All About Japan

3 Historic Snacks from Oita

| Sweets , Oita

Coming from Oita Prefecture in Japan's southern island of Kyushu, these three sweets have long traditions. Made from either bean paste or egg paste, these light confections also share important history. You can share a sweet with an ancient lord!

3. Luisa (瑠異沙)

3. Luisa (瑠異沙)

Luisa is a famous snack food from Oita City. It consists of white, sweet bean paste encased in sponge cake dough, wrapped in aluminum foil and baked. The bean paste turns purple because a violet-colored liqueur is also used. The origin of the name, Luisa, is a woman’s baptismal name engraved in a tombstone from the early Edo Period (1603-1868) in Saiki City (formerly the town of Ume) in Oita Prefecture.

Originally, Luisa had an exclusive manufacturer, but due to the bankruptcy of that company in 2000, it ceased to be available. Early the next year, former employees of the manufacturer started a new company called Xavier—named after the first Christian missionary in Japan, who arrived in Kagoshima at the southern end of Kyushu in 1549 and stayed in the country until 1551.

His travels took him to Bungo Province in what is now Oita Prefecture, and his positive reception led the region to become an early center of Christianity in Japan. Initially, the sweets company named in his honor produced only other, Xavier-branded sweets (see below), but the manufacture of Luisa was resumed in January 2002, allowing us to enjoy them once more today.

- (Japanese)

2. Kojo-no-Tsuki (荒城の月)

Kojo-no-Tsuki ("Moon over the Ruined Castle") is a famous sweet from Taketa City made from egg yolk paste wrapped in snowfall-like soft marshmallow. It was originally called Yagoe-no-Tsuki ("Overnight Moon") when presented to the lords of Oka Castle in the Edo Period, but but in the early Showa Period (1926-1989), the name of the snack was changed thanks to Rentaro Taki's haunting composition, “Kojo-no-Tsuki,” which was written in recollection of the modern view of Oka Castle's enchanting remains, which still stand on a hilltop overlooking Taketa City.

To the left of the Kojo-no-Tsuki in the photo you can see a Mikasano, another well-known local snack made of red bean jam and wheat flour.

1. Xavier (ざびえる)

Xavier is both the name of the manufacturer of this treat (see Luisa above) and the name of its signature sweet itself. These consist of Japanese-style, white, sweet bean paste or sweet bean paste with rum raisin wrapped with biscuit dough and made with plenty of butter.

When the original Xavier manufacturer went bankrupt, it was strong demand for this snack in particular that pushed the former employees of the now-lost company to resume production of Xavier in April 2001, appropriately naming the new company after their most precious offering, which has been known and loved as a symbol of Oita Prefecture for more than 50 years.

- (Japanese)