tourism

Updating Tradition Through Rakugan and Art

Take a Sugary Dive into Buddhist Art and Culture: Visit a Local Temple and Make Rakugan Candied Sculptures (3.5hrs)

Rakugan with beautiful gradations
Craftsperson Tomoko Ooi
An offering to Seikouji Temple created by Rakushindo
Crafting one’s very own rakugan sculpture
The first stop, Seikouji Temple

Since ancient times, the Japanese people have paid respects to their ancestors and Buddha by offering rakugan, a hard candy made of two highly-valued ingredients throughout Japanese history: rice and sugar. Rakushindo Hompo is a confectionary shop that specializes in making rakugan used for religious offerings. The workshop is located in the Chikugo region of Fukuoka Prefecture, along a historical sugar trade route that stretched from Nagasaki to Tokyo during the Edo Period (1603-1868). Confectionery culture also flourished in Chikugo during the Meiji period (1868-1912), when confectioners provided sweets to coal miners in the industrializing region. Rakushindo gives an artistic update to tradition, making rakugan sculptures in over 100 different types of designs. In the Japanese countryside rich with natural beauty, learn about local Buddhist culture and enjoy a relaxing rakugan-making experience with an expert craftsperson.

  • Visit a unique workshop that creates a dazzling variety of designs and colorful gradations of rakugan sculptures
  • Learn rakugan-making techniques directly from an expert craftsperson, in the same studio where they work each day
  • Take an inside look into the main hall of a non-touristy Buddhist temple in the countryside
  • Learn about Buddhist culture directly from a temple's head monk and participate in a short sermon
  • Enjoy an exquisite pairing of matcha and rakugan
  • Take home the rakugan sculpture you make during the experience as a souvenir
Tomoko Ooi
Born in Fukuchi, Fukuoka Prefecture (formerly known as Kanada). After graduating high school, she studied at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo to become a fashion designer. After working in Tokyo, Ooi returned to Fukuchi in 2014 to take over the family business. She is currently the vice-director of Rakushindo Hompo.
Destination Info

Rakushindo Hompo

Unlike most confectioneries across Japan that make rakugan sweets for human consumption, Rakushindo is unique in that it specializes in making rakugan sculptures used for religious offerings, a craft that requires a particularly high level of skill and artistic sense. To make these elaborate creations, Rakushindo Hompo has developed over 200 different colors of rakugan through a process of trial and error, in contrast to a more standard set of 10 colors used by the majority of sweet makers. This variation in color allows Rakushindo to create its signature gradient designs. Rakushindo Hompo creates work in shapes and colors that reflect our modern moment, in order to pass on the beauty and spirit of this Japanese craft on to future generations.

Seikouji Temple

Seikouji is a local temple built over 100 years ago, belonging to the Hongwanji branch of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism. At the time, Kiyonaga Kyubei, who made a fortune off of coal mining, hired a temple and shrine carpenter from Kyoto to model the main hall of Seikouji after the head temple’s Amitabha Hall, harkening back to the Chikuho region’s former prosperity. One can hear the sounds of the temple’s head monk Tomonori Kiyonaga’s favorite jazz music fill this grandiose space, adding a calm and refined air. There is also a kindergarten on the temple grounds, and many events are held with local residents throughout the year. This is a temple deeply rooted in, and loved by, the local community.

Program Contents

Experience Buddhist Culture through a Community Temple

Enter the main hall of a local temple, Seikouji, rarely visited by people other than members of the congregation. The head monk will offer insights into Japanese Buddhism, the meaning of religious offerings, and the relationship between temples and their communities through a short lecture. He will perform a short Buddhist sermon afterwards for those who wish to participate. There will also be quizzes and other activities to help you relax and have fun.

Making Rakugan with Artisans

After arriving at Rakushindo Hompo, take a small breather while enjoying matcha tea and rakugan sweets. Craftsperson Tomoko Ooi will give a short lecture about rakugan, particularly those used for religious offerings. Afterwards, with the guidance of Ooi, perform the coloring, shaping, and decorating processes of making Rakushindo’s signature rakugan sculptures. Each rakugan holds one’s gratitude to Buddha and one’s ancestors within, and attaching them one-by-one to the offering pillar is quite the meditative and healing experience. This simple process of rakugan-making requires a lot of skill and artistic sense, something you can experience for yourself through this program.

Taking the rakugan out of its mould is harder than it looks
Under careful direction of an experienced craftsperson, anyone can make their own rakugan
Rakugan made in collaboration with the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime
You can take your finished rakugan home after the experience
Tour Code GFTG01
Dates Weekdays, Every 1st and 3rd Saturday 13:00~※ Please send us your preferred date(s) through the inquiry form. We will confirm availability with the workshop and notify you as soon as possible.※As the workshop’s busy season runs from June to August, tour applications will not be accepted during this period.
Duration 3.5 hours
Schedule
12:55

Gather at Seikouji Temple, reception.

13:00

Learn about Buddhist culture at Seikouji Temple (with a talk and optional short sermon by chief monk Tomonori Kiyonaga) and see Rakushindo’s rakugan on display. Afterwards, drive or taxi to Rakushindo Hompo.

14:00

After arriving at Rakushindo Hompo, take a breather with a cup of matcha tea and rakugan while craftsperson Tomoko Ooi gives a short lecture about the workshop and her craft. Afterwards, begin the rakugan making experience (including coloring, shaping, and decorating).

16:15

Wrap up your rakugan to take home. A final photo session concludes the program.

<Nearby Sights>

  • ※In the area of Agano, about a 10-minute drive from Seikouji Temple and Rakushindo Hompo, there are many Agano ware kilns, a Nationally Designated Important Cultural Property. You can see various works made by local potters on display at the Agano Pottery Museum (closed on Tuesdays).
  • ※The Hikosan River also flows through this area, and you can visit the majestic Fukuchiyama Mountain nearby. It’s a tranquil place that attracts many mountain climbers as well.
Languages JapaneseSupplementary explanations in English via translation device or lecture board can be provided upon request. Please make a note in the message box during registration to request this service.※An English interpreter can also be arranged for an additional fee. Please contact UNA Laboratories for more details.
Participants Minimum 2/Maximum 6
Meeting Place
Seikouji Temple
91 Nakaizumi, Nogata-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Via Public Transportation
Please take the JR Fukuhoku Yutaka Line from Hakata Station, bound for Nogata Station (approx. 1 hour) to the final stop, Nogata Station. Then transfer to the Heisei Chikuho Railway, bound for Tagawa Gotoji. After riding for about 8 minutes, please get off at Nakaizumi Station. The meeting place (Seikouji Temple) is about a 10 minute walk from Nakaizumi Station.
Via Car
It is about an hour drive from Hakata. Please use the free parking located at Seikouji Temple.

Seikouji Temple

Reservation Deadline 10 days before the start of the tour (for example, please reserve by October 5th for a tour that starts on October 15th)
Payment Method Advance payment at the time of reservation (VISA, Mastercard, Amex, JCB)
Attire Please refrain from wearing clothing that exposes a lot of skin (for example, miniskirts, tank tops, etc.)
Tour Conductor None
Note About Tour Conductors There will be no tour guide accompanying this program. Customers are responsible for managing their own itineraries.
Please Note
  • If you are coming by public transportation, UNA Laboratories will arrange a cab for transportation from Seikouji Temple to Rakushindo Hompo (about 1,800 yen in addition to the tour price). If you are coming by rental car or private car, please use your own vehicle.
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  • The tour will be held even in the event of rain, barring cases of inclement weather such as heavy rain or a typhoon.
  • All photos displayed on the website are for illustrative purposes only. As the workshop is not a tourist attraction, please note that the degree to which guests may enter the workshop may differ from day to day.
  • UNA Laboratories, Rakushindo Hompo, and Seikouji Temple shall not assume any responsibility for any accidents or injuries that may occur while moving between Seikouji and Rakushindo Hompo. For those going by car, please make sure exercise extra care during your journey.
  • Guests are under 6 may attend the tour accompanied by a parent or guardian. However, UNA Laboratories, Rakushindo Hompo, and Seikouji Temple shall not assume any responsibility for accidents/injuries that occur in the parking lot and/or during the tour. Especially within the workshop, pleases make sure to keep an eye on younger guests.
  • We advise taking out domestic travel insurance when participating in this tour.
Cancellation Policy 20 to 8 days before the day preceding the tour start date: 20% of the tour fee
7 to 2 days before the day preceding the tour start date: 30% of the tour fee
Day preceding the tour start date: 40% of the tour fee
Before departure on the tour start date: 50% of the tour fee
After the start of tour or no-show: 100% of the tour fee

UNA Laboratories COVID-19 Policy

UNA Laboratories is committed to ensuring the safety of our customers, staff, and community. In accordance with municipal, national, and industry guidelines for the prevention of infectious diseases, UNA Laboratories is implementing the following measures:

  1. 1. Guides will wear a face shield during tours.
  2. 2. Guests are requested to wear a mask.
  3. 3. Hand-sanitizing alcohol will be provided.
  4. 4. We will check your temperature and general physical condition at the start of the tour. UNA Laboratories reserves the right to refuse tour participation if a customer’s temperature is over 37 degrees Celsius.
  5. 5. We strive to maintain adequate social distance throughout the tour, so the maximum number of participants will be capped at six.

Travel Planning: Implementation

  • UNA Laboratories Inc. (Fukuoka Prefectural Governor Registration #2-951)
  • 3-12-22-302 Yakuin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture 810-0022
  • TEL: 092-982-7956E-MAIL: tour@unalabs.jp
  • Domestic Certified Travel Supervisors:
    Aya Tamura, Noriko Yahata, Rei Watanabe
  • Business Hours:
    9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday (Closed Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays)
  • *Requests received outside of business hours will be processed the following business day.
  • *Domestic Certified Travel Supervisors are responsible for transactions held at the sales office that processes customers’ travel. Please do not hesitate to contact the aforementioned Domestic Certified Travel Supervisors with any questions or concerns regarding the travel contract.

Tour Information

Dates
Weekdays, Every 1st and 3rd Saturday 13:00~※ Please send us your preferred date(s) through the inquiry form. We will confirm availability with the workshop and notify you as soon as possible.※As the workshop’s busy season runs from June to August, tour applications will not be accepted during this period.
※This program is scheduled to begin Spring 2021. If you would like to be notified when registration opens, please fill out the form below.
Duration
3.5 hours
Recommended Age
None
Price
10,000 yen
(includes tax and material fee)

※Guests under 12 can accompany a parent or guardian on the studio and temple visit (without rakugan making) for free.