Japanese confectionery that will satisfy your sweet tooth
Japan has an extremely rich history of wagashi, which are traditional sweets and confectioneries that are often enjoyed together with green tea, or alone as a dessert. These confectioneries often have a more natural sweetness, and these are a few you simply must try in Japan!
Daifuku remains as one of Japan's favourite traditional sweets, and that definitely is partly due to its great flexibility. At its core, Daifuku consists of red bean paste covered in a layer of chewy mochi (glutinous rice cake), but Daifuku can really be made with any filling.
There are ones stuffed with fruits like the strawberry mochi, and even ice cream or whipped cream which are popular in summer. Even the mochi itself can be flavoured, most commonly with green tea. You can find these in confectionery stores, or even supermarkets.
This is a classic festival/street food made from mochiko (similar to mochi) balls and often served in threes or fours on a skewer. Other than the three coloured hanami dango seen above, the mitarashi dango topped with a sweet soy sauce glaze, as seen below, is also very popular.
Dango has also become somewhat of a cultural icon, being featured regularly in shows and movies. Those of you who have watched the anime Clannad Afterstory probably already know this and have the Dango Daikazoku song etched in your minds.
Another festival food staple, Taiyaki is a fish shaped cake that is traditionally filled with red bean paste, but now can often also be found with custard and chocolate! Taiyaki can be found crispy like a waffle, or fluffy like a pancake, and how they are made really boils down to personal preference.
In recent times, you can also find Taiyaki being used as a cone for ice cream. While in Akihabara, Tokyo, i also chanced upon magikarp shaped Taiyaki, in a shop called Kurikoan, so do look out for that!
These traditional Japanese pancakes have become really iconic because of the extremely popular children's series Doraemon, in which it is the titular cat's favourite snack. Like most of the other confectionery, it is traditionally filled with red bean paste.
Other traditional flavours like matcha cream and chestnut paste are also popular, but you can also get custard and chocolate if those don't suit your taste.
These are very regularly served during tea ceremonies to complement the bitter taste of the concentrated green tea. They are usually designed using natural motifs to reflect the season at the time, really showcasing how important an appreciation of the changing seasons is in Japanese culture. They are often made from sweet dough, red bean and green bean paste.
There are even workshops that allow you to make these for yourself! I went for one of these workshops, and it was definitely one of my favourite experiences in Kyoto. For those interested, click