Sunday, June 12, 2022

Craftmanship and beauty in 和菓子 Japanese confectioneries

"Wagashi" are traditional Japanese confectioneries that are typically enjoyed 
with a cup of green tea.
Among all kinds of wagashi, "namagashi" (meaning "fresh confectionary") 
are artistically and carefully shaped by hand to reflect the nature in season. 

春爛漫, Spring in full bloom

Namagashi is the one served at Tea Ceremony with bitter powdered green tea.
It must be eaten in a day because it is so fresh but perishable.
They contain more than 30 percent water and are made of rice flour,
sweet red, white, or green bean paste filling in general
and sometimes fruit jelly filling.

朧月夜, A hazy moon of spring

Each single ingredient is chosen carefully regarding texture, colors, shapes and so on.
In hot season, transparent kanten/agar is used to create coolnes like the "summer pond."
It is a namagashi served chilled in hot season.

Summer pond

Hydrangea, with iced green tea

Other namagashi; Crane, Peony, Chrythunthemum 
and Unfurling nature of spring, clockwise.

Unfurling nature of spring

Apart from namagashi, there are many more casually eaten wagashi.
Many Japanese people feel like eating Sakura-mochi and/or 
Uguisu/Japanese bush warbler-mochi through February to March
when people can hardly wait for the arrival of spring.
Sakura-mochi is warpped with slightly salted sakura leaf.
Uguisu-mochi is coated with bean flour.
(About Japanese bush warbler and uguisu-mochi, here.)

In Sakura season, various sweets suggestive of Sakura and spring are sold.
Red bean paste wrapped in "gyuhi", kind of soft rice cake,
 is wrapped in pancake-like patty.

Kuri/chestnut is a dlicacy of autumn.
This Kuri manjyu is a bun stuffed with boiled-smashed-chesnut paste,
small pieces of chestnut and white bean jam.

"Daifuku" are made of soft rice cake and sweet white bean paste or other fillings. 
They are covered with a light dusting of katakuri-root starch to keep them from sticking together. 
(Lower right in the mosaic)
Daifuku should be eaten quickly as they become hard if left exposed to air.

Blueberry and tangerine daifukus.

"Monaka" consists of a wafer shell filled with sweet bean paste. 
The wafer shells come in different shapes and sizes from simple, round shells 
to more intricately designed ones.
The monaka below are specialty of an established shop in my hometown, Kobe.
雪月花, snow, moon and flowers, is one of the basic concepts in traditional Japanese aesthetics.

Western sweets, which are mostly made of animal ingredients such as eggs, 
butter, gelatine and milk, are high in fat.
On the other hand, Japanese sweets, of which ingredients are mainly vegetable
products such as rice, wheat, beans, fruits, agar and water, are low in fat
but tend to be high in sugar.
I like both Western and Japanese sweets and eat them with low GI black coffee.
Wagashi taste nice with not only green tea but also black coffee.

Linked to Mosaic Monday


  1. Dear Yoko - I know absolutely nothing about Japanese food apart from sushi so found this post fascinating. The intricate shapes, styles and designs along with their stories are a glory to behold. The presentation of these Japanese confectionaries is exquisite along with their complimentary china and accessories.

  2. Lovely post ! All your sweets looks good....They are so different from the rest of the world...So typical and unique...
    Beautiful pictures with a lot of information about they name and ingredients.
    Thanks for sharing !
    Have a "sweet" week !

  3. Hello Yoko,

    Your treats all look delicious, they are all new to me. Lovely images of the treats , how they reflect nature is just wonderful. Take care, have a great day and happy new week!

  4. 美味しそうな和菓子が沢山!砂糖が多くてもやっぱり和菓子を頂きたくなります。

  5. Deliciosos dulces YoKo. Distintos y desconocidos a los que tenemos por aquí. Se ven estupendos y si veo alguna vez donde comprarlos los probaré. Exquisita presentación.Gracias .
    Te deseo una buena semana.
    Un abrazo .

  6. Yoko - I am so impressed with the craftmanship of the confectionery. And it is fascinating how the sweets imitate nature. It almost seems a shame to eat something so beautiful, but it would dishonor the artist, right? As for your other photos, I was mesmerized by the reflection of the lily pads! Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday!

  7. ...Yoko, your images of nature are gorgeous! Many of your sweets I have seen in Maui! Enjoy your week.

  8. They look too beautiful to eat! What artistic designs and pretty colors too.

  9. Beautiful and so artistic! I agree with Lavender Dreamer - too beautiful to eat!

  10. Hi Yoko,
    All foods look beautiful, artistic and delicious.
    Wonderful photos!

  11. In Japan the naming of things often sounds like a line from a beautiful poem. How pristine these foods appear and how creatively they are displayed. Each is a delicious work of art.

  12. I've spent a long time looking at these gorgeously crafted sweets, trying to decide which I would choose. I like how you paired the photos with a corresponding photo of Nature. I'm glad you'll allow me a cup of coffee instead of the green tea. Tomoko has tried to persuade me to like green tea, but ... no (I think she's given up). They are all so pretty, they are a feast for the eyes. It would be difficult to actually eat them!


Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. I will visit your blog shortly. Have a nice day!