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Wagashi: Traditional Japanese Sweets

Wagashi: Traditional Japanese Sweets - Yunomi.life

Yunomi Staff |

Wagashi and Tea

Wagashi (和菓子) are beautifully decorated, traditional Japanese sweets. Rice cakes (mochi), red bean sweets (anko bean paste), and some fruits are all common types of wagashi.

A Short History of Wagashi

The word “wa-gashi” is literally means “Japanese snacks.” The first character “和” read “wa” is often used to describe things originating from Japan. For example “wa-fuku” means “Japanese clothing,” and “wa-shoku” means “Japanese food.” In fact, “wa” is the oldest known name for the country of Japan. The word “wa” itself means “peace, harmony, or balance.

The second part of the word, “kashi” which changes to “gashi” when paired with another kanji character, means “snack” but originally referred to the fruits and nuts served for guests before confectionary treats were invented.

Today's candy is sweets with chestnuts. Traditional sweets of Japan, is sweets. 『山づと』 こなし製 栗きんとん いやー 秋ですねぇ(*´ω`*) 今回は特注で作らせて頂いたお菓子です。写実的に栗そのものを手形で形どっています。 10月のお菓子ですが栗も出始めたので投稿しました(*´▽`*) 栗自体まだ出始めで高値ですが既に栗きんとんの製造も始まっています☆ #excellent#beaut #beau #artist #belle #日本#schön #magnifique #lecker #おやつ#秋#adorable #和菓子#可愛い#綺麗 #teatime#スイーツ#かわいい#抹茶#美味しい #candy#Kunst#일본#seni#lucu#искусство#sweets#gorgeous#stunning#japon

A photo posted by 和菓子職人 三納寛之 (@wagashi_sanchan) on

Wagashi became popular during the Edo period where it was almost always served with tea. The original inspiration for wagashi came from Chinese dum-sum and the introduction of sugarcane to the island. European influence may have also played a part as Portuguese explorers visited Tanegashima in 1543. These travellers brought with them European sweets which used eggs and large amounts of sugar.

After this time tea master Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591) coined the term wabi-cha to refer to treats that were served at tea ceremonies. Prior to the introduction of Chinese and European influences, simple sweets such as manju and yokan were served.


Japanese confessions are typically categorized by the amount of moisture they contain. The moisture content will determine their shelf life. Of course ingredients and preparation method will also determine how wagashi are categorized. These sweets are often intricately designed to reflect the four seasons in Japan.

Wagashi are basically categorized into 3 classifications:

Namagashi (生菓子)

Namagashi, or fresh confectionery, has a moisture level of 30 % or more. These sweets are typically made using flour, eggs, beans, and sugar.

Un #namagashi, ça vous tente? Pas de doute, #Toraya est de retour ️ ? #tea #thé

A photo posted by Mademoiselle Thé (@melle_the) on

Namagashi has the shortest shelf life and is often the most expensive type of wagashi.

Han Namagashi (半生菓子)

Han namagashi, or half-dry confectionery, has a moisture level of 10-30 %.

Higashi (干菓子)

Higashi, or dry confectionery, has a moisture level of 10 % or less. This particular higashi confectionary was eaten in celebration of September’s full moon.

Wagashi can also be categorized based on its method of preparation. For example, “mushimono” is  steamed, “yakimono” is baked, “nagashimono” is jellied, and “uchimono” is molded.


A Modern Touch

As with most things, time has the power to change tradition. Today, wagashi is available in a variety of colors, flavors, and shapes. As modern tastes evolve, so does wagashi.

* 2016.09.14 * お返事前のしらたまいこです?? * 明日は十五夜ですな? 多分明日は作らんよ? 月といえばうさぎよね? * #おつきみっふぃー ←しょうもな(笑) * 今日は朝は幼稚園行事、午後はめがねボーイおーやんの眼科検診へ? * 両目0.1だった12月、3ヶ月ごとの検診で視力ものびて今日は右0.6左0.9まであがってたよご褒美はうずまきソフトでいいんやって?安くつきまっせ♬ * * * * #おやつ#簡単おやつ#白玉#デコ白玉#白玉だんご#だんご#和菓子#おうちカフェ#クッキングラム#月見団子#十五夜#ミッフィー#ママリ秋みいつけた#キャラフード#しらたまいこ#ちぎり白玉#homemade#decofood#kawaiifood#cutefood#foodart#characterfood#instafood#cookingram#cotta#shiratama##shiratamadango#LIN_stagrammer#Miffy

A photo posted by maiko (@inumaiko) on

Recently, popular anime characters have even been made into intricate wagashi treats.

Wagashi Through the Seasons

The Japanese are obsessed with celebrating the seasons. Throughout the year Japanese festivals and special events are held to celebrate the our planet’s perpetual rotation. Much like their culture, seasonal treats are pay respect to the changing seasons. Different wagashi is offered at key points throughout the year.

Hanabira Mochi (菱葩餅)

Hanabira Mochi (菱葩餅) is traditionally served in January to celebrate the new year. The name, which literally means “flower pedal rice cake”, originated from a treat that the imperial family ate to bring in the new year.

Hishi Mochi 

#雛祭り #自家製 #ひしもち #hinamatsuri #homemade #hishimochi

A photo posted by Hirokazu Max Hirazawa (@b.v.no75) on

On March 3rd, Japan celebrates “Hinamatsuri” which can be translated as “Girls Days.” For this special holiday, hishimochi is served. These cakes are usually pink, green, and white. Because they are often set out as an offering, many Japanese people have never actually tasted this treat before.

Sakura Mochi

Sakura Mochi is a springtime staple. This beautiful treat is often wrapped in cherry tree leaves and is enjoyed throughout Japan while the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Some people even eat the leaves!

Kashiwa Mochi 

Originating in Edo (Tokyo) around 1745-1786 CE, Kashiwa Mochi is typically enjoyed for Children’s Day on May 5th. Like Sakura Mochi, it is also wrapped in a leaf which may be eaten or discarded depending on your preference.

Tsukimi Dango 

One of the first seasonal treats to welcome in autumn is the Tsukimi Dango. This delicacy is offered around the time of the full moon in September. Typically these rice dumplings are displayed in groups of fifteen. The tradition is a way of showing thanks for a bountiful harvest.

During the autumn season, sweet potato is another frequently used ingredient. The wagashi shown above is handmade!

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