Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Jaylin. Jaylin Wonders, “How do people make candy?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Jaylin!
Do you love art? If you're like many kids, there's nothing better than grabbing your art supplies and expressing yourself by creating a priceless piece of art. Your refrigerator might even resemble an art gallery with dozens of your best pieces affixed to its front with a variety of magnets.
When you reach for your art supplies, what do you grab? Crayons? Paint? Colored pencils? Markers? Clay?
While these may be some of the most popular art supplies with kids, there's really no shortage of things you can use to create art. For example, in Japan, practitioners of an art form known as amezaiku use a very interesting — and tasty! — medium: candy!
Amezaiku artisans start with a boiling pot of sugar syrup (called mizuame) made from potato or rice starch. They use their bare fingers to grab a lump of the hot mixture about the size of a golf ball.
Since the mizuame is about 175-190 degrees Fahrenheit, they burn their hands repeatedly when they first learn their craft. Over time, their fingers form hard callouses that help them adapt to the heat.
They begin to knead and stretch the transparent mizuame like taffy above a small fan until it turns white and softens to the right consistency. Before they begin to sculpt their piece in earnest, they add food coloring to give the candy the right appearance.
After rolling the candy back into a ball, they insert a lollipop stick and begin to use only their fingers and a tiny pair of special scissors to shape the ball of candy into a recognizable figure, such as a rabbit, dragon, flower, giraffe, goldfish, octopus, snail, koala, owl, dog, flamingo, etc.
Unlike creating such sculptures with clay, doing so with candy is exceptionally difficult because it's a race against time. Amezaiku artists get only a few minutes to finish their piece before the candy cools and hardens until it's too stiff to shape.
At that point, final details can be painted on and the piece is finished. Amezaiku sculptures often resemble glass or ceramic artwork, and they're just as fragile. Although they can be eaten, most people choose to display them as art.
Historians believe amezaiku may have been brought to Japan from China in the 8th century. However, the modern art form as we know it largely developed in the early 17th century during the Edo period.
Early amezaiku artists traveled from town to town, creating their unique candy sculptures. Although the finished pieces were beautiful, the real joy was in watching them being made. Today, however, there are relatively few amezaiku artists left in Japan.
Modern health laws have greatly restricted street vendors from making candy sculptures in public. Most modern amezaiku artists create their pieces only at occasional festivals or private cultural or corporate events. In Tokyo, though, there are a couple of shops dedicated to amezaiku where you can still watch the art form in action and purchase pieces to take home.