Okayama City, located in the Chugoku region of Japan, is steeped in the legend of Momotaro, a popular children's tale. Statues and characters of Momotaro can be found throughout the city, from the iconic statue in front of the station to charming depictions on manhole covers.
The story of Momotaro traces its roots to the Kibi Province, present-day Okayama Prefecture, where an ancient tale tells of ogres causing chaos in the country. The emperor's son, Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto, was sent to defeat the ogres, and this tale is believed to be the origin of the Momotaro legend. Kibi dango, the iconic millet dumplings that Momotaro carries on his journey, is also an integral part of the tale's cultural significance in Okayama Prefecture.
Sansute, your one-stop shop for souvenirs and food
Sansute (さんすて) is a bustling department store conveniently located next to Okayama Station, catering to both locals and travelers alike. With its wide array of shops, including clothing stores, souvenir shops, and restaurants, Sansute offers a one-stop shopping experience. For those waiting for their trains or in need of a quick bite, there are plenty of recommended foods to savor while exploring the station.
Exiting the train station, you'll be greeted by the entrance to Sansute. It features a souvenir shop with an extensive selection of snacks from various brands and a dedicated candy store, showcasing its own unique storefront. The sheer variety of souvenirs available can be overwhelming, with so many options to choose from that it's sure to leave you feeling pleasantly dizzy with excitement.
Kibi dango, Okayama's pride
Upon stepping into any souvenir shop, you'll quickly notice that kibi dango are ubiquitous in Okayama. This is because Okayama Prefecture is renowned as the birthplace of kibi dango. Legend has it that a priest from Kibitsu Shrine (吉備津神社) commissioned a confectionery company to create dango for him. Given that this region was once known as Kibi (吉備), the dango was aptly named kibi dango. Over time, kibi dango gained popularity as a lucky snack among warriors, and it became a sought-after souvenir that was distributed throughout the country, eventually achieving widespread fame as a signature snack from Okayama.
Kibi dango is known for its distinctively soft texture, setting it apart from regular dango. With its unique consistency, you can immediately sense the delightful softness with just one bite.
There are numerous varieties of kibi dango, allowing you to select according to your personal preference. Each brand may offer its own unique twist, showcasing its distinct identity. One popular example is the kibi dango from Kinmando (金萬堂), which features square-shaped dango skewers. These delectable treats are sprinkled with kinako powder, a roasted soybean powder that adds a nutty flavor, and also come in other flavors such as matcha.
Tsurunotamago Honpo Shimoyama Shojuken (つるの玉子本舗 下山松壽軒) is a renowned, long-established shop from the Meiji period that offers dango skewers in an adorable fashion. These dango skewers feature three cute little balls of dango, meticulously crafted with skill and care.
Kinsendo's (金扇堂) dango is a unique twist on the traditional dango, with a focus on the harmonious blend of fruit flavors. Lemon and peach are featured prominently, adding a burst of refreshing and tangy notes to the sweet treat.
This pack features plain, kinako (original flavor), and anko (red bean paste) in one package.
Yamagata Eijudo's (山方永寿堂) kibi dango comes in a cute and colorful package that features characters from the beloved fairy tale of Momotaro. The packaging is designed with the concept of making the experience of opening and eating the dango fun and enjoyable.
The playful and whimsical design adds an extra element of delight to the dango, making it a perfect choice for children and those who are young at heart.
Next up is the kibi dango by Yamawaki Sangetsudo (山脇山月堂). One of its notable features is the eye-catching package that prominently features a figure of Momotaro.
A skewer with three kibi dango is individually packaged making it ideal for distribution at work or among friends.
Finally, let's check out the store that marked the beginning of kibi dango. As you enter Sansute, Koeido (廣榮堂) is one of the first shops you will come across. The packaging here is just as cute as the other stores.
The origins of kibi dango have been attributed to the confectioner Koeido (廣榮堂), which later split into two brands: Koeido Takeda (廣榮堂武田) and Koeido Honten (廣榮堂本店). While both brands share the same origin, they have distinct differences in their appearance and packaging. Koeido Takeda is known for its more modern and contemporary packaging, often featuring popular artists of today, making it more appealing to teenagers and younger generations. On the other hand, Koeido Honten has a more traditional packaging that reflects its long-established history.
You can also find other souvenirs by these brands.
Souvenirs other than kibi dango
If you're not too keen on kibi dango, don't worry. There are plenty of other affordable and cute options available at Sansute. Check out these Sanrio character socks. This one is a character from Sumikko Gurashi dressed as Momotaro.
Here you have Chiikawa in the guise of Momotaro.
Hello Kitty looking even more adorable in a peach showcasing the kanji for Okayama.
This Momotaro coin purse makes a great gift that will be super useful to anyone.
Limited edition rice crackers by Happy Turn are super popular too.
Available in lemon flavor and okonomiyaki sauce flavor, these are scrumptious.
Limited edition Setouchi potato chips with a lemon flavor are tangy and moreish.
Recommended restaurant in Okayama Station
Gyukatsu is a tender beef steak that has been coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried and when in Okayama, there is no better place to try it than at Gyukatsu Kyoto Katsugyu (牛カツ京都勝牛), the most popular restaurant in Japan for this dish. Located in the basement of Sansute, you won't be disappointed by the food here.
The beef cutlets on rice with a demi-glace sauce are a local speciality.
Hope this feature has made it a little bit easier for you to choose souvenirs on your trip to Okayama.