In Japan, it is customary when visiting friends and family to arrive with a thoughtful gift for the hosts. Food, particularly elaborate sweets and savoury treats, are among the most popular souvenirs to give as gifts. Macadamias, known throughout Japan for their versatility, health properties and delicious taste, feature prominently in edible Japanese gifts.
Come along as we take a tour through Japan to find three unique gifts featuring macadamias.
The upscale shopping district of Ginza in Tokyo is home to iconic sweets shop Ginza Kikunoya. Operating for the past 126 years, Ginza Kikunoya began its life as, of all things, a kimono cleaning business. Customers would wait in the shop's large central garden while their kimonos were being cleaned. As they waited, the shop's owner would serve delicious and dainty sweet Japanese confectionery with tea. The sweets proved such a hit that the Ida family, who still owns the business to this day, abandoned the kimono cleaning business and converted Ginza Kikunoya into a sweets shop.
Fast forward to the present day and one of the store's biggest selling items is Macadamia Fried Manjyu: steamed buns filled with sweet Azuki (red bean) curd, coated in roasted macadamia nuts and fried. The delicate balance of the red bean curd and crispy fried macadamia nuts creates a taste sensation that is neither overly sweet nor savoury. Every bun is made individually by hand and the treats are so adored by Ginza Kikunoya’s customers that they often sell out astonishingly quickly.
The buns were created by Mr Tsunemichi Ida, a fourth generation member of the Ida family, who came up with the idea while preparing for a trip to Australia. Mr Ida was to visit Queensland to run a seminar explaining to Australian Azuki bean growers how to grow and use their crop. When thinking of what to present to his hosts, Mr Ida came up with the idea of combining the traditional Japanese ingredient of Azuki with Australia's native macadamia nut all wrapped up in one Japanese sweet. The Macadamia Fried Manjyu was born and the rest is history.
An hour by train from Tokyo is the town of Odawara. There you'll find wara no bag, a nut and dried fruit shop. Owned and run by Mr Takahama whose mantra is to provide wholesome food that is as good for people as it is for the natural environment, the shop's signature item is its brown sugar macadamia nuts.
It was during a trip to Hawaii that Mr Takahama had the idea for the product. Enjoying generous servings of the island’s macadamia nuts prompted childhood memories of watching his father coat walnuts with brown sugar. Deciding that brown sugar coated macadamias would make a taste sensation, he set about trying to create the product.
Mr Takahama searched the world for the perfect macadamias, eventually settling on Australian grown macadamias thanks to their beautiful round shape and lovely flavour – a perfect match for the strong, slightly bitter brown sugar he uses to create his signature delicacy.
Now several years into his business, Mr Takahama continues to make his delicious brown sugar macadamias by hand, selling them at wara no bag and online to customers worldwide.
Nigata Ajinoren Honpo is a Japanese rice cracker manufacturer based in the Nigata prefecture. Rice crackers are loved around the world, but are particularly revered in Japan, and Japanese manufacturers have led the way, innovating with different ingredients, styles and flavours.
This is readily apparent in Nigata Ajinoren Honpo's Okaki rice crackers. Made from ‘Mochi’, a steamed sticky rice cake, the light and fluffy Okaki crackers have a distinctly different taste and texture to the more ubiquitous Senbei crackers, which are made from ordinary rice.
In 1995, Nigata Ajinoren Honpo, looking for a new product line, debuted Macadamia Okaki. Macadamias were used in place of the traditional Hokkaido soy beans, with the nut's unique texture the perfect addition to the soft and fluffy Okaki. The sweetness of the macadamias combines beautifully with the naturally sweet rice of northern Japan, and when balanced with a touch of salt, the result is a deliciously moreish rice cracker.
Traditionally older people were the key market for Nigata Ajinoren Honpo's rice crackers, however the Macadamia Okaki line has proven popular with younger audiences as well.
The company says the crackers are best enjoyed with coffee and even sells a coffee blend specifically created to pair with the flavour of the Macadamia Okaki.