Wagashi is traditional Japanese sweets that are usually served with green tea. They have a wide variety of shapes, ingredients, consistencies, and preparation methods. Some are so popular that they’re served all year ’round across Japan while others are only served regionally or seasonally.
These delicious Japanese sweets are usually available at various cafes, temples, and restaurants. Also, if you’d like to take them home as gifts or souvenirs (omiyage), they can also be found at specialty sweet shops, convenience stores (konbini), department stores, and souvenir shops. However, be careful as they can be very fragile where you may find their shapes will have changed after any slight collision.
Kyoto and Tokyo’s Nakamise Shopping Street in Asakusa are only some of the ideal places to purchase some delicious wagashi.
In most wagashi, sweet red bean paste (anko) is the main ingredient where boiled red beans are sweetened with sugar, and then smashed to create smooth anko or chunky anko. Other common ingredients include mochi, rice flour, Japanese agar, chestnuts, sesame paste and so on.
Now, if you’re having trouble deciding which ones to choose from, here is a list of 6 wagashi that are a hit among tourists, and locals!
It is a fish-shaped snack with an anko mixture between 2 pancake batters. Modern taiyaki vary with their choice of fillings that can range from ice cream, chocolate, and so many other options.
It is best to eat taiyaki hot off the grill when it’s still crispy. It’s also very popular in Japan’s freezing winter as a nice winter-warming snack!
Yokan is a popular jelly-like sweet snack that tends to feature in anime. It’s made of sugar and Japanese agar, and its flavors vary from the likes of green tea, black sugar, and so on. It tends to have a longer shelf life as it can be refrigerated. A single serving of yokan is about the size of a piece of chewing gum, and the large versions need to be sliced before eating.
Dango is a skewer of three or four chewy sticky rice dumplings. It doesn’t have any fillings inside but tends to have sweet sauces drizzled over it. Apart from being a stand-alone snack, it can also be added as an ingredient in other snacks or desserts like a sundae. Also, it’s best to eat fresh and heated as it tends to become hard once it’s cooled down.
Daifuku is a round-shaped wagashi with smooth anko wrapped inside soft mochi. Potato starch is dusted slightly on it to prevent it from sticking to each other. Apart from smooth anko, others like ice cream, cheese and strawberry (the most popular option) may also be used as fillings. Like Dango, daifuku is better to be eaten fresh as it tends to go hard once it’ss exposed to air.
Everyone knows this one as it’s the popular character, Doraemon’s favorite! Traditionally, anko is sandwiched between two pancake-like patties. In modern variations, whipped cream, green tea, and others may be sandwiched instead.
This is the only wagashi served in a tea ceremony. It is made of rice flour and anko and then shaped delicately by hand to reflect the seasons. It is so fragile that is nearly impossible to take home as a souvenir, so I advise you to try it while traveling throughout Japan.
So there you go, what do you think? Do these traditional Japanese sweets take your fancy? If so, keep an eye out for them on your travel adventures and try them all!