Our Guide to Japan's Best Traditional Sweets

Our Guide to Japan's Best Traditional Sweets

Aug 14, 2019 Tags 

Japan is known for its weird and wonderful flavors when it comes to sweets.

Kit Kats come in hundreds of unique flavors! Have you tried strawberry cheesecake, apple pie or pumpkin pudding?

Pocky are constantly releasing new flavors. Have you tried otona no milk (‘Milk for adults’), Brazilian Orange or Coconut?

 

Photo: omnomnomad

 

But it's not all about these new and unusual flavors! Lots of Japanese sweets also feature traditional flavors.

Think matcha (green tea) Kit Kats - one of the most popular souvenirs from Japan - and seasonal treats such as sakuramochi (cherry blossom rice cake).

Enjoying traditional sweets is a great way to experience Japanese culture through taste.

ZenPop’s current Japanese Sweets Pack includes 15 differeent and delicious traditional flavors for you to try, like matcha, kinako and mochi. Don’t miss out on this month’s Matcha Delights sweets and snack box!

Let’s try some traditional Japanese flavors!

Tastes of Traditional Japan

Matcha

Matcha is a finely ground green tea powder, used in the Japanese tea ceremony, known as sadou or chadou.

The flavor is very complex and slightly bitter, which is why a cup of green tea is often paired with Japanese sweets (wagashi).

The highest grades of matcha are reserved for tea ceremonies, but nowadays, matcha is a popular flavor used in sweets, candies, and even noodles!

With its signature bright green color, you’ll know when you’re about to eat a matcha treat, like this matcha tiramisu!

 

 

Azuki

Azuki (or adzuki) is a small red bean, much loved not just in Japan, but also China and South Korea.

The bean is not naturally sweet, and so they are cooked and mashed together with sugar to make anko (sweet bean paste). If the paste is smooth it’s called koshi-an, while a coarser paste is tsubu-an.

 

Photo: JPVisitor

 

If you’ve ever visited Japan, you've probably eaten one of these traditional Japanese sweets, filled with anko:

  1. Dorayaki - a delicious red-bean pancake
  2. Sakuramochi - sweet pink-colored mochi with an anko center and wrapped in a pickled cherry blossom leaf
  3. Taiyaki - fish-shape cake (similar to a waffle) filled with anko
  4. Anpan - sweet bun filled with anko

 

Taikyaki is a fish-shaped waffle filled with anko
Photo: @japanese_foodie

 

Kinako

Kinako or roasted soybean flour is another popular ingredient and topping for Japanese sweets.

Japanese sweets like mochi or dango are generously covered with kinako, adding a sweet and nutty flavor.

This all-rounder powder also goes great with ice cream, on kakigori (shaved ice) or in a kinako latte! 

 

Kinako covered kakigori (shaved ice)Photo: @koromosatoko

Mochi

Mochi (rice cake) is a very sticky, sweet cake made from rice.

It may seem odd that rice becomes a tasty dessert, but trust us, it does!

Rice is pounded to make mochi (at record-breaking speeds) and then molded into shapes—either round, square, or even animal shaped!

 

 

Wagashi: Japanese Sweets

Wagashi (和菓子) are beautiful traditional Japanese sweets, best enjoyed with a cup of matcha.

They are made using traditional ingredients such as anko and mochi, and crafted into beautiful shapes, such as cute animal shapes or elegant flower patterns. It’s (almost) a shame to eat them!

Some wagashi are popular all year round, while others are only available regionally or seasonally.

Namagashi

The name literally translates as raw sweets.

 

NamagashiPhoto: mochiko._.wagashi39

 

Made of rice flour and a sweet bean paste filling, these delicacies are shaped to reflect the season and are served at a tea ceremony.

Daifuku

Daifuku are made of mochi and filled with anko or another filling.

They are covered in a light dusting of starch to make sure that they don’t stick to each other.

We recommend you try an ichigo (strawberry) daifuku.

 

Ichigo (strawberry) daifuku
Photo: @shino_saku

 

Dango

Dango are chewy little dumplings made of rice flour, served on a skewer.

 

Yaki or grilled dangoPhoto: @letronc.m

 

They are brushed with a sauce or topped with a paste.

Can you read the Japanese words below?

しょうゆ (shōyu) - soy sauce

くるみ (kurumi) - walnut

ごま (goma) - sesame

あんこ (anko) - red bean

焼き (yaki) - grilled

きなこ (kinako) - soy bean powder

 

Different types of dango
Photo: @ichifuku_dango_sendai

 

Where To Eat Wagashi In Japan

Japanese sweets like mochi, taiyaki, dorayaki and anpan are very popular and can be found easily all over Japan.

However, you can also enjoy wagashi at many cafes or restaurants in Tokyo and Osaka.

Here are our top four places to eat wagashi in Japan:

1. Mochisho Shizuku, Osaka

This high-end wagashi restaurant in Osaka's Shinmachi area serves beautiful, Insta-worthy wagsahi!

 

Mochisho Shizuku, OsakaPhoto: @japan____style

 

2. Fukushimaya, Tokyo

This traditional store, located in Toshima City, Tokyo, dates back to the Edo period and specializes in wagashi!

 

Fukushimaya, TokyoPhoto: Sumau

 

For a truly traditional taste, we recommend getting a set of their wagashi with tea.

 

Fukushimaya, TokyoPhoto: @truman.kong

 

3. Tsuruya Yoshinobu, Tokyo

This famous store in Tokyo was also established in the Edo period (1803).

At their branch in Muromachi you can watch as an artisan makes beautiful namagashi right in front of your eyes!

 

Tsuruya Yoshinobu, Tokyo

 

4. Hourandou, Kyoto 

Kyoto, Japan's former capital, is known for its many traditions, and that includes traditional Japanese sweets known as Kyo Wagashi.

 

Hourandou, KyotoPhoto: @j.y.paris

 

Hourandou specializes in handmade warabi mochi, a jelly-like sweet, often served dusted with kinako. Enjoy your wagashi and a hand whisked matched on an authentic tatami mat.

Matcha Delights Sweets Pack

Experience the traditional flavors of Japan with our Matcha Delights Sweets Pack.

Enjoy a selection of gorgeously green treats - marshmallows, crackers, chocolate, chips and more. You’ll also try kinako (made from roasted soybeans) and of course, mochi!

 

ZenPop's Matcha Delights Sweets Pack