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Japanese Candy Artisan Creates Realistic Animal-Shaped Lollipops

Meet Shinri Tezuka, a highly skilled artisan candy maker whose masterpieces make animal crackers look crude. Using a 500-year-old Japanese art-form called ‘amezaiku’, Tezuka creates detailed animal-shaped lollipops that look incredibly lifelike.

Tezuka, 26, owns a small shop in Tokyo’s Asakusa district called ‘Ameshin’ – one of Japan’s only two stores specializing in amezaiku. The self-taught artist works in front of his customers, crafting exquisite pieces of glass-like candy. “There are no schools, I had to learn it myself,” he told Japanese TV show Moshimoshi Nippon. “It’s a small market, so it’s easier to innovate. There is no limit to this craft.” He got into the unique art form right after high school, fascinated by the amazing pieces of candy he could create.

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He starts by heating a starchy syrup candy base, called mizuame, to a temperature of 90 degrees. He then has three minutes to quickly mould it using a special pair of scissors, before it cools and hardens. When the candy completely hardens, he uses organic colouring to paint it.

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“You add and subtract at the same time,” he said about the sculpting technique. “If you cut out one part, another slims down. You start where it needs to be thin. You can’t afford to waste any time. That means finding a way to create the best candy in the most efficient way possible.”

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“The difficulty comes from the fact that it’s candy,” he added. “It’s not ordinary material like clay or resin. Candy is not meant to be sculpted. But you’re doing it anyway. That’s what makes it hard. No other candy shop does what we do, like adding gradation and making it translucent. I have this need to pursue things that only I can do. If you’re an artisan, that’s how it is.”

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Some of Tezuka’s handmade creations include candy shaped like goldfish, frogs, tadpoles, birds, lions, giraffes, and mythical creatures. They’re all sold at the shop, for between ¥1,000 ($8) and ¥2,000 ($16) apiece. The adjoining café serves ame-coffee and ame-tea, which are made by substituting sugar with melted gold-colored ame candy.

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Tezuka explained that although amezaiku is at least five centuries old, it never had patrons or an apprentice system. “It was like street culture. People who liked it, did it. Without anyone’s help, it has survived for 500 years. That shows how much amezaiku means to people. I want to preserve this culture, so my shop and my techniques will be around in 1,000 years.”

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In a bid to preserve the ancient technique, Tezuka takes in apprentices, and also conducts workshops on basic amezaiku shapes, like rabbits. At ¥2,500 ($20) for adults and ¥2,000 ($16) for children, participants get to make and take home their very own amezaiku.

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Photos: Ame-Shin

Sources: Spoon&Tamago, MoshiMoshi Nippon

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