Wagashi: traditional Japanese confectionery

Two Saturdays ago, I attended a lecture and demonstration on the art of making wagashi or traditional Japanese desserts. Sponsored by the Japan Foundation, Manila (JFM) for the 2012 Nihongo Fiesta, the event brought three young Japanese pastry chefs from three respected and famous confectionery houses in Japan: Noriyuki Myojin, who belongs to Mitsuya-honpo in the Hiroshima Prefecture and known for its jonamagashi or unbaked sweets using seasonal motifs; Keisuke Yoshihashi, a third generation confectioner/owner of Yoshihashi Kashijo in the Ishikawa Prefecture and famed for traditional sweets used in tea ceremony; and Naoya Koizumi, heir to Koundo Honten in Tochigi Prefecture, a confectionery house known for its “Koin Monaka” or sandwich of anko bean paste and crispy sweet rice crackers.

The three young chefs were funny and engaging and my friend B even remarked that one of them should get his own TV show. They took turns to show how they make jonamagashi, dorayaki (two pancakes with azuki bean paste), the painstakingly elaborate hasamikiku (of course they made it look easy), and uchigashi, which is basically (very expensive wasanbon) sugar and water, kneaded and molded. Wagashi ingredients are primarily bean paste, sugar, and rice. Not a big fan of the first two, but oh-my-goodness, they turn out looking good. Almost too good to eat. Wagashi is typically served with tea so all the sweetness gets balanced by its bitter taste.

Feast your eyes on the wagashi below. Though they were taken on a camera phone, you can still see how detailed and beautiful these hand-made desserts are. 🙂

slouching somewhere

Hasamikiku is a confectionery based on the motif of a chrysanthemum (kiku)

slouching somewhere

slouching somewhere

Super sweet uchigashi and the wooden molds used to make them

Jonamagashi are individually made by hand using flowers, birds and other seasonal motifs


10 thoughts on “Wagashi: traditional Japanese confectionery

    • Especially love the intricate design in the hasamikiku. The chef held it lightly in one hand (they don’t want to leave impressions or fingerprints on the dough) while with the tip of wagashi scissors made those small V impressions, from the bottom to the top until it’s entirely covered and resembles the chrysanthemum flower. Pretty cool 🙂

      • i didnt, i have it at home, in fact most of their sugar statues i have… i was one of those who assisted them in their demo at Podium Mall in Manila Philippines 🙂 i just cant find the option to upload pics here 🙂

  1. @regiswife oh, so you were there in the podium too! and assisting the chefs at that–how cool 🙂 i also see that you have uploaded your wagashi photo… didn’t see the wagashi of the faces back then.

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