Japanese Confectionery Wagashi and Wa-sweet

November 24, 2019

by Rio Yamada & Hazuki Yamagata

Japan has the particular confectioneries called wagashi (wa= means Japanese, gashi=菓子 means snack) that is a good old and traditional confectioneries, and trendy confectioneries called wa-sweets that has gained popularity in recent years, especially among young people. This article shows the history and features of wagashi that has been loved for many years, and the history and features of wa-sweets that are similar not only to Japanese people but also tourists and foreigners who are interested in Japanese food. This article also shows that the differences and the common point between this two topics.

The history of wagashi

Wagashi is Japanese traditional sweets. The origin of wagashi is that ancient Japanese started to eat fruits, and Chinese sweets came from China during the Heian Period (794-1185). Since then, the prototype of wagashi was established. However wagashi that was eaten at that time, has not kept its shape today. Many kinds of wagahsi that are still eaten, were developed in Edo Period (1603-1867). The Word “wagashi” is a term that began to be used as the antonym of “western confectionery”. Western sweets entered Japan from Europe since the Meiji Period ( 1868-1912).

The features of wagashi

Generally, wagashi is made to eat with green tea. It has strong link with four seasons in Japan. A high quality of moist confectionery called jo-namagashi expresses the sense of the seasons, not only the taste but also the visual beauty. As a one of main features of wagashi, these confectioneries do not use any dairy products such as butter, eggs, cheese, and milk, and they are also without any animal food products. It uses flour made from rice, such as rice-cake flour and glutenous rice flour. Another feature of this snack is the use of agar as a coagulant. Wagashi is made by using lots of sugar such as caster sugar, and wasanbon, which is Japanese refined sugar. There are typical wagashi sweets, such as manju (sweet bun), yokan (sweet vean jelly), mame-daifuku (mochi cake with beans), and senbei (rice cracker).


The differences between kyogashi and wagashi

There are some differences between kyogashi made in Kyoto and wagashi. Wagashi is a snack called cha-uke (tea ceremony) which is served with green tea, but on the other hand, kyogashi is used for events and ceremonies that are held in the Imperial Court and among the Court Nobles as offering sweets.


What are wa-sweets?

In recent year, wa-sweets have grown in popularity. Wa-sweets refers to sweets using Japanese and Western ingredients such as chiffon cake that is kneaded with kinako (roasted soybean poder) and matcha (powdered green tea), and bramanje that is made by using tofu. In this way, in wa-sweets, Japanese food ingredients are blended with a western confecionery. Most traditional Japanese food has a low calories and it is good for health. That is why wa-sweets have started to gathering a lot of attention.

There is no clear standard, but sweets that use lots of Japanese ingredients are called wa-sweets. Wa-sweets are often made by using butter and fresh cream similar to sweets that are made for Western confectionery. It can be said that wa-sweets are similar to Western-style sweets.

matcha cake

The history of wa-sweets

There are some theories that matcha sweets which are made of matcha has become popular such as Haagen-Dazs matcha flavor that was released in 1996. Matcha flavor ice cream became the second most popular product, after vanilla flavor, of the total sales of Haagen-Dazs. Matcha flavored ice cream started to added to the standard ice cream flavors because Haagen-Dazs matcha flavored ice cream became popular. In 2001, Starbucks also began to sell “Matcha Cream Frappuccino“. Because matcha started to be recognized widely as a standard flavor, wa-sweets have become world-famous as well .

The features of wa-sweets

Wa-sweets have many features. The first one is that they use animal food products often. The second one is that they have a lot of calories, a high fat content, and a high sugar content because wa-sweets are made by using high calories foods such as flour, sugar, and fresh cream. The third one in that these sweets use dairy products such as butter, eggs, cheese, and milk. The last one is that wa-sweets are made with gelatin as coagulant.

The differences between wagashi and wa-sweets

There are some differences between wagashi and wa-sweets. Wagashi are not be made by using dairy products like wa-sweets because Japan did not run dairy farming. Mostly, wa-sweets are made of azuki (red beans), ingen-mame (green beans), mochi-gome (glutinous rice), mizuame (starch syrup), sugar, and kudzu. However, the base of wa-sweets is close to Western confectioneries, therefore it is made by using not only dairy products but also another various ingredients.

The similarities between wagashi and wa-sweets

There are some similarities between wagashi and wa-sweets. Both of them are made by using Japanese flavors such as azuki, matcha, and kinako. Wa-sweets is a snack that is combined western-style confections with wagashi, but also it is made by using Japanese ingredients, its look is mostly simple and rustic like wagashi.

matcha tiramisu

On the whole

Recently, the popularity of wa-sweets and wagashi have been increasing. Wagashi is Japanese traditional confectionary that has been around for long time, while wa-sweets are new Japanese sweets that are gradually getting popular in Japan. Different snacks have different attractions, but both of them are made with Japanese ingredients. Because wa-sweets were born, the attention of wagashi has been increasing as well. These snacks will continue to get popular not only inside the nation, but also overseas.


Yuri Kamakura, Akane kaneta


I daifuku in vetrina

Yoroken è un vecchio negozio di daifuku
Daifuku è un tipo di wagashi (dolci giapponesi) che consiste di pasta di riso (mochi) usualmente ripiena di marmellata di fagioli azuki (an).

Ma da Yoroken è popolare il daifuku ripieno di frutta invece che di marmellata di azuki. In particolare è molto rinomato il daifuku con ripieno di mandarini (mikan), che, essendo molto succosi, conferiscono al dolce un ottimo sapore.

L’interno del negozio


Italian daifuku

Daifuku all’arancia








La frutta del ripieno cambia a seconda della stagione. Per esempio, in estate ci sono il mirtillo, il kiwi, l’arancia, l’ananas (ananas) e il “daifuku italiano” con il pomodorino.


Noi abbiamo scelto di mangiare il daifuku al kiwi e quello alla crema di mango. Sono molto aromatici e buonissimi!!!

Se venite a Kyoto non mancate di provare i deliziosi daifuku all frutta di Yoroken.

Le autorici con daifuku al kiwi e alla crema di mango

I daifuku che abbiamo scelto










L’esterno del negozio

INDIRIZZO: Mibunishidoinouchicho 21, Nakagyouku, Kyotoshi


ACCESSO : Ci si può arrivare facilmente con i treni delle compagnie Keifuku o Hanshin, scendendo alla stazione di Saiin. Dista un minuto a piedi dalla stazione.

URL:  http://kyoto-yoroken.com/access.html


GIORNI DI CHIUSURA :  martedì, giovedì


Children’s Day Food

by Miyuki Nakanishi & Mayuka Yamada

May 5th is Tango-no-Sekku or Children’s Day in Japan. It is a national holiday on which parents hope their children - especially boys – stay safe and healthy. Families with boys display a samurai helmet replica or samurai doll inside of their home and fly koinobori (carp streamers) outside their houses. The samurai helmets serve as guardian gods to keep bad luck away from boys. It also protects the inside of the house.

On the other hand, koinobori is for outside the house. It is similar to a series of flags shaped like carp. Carp have been regarded as a lucky and strong fish since ancient times, so they are symbols of success in life in Japan. Parents fly koinobori in the sky with hopes of their children’s success.

On Children’s Day, people eat chimaki, which is a kind of Japanese rice cake, and kashiwamochi, a Japanese sweet, in hopes of their children growing up strong and healthy. Kashiwamochi is generally eaten in the Kanto area of Japan, which on the east side of the main island, Honshu. On the other hand, chimaki is generally eaten in the Kansai area, which on the western side of Honshu.

Chimaki is famous for not only being eaten on Children’s Day, but also in the famous and traditional Gion Festival of Kyoto. In this way, chimaki is connected with Kyoto culture.

More About Chimaki



On May 5th of each year, people in Kyoto usually eat chimaki, which is made from Japanese arrowroot rice cakes (kuzdumochi), sweetened and jellied bean paste (yokan), dango (balls of powdered grain, boiled and put in bean paste), and corn wrapped with a bamboo leaf and steamed.
Chimaki was introduced from China to Japan in the Nara Period (710~794) or Heian Period (794~1185). In those days, people made it as a preserved food, which was made from glutinous rice, wrapped in Japanese pampas grass, and simmered.

In addition, some people think that chimaki was named after wrapped food (maku) with Japanese pampas grass (chigaya). But today it is wrapped with a bamboo leaf, not chigaya. This new way was invented by Kawabata Doki, a master of rice cake stores in those days. The Emperor asked him to make something with kudzu from Yoshino which was one of the gifts dedicated to the Emperor by his citizens. Kudzu is very soft, so it cannot be wrapped with a fine leaf like chigaya, so he used a leaf of bamboo for yokan chimaki, and gave it as a present to the Emperor. This is the origin of doki chimaki. In this way, chimaki has become a Japanese confection, especially in Kyoto.

Kawabata Doki

Chimaki of Kawabata Doki

Chimaki of Kawabata Doki

Over 500 years ago, Susumu Watanabe founded a rice cake store called, Watanabe Yashichiro. Doki was the name of his son-in-law, who helped him run the store. In those days, the Muromachi shogunate was getting weak and the finance of the Imperial Court was poor and they were short of food. Therefore, Susumu and Doki considered the situation and they presented a meal for the Emperor every day. Soon it became a custom to present rice cakes wrapped with salted bean paste called oasamono every morning and it continued until the Meiji Emperor had moved to Tokyo. That’s why chimaki of Kawabata Doki is one of the cakes most representative of Kyoto.

Now Kawabata Doki sells two kinds of doki chimaki: suisen chimaki and yokan chimaki. The former is cake made with kudzu from the Yoshino area of Nara Prefecture, while the latter is made with sweet bean jelly mixed with the kudzu from Yoshino. The refined sweetness, softness and scent of bamboo leaves are characteristic of these chimaki.




Kashiwamochi, or ‘Oak Leaf Rice Cake’, is another kind of Japanese cake eaten on Children’s Day in Japan. It is made by steaming rice powder, making it round and flat, and wrapping it with a piece of oak leaf. It also contains sweet bean paste, or an.

People in Kyoto prefer to make Kashiwamochi with misoan, made from shiromiso (sweeter than normal miso), rather than with koshian or tsubuan, which are normal bean pastes. The difference in bean pastes used is indicated by the right side and the wrong side of the oak leaf. In case of misoan, the mochi is wrapped with the oak leaf right side out. Koshi-an, however, is wrapped with the oak wrong side out.

People have eaten Kashiwamochi on Children’s Day since the Edo period. Originally, oak leaves were respected as a religious plate on which to put food for the gods. Also, oak leaves typically fall after budding in spring, when the new shoots pop up out of the ground. Therefore oak was regarded as a good luck tree to bring families prosperity of their descendants. It also became a celebratory leaf in samurai society. In this way, today Kashiwamochi has become another popular food associated with Children’s Day.

Where to Buy Chimaki and Kashiwamochi

You can buy chimaki and kashiwamochi at most of the Japanese cake stores from the middle of April to May 5th or even until the end of May. In addition, some supermarkets sell kashiwamochi around the Children’s day.

Shop Information

On-Chimaki-shi Kawabata Doki (御ちまき司 川端道喜)
Address: Minami Nonogami-cho 2-12, Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Tel: 075-781-8117

Hours: 9:30am to 5:30pm
Closed: Wednesday, August, from January to around February 3rd (for public people)

Access: Subway Karasuma Line Kitayama Station Exit1. 5minutes walk
Note: You can buy Chimaki at Kawabata Doki any time of the year except in January and August. However, advanced orders are required, especially in the weeks leading up to Children’s Day.

Cafe Buzz

da Rikako Ono & Yurika Kusano

Il Cafe Buzz è un locale specializzato in shiratama-dango. Prima vi  vogliamo parlare di shiratama-dango e wa-sanbon, che si usa sempre in questo negozio, poi vi presentiamo il menu.


Shiratama-dango sono gnocchi di farina di riso. La farina per shiratama è un tipo di farina di riso, fatta con il riso che si usa per la farina dei mochi, seguendo però un diverso processo di lavorazione.

Come si fa la farina dei mochi

Si lava con l’acqua il riso per mochi, si fa asciugare, poi si macina e si fa seccare.

Come si fa la farina per shiratama

Si lava con l’acqua il riso per mochi, lo si mette a bagno nell’acqua, si macina il riso nell’acqua, lo si fa andare a fondo, e poi si fa seccare. Si macina poi ancora più finemente per ottenere la farina e lo si fa seccare.

In confronto alla farina per mochi, la farina per shiratama richiede più tempo di lavorazione. Quindi questi gnocchi di riso cotti a vapore diventano molto lisci. La farina per shiratama si è diffusa in Giappone durante l’epoca Edo, quando anche la gente del popolo è diventata capace di comprare alimentari prima rari come lo zucchero e la marmellata di fagioli azuki.


“Wa-sanbon” è una specie di zucchero che si produce tradizionalmente, sopratutto nelle prefetture di Kagawa e di Tokushima, ecc. Lo zucchero originariamente importato dalla Cina si chiamava kara-sanbon (zucchero cinese), e quindi quando si cominciò a produrlo anche in Giappone lo si chiamò wa-sanbon, cioè “zucchero giapponese”.

Processo di lavorazione:

La materia prima di wa-sanbon è la canna da zucchero, in particolare un tipo chiamato chikuto (letteralmente “zucchero di bambù). Dopo che si è spremuta la canna da zucchero raccolta a fine autunno, si neutralizza il succo ottenuto facendolo reagire con la calce, poi lo si filtra e lo si fa cristallizzare. Si impasta il prodotto che risulta, chiamato shiroshitato, con acqua in un vassoio, e lo si macina finemente per ottenere i grani di zucchero (questo processo si chiama togi). In seguito si mette lo zucchero in un tessuto di lino, lo si depone in un’apposito contenitore chiamato oshibune (un tipo di imbarcazione, ma si può tradurre letteralmente come “vascello per comprimere”), dove viene compattato con dei pesi. Il processo è ripetuto alcune volte, a alla fine lo zucchero viene fatto seccare per una settimana, dopodiché il prodotto è completo.

Il nome wa-sanbon deriva deriva dal fatto che la lavorazione chiamata togi viene fatta tre volte su un vassoio (sanbon significa letteralmente “tre vassoi”). Tuttavia recentemente sia togi sia il compattamento con oshibune si fanno più di cinque volte per aumentare la bianchezza del prodotto.

Grazie a questo processo di lavorazione, wa-sanbon ha una grana simile allo zucchero in polvere, una dolcezza non eccessiva e un buon retrogusto. Ma siccome, oltre a richiedere una lavorazione lunga e complessa, lo si produce solo nei periodi di bassa tempuratura, wa-sanbon è considerato un prodotto di lusso.

Il menu di Cafe Bazz

Il menu

In questa foto si vede tè verde in polvere e dango con kazari-e. Il tè non è molto amaro e si beve senza problemi. I piatti con cui si servono i prodotti sono decorati con un disegno fatto con lo zucchero wa-sanbon, che rappresenta una scena tipica della Kyoto tradizionale. Questi disegni si chiamano Kyo-kazari-e (“disegni ornamentali di Kyoto”).
In questa foto si vede Il dango spalmato di wa-sanbon. Anche se è un peccato, il dango si deve mangiare spalmato nello zucchero della decorazione.Ci sono anche piatti senza kazari-e, ma vi raccomandiamo vivamente di scegliere quelli decorati!
zuppa di fagioli rossi In questa foto si vede shiruko, la zuppa di fagioli rossi dolci con shiratama-dango, servita in un piatto con un kazari-e che rappresenta una maiko (vedi sotto), e con contorno di tsukemono (ortaggi in salamoia tradizionali) tipici di Kyoto.
Questo locale è uno dei preferiti dalle maiko, le giovani geishe di Kyoto, e alla parete sono appesi ventagli usati dalle maiko come biglietti da visita. Non mancate di contemplare questa scena tipica della Kyoto tradizionale!
Inoltre nel locale c’è un angolo dove sono esposti vari oggetti ornamentali fatti a mano, come ad esempio pendagli, tazze da tè verde in polvere ecc. Il tè verde in polvere (maccha) del locale si puòbere in queste tazze.


Ci sono 28 posti a sedere, e il personale può comunicare in inglese con gli stranieri. Non c’è parcheggio, ed è vietato fumare in tutto il locale.

INDIRIZZO: Gojobashihigashi 6-538-37, Higashiyamaku, Kyotoshi 605-0846

TELEFONO: 075-525-0100

ACCESSO: Si prende l’autobus numero 100 dalla stazione JR di Kyoto, si scende alla fermata di Gojozaka e si cammina per 7 minuti. Oppure si scende alla stazione di Kiyomizugojoeki della linea ferroviaria Keihan di Keihandentetsu e si cammina per 13 minuti.

ORARIO DI APERTURA: 10.30-18.00 (Quando shiratama-dango è esaurito il negozio chiude.)


Les gâteaux de Kyôto “kyogashi”

de Seika Kitade et de Hiroki Ikeda


Il y a beaucoup de gâteaux japonais originaires de Kyôto. On les appelle les «kyogashi» (京菓) : Kyo de Kyôto et gashi veut dire gâteau.

A l’époque Edo (1603-1867), des pâtissiers  ont imaginé plusieurs pâtisseries japonaises à déguster avec du thé vert en hommage à l’empereur du moment. Mais, les gâteaux de Kyôto, ce n’était pas seulement un gâteau réservé aux nobles, c’était aussi un gâteau destiné aux gens du pays, par exemple : le gâteau de riz pilé appelé «mochi»,  le «dango», une boulette de ce même riz pilé, et le «manju», gâteau fourré de pâte de haricots rouges.

Chaque gâteau est très simple et très bon. Normalement, on déguste ces gâteaux avec du thé vert, on ne boit pas de café ni d’autre thé mais maintenant c’est possible dans plusieurs salons de thé. La plupart des Japonais pensent que manger les gâteaux de Kyôto avec du thé vert est la meilleure combinaison et nous aussi, nous pensons cela aussi.


On trouve beaucoup de magasins qui proposent ces pâtisseries traditionnelles à côté des temples et des sanctuaires. En voici quelques exemples.

Le sanctuaire shinto de Fushimi Inari

Il est célèbre pour son gâteau en forme de tête de renard (le renard est l’emblème du temple) qui ressemble à une fouace.

célèbres toriis au sanctuaire shinto Fushimi Inari


gâteau en forme de tête de renard



Le sanctuaire Kamigamo jinja

Il est connu pour son gâteau à base de riz fourré de pâte de haricots rouges.


yakimochi, gâteau fait à base de riz, fourré de pâte de haricots rouges


dans le sanctuaire Kamigamo jinja


entrée du sanctuaire Kamigamo jinja



présentoire de gâteaux divers



magasin de souvenirs où l'on trouve ces gâteaux


Le sanctuaire Yoshida est connu comme le haut lieu de la pâtisserie traditionnelle japonaise.


torii à l’entrée du sanctuaire Yoshida


Il y a environ 1 950 ans, en février de l’année 61 de l’ère Yayoi 弥生 (vers  400 av.J.-C. - 250 ap. J.-C.), l’empereur Suinin a demandé à Tajimamori, fils d’un prince coréen qui est venu vivre au Japon et qui a obtenu la nationalité japonaise, d’aller dans les pays du sud, en Chine du sud et en Asie du sud-est, en Inde pour rapporter des mandarines. On disait que c’était l’endroit de l’Utopie, sans âge et où l’on ne meurt pas ! Probablement, l’empereur Suinin rêvait d’une vie éternelle. On dit que ce fruit serait à l’origine des gâteaux traditionnels japonais. Tajimamori a été déifié comme le dieu des gâteaux dans le sanctuaire Kaso qui se trouve dans le sanctuaire Yoshida.


dans le sanctuaire Kaso




Comment aller au sanctuaire Yoshida ?

Depuis la gare de Kyôto (京都), prendre le bus 206 de la ville de Kyôto (les bus verts) en direction de Kitaôji bus terminal (東山通り 北大路バスターミナル), et descendre à l’arrêt Kyôdaiseimonmae, devant l’université de Kyôto (京大正門前). Ce temple se trouve à 5 minutes à pied de l’arrêt de bus en direction de l’est. Le ticket du bus coûte 220 yens.


Le sanctuaire Shimogamo jinja

On dit que le salon de thé Kamomitarashi est à l’origine de la boulette mitarashidango. La forme de ce gâteau a été créé en imitant une bulle apparaissant sur l’étang Mitarashi du sanctuaire Shimogamo jinja. Dans ce salon de thé, elles sont présentées en brochette de cinq. C’est un peu spécial parce que la boulette la plus haute est un peu éloignée des quatres autres. Cela représente un corps d’homme. La partie la plus haute est la tête, et les autres, les bras et les jambes. Il y a aussi une autre théorie qui dit qu’elles représentent des bulles de l’étang.



étang Mitarashi dans le sanctuaire



dans le sanctuaire Shimogamo jinja





entrée du sanctuaire Shimogamo jinja

Comment aller au sanctuaire Shimogamo jinja ?

Depuis la gare de Kyôto (京都), prendre les bus 4 ou 205 de la ville de Kyôto en direction du temple de Kamigamo jinja (上賀茂神社) ou de Shijôkawaramachi Kitaôji bus terminal (四条河原町 北大路バスターミナル) et descendre à l’arrêt shimogamojinjamae, devant le temple Shimogamo (下賀茂神社前). Cela vous coûtera 220 yens.


brochettes de boulettes Mitarashi


salon de thé Kamomitarashi


Les boulettes sont faites à base de riz blanc pilé et la sauce marron que vous voyez s’appelle tare. Elle est faite avec de la sauce de soja, du sucre, de la fécule. Il y a aussi un peu de saké de cuisine (mirin). Le salon de thé Kamo mitarashi où l’on peut manger ce gâteau est très célèbre. Il se trouve près du sanctuaire.

Le temple Kitanotenmangu

Ici, on peut manger deux types de gâteaux de Kyôto : «chôgorômochi» et «awamochi». Le «mochi» est du riz bouilli pilé. Chaque 25 du mois, il y a un grand marché aux puces où l’on peut trouver ces gâteaux. A la fin de l’époque Muromachi (1336 -1573), il y avait déjà un salon de thé à côté du temple. De 1573 à 1592, Chôgorô Kawachiya qui était un simple habitant du quartier du temple Kitanotenmangu, a commencé à vendre des gâteaux faits à base de riz qui sont devenus très populaires. A cette époque-là, on trouvait des  gâteaux recouverts de pâte de haricots rouges, mais il avait innové en mettant la pâte de haricots à l’intérieur du gâteau. C’était très original. Ainsi, ce gâteau a été utilisé pour accompagner le thé vert par Hidetoshi Toyotomi, un général de l’époque Azuchi-Momoyama (1573-1603). On peut acheter et manger ces gâteaux dans ce temple.


magasin de chôgorômochi


gâteaux appelés chôgorômochi


«awamochi» : ce gâteau est né aussi à l’ère Muromachi. A cette époque, il a enchanté beaucoup de gens. Il est fait avec du millet (céréale jaune) parce que ce n’était pas cher donc on les faisait plus facilement que maintenant. C’est plus rare d’en manger de nos jours. Mais encore aujourd’hui, beaucoup de gens vont au temple Kitanotenmangu  pour en manger. Il y a un salon de thé où on peut les déguster. Il y a aussi le magasin Yamamoto en face du temple où on peut en acheter. Près de ce magasin, à 2 ou 3 maisons plus loin, se trouve le salon de thé Sawaya (澤屋). On nous les prépare dès la commande passée donc ils sont très frais. C’est ouvert de 9h à 17h tous les jours sauf les jeudi et 26 de chaque mois.


salon de thé Sawaya



gâteau awamochi


Comment aller à Kitanotenmangu ?

Depuis la gare de Kyôto (京都), prendre le bus 50 de la ville de Kyôto en direction de l’université de Ritsumeikan (立命館大学) ou le bus numéro 101, en direction de Kitaôji bus terminal (北大路バスターミナル) et descendre à l’arrêt Kitanotenmangumae devant le temple (北野天満宮前). Cela vous coûtera 220 yens.



bus vert de la ville de Kyôto


La culture du thé vert est depuis longtemps liée à la culture de Kyôto et de même pour les gâteaux de Kyôto qui sont tout aussi historiques puisqu’on les déguste avec une tasse de thé vert.

Si vous venez à Kyôto et que vous visitez des temples ou des sanctuaires, nous vous recommandons de goûter aux «kyogashi». Il y a toujours des salons de thé proches des temples. C’est une façon agréable de connaître la culture de Kyôto.




by Chiaki Imanaka

“Aburimochi” is a traditional kind of sweet found in Kyoto, and its connection to a particular shrine in Kyoto has ancient roots. In the year 1000 A.D., plague spread throughout the Kyoto area. In response to this, Imamiya Shrine was built, in 1001, as a place to worship, and pray that the plague would not decimate even more of the population. Despite this act of faith, the plague returned to wreak havoc again and test the people of the area. Thereafter, people started to put aburimochi in front of the shrine and prayed for good health as part of the Yasurai festival. This festival is a public event held in the spring, and during it people wish for good health as they eat aburimochi. There are people who wear formal dress, dress as demons, dance, play flutes, drums, and so on. This festival takes place on the second Sunday of April each year. Now, it has become a custom, after visiting the shrine, to eat aburimochi in order to prevent sickness.

The making of aburimochi is quite simple. The rice cake is cut into thumb-sized pieces, and dusted with soybean flour. Following this, the pieces are threaded one by one onto a skewer made of bamboo. The tip of the skewer is forked so that the rice cake pieces don’t slide off the skewer during toasting. After visitors have placed their order, the salesperson toasts the rice cakes, until they are a little burned, over a charcoal fire. Next, they are dipped into a sweet sauce made from white miso and presented to the customer. Finally, you can smell the fragrant aroma of freshly-toasted aburimochi, very delicious and not too sweet. You can take aburimochi home with you, of course, but eating it freshly-toasted is the nicest. If you take it home for later, it will likely be hard by the time you get back.

There are two stores selling aburimochi in front of Imamiya Shrine’s east gate; “Ichiwa” and “Kazariya”. Most visitors have a hard time deciding which store they would like to enter, and the staff of each vie for their custom most enthusiastically. Both shops have a long and interesting history, so I would like to introduce Ichiwa and Kazariya to you here.



This store has been open since 1002, and there is an old well located here from which water still springs even now, and it is this water that is used in the making of aburimochi. This well has been here since 1002, and has been used as the location for the filming of numerous period dramas. They also have a cooking oven in a recess inside the store, which uses a firewood fire for boiling glutinous rice in order to make the rice cakes. Beyond this, there is a small yard and a Japanese-style room with a tatami floor, a jar and a scroll hanging on the wall. You can stretch out your legs here, relax, and admire the hanging scroll and jar, which are changed according to the season. Why don’t you try to visit here every season to see the changes?





Open: 10:00~17:00
Closed:Every Wednesday, and the 1st and 15th of each month
(When the 1st or 15th is a Wednesday, the store will be closed on the following day, Thursday)
Address: Imamiya Shrine, east gate, south side, 69, Murasakino Imamiya-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu
Tel: 075-492-6852



This store has been open since 1656. They also have a cooking oven, a small yard, a Japanese- style room and a hanging scroll. Many famous Japanese people have paid a visit to this store.

Cooking Oven

In the garden

Inside the garden

Dining Area

Open: 10:00~17:00
Closed: Every Wednesday, and the 1st and 15th of each month
(When the 1st or 15th is a Wednesday, the store will be closed on the following day, Thursday)
Address: Imamiya Shrine, east gate, south side, 96, Murasakino Imamiya-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu
Tel: 075-491-9402

In both stores, you can buy aburimochi for 500 yen for one person. Also, you can get a take-out from 1500 yen for 3 persons. After you have visited Imamiya Shrine, you should try to eat aburimochi at Ichiwa or Kazariya at least once. If you don’t feel you have had enough to eat, why not try to eat a little more in both stores? The salespeople do say there seems to be some difference between the two. Enjoy your visit to Imamiya Shrine and the wonderful Kyoto traditional sweet of aburimochi.

Dango Shops Near Temples & Shrines

by Miho Hattori

Have you ever eaten dango? Dango is a Japanese traditional dessert which consists of sticky-sweet dumplings made from rice cake powder (mochiko). The dumplings are usually served on wooden skewers holding between three and five dango apiece. Dango have been eaten for a long time and there are many different varieties. I will introduce you to dango shops which are near temples and shrines of the northern, southern, eastern and western areas of Kyoto. Why don’t you try dango after looking around temples and shrines?

North: Kamo Mitarashi Chaya

There are many famous temples and shrines in the northern area, for example the Kamigamo and Shimogamo shrines. The sweets shop called Kamo Mitarashi Chaya, which is located near Shimogamo Shrine, has been open since 1922. This shop is very famous for being the birthplace of mitarashi dango, so many people come here from all over the country. The shop’s dango are strangely shaped. That is, one of the five pieces is a little separate, symbolizing the head, because according to legend, mitarashi dango express the shape of the human body.

The shop’s owner is a very friendly woman. She is very particular about the water and rice powder she uses, as well as the sauce, which is mildly sweetened with brown sugar. When you come to Kyoto, she says, please try her mitarashi dango. “Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, we can serve you mitarashi dango using soy sauce.” You can buy and eat a one-person serving of 3 skewers of dango for 400 yen, and you can also get take-out from 525 yen for 5 skewers of dango.

Access: About 5 minutes walk from Shimogamo Jinja-mae bus stop (Kyoto municipal bus number 205, on the route that goes to Kitaoji Bus Terminal via Shijo-Kawaramachi〉.
Address: 53 Matsunoki-cho, Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto.
Telephone: 075-791-1652
Open: Thursday through Tuesday from 9:30 to 20:00 〈Last order 19:30〉
Closed: Wednesdays
Capacity: 40 seats for individuals, 30 seats for group(s)

South: Momoyama Mochi

Kyoto’s southern temples and shrines are great spots to go sightseeing in an uncrowded environment. Momoyama Mochi, which is located in front of Gokougu Shrine, has been open since about 100 years ago. An old couple in their eighties runs this shop and a third owner makes the dango. This shop’s specialty is mitarashi dango which is completely handmade and has an original sweet sauce. The owner grills dango over charcoal at the shop front, so you will smell a good aroma as you approach along the street. One of the five dumplings is a little separate just like Kamo Mitarashi Chaya’s.

This shop isn’t so big but the atmosphere is cozy and traditional in many ways and it is popular with the locals. Most people drop in here on their way back from Gokougu shine. The owners laughed and asked you to “Please visit our shop and try our mitarashi. But we can’t understand English, so please take an interpreter.” Don’t worry, you can manage on your own with a few gestures! You can buy and eat skewers of dango for 80 yen each; you can also get take-out.

Access: About 5 minutes walk from Momoyamagoryomae Station (Kintetsu train line)
Address: 191 Gokougumon-mae-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto
Telephone:             075-601-3395
Open: Wednesday through Sunday from 9:30 to 17:00
Closed: Mondays and Tuesdays
Capacity: about 4 people

West: Daimonjiya

Daimonjiya is located inside of Seiryo-ji Temple. The shop is famous for aburimochi with a sweet sauce made from white miso. If you haven’t had white miso, you should try this treat. Also very popular at Daimonjiya is warabimochi flavored with green tea (these unskewered dumplings are not made from rice flour but from bracken starch).
The atmosphere of this shop is very calm. And you can enjoy a Japanese-style tatami room or eat aburimochi on seating outside of the shop. In spring, you can also enjoy cherry blossoms while having aburimochi. You can buy and eat 12 aburimochi for 630 yen for one person, and you can also get take-out from 1260 yen for 2 persons. Seiryo-ji (which is a Zen Buddhist temple) is near Arashiyama, so why don’t you go to there after eating?



Access: About 5 minutes walk from Sagashakadou-mae bus stop (Kyoto municipal bus number 28, on the route to Daikaku-ji Temple)
Address: 46 Fujinoki-cho, Sagashakadou, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Open: From 10:00 to 16:00
Closed: Irregular
Capacity: 7 tables, and counters

East: Umezono

Umezono opened in Kyoto’s Kawaramachi area in 1927, and afterwards the Kiyomizu branch opened near the famous Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The Kawaramachi shop is small, so it is a little hard to find. The shop’s specialty is mitarashi dango which isn’t round but a little square-shaped. The owner said that the reason why this shape is useful is to dip dango into sauce. Also shaved ice is popular in summer, and awazenzai in winter, too. If you can’t read Japanese, you don’t need to worry about it because there is an English menu. And foreigners usually like a “mitarashi set,” for example, mitarashi with warabimochi or shaved ice with green tea.

The owner is a young elegant woman. She said, ”Please taste some everyday Japanese desserts in Umezono.” You can buy and eat a one-person serving of 5 skewers of dango for 410 yen, and also get take-out from 750 yen for 10 skewers of dango.

Access: About 5 minutes walk from Sanjo station (Keihan train line)
Address: 4-234 Yamazaki-cho, Sanjo-kudaru, Kawaramachi, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Telephone: 075-221-5017
Open: 365 days a year, from 10:30 to 19:30
Capacity: 30 people

Branch Shop Near Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Access: About 7 minutes walk from Kiyomizu-michi bus stop (Kyoto municipal bus number 206, on the route that goes to Kitaoji Bus Terminal via Higashiyama Street)
Address: 1-339 Sanneisaka, Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Telephone: 075-531-8538
Open: 365 days a year, from 10:30 to 17:30
Capacity: 24 tables and 16 seats in Japanese-style room

When you visit Kyoto’s temples and shrines, how about trying some dango? Probably, dango will make you happy, so your trip will become more wonderful!