Maker’s Story: Seasonal Karinto Snacks from Tokyo by Marui Suzuki

Sakura Karinto and Marui Suzuki

April marks the official arrival of spring in Japan, and one of the cherished traditions of celebrating this season is to enjoy “ohanami” (お花見)! Ohanami means “flower-viewing”, and this is the season where families, friends, and colleagues gather together at parks for a picnic or two under the cherry blossom trees while sharing lots of food. This is also the time where spring-themed snacks are aplenty, with many confectionery makers incorporating flavours like sakura (桜 cherry blossom) and ume (梅 plum) into their products.

Tokyo-based maker Marui Suzuki (丸井スズキ) is no exception. JAPAN RAIL CLUB is proud to feature their Sakura Karinto (さくらかりんとう) as our star item in this month’s “Spring Beginnings” Omiyage Snack Box. We spoke with Kawahara-san (河原), Marui Suzuki’s Sales Representative, to learn more about the company and their products.

 

Process of making sakura karintoProcess of making Sakura Karinto | Photo by Marui Suzuki

 

Hi Kawahara san, thank you for having us! Could you share with us an overview of the company Marui Suzuki and its brand? 

Established back in 1895, our parent company, Marui Suzuki, is a wholesaler company specialising in confectionery. Our brand, Nihonbashi Nishikihorin (日本橋錦豊琳) embodies the concept of “tradition × innovation”, where we take traditional sweets and infuse them with a modern twist, reinterpreting them for today’s taste while paying close attention to the quality of ingredients and production methods. 

In 2007, we expanded our operations by opening the first Nihonbashi Nishiki Hourin store in Tokyo Station (東京駅). Since then, we've grown to operate five stores primarily in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

 

Kinpira Burdock Root Karinto SnackKinpira Gobo Karinto or Spicy Burdock Karinto is a must-try snack | Photo by Marui Suzuki

 

Congratulations! What would you say is the Marui Suzuki's representative product?

Do you know what is karinto (かりんとう)? Karinto is a deep-fried traditional Japanese snack made of dough, wheat, and brown sugar. Our karinto snacks have been very well-received, and the GRANSTA Tokyo store located in Tokyo Station operates as a karinto-specialty store for our products. 

When it comes to karinto, the general impression is that it’s usually sweet or associated with brown sugar. However, here at the GRANSTA Tokyo store we sell more than 10 flavours of karinto all-year long, and amongst them, our representative product is the Spicy Burdock Karinto (きんぴらごぼうかりんとう). Burdock, or kinpira gobo is a typical Japanese home-cooked side dish. Our karinto is made by kneading burdock root powder into the dough and adding shichimi (七味 seven spices) chili peppers for some spiciness. I’m proud to share that the Spicy Burdock Karinto has been the store’s most popular product for over 15 years since its opening.

 

Sakura Karinto is a popular seasonal snack | Photo by Marui Suzuki

 

That sounds delicious! How about the snack that is featured in this month’s Omiyage Snack Box?

The Sakura Karinto is one of Marui Suzuki's most popular seasonal limited edition products. Salted cherry leaves are turned into a powder and delicately sprinkled with honey on savoury fried dough, creating a refreshing karinto that brings forth the elegant taste and scent of spring.

Only domestic wheat is used for making the dough of karinto.

 

Nihonbashi Nishikihorin's karinto snacks come in various flavours and texturesNihonbashi Nishikihorin’s karinto comes in various flavours and textures! | Photo by Marui Suzuki

 

And what is so special about your karinto products?

The karinto sold at our stores vary in thicknesses and textures depending on the flavour of your choice, so you can enjoy our variety of karinto snacks without ever getting tired of it.

 

Sakura Karinto sealed and ready to be delivered to Nihonbashi Nishikihorin’s storesSakura Karinto sealed and ready to be delivered to Nihonbashi Nishikihorin’s stores | Photo by Marui Suzuki

 

That’s interesting! Is this your first time exporting your karinto products to overseas customers?

We have exported to and sold some of our karinto at the Breeze Department Store in Taiwan.

 

We are sure some of our Taiwanese customers have seen your karinto products before! Are there any spring-related products with spring motifs that visitors should purchase from your brand when they come to Japan this season? 

Apart from Sakura Karinto, "Sakura Castella" (さくらかすてら) is also available at the store as a limited-time special. In addition, we offer "Hachimitsu Matcha Karinto" (はちみつ抹茶かりんとう) and "Matcha Castella" (抹茶かすてら) because the season of tea leaves picking comes right after the season of cherry blossoms.

 

Interior of Nihonbashi Nishikihorin's Main Store in TokyoInterior of Nihonbashi Nishikihorin’s Main Store in Kodenmacho, Nihonbashi, Tokyo | Photo by Marui Suzuki

 

Sounds awesome! Where are your stores located? 

Our main store is the Kodenmacho Main Store, located at 16-14 Kodenmacho, Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. We also have four other stores around Tokyo: GRANSTA Tokyo Store (グランスタ東京店), SkyTree Solamachi Store (スカイツリー・ソラマチ店), LUMINE Kitasenju Store (ルミネ北千住店), and Maihama Ikspiari Store (舞浜イクスピアリ店).

 

As a Tokyo-based company, is there anything that you would like to share with our readers about the area where Marui Suzuki is based?

Alongside Nihonbashi Nishikihorin’s Kodenmacho Main Store, our main office is located in Nihonbashi Kodenmacho in the heart of Tokyo. This area in particular has flourished as a logistics center since the Edo Period, which used to be a prosperous wholesale district for textiles.

 

Purple Sweet Potato KarintoPurple Sweet Potato Karinto by Nihonbashi Nishikihorin | Photo by Marui Suzuki

 

Thank you for letting us know! Lastly, do you have a message to our readers at JAPAN RAIL CLUB?

Greetings from all of us here at Marui Suzuki! Our confectionery brand Nihonbashi Nishikihorin prides itself by selling sweets and snacks that have been handed down in Japan for centuries with a modern twist. Apart from our popular karinto products mentioned above, we also sell a variety of other seasonal flavours depending on the season such as Grilled Corn Karinto (焼きもろこしかりんとう) in summer, Maple Karinto (メープルかりんとう) in autumn, and Chocolate Karinto (ちょこかりんとう) in winter, so please be sure to visit us when you come to Japan.

In addition to karinto, we also have a variety of other Japanese snacks such as rice crackers (senbei and okaki) and castella waiting for you at our stores. We hope to see you soon!

 

The Sakura Karinto snack is the Featured Product in JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s April 2024 Omiyage Snack Box “Spring Beginnings”.Subscribe today to enjoy this tasty treat and other delicious snacks from Japan!

 

Meet the author

Sue Lynn

Currently based in Tokyo, Sue Lynn first came to Japan as a university exchange student. With 6 years of experience in Japan's inbound tourism, she is familiar with Japan, particularly on rail passes and East Japan spots, and has a passion for travelling.

Sue is also passionate about Japan's thrifting culture, and is keen to uncover more hidden gems while visiting all 47 prefectures during her stay in Japan.

Sue's 5Cs are cats, cameras, cinema, climbing, and city pop. Ask her about how her favourite JR Pass (JR TOKYO Wide Pass) saved her life (and wallet).

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One festival stands out after the succession of extravagant firework and dance festivals as summer...

Taiyaki
Sue Lynn

The Art of Japanese Sweets: Exploring Tradition...

From the traditional wagashi to modern adaptations, Japanese sweets are a delightful exploration of taste and tradition. Let's embark on a journey to discover the art of Japanese sweets—such as...

Sue Lynn Japanese Snacks

The Art of Japanese Sweets: Exploring Tradition...

From the traditional wagashi to modern adaptations, Japanese sweets are a delightful exploration of taste...

Savour the Ocean: Exploring Must-Try Japanese Seafood Snacks
Sue Lynn

Savour the Ocean: Exploring Must-Try Japanese S...

If there's one thing Japan is known for, it's the country's incredible range of seafood. Surrounded by the sea, Japan's geographic position has significantly influenced its culinary traditions, with seafood...

Snack Lover Japanese Snacks

Savour the Ocean: Exploring Must-Try Japanese S...

If there's one thing Japan is known for, it's the country's incredible range of seafood....

Friendly staff at Japanese snack shop
Sue Lynn

September Maker's Story: Rabbit motif snacks fr...

Hailing from Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Hamausagi has been making rabbit-themed snacks and confections for over 90 years.

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

September Maker's Story: Rabbit motif snacks fr...

Hailing from Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Hamausagi has been making rabbit-themed snacks and confections for over...

japan festival food yakisoba
Sue Lynn

What your favourite Japanese summer festival fo...

During the hot months of July and August, summer festivals (夏祭り natsu matsuri) are held all around Japan where celebrations take shape in the form of mesmerising dances (Awa Odori,...

Sue Lynn Festival

What your favourite Japanese summer festival fo...

During the hot months of July and August, summer festivals (夏祭り natsu matsuri) are held...

5 Exciting Fireworks Festivals in East Japan to Catch This Summer
Sue Lynn

5 Exciting Fireworks Festivals in East Japan to...

Summer in Japan is incomplete without a spectacle of fireworks! East Japan, where major cities like Tokyo, Sendai, Nagano, and Yokohama are located, is home to many exciting displays of...

Sue Lynn Summer

5 Exciting Fireworks Festivals in East Japan to...

Summer in Japan is incomplete without a spectacle of fireworks! East Japan, where major cities...