Amezaiku (candy fashioned in human and animal forms) (飴細工)

Amezaiku refers to one of the techniques of confectionery production and making of shaped forms by using candy-paste which is made from heating sugar, or the shaped forms. The techniques, artistic aspects and manufacturing processes are characteristic and sometimes it is made not for eating but for a showpiece. In this section something in the category of sugar confectionery production is also described because of its similar historical origin.


Amezaiku of western confectionery and that of traditional Japanese confectionery have developed, though there is no interaction between them in this field as documents and origins were different, and the method of production or technique are not so different.

Zāhir, the thirty-fifth caliph of the Abbas dynasty, ordered sugar confectionery to be made, where confectioneries were technically decorated. However, it was a sugar confectionery baked and solidified, not a processed product of sugar-paste.

The history of amezaiku in Japan started when craftsmen from China lived in Kyoto and sold the products there, by which the technique was introduced, and in 796 when To-ji Temple was built amezaiku was made and dedicated as an offering. During sixteenth century aruheito (toffee), made as nanbangashi (a variety of sweets derived from Portuguese or Spanish recipes), was praised as a high-level production technique called aruheizaiku.

In 1801 good quality starch syrup was made in Echigo and allegedly spread to the Kansai region. In Edo candy craftsmen made candy and walked around selling the products, and the techniques and varieties of amezaiku increased.

In the world of western confectionery the technique and artistry are exerted, but on the other hand, amezaiku of Japanese confectionery is regarded as exclusively one of street performance or traditional performing arts, except for something like aruheizaiku. Amezaiku as a traditional performing art is difficult to deal with in the process of the production and preservation because of the characteristics of candy, cannot be mass-produced, have a hygienic problem, are rarely seen and are not profitable, and in spite of their gaiety, the handing down of techniques has not been easy. On the other hand, as the making of western confectionery becomes popularized as a hobby, amezaiku, one of the techniques, is widely known and is included in the curriculum of making western confectionery in culture schools.

Amezaiku in each country

An ingredient of Japanese amezaiku is dried bean jam, and the sticky one colored with red food coloring is generally familiar. On the other hand, like aruheizaiku, starch syrup is added to sugar and heated, cooled down and shaped and as similar examples, there are umpei zaiku (umpei work) and shinkozaiku and so on. Kinkato (traditional sugar confections), originated from aruheito, is a sugar confectionery and models lucky charm such as sea bream and so on and is popular as dagashi (cheap sweets).

In China there is amezaiku made by blowing heated candy to make forms of animals or birds, or dripping heated candy on a board to make letters or pictures.

In France there is the word Sucre Dart which refers to sugar confectionery in general as kogyo gashi (decorated sweets) and amezaiku is also included in this. Pièce montée, cake decorations built up in three dimensions, often uses the technique of amezaiku. By pastillage, a technique established during nineteenth century, Pièce montée, which models a building, is also made.

In Azores in Portugal there is alfenim, which is considered to be the word origin of aruheito and has a common production technique. It is a white sugar confectionery which models birds, animals and buildings and is dedicated to churches in the time of festivals. In Spain and Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America there is a esAlfeñique made of sugar kneaded with almond oil and in Mexico artistic objects modeling a skull are made by this for the day of the dead.

Production method and technique

Production method is as follows depending on the difference of treating candy. The techniques of hikiame (pulled candy), fukiame (blown candy) and nagashiame (spilled candy) are in common with those of western confectionery or aruheizaiku. All of them deal with heated candy of about 80℃ and thus in western confectionery most candy craftsmen put gloves on to prevent scalding.

Sucre tire
The technique of blowing candy by pulling. The color of candy is changed by increasing the amount of air and has a shining gloss. It is used for the parts of flower petal, ribbon, basket and so on.

Fukiame. Sucre souffle. It is also called fukurashiame. The technique of shaping three dimensional candy by inserting air into the candy by blowing or pumping. It is often used when shaping fruits, animals and so on.

Sucre coule
The technique of spilling candy into the form on the board, in which the form is made with pattern paper. Flat board-like parts are made and they are built up for the board on which cakes and so on are put.

Itoame (string candy)
Sucre file
It is also called veil candy. The technique of making a very thin string-like candy by spilling melted sugar with a quick shaking. It is used for the decoration of cakes.

Rock candy
Sucre rocher
The technique of boiling and foaming candy and solidifying the air bubbles. It becomes a rock-like material with many holes. It is used as an ingredient for making Pièce montée.

And additionally, there is sucre masse which makes a three dimensional form, and sucre tournais which is shaped by kneading and so on.

The difference between Japanese confectionery and Western confectionery.

Japanese full-fledged candy craftsmen normally had to make starch syrup in two eighteen liter drums and sell them, and if they were not able to bear such heavy workloads they refined the skill of shaping candies and earned money. They sometimes did it for snaring customers of the other merchants such as Kamishibai (picture-story show) or repairers of kiseru and so on, or did it independently as a show of craftsmanship, where they made candies on the spot following the customer's request like the art of paper-cutting and shaped the forms of animals or flowers and so on in front of them and became an entertaining business.

In Japanese amezaiku, craftsmen did not put on gloves traditionally and kneaded and shaped hot candy heated on mametan (oval charcoal briquette) with bare hands, where the acquisition of technique goes hand in hand with the danger of burns. Basically kneading transparent candy, blowing air into it and gradually whitening it, they do basic coloring with food red and round it like a golf ball and put it on a tube-like thing. Depending on the purpose, they blow, pinch with a tong, extend and cut with a knife and shape it. It is served on the tip of a stick. It is a friendly street performance and shapes mainly animals or birds and as a finished example, after shaping, the crest of a chicken is painted with food red. As the technique presupposes working outdoors, the instruments such as scissors or ink brushes are minimally limited.

In the case of western confectionery, work is done indoors and thus the instruments for exclusive use are used as they are. Rather than blowing air into it by kneading, the techniques such as extending or burnishing with raw materials were also applied. Mainly for the purpose of making a general western confectionery work, it is not completed as one item like Japanese amezaiku, but it consists of minute parts and becomes a work of general motifs such as 'assorted choice of fruits by candies, ' 'a girl in a dress' and so on. It often becomes a large-scale work. As one unit it often becomes a plant or fruit. Compared with Japanese amezaiku, it tend to emphasize gloss or luster like a glass rather than coloring.


It has to block the heat and air and thus is not appropriate for the exhibition where the light is on for a long time, but there are methods to seal off the case and put desiccant in or paint food varnish and so on. Also, when it is not for food but for accessory, other materials than the ones allowed can be used as food additives.

Figurative expression

It is sometimes used as a figurative expression in the sense that 'it has no content though the appearance is glamorous or the forms are similar, but they are totally different.'

[Original Japanese]