"Tastes of JAPAN by ANA" is a regional vitalization project that collaborates with the different prefectures in Japan to present the Land of the Rising Sun in all of its diverse glory.
The origins of the local traditional confection, Hekohazushi Okoshi, are said to lie in a production method that Mikuriya Shirozaemon I, a merchant in the bustling post town of Matsubarajuku on the Nagasaki Trail, was taught by a Chinese Zen priest in 1679. The 300-year-old traditions of this sweet snack, with its distinctive flavor and texture, have been upheld over the centuries, with some creative improvements made along the way.
Legend has it that the name, Hekohazushi comes from an incident in which the local daimyo was eating the okoshi snack, which is a type of rice cake that has been roasted and hardened with starch syrup. He was so taken with its delicious taste that he did not realize his heko, or loincloth, had come loose and he was embarrassed in front of his servants.
There were 25 post towns along the 230-kilometer Nagasaki Trail, which was laid between Kokura in Kitakyushu and Nagasaki in the Edo Period (1603 - 1868). Two of those former post towns, Omurajuku and Matsubarajuku, are located in the modern-day city of Omura. Matsubarajuku, in the city's north, was particularly prosperous, stretching about 640 meters from north to south. The staging post did not have a honjin or a wakihonjin, inns designated for use by daimyo lords, but it did have many teahouses for travelers to rest in. By the Bakumatsu era, the final years of the Edo Shogunate, there were as many as 71 such tea houses in Matsubarajuku. In the pre-War years, 10 shops in the city of Omura made okoshi snacks, three of them in Matsubara. Today, only one of those shops, Hekohazushi-okoshi Honpo, remains.