Factory tour of "Aoyagi Sohonke," a company that makes Nagoya's most famous confections.
Table of Contents
Nagoya's standard souvenir "Uiro". Among them, “Aoyagi Sohonke”, a long-established company that makes famous sweets representing Nagoya, boasts the largest production of uiro in Japan.
"White, black, green tea, green tea, coffee, yuzu, cherry blossom... " If you are from Nagoya, you have probably heard this "Aoyagi Uiro" commercial at least once. This time, we visited the Aoyagi Sohonke factory to learn about the birth of its long-selling confections, including the main product "Aoyagi Uiro," "Frog Manju" and "Kishimen Pie," as well as the history of the Aoyagi Sohonke family.
We will take the time to delve into the Nagoya's famous products.
Founded in 1877, Aoyagi Sohonke continues to preserve the "unchanged taste".
First, we would like to introduce the history of the Aoyagi Sohonke.
Aoyagi Sohonke was founded in 1879. Mr. Rihei Goto, the founder, was given the trade name "Aoyagi" by Yoshikatsu Tokugawa, and started a steamed yokan business on Osu Monzen Dori, followed a few years later by the production of Uiro, the signature sweets.
In 1931 (Showa 6), Mr. Tamehiko Goto, the third generation, started selling Uiro at the JR Nagoya Station. This led to Uiro becoming a specialty of Nagoya.
State of the time when products were loaded onto the Shinkansen
When the Tokaido Shinkansen opened in 1964 (Showa 39), only one shop, Aoyagi Uiro, obtained permission and started selling it on the train. Uiro became known throughout Japan as a Nagoya specialty.
The figure of a frog jumping on a willow
Aoyagi Sohonke's trademark is a frog, and this logo represents a frog jumping on a willow tree. This is due to a legend by Ono Michikaze Tofu, a poet from Kasugai City.
When Michikaze was taking a walk, he watched the frog repeatedly jump and fall. Thinking it was a foolish frog, he saw it successfully jump onto a willow tree. The story is derived from the anecdote that when Michikaze saw this figure, he was reminded of the importance of continuing his efforts.
This story symbolizes "Aoyagi's challenging spirit of repeating efforts to reach a goal", and was designed by Kenkichi Sugimoto, a painter from Aichi Prefecture, in 1951 (Showa 26). Based on this frog, "Kaeru Manju" and "Kaeru Sable" were born.
Now let's take a tour of the actual factory!
This time, Mr. Tomonari Goto, Managing Director, guided us.
Head office factory in Moriyama Ward.
Mr. Goto: "At our main factory, which was relocated from Inuyama in 2012, we manage and produce everything from raw materials to packaging. We have a production staff of about 90 people, divided into two factories, one for making UIRO and the other for baked goods."
Modern Japanese-style employee cafeteria
Spacious and warm staff cafeteria
First of all, I was guided from the dining room.
Mr. Goto: "This is the company cafeteria. Inside the factory, there are no windows for sanitary reasons (to prevent insects from entering from outside the building). Since there are no windows, it is an environment where you cannot even tell what the weather is like outside when you are working. So, the cafeteria is a bright and spacious space with natural light. We also have a tatami space and massage chairs, so we tried to make the space as relaxing as possible for our employees."
Discerning Uiro using domestic rice flour
How the dough is made
At Aoyagi Sohonke, craftsmen make sweets by hand.
Mr. Goto: "We make raw uiro here. Aoyagi Uiro uses domestically produced rice flour, and the taste and texture varies depending on the weather and temperature of the year when the rice is harvested. Therefore, the craftsmen prepare the dough while paying close attention to the subtle differences.
"Nama Uiro" has a shelf life of about 10 days, and because it is made using traditional manufacturing methods, the entire process, from making the dough to steaming, is done by hand by craftsmen. ”
The dough is kneaded in such a heat that the camera gets fogged up.
About 1 hour in a steamer. Uiro should not be too hard or too soft, so the temperature is adjusted according to the season.
The steamed Uiro is carefully cut by hand.
The cut uiro is also packed one by one. We were very surprised that all this work was done by hand by craftsmen.
This is a scene of making "Aoyagi Uiro Hitokuchi," which lasts for about 20 days. As with raw uiro, the dough is kneaded by craftsmen while making subtle adjustments by hand.
Mr. Goto: "Originally, when the company was founded, we sold them wrapped in bamboo skin. However, that way, they lasted only a short time and could not be taken home as souvenirs. After the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train started service, we developed our own film-sealed method of making Uiro. The film-sealing process, which was developed with the idea of "bringing Uiro to people far away," succeeded in extending the shelf life of Uiro while maintaining the same delicious taste."
This is where the "Seasonal Taste Comparing - Spring," a seasonal product available from February to April, is being made.
"Sakura Flavor" is an elegant flavor that adds Dainagon azuki beans to Sakura-flavored Uiro. There are two types of uiro, one with a mellow peach scent and the other with peach pulp sprinkled in the “young peach flavor”.
As the uiro is poured, it is held in place one by one.
The finished uiro is packed in a box and finally completed. Uiro, which takes time and effort, is shipped and delivered to people all over the country.
Next, we moved on to the baked confectionery factory. Here, they manufacture mainly baked confections such as "Frog Manju" and "Kishimen Pie".