National | Regional voices: Chubu

Mie University ties up with local cake shop to reproduce stress-relieving ninja snacks

Chunichi Shimbun

Mie University in Tsu, Mie Prefecture, and Mon Pactole, a cake shop in Nabari in the prefecture, have jointly developed cookies inspired by preserved snacks that ninja are believed to have eaten to relieve stress.

“We hope people will enjoy the deliciously revived modern-day ninja food,” said Makoto Hisamatsu, a professor emeritus at Mie University who led the endeavor to bring the ninja know-how to modern-day palates.

In an effort to promote the region, which is known as the home of the Iga ninja tradition, Mie University has been actively involved in researching ninja customs since fiscal 2014. Hisamatsu, who specializes in food chemistry, focused on hyōrōgan portable rations thought to have been carried by ninja, and looked into related documents from the Edo Period.

He found out through research that hyōrōgan was a spherical food made from sugar and a few kinds of herbal medicine, including dried Japanese yam, lotus fruit and adlay seeds, which had an effect of releasing stress and improving blood circulation. Judging from the ingredients it is believed that ninja might have consumed the treats not so much for their nutritional value as their calming effect, when they were under heavy stress while on duty.

Hisamatsu became set on reviving the food together with Mon Pactole in November 2016. They added cinnamon and lotus seeds to popular cookies made by the shop for an event held in Milan in 2015, to coincide with the food-themed world exposition in the Italian city, to make them more similar to hyōrōgan.

They surveyed some 200 people including students and foreigners to create a product that is acceptable to markets at home and abroad, and came up with disk-shaped crispy cookies with a diameter of around 2 centimeters. “It was difficult to balance the flavor of the cookies with the taste of herbal medicine,” recalled Mon Pactole President Shigeko Oishi.

The cookies have been available for purchase at the university’s Co-op shop since late March, and by early May some 100 bags had been sold. The cookies, priced at ¥540 for a 55-gram bag, are also available at the Mon Pactole shop and major supermarkets in the prefecture, as well as at the Yahoo Shopping online retail website.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published May 22.