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Japanese Food Article

    Imo Yokan (芋ようかん)

    Speaking of Japanese traditional sweets (or Wagashi), you might think of Mochi, Dorayaki, Anmitsu, etc. But have you ever heard of Imo Youkan? This lesser-known delight adds a unique twist to Japan’s sweet offerings. In this article, we’ll delve into this amazing world, exploring its history, flavors, and cultural significance. From its roots to the reasons it has become a cherished treat, join us on a journey to discover the delicious secrets behind this hidden gem in Japanese confectionery.

    What is Imo Youkan?

    Imo Youkan is a Japanese sweet made by peeling sweet potatoes by hand. It contains no artificial colorings, preservatives, or flavorings. The main ingredients are sweet potatoes, sugar, and a small amount of salt. The sweetness is balanced to highlight the natural and simple flavor of the ingredients.

    It has a delightful taste and a smooth texture, making it a favorite among people of all ages. You can enjoy it as is or bake it in the oven for a sweet potato flavor or pan-fry it with butter or margarine for a Western twist, offering various delicious ways to savor it.


    The history of Imo Youkan dates back to the Edo period. During this time, people used to make simple sweet potato confections by steaming and mashing sweet potatoes, adding sugar, and molding them. Originally sold under the name “Bantaro Kashi,” along with other similar treats, they became popular during that time.

    In the Meiji era, Kobayashi Wasuke, a sweet potato and charcoal wholesaler in Asakusa, teamed up with Ishikawa Teikichi, his former coworker from a whiskey factory. Wanting to make sweet potato Youkan as an affordable alternative, they perfected the recipe, leading to the birth of Imo Youkan. Kobayashi, with his newfound knowledge of Japanese confectionery, opened the confectionery “Funawa” in 1902.

    Today, you can enjoy this sweet widely across Japan. It is particularly cherished as a specialty in sweet potato-producing regions like Kawagoe, Saitama.

    What types of sweet potatoes used in Imo Youkan?

    Let’s see what types of sweet potatoes they use to make Imo Youkan. If you are particular about taste, let’s also focus on the varieties of sweet potatoes.

    Beni Azuma & Naruto Kintoki

    Naruto Kintoki

    This variety of sweet potatoes is suitable for those who prefer a sweet and fluffy texture. The gentle sweetness and rich texture are the charming points. Some stores combine them with moist varieties, so explore your preferred texture.


    Annou Imo
    出典: Japapo

    For those who want to savor a sticky and rich sweetness. If you prefer intense sweetness, how about trying yokan made with Anno Imo? The high sugar content and sticky, creamy Anno Imo are perfect for those who enjoy a sweeter taste. It’s also a delightful point that many products are made without using sugar, highlighting the natural sweetness.

    Silk Sweet, Beni haruka, Beni masari

    Beni Haruka

    For those seeking a moist and smooth texture with sweetness. If you seek a moist texture, look for products made with Silk Sweet, Beniharuka, or Benimasari. All of them have a smooth mouthfeel, and you can enjoy a robust sweetness. If you prefer a refreshing sweetness, Silk Sweet is recommended, while Beniharuka or Benimasari are suitable for those who like stronger sweetness.

    Purple Sweet Potatoes

    Purple sweet potatoes

    For those who want a vibrant and moderately sweet, healthy enjoyment. If you’re looking for visually appealing yokan, choose those made with purple sweet potatoes. Varieties used in sweet potato yokan include Ayamurasaki, Tanegashima Purple Sweet Potato, and Purple Sweet Road. Many varieties have a restrained sweetness and are rich in anthocyanins. The charm lies in enjoying the beautiful and vibrant sweet potato yokan.

    Occasions and Seasons for Enjoying Imo Youkan

    In the world of traditional Japanese sweets, “Imo Youkan” stands out with its unique charm. This delicacy, renowned for its fluffy sweetness and special texture, holds a special place in various celebrations and daily teatime. Let’s explore the occasions and seasons that make Imo Youkan particularly delightful.

    Imo Yokan with sweet potatoes

    Teatime Delight

    Imo Youkan is a popular choice as a delightful companion to tea. Its subtle sweetness and smooth texture enhance the tea-drinking experience, making it a favored choice for those quiet moments of relaxation.

    Seasonal Celebrations

    Imo Youkan isn’t just limited to teatime; it also takes center stage during special seasonal celebrations. From New Year’s festivities to cherry blossom viewing in spring, and the serene autumn moon-viewing, Imo Youkan adds a touch of sweetness to these cherished moments.

    Ideal Timing in Cooler Months

    The prime season for savoring Imo Youkan’s delectable taste is during the colder months, mainly from autumn to winter. This is when sweet potatoes, the main ingredient, are freshly harvested, ensuring a market filled with the best produce for crafting this beloved sweet.

    As the temperature drops, there’s a natural inclination for warm and comforting sweets. Imo Youkan perfectly fits this preference with its gentle sweetness and comforting texture, making it a go-to treat to forget about the cold weather.

    Year-Round Delight

    What makes Imo Youkan even more special is its year-round availability. With sweet potatoes being accessible throughout the year, this delightful sweet can be enjoyed as a convenient and easily prepared snack, whether purchased from traditional sweet shops or made at home. Imo Youkan, with its versatility and seasonal significance, continues to captivate the taste buds of those who appreciate the beauty of Japanese confectionery throughout the changing seasons.

    Imo Youkan FAQ

    Is Imo Youkan suitable for diet?

    Imo Youkan generally has lower sugar and calorie content compared to regular Yokan and other Japanese sweets. However, it may not be suitable for those on strict sugar-restricted diets. Each slice (50g) contains approximately 18.3g of sugar and 79 kcal. While sweet potatoes contribute to the calorie count, it’s considered moderate in the context of whole food.

    If you’re on a low-carbohydrate diet, it’s advisable to be mindful of portion sizes. Despite its sugar content, Imo Youkan can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

    How long does Imo Youkan stay fresh?

    Imo Youkan has a good shelf life. When stored in a cool, dry place and kept in an airtight container, it can stay fresh for several weeks. Refrigeration can further extend its shelf life.

    How to make Imo Youkan at home?


    Ingredients (for 4 servings)Measurements
    Sweet potatoes250g
    Agar powder2g


    Prepare Sweet Potatoes

    Peel and slice sweet potatoes into 2cm thick rounds.


    Soak them in water to remove excess starch and bitterness.

    Boil Sweet Potatoes


    Boil sweet potatoes in ample water until they become soft.


    Drain and immediately mash them while still hot.

    Prepare Agar Mixture

    In a pot, dissolve agar powder in water and bring to a boil.


    Add sugar to the mixture. Ensure thorough dissolution as any remaining particles may prevent it from solidifying.

    Combine Ingredients

    Mix the mashed sweet potatoes into the agar mixture.


    Pour the mixture into a container and let it cool and solidify.


    Once set, cut it into bite-sized pieces. Your handmade Imo Youkan is ready to be served!

    Recommended restaurants/ stores

    Funawa (舟和)

    Funawa Main Branch store in Asakusa

    Welcome to Funawa, a cherished store with a history dating back to 1902. Located at the corner of Shin-Nakamise Street and Orange Street, Funawa proudly presents its standout creation, Imo Youkan. Founded by Kobayashi Wasuke, the store actively provides safe and delicious confections. Step into Funawa to enjoy the authentic flavors of Japanese sweets and savor the time-honored taste that has delighted generations of customers.

    Address (Main Branch): 1 Chome-22-10 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo
    Phone number: +81338422781
    Business hours: 10:30–19:30

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