For hundreds of years, children (and adults) in Japan gathered to watch their local amezaiku maker put on a show. Using bare hands, artisans mold hot rice syrup into fabulous shapes-on-a-stick, both lifelike and fantastical. Makers can add details using tiny scissors, pulling at the cooling taffy-like mass to create fins and wings. In the past, these crafty confectioners would use straws to gently inflate the candy figurines. But amezaiku comes with a time limit. Within minutes, the sugar hardens permanently, meaning artisans need to work fast and with precision. But the result—ephemeral, artistic lollipops—is worth it.
These days, though, amezaiku-makers aren’t allowed to use the straw method, for fear that it’s unsanitary. That’s not the only challenge to the practice: More modern forms of street-side entertainment have lured crowds away. But the few remaining amezaiku-makers are adapting. Today, many amezaiku figurines take the form of intricate, Instagram-friendly creations, from hyper-realistic goldfish to adorable dancing bunnies.
Need to Know
Certain shops, especially around Tokyo, still specialize in amezaiku.
Where to Try It
Ameshin's proprietor Shinri Tezuka is considered something of an amezaiku auteur.