikinton.
Wagashi shops in the city display Kurikinton from September, when new chestnuts usually appear on the market, to November, when shipments peak. The Chestnut Season Festival on September 9 is an unmissable event, and shops belonging to the local confectionery cooperative assemble on the day. Free Kurikinton is handed out after the ritual is performed in front of JR Nakatsugawa Station.
The Kinton originator adheres to the traditional production method.
Kurikinton is thought to be have been put on sale in Nakatsugawa in the mid-Meiji era (1868-1912). Shogetsudo, which has been pursuing its unique taste for over a century, was founded in 1907.
“We have modernized the taste while respecting tradition,” says Ayumi Soga, the shop manager. A few decades ago, the shop used to sell Kurikinton with crushed chestnuts, but it no longer does so, preferring to focus on the smooth mouthfeel.
Only domestically grown chestnuts and sugar are used for Kurikinton. Freshness is key, and preparation occurs in the early morning of the day of the sale. The painstakingly pureed Kurikinton has a melt-in-your-mouth texture. The reduced sweetness allows you to savor the true flavor of the chestnuts.
Ayumi explains, “Chestnuts are a delicate ingredient, so we take great care when cooking them. It also requires patience, as you use your hands for almost an hour. When the chestnuts are cooked, they leave burnt bits in the pot. They are aromatic and delicious in their own right, but you’ve got to get rid of them because they spoil the flavor of the chestnuts.”
In traditional production, the burnt crusts are produced only by using a pot. They are also known as “maboroshi no okoge” among regulars and are sometimes served to customers who buy Kurikinton in the shop.
Taking on the challenge of making out-of-the box chestnut confectionery
Shogetsudo also focuses on developing products that make the most of the traditional Kurikinton. Classics such as Kurikintsuba and Kuriyokan are just the beginning. Many of the shop’s products incorporate the essence of Western confectionery, such as Chestnut Castella, Chestnut Flan, and Marron de Roman, a brownie containing chestnuts. Ayumi recalls the history of Shogetsudo’s product development:
“I’m told the first and second proprietors were stubborn, single-minded confectioners. A new breeze blew into Shogetsudo in the 1970s when the third successor took over the shop. He embarked on product development to promote Shogetsudo’s taste so that Nakatsugawa’s Kurikinton would become widely known.”
Besides Kurikinton, Kurizutsumi is also a popular product. It is a refreshingly cool treat with chestnut puree enclosed in Japanese arrowroot. The jelly-like confection is enjoyable for the chestnut’s rustic sweetness and the Japanese arrowroot’s bouncy texture. It comes in various seasonal flavors, including cherry and lemon.
Kurigaki is also another confection with many repeat fans. It is made with whole dried, high-quality Ichida persimmon from Nagano Prefecture and filled with a generous amount of chestnut puree. The simple wagashi is more satisfying than it looks. The contrast between the different sweetness of the Ichida persimmon and chestnut puree is impressive.
Ayumi says, “It’s not enough to have an innovative idea; we also must use the chestnut’s unique qualities properly. We must also never deviate from our taste so as to not disappoint our customers. We scratch our heads every time, which makes chestnut confectionery so interesting. We research regularly and are working on a product using Kyoto’s matcha tea.”
Yusuisho, a Kurikinton sauce, was released in July 2023, the first new product in a long time. The shop has set its eyes on the next 100 years, flexibly adapting to contemporary needs while maintaining Kurikinton’s deliciousness.