Do you know a black round sweet ball? It is sold in Kyoto only in summer.

Here I introduce you my favorite Japanese sweet cake Wagashi, Ubatama of Wagashi shop in Kyoto, “Kyo-gashi Tsukasa KameyaYoshinaga.”
This is a special cake made only in summer season.

Black sugar flavored red bean paste is wrapped by thin agar-jelly.

Red bean paste is sometimes too sweet for Western people to eat through. Since you have to do a lot of effort to remove the bitterness of red bean, some bad sweet makers try to put a lot of sugar into the red bean paste in order to mask the bitterness by strong sweetness. But this red bean paste is not too sweet.

Sophisticated red bean paste made in this shop is wrapped in translucent agar, so it seems like ice or cold water is wrapping sweet bean paste.

Inside the cake box, there was a sheet with explanation about this Wagashi origin in this Kyo-gashi shop.

Do you know the leopard flower? It is also called black spotted iris, and it is called “Hioughi” in Japanese. In late summer this plant bears orange flowers, 4 to 5 cm across, whose eye-catching spots explain its English name.

The shape of its leaves looks like that of “Hioughi,” hand-held fan of Heian period. These were folding wooden fans held by court ladies or aristocrats of the Heian period when formally dressed. That is the reason why they have their Japanese name.

Actually, leopard flower and its leaves are not so famous even for Japanese people.
But its seeds are a bit more famous as a pronoun of real black color in ancient Japanese, called as “Nubatama” color.

In ancient Japanese language, “Nuba” means black, and in fact this is the oldest expression of black color in recorded Japanese language. A ball is called “Tama,” so Nubatama means a black ball in ancient Japanese.

After flowering of leopard flower, a pale-green pod grows up keeping the young berries inside, and as they mature it peels back to reveal a cluster of ripe real black fruits Nubatama.

When ancient Japanese Waka poets described the blackness of a night, or a woman's voluptuous hair, they used this black berries as a beautiful image and put “Nubatama” as a introduction of those night blackness or hair blackness.
This is an example of Waka poem translated : Black berry like black nights will absorb my black hairs into their black world, and my heart will fly through it to my lover’s bed.”

The name of this Japanese cake Ubadama, came from this black berries Nubatama,
Isn’t it interesting to imagine about the ancient Japanese poet might surprise and appreciate to name this cake Nubatama with the highest praise?

“Kyo-gashi Tsukasa Kameya-Yoshinaga” 
East road from Shijo-dori Horikawa, Shimogyoku, Kyoto
Phone: 075-221-2205
There is a branch shop in the Isetan department, at the JR Kyoto station.