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Shinjuku’s Naito Togarashi Chili Pepper Snacks are the Perfect Souvenir!

Jan 14, 2020

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of Shinjuku’s major tourism hot spots and is known as a place where you can see the beauty of nature in the big city. However, during the Edo period, it was previously a field where chili peppers were harvested. These chili peppers were known as Naito Togarashi and were very popular during the Edo period. However, as Shinjuku became a more prosperous area, the peppers were no longer grown in the area.

In 2010, 400 years after the chili peppers stopped being grown in Shinjuku, the Naito Togarashi Project started with the purpose of making Naito Togarashi pepper products again. Keep reading this article to see some of the items that are being made with these peppers!

What is Naito Togarashi?

Naito Togarashi are chili peppers made with the seeds from the peppers grown on the land of the Naito clan, a samurai kin group. Naito Togarashi went well with buckwheat soba noodles, which was what the middle-class population on Edo ate, so it became very popular during the Edo period. Neighboring farms also grew chili peppers, which helped Shinjuku become known as a major spot for chili pepper farming.

Although Naito Togarashi was a well-recognized brand, Shinjuku was changing from a rural area to a post town for travelers. Eventually, there was less room for fields, which led to the end of chili pepper farming in the area.

In 2010, 400 years after the last Naito Togarashi peppers were harvested, a project to bring the peppers back started. After such a long time, the Naito Togarashi brand was back! The current version of the chili pepper has been certified as an Edo-Tokyo vegetable, so it carries the history of Shinjuku’s farming with it.

Naito Togarashi is not overwhelmingly spicy and has a mild flavor. Rather than being instantly spicy, the spiciness comes afterward. Even if you’re not a fan of spicy foods, Naito Togarashi products are still easy to eat.

Naito Togarashi Products

1. Naito Togarashi Okaki (rice crackers)

First up are Naito Togarashi Okaki, the perfect companion for beer!

These rice crackers are not coated with chili powder but dipped in a soy sauce that has been flavored with chili peppers.

Although they don’t look spicy, the trademark Naito Togarashi spicy aftertaste is present. Simply put, these rice crackers are delicious. The rice used is domestically harvested, and the flavor is one that you won’t get tired of. The combination of the rice and chili pepper is just the rice level of spicy that makes this snack stand out from the pack.

2. Naito Togarashi Nureyaki Senbei

Next up is nureyaki senbei (soft rice crackers), a snack that is soft and chewy. Freshly harvested rice and long-standing soy sauce producer Shota Shoyu are used to make these slightly spicy and moist rice crackers. Of course, Naito Togarashi is used as well!

The special skills used to grill these rice crackers have been improved upon through the generations. Although the soy sauce that coats this rice cracker is sweet, the Naito Togarashi baked into it gives it an added kick. The balance of sweetness a spice is fantastic! You’re sure to want to eat this snack over and over again.

3. Shinjuku Naito Togarashi Candy (Yuzu Citrus Flavor)

The final snack on our list is a hard candy with chili peppers inside.

This unique candy is truly one-of-a-kind. A sweet hard candy with chili pepper inside? Well, it is indeed a product that is available in the Naito Togarashi lineup.

These candies are made in collaboration with Daimonji Ame Honpo, a candy manufacturer that was founded in Kyoto 100 years ago. After the sweetness of the candy and slight tartness of the Yuzu citrus wears off, you’re left with a spicy chili pepper flavor. This candy makes for a stylish present, as the amber-colored candies come in a carefully wrapped bag. We recommend trying this unique candy for yourself!

If you’re looking for souvenirs that have a long history, then Naito Togarashi snacks are a great choice. Your friends and family back home are sure to appreciate the long history of this chili pepper. If they love spicy food, then the taste is sure to be a hit too!