akafuku top

If you’ve lived in Japan for some time, you may have heard of the popular traditional sweet called Akafuku. It’s basically mochi rice cake topped with a rich and incredibly smooth sweet red bean paste. Well, it’s come to our attention that the makers of this long-selling confection are also offering on their website something you may not expect from a sweets manufacturer — awesome paper craft templates, and all free too! So, are you ready for some serious cutting and pasting?

But first, here’s a little more background information for those of you not familiar with Akafuku. The Akafuku company first began as a tea house for pilgrims visiting the famous Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture, one of the most sacred places in Japan. The Akafuku company has been in operation in Ise City since 1707, so we were quite serious when we said that Akafuku is a long-selling sweet. The confection is made using mochi rice from farms that specialize in growing mochi rice exclusively (not regular rice eaten with meals), and the red bean paste that covers the mochi is made using only azuki beans grown on the northern island of Hokkaido, an area particularly well-suited for growing the beans.

▼Here’s what the Akafuku looks like. Underneath all that smooth red bean paste is soft, white mochi. Yum!P1050731

Now, let’s see what paper craft templates of Akafuku and Ise related motifs are offered on the Akafuku website.

1. Akafuku Main Shop
akafuku 1 honten

The city of Ise is known for architecture with “Kirizuma-style” gabled roofs, and the main Akafuku Shop is an excellent example of this style. The name Akafuku and the year the company was founded appear in magnificent gold letters on the large sign up on the front. This main shop was built in 1877 and even today retains its look from the Meiji Era.

▼By the way, here’s what the actual shop looks like. As Akafuku is such a well-known treat in Japan, the store is usually crowded with tourists buying the sweet as souvenirs.P1050588

2. Sparrow
akafuku 2 tsubame

Each year in the spring, sparrows come to nest in the roof of the main Akafuku shop. They stay until mid-summer, when they travel south, and the folks at Akafuku have always enjoyed having these seasonal winged visitors, as sparrows have traditionally been thought to bring good luck and prosperity, especially to businesses.

3. Akafuku Main Shop (Northern Building)
akafuku 3 kitagawa

Although this structure is currently used as part of the Isuzu Chaya (Tea House) cafe, until about 40 years ago, the Akafuku factory was located next to this building and all the Akafuku confections were shipped out from here. It now provides a relaxing environment in which you can have some tea and also enjoy the changing seasons looking into a nice garden.

4. Isuzu Chaya (Tea House) Main Buiding
akafuku 4 chaya

This tea shop has a lovely interior recreated in the style of a traditional merchant’s house in the Ise area. From the shop, you can enjoy tea and seasonal Japanese sweets while looking into a beautiful garden, as well as the Isuzu River that runs beyond.

5. Carp
akafuku 5 koi

Colorful carp can be seen swimming gracefully through the clear waters of the Isuzu River that flows through the grounds of the Ise Shrine complex. The bright fish are sure to be a delightful sight.

6. Isuzu Kura (Storehouse) 
akafuku 6 kura

This two-story storehouse located adjacent to the Isuzu Tea House is now used as an exhibit/gallery facility. It has the distinct look of a traditional Japanese kura (storehouse) and is certainly interesting to look at as a building.

7. Chicken
akafuku 7 tori

Chickens are supposed to be sacred birds that serve as messengers of the Shinto gods and are sometimes even featured in important Shinto ceremonies. The birds can often be seen on the roads to the Ise Shrine, providing an entertaining sight.

8. The Taiko Yagura (Drum Tower)
akafuku 8 taiko

This taiko (drum) tower is located in the center of Okage Yokocho (Okage Side Street), a tourist area located in front of Ise Shine’s “Inner Shrine”. The side street was created by a subsidiary of the Akafuku company in the early 1990s to reconstruct the look and feel of the city during the late 19th century, when it was filled with travelers making their pilgrimage to Ise Shrine. The tower is still used today for exciting drum performances on weekends and adds to the vibrance of the Okage Yokocho.

9. Joyato (All-night stone lantern)
akafuku 9 joyato

The final item is this large stone lantern that can be found at the entrance of Okage Yokocho. In the past, such a lantern was lit throughout the night to keep visitors safe in the dark. Today, the lantern has become a symbol of the side street and it still continues to light the way for those visiting the Ise Shrine.

So, there you have the nine templates available from Akafuku. We thought they look quite impressive, especially the details in the old-fashioned buildings. The template as well as an instruction guide on how to make each item can be downloaded from the Akafuku website. The crafts certainly look like fun, so if you’re in the mood for being creative with your hands, why not try creating some of these yourself? And in our opinion, it would definitely be ideal if you could have some Akafuku after you’re done. Happy paper crafting!

Source: Akafuku website via Japaaan Magazine (Japanese)
Top image and inset photos of paper craft creations: Akafuku website
Inset images of actual Akafuku and Akafuku Shop: RocketNews24