On a rainy, chilly, cloudy afternoon, my family and I headed to Miya Shoji on 18th St in NYC. Our friends at Miya Shoji invited us to see Candy Miyuki, the amazing Ame Zaiku artist, at their store. So while the weather seemed dreary and our kids were tired and cranky, Candy Miyuki seemed to have brought her own sunshine and happiness that day inside Miya Shoji.
Ame Zaiku is the art of Japanese candy sculpture. The artist uses a taffy-like substance made of sugar and corn starch and creates incredible sculpture usually in the form of amazingly beautiful animals and creatures. My mother-in-law said that she used to see these artists at street fairs and festivals as a child. So, for her, it was quite natsukashii (nostalgic).
Candy Miyuki (Miyuki Sugimori) performed for many years at Epcot’s Japanese Pavilion in Orlando. She is one of only 15 formally trained Ame Zaiku artists in the world and the only woman. She began as an apprentice with her grandfather, Kinura San.
It was pretty amazing watching her work. She takes a ball of her taffy and begins kneading it and mixing it with the color that she needs. Then she begins stretching out certain pieces and cutting with her small scissors. As she cuts, she is also pulling on it achieving the shape that she wants quickly. She has to work quickly or the taffy will harden. She kneads, molds, stretches the taffy until an incredible creature is formed. Then she takes her edible coloring to finish off the details.
It’s important to note that the taffy begins at 200 degrees and she uses her bare hands to quickly shape it before it hardens. She mentioned that anyone looking to study this art has to go through about 20 rounds of callusing over their fingers in order to get to the point where they can even begin training.
Now, before you go running off to Miya Shoji to see her work, this was just a one time event for family and friends of Miya Shoji – we are lucky in more ways than one to be included in this group!
If you’d like to see Candy Miyuki in action, please visit our YouTube channel!