Simian Sweets: Monkey Guardian “Wagashi” a Hit with Shrine Visitors

Guide to Japan Food and Drink Art

Near the gate to Hiyoshi Taisha, a shrine in Ōtsu, Shiga Prefecture, stands confectioner Tsuruya Masumitsu, which has been in business for over a century. Started by a long-time employee of famous Kyoto confectioner Tsuruya Yoshinobu, it is a purveyor of traditional sweets not only to Hiyoshi Taisha but also to major temples Enryakuji and Saikyōji, and Ōmi Shrine. All its wagashi sweets are carefully crafted by hand.

The shop’s recommended product is Hiei no Osaru-san (the Hiei monkeys), created by current owner Ishizu Yukio’s father. It was inspired by the monkeys that have been guardians of Hiyoshi Taisha, Enryakuji, and Saikyōji since ancient times.

Hiei no Osaru-san is a delicate monaka wafer in the shape of a monkey mother cradling her child, filled with an (sweet bean paste) containing finely chopped chestnuts. It is a souvenir popular with visitors to the area.

(Originally published in Japanese. Created in cooperation with ZTV.)

Shiga wagashi Ōtsu