These Japanese sweets demonstrate the ephemeral beauty of the seasons.
The highly codified steps of the Japanese tea ceremony foster living in and appreciating the present moment. This sentiment is distilled, beautifully and deliciously, in the sweets that accompany the ritual. Known as wagashi, these small treats capture the flavors, colors, and, in some cases, landscapes of the seasons.
Wagashi comes in several forms, from stuffed daifuku mochi to gelatinous yokan. With a base of ingredients including adzuki beans, agar-agar (also known as kanten), sugar, and glutinous rice flour, artisans handcraft stunning pieces of edible art. In spring, confectioners carefully re-create the subtle shifts in hue across the petals of a cherry blossom using red and white bean paste. In summer, they counter the heat with cool colors and textures, using jelly to depict bubbling streams or a carp suspended in a pond. Meanwhile, autumn calls for the colors of turning leaves and seasonal fruits, and winter, of course, means a delicate dusting of sugary snow.
Meant to be enjoyed before drinking green tea, wagashi should never be so sweet as to overwhelm the flavors of the matcha. Like the ceremony itself, both enjoying and making wagashi encourage mindfulness. The artisans’ careful attention to detail is apparent in their creations, which allow diners to focus completely on the multi-sensory experience of consuming them.
Where to Try It
This shop has been making wagashi since 1935.
Owner Chikara Mizukami has been hand-crafting intricate sweets at his shop since 1977.