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Sweet Japan: What Is Wagashi?

wagashi

Wagashi. Image via amo_designare.

When ordering dessert in Japan, don’t expect fudge brownie sundaes or Snicker marshmallow cheesecake. Instead, you’ll more likely be indulging in some simple but delicious wagashi, or typical Japanese sweets. Often served with tea, these confectioneries are made with mochi, azuki bean paste and fruit and often have a soft, mold-able texture.

This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, as Japan is an overall healthy society. In ancient Japan, people ate fruit and nuts to satisfy their cravings for sweets and add nutritional value to grains like rice and millet. What’s also interesting about wagashi is the part it plays in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The focus of the ceremony isn’t really about making tea, but about the aesthetically-pleasing manner in which the Teishu (tea host) prepares it. Moreover, it’s important to make guests feel welcome in accordance with the season. Wagashi not only adds sweetness to the palate to combat the bitterness of the green tea, but is also made to reflect the season, i.e. maple leaf shapes for fall and plum flower designs for spring. In essence, it’s not just a dessert, but an art.

Have you ever tried wagashi? What was it like?

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Jessica Festa

Jessica Festa is the editor of Epicure & Culture as well as Jessie on a Journey. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and doing orphanage work in Ghana.
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  1. Pingback: Tasting Tradition: An Epicurious Guide To Okinawa, Japan

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