Many Japanese believe kibi dango of Okayama City is made from millet flour because kibi means millet. However, it is now made from glutinous rice flour mixed with sugar and starch syrup. Some are flavored with a small amount of millet flour, and others do not even contain the yellow flour. The spherical dumplings are available in various colors and flavors that are made by adding other ingredients such as the Muscat Of Alexandria and peach.
The confectionery reminds us of the folk tale of Momotaro known to all Japanese people. On the way to the Island where ogres lived to wipe out them, Momotaro shared kibi dango with a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant who agreed to help him.
Originally, the kibi dango was made by steaming millet flour, and being coated with sweet red-bean paste or pouring soup as those of other regions were. The square shaped dumplings could not be preserved for a long time. About 150 years ago, kibi dango was developed as a confection which can be kept for a long time by three men. After making many improvements under the advice of the head retainer of the Ikeda family, the founder of Koeido presented it to the Ikeda clan. Recognizing as one of the best sweets in the domain, the clan approved to use its seal as a trade-mark. At the time of Sino-Japanese War around the middle of the 20th century, the kibi dango was sold like hot cakes at Okayama Station as souvenirs to the families of returned soldiers in celebration of the victory. As a result, Okayama's kibi dango became known nationwide.
A long time ago, the area around Okayama Prefecture was called Kibi Province. It is said that the province had a good crop of millet so the area was named Kibi, pronounced the same to the grain but written in different Chinese character. Now, the kibi dango is written in Chinese character that refers to the dumplings of Kibi Province, not millet.
Eight kinds of kibi dango made in Koeido were certified as Halal products in 2014.
Hogakuzan Kyushoji Temple
Harenokuni Okayama Catalog
The herb tea called Shimbi-Midori is made of one kind of Japanese mint grown in Yakage Town. The southern part of Okayama Prefecture was one of major production areas of Japanese mint over 40 years ago. It lost the market share and then disappeared from the market due to the rise of inexpensive foreign products and the emergence of synthetic chemical menthol. In 2010, mint growing wildly at a riverbed in the town were found by chance. A local TV station found that it was the progeny of the lost mint, which had been cross-fertilized by a Japanese variety and a British variety. It features the refreshing scent of menthol and the slight sweetness.
The mint is now produced by contracted farmers without using agrochemicals or chemical fertilizer, aimed at the revitalization of the regional economies. There are other products made from the mint, including candy, gelato and distilled spirit.
A mint distillery was built on the middle of Yakage Shopping Street in 2015. It is open on Saturdays and Sundays. Distillation is often performed on Sunday afternoon. Only 20 ml of essential oil is extracted from 40 L of the herb in three hours.
Yakage Kanko Net: Yakage Travel Net
Yakage Hakka Fukyukai: Yakage Extension Association of Japanese Mint