Most visitors to Kyoto can’t help but taste the old capital’s specialty sweet – yatsuhashi. While traditional yatsuhashi is a hard cinnamon-flavored cookie, the stands that line the road up to Kiyomizu Temple do a brisk business in both selling and offering samples of the nama (raw) version – a chewy, glutinous confectionary.
Namayatsuhashi are normally shaped like a triangle pocket, with the dough containing sugar and cinnamon and sometimes boasting different colors. Inside the pocket, the filling can come in various flavors. There is your typical anko (red bean paste), the most popular filling, and several other popular flavors – chocolate, apple and sakura in the spring.
Nikiniki is halfway across town from Kiyomizu Temple, which means it doesn’t compete with all of the other namayatsuhashi shops. But what makes this small corner stand right on Kyoto’s busy Kawaramachi/Shijo intersection really worth tracking down is its presentation and unique choice of flavors.
Nikiniki’s treats come shaped in five or six different base flavors for the mochi – rose, plain, matcha, and black sesame are just some of the ones I can recall. The fillings are even more creative. When I first visited them in early spring, I had my choice of flavors like strawberry, prune, orange, white chocolate or flan. When I came back again in the fall, the choices were almost completely different – persimmon, Earl Grey, pumpkin, chestnut, and apple potato were among the more unique offerings.
The only downside to Nikiniki is that there is no place to sit. You either take your treat to go (and I thought I saw a minimum purchase number for takeaway but I could be wrong) or you eat standing at the counter. I always choose to eat there, as the presentation is lovely and I’m an instant gratification kind of girl. 🙂
If you’re near the Kawaramachi/Shijo intesection (and really who isn’t, with Pontocho and the Nishiki Market just steps away on either side), this is the perfect place to pop by for a post-meal light dessert or an afternoon snack on the go. Even better, Kyoto’s oldest traditional yatsuhashi shop (who started the Nikiniki brand) is right next door so you can get a taste of old and new.