April 20, 2019
by Kanae Hamano & Shiho Fujinami
Do you know about the Japanese sweets called, wagashi? Wagashi is a whole category of confectionary made using traditional production techniques in Japan. In addition, Kyoto is famous for wagashi, as there are many well-established Japanese sweet shops throughout the city.
Wagashi is a term used to differentiate traditional Japanese sweets from European-style confectionary, which first made its appearance in Japan after the Meiji period. Wagashi includes mochigashi (Japanese rice cake), youkan (azuki bean jelly), manju (sweet buns) and senbei (rice crackers). Wagashi rarely uses oil, fat, spice or dairy products in comparison with European-style confectionery. Instead, grains, beans, starch and sugar are its main ingredients. Also, green tea is commonly used to make Wagashi. Finally, wagashi is closely associated with the four seasons of the year. This is because it is often used for annual functions and as gifts in Japan.
History of Wagashi
In 1800, an envoy from China, named Kentoshi, brought some sweets to Japan. One of those was danki, which was a fried sweet with persimmons, chestnuts, and apricot with black sugar. It was the first time for sugar to come to Japan. In modern times, Japanese people eat yokan with Japanese green tea. But originally, yokan from China contained mutton and was eaten with meat soup. When the Chinese envoy brought yokan to Japan, Japanese people avoided eating meat. So, the Japanese substituted azuki (red beans) for the mutton. In the latter half of 1500, Christian culture had begun to take root in Japan. At that time, kasutera (Japanese sponge cake), was brought in by Portugal. Once in Japan, these sweets spread all over the country. These are the origins of wagashi.Below are some famous wagashi shops in Kyoto.
The first shop is Mangetsu, which is a famous shop founded in 1856. It specializes in making Ajarimochi, which is a specific type of manju. Manju itself is a traditional Japanese sweet made by wrapping flavored ingredients, such as azuki bean (red bean) jam in kneaded dough made from wheat or other ingredients. Ajarimochi, however, is baked and it consists of sweet bean paste sandwiched between chewy dough. The bean paste in Ajarimochi is tsubuan (mashed sweet bean paste) made from Tanba dinagon azuki , which is a local red bean of a large grain. It also happens to be very delicious and very affordable. Just one piece costs 108 yen. It is wonderful that you can taste something so delicious, yet so inexpensive. In addition, there are sets of 10 pieces for 1,188 yen, 15 pieces for 1,836 yen, 30 pieces for 3,456 yen, and so on. The expiration date is only five days from the date of manufacture, and it is possible to store it at normal temperature. We recommend you to buy it as a souvenir, but it should eaten soon.
In 1803, this Japanese confectionary store was founded in Kyoto. It is famous for yokan, which is like a bar of gelatinous sweet bean paste. One of its main characteristics is that its design and taste are associated with the 4 seasons. They are also iconic of Kyoto confectionary, so you can experience Kyoto by eating yokan. This shop is famous for not only yokan, but also kyokanze, which is a Japanese sweet shaped like a spiral, giving an image of water ripples. The black part is Ogura bean paste and the light-colored part is a type of candy called murasame. It is a wagashi which allows us to enjoy its texture. One piece is sold for 260 yen. It is a representative wagashi of this shop. The taste of Kyokanze changes with the seasons, so you can enjoy the taste of each season when you visit in Kyoto at different times of the year.
This shop was founded in Kyoto in the late Muromachi period (1338-1573) and has been in business for five centuries. Currently it is opening stores in Tokyo, too. They are famous for their yokan. They offer many flavors, so you can get your favorite taste. In addition to Yokan, they also sell monaka (red-bean-paste-filled wafers), baked goods, and green tea. Each monaka has a nicknames, for example Yasaka, which is the most basic one. It is made by stuffing sweet bean paste into chrysanthemum shaped leather. ‘Yasaka’ means flourish and because the chrysanthemum flower is a noble and congratulatory flower, so it was named Yasaka (弥栄). Therefore, if you celebrate someone or some event, I recommend you to purchase it.
Address Imadegawa Marikouzidori, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-city, Kyoto prefecture
Phone number: 075-791-4121
Business hours: 9:00-18:00
Nearest station about 7 minutes on foot from Keihan Demachiyanagi station
Address Imadegawadori Horikawa Nishi, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto-city, Kyoto prefecture
Phone number: 075-441-0105
Business Hours: 9:00-18:00
Nearest station about 10 minutes on foot from Kyoto subway Imadegawa station
Address 415 Hirohashidono-cho, Ichizyokado, Karasumadori, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto-city, Kyoto prefecture
Phone number: 075-441-3111
Business hours: 9:00-19:00 (weekdays)
9:00-18:00 (weekends, holidays)
Nearest station about 7 minutes on foot from Kyoto subway Imadegawa station