Best paired with a hot cup of tea, wagashi is one of the most popular traditional Japanese desserts for special occasions. There are so many varieties of wagashi, but most are made with simple components such as mochi and anko (sweet red bean paste). Wagashi adheres to the simplicity and beauty of the seasons, and in the hands of a skilled wagashi master, these traditional Japanese treats can become stunning works of art.
There are three categories of wagashi: namagashi (fresh confections), han namagashi (half-dry confections), and higashi (dry confections). Whenever one thinks of wagashi, the very first thing that pops in mind is the popular wanama because of its beautiful seasonal designs but there are several different types.
Some popular types of wagashi include monaka (two rice wafers with red bean paste filling), dorayaki (single or two pancakes with bean paste filling), daifuku (mochi ball with red bean paste filling), yokan (traditional red bean jelly), rakugan (small candies made with glutinous flour), ohagi (like an inverted wagashi), dango (rice dumplings on a skewer), and manju (dough filled with red bean paste filling). Today, wagashi can be found beautifully displayed in many specialty Japanese dessert shops.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, here are a a few of the best wagashi shops in Tokyo where you can try these edible masterpieces.
Gunrindo is one of the best wagashi shops in Tokyo to get your daifuku fix, thanks to its popular mame-daifuku. There are two categories of anko, or sweet red bean paste, frequently used in Japanese desserts. Koshi-an is the smooth-textured red bean paste, while tsubu-an has a chunkier texture. You can think of it like smooth or chunky peanut butter! Gunrindo's mame-daifuku has tsubu-an filling and a mochi exterior. Even the mochi has whole red beans in it, making for an interesting texture variation. It also has the right balance sweetness and slight saltiness, just perfect to accompany a cup of tea. People line up for this special treat; come early so you won't miss out on this gem of a wagashi shop in Tokyo.
If you like dorayaki, a Japanese dessert made of red bean paste sandwiched between two sweet pancakes, then Kuromatsu Sogetsu Main Branch is the wagashi shop for you. This special Japanese dessert shop has been around for over 80 years and has many patrons, both local and foreign customers alike, coming just for their dorayaki. Kuromatsu Sogetsu's dorayaki is consists of tsubu-an (chunky red bean paste) and fluffy, soft pancakes with a strong brown sugar flavor and just a hint of honey. For only about 100 yen, you can satisfy your sweet tooth without leaving a dent in your wallet.
Akasaka Aono is a wagashi shop in Tokyo that has been making some of the most delicious Japanese desserts for over a century. They have a variety of many treats ranging from the simple-looking yet delicious mochi to their delectable yokan (red bean jelly) and their bestselling Akasaka mochi, made with walnuts and brown sugar. You can have them all gift-wrapped in a furoshiki (a beautiful Japanese cloth used as wrapping), and give them to loved ones. Akasaka Aono also serves namagashi (fresh confections) which you can enjoy in their dining area. Though this wagashi shop is a tad more expensive than the others, Akasaka Aono has been honing their craft for over 100 years and is undeniably one of the best wagashi shops in Tokyo for their divine, high-quality Japanese desserts.
Using traditional, handmade methods with no preservatives or additives, Shiono, established in 1883, is one of the best wagashi shops in Tokyo. Shiono is also known for their gorgeous seasonal designs, and make namagashi wagashi, like nerikiri, that are inspired by the changing seasons. Nerikiri is a type of wagashi made by a mix of shiro-an (sweet bean paste) and gyuhi (rice paste), which, much like marzipan, is sculptable. Their prices reflect the high quality of their products, made with carefully selected ingredients. While their wagashi are on the pricier end, these edible little works of art are worth it. Indulging in Shiono's wagashi is the perfect way to celebrate the changing of the seasons, or even just to treat yourself!
Ikkouan uses only the finest ingredients for their wagashi treats. Their bestselling warabi mochi, a jelly-like Japanese dessert covered in kinako (soybean) powder and drizzled with kuromitsu (black sugar syrup), is a favorite among the crowd. The shop only uses 100% bracken starch for their warabi mochi and the result is always exquisite and delectable. While it's a popular dessert in the summer, at this wagashi shop you can have it all year round. Come with your family and friends and enjoy a delicious afternoon tasting Japanese desserts in one of the best wagashi shops in Tokyo.
Located near Sumida River, a famous spot for cherry blossom viewing, Kototoi Dango has been making kototoi dango since the late Edo period. In fact, this wagashi shop in Tokyo is the birthplace of this style of dango. Their tri-colored dango come in three flavors: white anko, red anko, and miso. The outside of the dango is made with silky smooth sweet bean paste, while the inside contains chewy mochi, and unlike other types of dango, kototoi dango are not covered in sweet sauce or skewered on a stick. The shop is extremely popular during sakura cherry blossom season in Tokyo. During full bloom, many customers buy their dango to take to the nearby Sumida Park, home to over 500 cherry blossom trees.
Aside from their famous dango, Kototoi Dango also makes monaka, a type of rice wafer with red or white miso paste inside, shaped like the store's icon, the oystercatcher fish. Their tri-colored dango and bird-shaped monaka are often bought as gifts (omiyage).
In the spring, Japan is crazy for sakura-inspired snacks, which are often popular snacks like Kit Kats and Pocky in new, limited edition flavors. But the traditional springtime dessert in Japan is sakura mochi, which comes in two types: Kanto-style mochi which is a flat piece of smooth mochi wrapped around anko (red bean paste), and Kansai-style mochi which has a chunkier texture of mochi than the Kanto-style. Both are served wrapped in a cherry blossom leaf. Chomeiji Sakura Mochi is the birthplace of the former Kanto-style mochi, and has been making it since 1717. The store’s founder got the idea when he was pickling cherry blossom leaves with salt. Chomeiji's sakura mochi is served wrapped in two of pickled cherry blossom leaves. Some customers remove the leaves before eating, while others enjoy the pleasant balance of salty sourness from the pickled leaves and sweetness from the red bean paste.