Magatama beads have been around for millennia, but this is the first time we’ve seen them in sweet, edible form.
Magatama are curved beads with a hole in their middle, looking sort of like the number nine. Archaeologists have traced their existence as far back as 1,000 B.C.
Charms and amulets in Japan often have very specific purported functions, but the exact purpose of magatama remains uncertain. However, aesthetic parallels between magatama and animal fangs, the moon, and depictions of the soul have contributed to a loose concept that the beads impart some sort of protection against physical or spiritual misfortune, and thus help put the wearer’s mind at ease.
Moving to more secular sources of general happiness, many would say that chocolate can fill that role. And so perhaps in hopes of creating some sort of synergy, Japanese confectioners Sakaneya and Fumizekka Sanin have teamed up to create a line of chocolate magatama.
Sakaneya’s involvement is especially apt, since the company is based in Izumo in Shimane Prefecture. Izumo is also the location of Izumo-taisha, one of the holiest Shinto sites, and the town has long been strongly associated with magatama (the motif even shows up in the decor of the local Starbucks).
Similar to how Shintoism has an extensive pantheon of deities, the magatama chocolates come in a variety of flavors. Not only is each differently colored, each hue was chosen to visually evoke a particular type of stone, as a further nod to the beads to which they owe their shape.
▼ Clockwise from top left: yuzu citrus (meant to look like mother of pearl), strawberry (rhodochrosite), sesame (onyx), and mikan/mandarin orange (orange calcite)
▼ Matcha green tea (aventurine) kinako/sweet roasted soybean powder (citrin), blueberry (iolite), and milk (amazonite)
But just as mortals have only limited control over their fates, the exact flavors contained in each box of magatama chocolates are random. Also, in a poignant parallel to man’s unlimited desires yet finite means to obtain them, the chocolates are not sold in boxes of eight, but of three or five, priced at 540 or 880 yen (US$4.65 or US$7.60) respectively.
If you’re ready to take this leap of confectionery faith, the magatama chocolates can be ordered here through online retailer Rakuten.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he still can’t look at magatama without hearing the Blue Seed theme songs playing in his head.