Enjoying Japanese wagashi, or traditional Japanese sweets that are usually made of sweet red bean paste (or white bean paste) and mochi, is a delicious way to celebrate the changing seasons in Japan. The tiny confections with a delicate taste are known for being meticulously handcrafted. Their appearance is often sculpted to reflect the current season, and Japanese wagashi offer breathtaking beauty and fragility not found in your typical dessert-eating experience.
In this video, byFood host Shizuka Anderson samples popular traditional Japanese desserts at three different historic wagashi shops in Tokyo, located near Sumida River, a popular cherry blossom viewing spot, in a search of sakura-themed sweets. Which unique seasonal varieties of wagashi will Shizuka discover?
Ever wondered how wagashi artists create such intricate designs? Try your hand at the art of wagashi and join byFood's Intensive Wagashi & Mochi Making Course! Over the course of 24 tutorial videos, you'll learn how to make 4 seasonal nerikiri wagashi, the classic strawberry daifuku mochi, and the Japanese raindrop cake. These cute confections are sure to impress!
The area Shizuka explores is called Asakusa, a district renowned by tourists for its historic Japanese shops, temples, and architecture. Asakusa's famous Sensoji Temple is a must-visit on any first trip to Tokyo. So while you're there, be sure to try the wide variety of traditional Japanese sweets and treats near the Sumida River!
Here are three popular wagashi shops in Tokyo to visit for traditional handcrafted delicacies!
The first stop on Shizuka's quest to visit Tokyo's best wagashi shops is Kototoi Dango in Mukoujima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo. Here at this 160-year-old wagashi shop, Shizuka tries their tri-colored kototoi dango, which is a popular choice during hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season. It comes with three different flavors of dango (soft rice cakes): red bean paste, yellow miso-flavored bean paste, and white bean paste.
Another famous type of wagashi at Kototoi Dango is their "monaka," a type of wafer-like shell filled with bean paste. The monaka wafer is shaped like an oystercatcher which is the symbol of Kototoi Dango.
Next up is Chomeiji Sakuramochi, a shop that's famous for its highly traditional sakura mochi: cherry blossom-themed mochi that's wrapped in pickled sakura leaves. According to rumor, this little shop, founded in 1717, might be where Kanto-style sakura mochi was invented!
The Kanto style of sakura mochi consists of anko (sweet red bean paste) that's enveloped in a flattened piece of mochi. Meanwhile, Kansai-style sakura mochi has visible rice grains and a red bean paste filling wrapped completely inside. Both Kanto (the region around and including Tokyo) and Kansai (the region that includes Osaka, Kyoto, and their neighboring prefectures) styles of sakura mochi can be easily recognized by the pickled sakura leaf wrapped around the exterior.
Last but certainly not least, Shizuka visits Shiono, a Japanese wagashi shop that was established in 1883. They are known for the beautiful appearance of their nerikiri wagashi, made with malleable nerikiri dough (a mix of shiro-an white bean paste and gyuhi or mochi). These edible works of art are molded into nature-inspired shapes and contain a melt-in-the-mouth white or red bean paste filling.
At Shiono, wagashi artisans stretch the possibilities of wagashi, handcrafting delicate flowers and animals based on the season. Visit in cherry blossom season for pink sakura and yellow canola flower wagashi, and come back in the fall for orange momiji wagashi that mirror the changing autumn leaves!
As Shizuka discovers, all of these wagashi go great with green tea, complementing the mild sweetness of the wagashi with the satisfying bitterness of Japanese matcha.
Curious about learning to make handmade wagashi for yourself? Join this Nerikiri Wagashi Class in Tokyo with Matcha Green Tea to create adorably unique sweets like the ones Shizuka sampled at Shiono! Mai will walk you through the wagashi-making process step by step in her own Tokyo residence until you're confident in your Japanese confectionery prowess.
You can also browse these wagashi experiences in Tokyo for anything from vegan food tours that include wagashi to traditional wagashi courses for any skill level, from beginner to expert-in-the-making.
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