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. 🙂