‘Yaotsu Senbei’ is very famous in the town of Yaotsu. Made from flour mixed with sugar and eggs with added miso, sesame seeds or nuts and then baked, the snack has a simple yet nostalgic flavor. In Yaotsu, the method of making hand-baked senbei with double cropped wheat has been developed since the Taisho era (1912-1926). During a time when not many sweets were available, senbei was loved by everyone, regardless of age, as a snack that could also be a source of nutrition.
They say at its peak there were over 150 factories making Senbei in this small town. At one point, most of the wheat senbei sold at tourist locations was said to be manufactured in Yaotsu. There are even some funny stories of Yaotsu people who bought senbei as a souvenir on a trip to Kyushu, only to realize later that the senbei had been made in Yaotsu.
Currently there are 20 locations in town making and selling senbei. Each company developed their own unique tastes, flavors and new products. You can really tell the difference if you try them.
Senbei Hall on Honmachi-dori (Main St.) is the perfect place for some taste testing.
Inside, products from the Senbei shops who are members of the Senbei Cooperative (established during the Showa era - 1926-1989) are lined up on the shelves. Of course the products are replaced appropriately.
Of course it’s fun to visit each of the factories and try the senbei at each one, but if you don’t have time to make it to all of them or if you want to get every flavor in one trip, just stop by the Senbei Hall. One staff member said, “People visiting Yaotsu buy senbei as souvenirs,and local people often visit here to buy it as gifts too.”
They also shared some funny stories. This particular story is about a product they carry at the store called ‘Okonomiyakisoba Sen.’
There is a specialty dish in Hiroshima, called Hiroshima-yaki which is a combination of Okonomiyaki and Yakisoba. One Hiroshima snack company tried to replicate this combined taste, but it never turned out quite right. Instead they ordered this product manufactured in Yaotsu.
Yaotsu-made Okonomiyaki-flavored Senbei is now a popular item in Hiroshima. This episode highlights the great quality of senbei in Yaotsu. It is surely something to be proud of.