The allure of semi-sweet confections that blend Japanese and Western influences has garnered cross-generational appeal, owing to their unique charm. However, these treats have often been classified based on quantity and price. Despite evolving content, the packaging design has maintained a strong "Japanese" image, often lumped together under the label of traditional confections, especially in broad retail spaces like supermarkets.
In the southern region of Nagano Prefecture, in the city of Iida, Tomatsu has etched its history as a wholesaler of confectionery ingredients and a distributor of semi-sweet local products. In recent years, the company has focused on developing its own original products. They have delved into various offerings, such as the "Miso" series highlighting the flavors of Shinshu (Nagano's old name) miso, as well as Western-style baked goods like Bûche and jellies. The assortment of six varieties of petit daifuku called "Oyatsu Chaya" (pictured above), released in 2020, has gained popularity since its launch and has been gradually expanding its distribution channels.
Currently, there are two products: the original "Oyatsu Chaya" and the "Oyatsu Chaya Variety Pack" released in spring of 2022 (including flavors like apple butter shigure, black syrup mochi-filled kinako senbei, azuki bean pie, dorayaki, walnut mochi, and salted daifuku). However, in June of this year, they added a new product called "Oyatsu Chaya Minna Daisuki" (pictured in the middle, a pack of six varieties, around 202g, with a suggested retail price of about 350 yen excluding tax). Additionally, from September this year, they will launch the "Oyatsu Chaya Mochi-filled Senbei Awase" (pictured below, a pack of six varieties, around 208g, with the same price) - expanding their lineup to four products.
The new "Oyatsu Chaya Minna Daisuki" includes three items found in the "Variety Pack": "Apple Butter Shigure," "Walnut Mochi," and "Azuki Bean Pie." The other three items consist of a rich milk anko wrapped in chocolate dough, baked to a moist and tender "Choco Milk Manju"; a "Peach Gelee" made with domestically produced peach juice for a western-style treat; and a newcomer, "Mitarashi Mochi Monaka," with a mochi encasing a sweet bean paste reminiscent of mitarashi dango, a popular traditional Japanese snack.
The latter product, "Oyatsu Chaya Mochi-filled Senbei Awase," features a rare assortment of senbei (two barrel-shaped and four round-shaped). The barrel-shaped senbei includes a standard "Mochi Senbei" with koshian (smooth sweet bean paste) filling and a unique "Shio Mochi Senbei" accented with salt from Okinawa's seawater. The round-shaped options encompass a "Mochi-filled Apple An Senbei" using locally grown Shinshu apples; a "Yomogi Mochi Senbei" infused with domestically grown mugwort; the "Mitatarshi Mochi Monaka" mentioned earlier; and a "Miso-flavored Mochi Senbei" with an anko center flavored with miso.
The appeal of "Oyatsu Chaya" lies in how Shinshu-inspired ingredients and flavors are compactly packaged, achieving an accessible size and price. This makes it suitable for families of different generations to enjoy combinations of flavors, satisfying the need for variety in small portions. Furthermore, the design diverges from the common transparent bags often seen with semi-sweet confections, opting for a chic color scheme that highlights enticing images of the contents. It exudes a modern ambiance while invoking a sense of nostalgia.
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