Imokempi: Hard or Soft?

by Emiko

The sun is dazzling as the temperature soars above thirty degrees Celsius.  The day is too hot, but Obiyamachi is full of energy because it’s Sunday the scene of the Sunday street market. A lot of stalls  stretch as far as eye can see. There are fruits, vegetables, tea, steel products and so on.  My friend and I enter a shopping arcade because we want to stay out of the sunlight, and we discover a store which sell imokenpi. There is a clerk who looks to be 50 or 60 years old moving around the shop. Sometimes she stops to talk with customers. This store, called “Kenpiya”,  has many flavors of imokenpi– there are salt, sesame dark brown sugar and dried green seaweed. What they have in common is that they are all hard.

Long ago, in Mid-Edo period, there was a snack which was called “kenpi” in Tosa and was made from wheat flour and sugar. It looked like a stick of wood and was about 10 centimeters in length. People presented it to the local daimyo, or lord. One day someone used sweet potato instead of wheat flour for Kenpi. (At that time, sweet potato was imported from Satsuma. And it treated with care as substitute food.)  It was so delicious! This is the origin of imokenpi.

Imokenpi is very nutritious because sweet potato is just cut and fried. Not only that but also a brain is stimulated by chewing. Imokenpi is a fantastic snack.

Kochi has a few types of imokenpi. In Aki area, the mainstream of imokenpi is a little thick and soft. I knew about it on the web site which sell Kochi’s vegetable and fruit. I’ ve never eaten like that Imokenpi. “I want to eat it!” I thought. So I researched “Which company does it make?” “Where can I buy it?

Then, I found an imokenpi which made in Aki area at Fuji. But I was confused. There were various kinds of imokenpi. I suffered from which one should I buy. Eventually, I decided to buy Kawashima Seika’s one. Because I’ve known that the company’s one is very famous in Aki. After I came back to my house, I tried to eat it. Honestly I doubted that there is no difference between hard one and soft one. Because appearance is almost same. But it was wrong. The firmness was softer than hard one, and of course the taste was good.

Moreover I could feel taste of sweet potato than hard type one, and sometimes I enjoyed strong sweetness because there are some lump of sugar. I could feel this taste because of handmade. I expect that once people get a taste of this, they’ll hook.

But most people don’t know about this type Imokenpi. Why?

I noticed that they don’t use flashy advertising in other city. They sell very quietly. I expect that if they sell their Imokenpi at Sunday market, they become very popular because a great amount of people visit there. So I asked “Why don’t you sell at Sunday market?” to a woman who lives and deal in Imokenpi in Aki. She answered ” We have no plan like that. It is difficult for us because Kochi City is far from Aki and there aren’t people who bring Imokenpi there. Mostly craftsmen are old age.”

I felt really sad. Certainly, going to Aki to buy is a way of enjoying. But I think that if soft type Imkenpi was more well-known and the production quantity increased, it would lead to and increase in young producers. So I believe that they should think about method of selling positively.

I also have another idea that help to make soft type Imokenpi widely known. I think that if Kochi Prefecture appeal to all over Japan, like “There are some type of Imokenpi in Kochi. Not only hard one but also soft one exist!”, people who live in different prefecture probably feel want to do food tasting. Aki’s Imokenpi is very delicious. I really want people who don’t know about it to eat it. And I hope that continued to make products.

Of course, I also like hard type Imokenpi. I asked a clerk who work at “Kepiya”. ” Which imokenpi  do you like, hard or soft? Why?”She said ” I like hard one. Because I feel good taste by firmness and I think that soft type like have a moisture. I don’t like it.” I also asked same question to woman who live in Aki, and she answered “I’ve never eaten hard type one because I’ve just eaten soft type one for a long time. And I’ll continue to eat only it.”

I knew that there are many people who have different opinions. I believe that there are various opinion and all of opinions are not wrong. It depends on liking of individual. If you’ve never eaten soft type, please try it! You may be able to find favorite one. And I’ll ask you ” You like hard or soft?”

3 thoughts on “Imokempi: Hard or Soft?”

  1. I’ve never heard of soft type of kenpi and tried. So Im really interested in those ones and histories of them. Also, in my hometown has hard type of imo-kenpi, but it may be different history from Kochi’s one, so you can also enjoy another prefecture’s kenpi.

    Your ideas for selling widely gonna be positive way for people in Aki, and your article is helpful to read the story of your reserch!

  2. I love Imokenpi and can’t stop eating once I started to eat it!
    I didn’t know much about soft one and have never tried that.
    But, after I read your story, I came to trying eat soft one. Well….both of them!
    Your story is very interesting and makes me have love for Kochi.

  3. A nice article, Emiko. I love imokenpi, even though I know they are very fattening! But, I didn’t know about the two types: hard and soft. I will try to get both of them and have a taste test with my family.

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