Wagashi, a part of Japan's gourmet culture, is also very popular among people all over the world. Wagashi has an appeal that can be enjoyed not only through taste but also through the eyes. However, among those who enjoy such wagashi, there may be many who do not know its characteristics and history. Therefore, we will clarify the specific definition of what wagashi is.
Strongly connected to the four seasons, wagashi has the appeal of expressing a sense of the season through its visual beauty as well as its delicious flavor. This feature is one of the reasons why wagashi are attracting attention from people around the world.
There are many points in the history of wagashi that lead to this characteristic. First, it is said that wagashi originated from fruits and nuts that were used for snacking during the Yayoi period. People at that time, when food was still scarce, satisfied their hunger by eating these foods. Therefore, the name wagashi properly contains two kanji Chinese characters that were once used for snacking.
The "果" in "Ga": Fruits
The "子" in "Shi": Seeds
In the Heian period (794-1185), confectioneries were intended to be presented to the Imperial Court. In the Kamakura period (1185-1333), the development of the tea ceremony among the upper classes led to the use of wagashi as a tea ceremony snack. Then, in the Edo period (1603-1867), the culture of wagashi spread to the common people due to the increase in sugar imports, and in Kyoto, wagashi took on a form similar to the beautiful and delicate wagashi of today.
Western confectionaries, which are often compared to wagashi, were introduced to Japan at the same time as the spread of Western culture at the end of the Taisho period (1912-1926). There are three major differences between Japanese and Western confections.
1. Ingredients and Taste
Wagashi are made mainly from plant-based ingredients such as rice, barley, and beans. As a result, they are generally low in calories, but tend to be very high in sugar because they contain a lot of sugar and starch. Western confectioneries, on the other hand, use many animal ingredients such as eggs, butter, and milk. Western confectioneries, which use cream instead of water, tend to be higher in fat and are sweeter than Japanese confectioneries.
2. Preparation Method
In the case of Japanese confectioneries, the process of making confectioneries is centered on manual work by craftsmen, such as boiling, kneading, and steaming. In contrast, there are many types of Western confectioneries, which are made by mixing ingredients at once with a mixer or using various home appliances such as ovens, although they still require a patissier or other craftsman as in the case of Japanese confectioneries.
As mentioned earlier, wagashi, which are made with the four seasons of Japan in mind, tend to feature motifs such as seasonal flowers and animals. And overall, they tend to be small and round in shape that can be formed in the hands of a craftsman. On the other hand, there are many types of Western-style confections that are decorated with fresh cream and other gorgeous decorations. They also come in a wider variety of sizes compared to Japanese confectionaries.
There is a lot of food items, housewares, stationery, and gifts available at the store and our online store, Maido! Kairashi Shop, where you can place your order for shipping or store pickup! Happy shopping. :)