Just A Little Sweet: All About Wagashi

Soft mochi cakes, delicate bean-filled monaka, sweet dango, round chewy daifuku, and smooth yokan are just a few examples of wagashi-- traditional Japanese sweets. The name wagashi came into circulation during the Meiji Restoration in Japan, in order to differentiate Japanese sweets from western ones that were growing in popularity after Japan ended its long period of isolation. Wagashi are incredibly diverse, coming in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, compositions and flavors and at the same time, are uniquely distinct from western-style dessert construction.

One of the central ingredients across wagashi is the use of anko-- paste made from boiled, mashed red beans and sugar. With a consistency similar to a thick jam, anko appears in wagashi in smooth (koshian), and chunky (tsuban) forms and is commonly used as a filling. Other common ingredients include rice flour, mochi-- the sticky pounded rice cake, kanten-- Japanese agar, and Japanese chestnuts with other ingredients such as strawberries, matcha powder, and sakura blossoms appearing seasonally. Wagashi are typically less sweet than most western-style confections and are of a somewhat smaller size making most of them edible in one or two bites.

Despite the relatively recent invention of