{Japan: Eat} Castella Is All Around in Nagasaki, Kyushu

castella post main picture

As M and I emerged from the beautiful Glover Gardens (home to mansions of former Western merchants in Nagasaki), we came upon a row of stores selling all sorts of souvenirs and snacks.  We meandered slowly past them, peering in to windows and doorways for a glimpse of anything that might catch our eye.  And then, I saw a sign advertising Castella Ice!  As I pointed it out to M, the storekeeper noticed my excitement and immediately called out for me to come in.  Upon following her inside the store, she led us to a freezer and and, opening it, announced, “I have all kinds of flavors!”

By chance, the first one she pointed out was the biwa (loquat) flavored one and I knew right away that was the one we’d be getting.  Growing up, my family had a biwa tree in our backyard, and while I’d eaten the fresh fruit throughout my life, I’d never tried it in ice cream form.  After paying for our treat, we sat down on a bench and removed the Castella Ice from its wrapper: a scoop of biwa flavored ice cream tucked between two slices of castella.

stores outside of Glover Garden

castella ice

biwa castella ice

close up of castella ice

Not surprisingly, the Castella Ice was wonderful!  Castella, a Japanese sponge cake brought to the country by Portuguese merchants, is one of my favorite desserts to begin with.  But having it incorporated into an ice cream sandwich just made it doubly delicious.

After polishing off our Castella Ice, we left the store and continued down the pathway.  As it turned out, not 5 minutes later, we came upon another row of shops and it appeared that almost all of them were selling castella.  I thought maybe I’d had enough sweet stuff for the time being, but then I noticed that one of the shops was the very famous Bunmeido, perhaps the most famous castella maker in all of Japan.  I suggested that we go in and get a slice and  a moment later we were among the throng of customers inside the store.  Sitting on the counter was a tray of individually wrapped slices of castella — which I promptly bought one of.

Bunmeido store in Nagasaki

An outlet of the famous Bunmeido store.

bunmeido store interior

slice of castella from Bunmeido

Tucking my slice of castella into my purse, we made our way down the hill.  I was thinking that I would eat it when we reached our hotel, but then I noticed yet another sign that made me stop and take pause.  It was a poster covered with pictures of treats but the one in the lower left hand corner was the only one I was concerned with: “Castella Soft”, it read.

M sighed and said between the Castella Ice and Bunmeido castella slice and Castella Soft I’d be ruining my lunch for sure.  But I was dismissive of his concerns, what was a trip to Nagasaki without indulging in one of its most famous foods?  Moments later, I was clutching a Castella soft in one hand and my Bunmeido castella in the other.  And yes, I was in castella heaven.

castella soft sign

castella soft cream

And that was how it went for the rest of the time we were in Nagasaki ~ it was as if the whole world went castella on us.  Everywhere we turned there was some castella-themed item staring us in the face: castella stuffed toys, billboards advertising castella, carts selling castella soft, castella donuts, pie roll castella, and even castella cider!  And who knew there were so many flavors of castella?  Having lived in Southern California my whole life, I had only tried the original version.  But here in Nagasaki, I saw frosted castella for the first time, as well as such flavors as chocolate, honey, green tea, black sugar, and, to my surprise, cheese.  Needless to say, nearly all of my meals were “ruined” by various castella snacks but it was definitely, definitely worth it.

castella soft at dejima

A castella soft cart at Dejima

nagasaki peace park castella soft

And another one at Nagasaki Peace Park

castella stuffed animals

castella phone charms

pie roll castella

castella advertisement

castella donuts

castella cider

frosted castella

multi-colored castella