Ghost Child Care Candy: Kyoto’s Oldest Candy Store

Kyoto to full of shops and restaurants with hundreds of years of history. The city is also full of ghost stories. Perhaps one of the most famous ghost stories in Kyoto just so happens to take place at its oldest candy store.  Near the Kamogawa River, the candy store Minatoya boasts being Kyoto’s oldest candy store, having opened in 1599. They only sell one item in their store. Their unique Ghost Child Care Candy that they have made exactly the same way for hundreds of years ever since a special visitor made it a point to buy the candy for her child.


The Candy Shop and the Graveyard  

You will find Minatoya near Rokudochino-ji and Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple. This area, known as “Rokudo no Tsuji”, would once lead you to Toribeno, a large open-air grave in Kyoto. The nearby Rokujo Riverside was also a frequent execution site. For many years, the dead bodies of the unknown and the executed were left here. Scavengers, namely birds (the tori in Toribeno) would come and consume the decaying corpses. An eerie sight to say the least. Then, in the 9th century, the people of Kyoto started burying people there instead. In place of a mass of an open pit of bodies, large burial stones rose above the ground. Though this graveyard was relocated to the area near Kiyomizu-dera, there are still many burial stones there. Minatoya is some 500 meters away from the original site of Toribeno.

Rokujo Riverside. It does not look like an execution site anymore.

Today, it is hard to imagine this peaceful neighborhood as such a gruesome place. 


The Minatoya’s Ghost Story: The Origin of Ghost Child Care Candy 

The spooky tale of Minatoya and its mysterious candy goes as follows: 


The Ghost and the Candyman

Once on a long-ago summer, Sobei the owner of a candy shop went to lock up at the end of a very dull day. Just as he was about to head upstairs for the night, he heard a knock on the door. When he opened the door there was a young woman standing before him. She apologized for the late hour, but she really needed to buy some candy. A little perplexed but not particularly alarmed, the man sold her the candy. After the woman left the candyman discovered that the money the woman used to purchase the candy become a leaf! 

Every night for the next six nights, the same woman visited the shop. She would arrive at exactly the same time, even on nights it rained. Yet she appeared dry despite not carrying an umbrella. 

On the seventh night, Sobei’s curiosity got the better of him and he decided to follow her. After he sold her the candy he waited just a little while before stealthfully following behind her. Alone in the deep night, he paid little mind to where he was going. Suddenly, the woman disappeared at the top of a hill. It was then that the candyman realized his surroundings; Toribeno. Terrified, Sobei fled back to his home, locked the door tight, and hid in his futon till morning. 

The following day Sobei went to a nearby temple and told a monk there about his encounter. The monk and Sobei went to the hill where the mysterious woman vanished. There they found the fresh grave of a pregnant woman who’d died just seven days before. As the two began to pray for the dead woman they heard— a crying baby?

Without a word, the monk and the candyman dug at the soft grave soil. They opened the coffin and discovered the baby out of the grave,  he found the baby suckling on the bright yellow shards of the candy.  The two realized the poor woman had indeed given birth after death, unable to feed him, she’d sought out Sobei. Moved by the mother’s love for her child the monk took in the child and ever after Sobei’s candy shop was known as “The Ghost Candy Store”. 


Sampling Ghost Child Care Candy

The candy itself is made from maltose, so it tastes quite simple.  

large bag of ghost child care candy
A large bag of ghost child care candy is 500 yen, but a medium is only 300 yen

The amber color of the candy is so pretty that you might be tempted to decorate your room with it, instead of eating it. 

Ghost Child Care Candy
They look like jewels, not candy!
A simple flavor, but pleasant.