【Wagashi】PrologueOriginal Source: Nakamuraken
The fruity origin of sweets
In early Japan, fruits were the only sweets around. The kinds of sweets we know of today developed out of Chinese sweets traditions, imported into Japan during the Nara and Heian periods.
A sweet for every occasion
Over time, sweet-making developed new traditions and purposes across Japan. Japanese sweets were used as teatime treats, as well as offerings at rituals or ceremonial events.
Wagashi sweets are designed to reflect the events and characteristics of the different seasons.
The quintessential sweet of summer is kakigori, or shaved ice. This cold treat has a history in Japan dating back over a thousand years. Kakigori is still popular today, to the extent that there are even specialty shops for shaved ice.
The bounties of the autumn season are expressed through the motifs, colors, and forms of autumn sweets.
Name that sweet
During the Edo period (1603-1868 CE), sweet production expanded and developed. Many different names of sweets have been documented during the Edo period and during tea gatherings, cultivated men were expected to be able to hear the name of a sweet and immediately know all the nuances and implications of the name.
【Wagashi】The names of wagashiOriginal Source: Hanazono Manju, Shiose Sohonke, Tsuruya Hachiman
A teatime treat
Wagashi are traditional sweets, often served with usucha (thin green tea) are the dry sweets known as higashi. Although tea plays a leading role in the tea room, higashi sweets are used to compliment the flavor of the tea in an understated way.
Pick your favorite higashi
There are many types of higashi. The most common are molded sweets (oshimono) made with blends of rice flour, sugar, and other ingredients, which are then pressed into sweets molds to dry. Other examples include thinly baked senbei biscuits, jellied sweets, and others.
【Wagashi】Higashi (Dry Sweets)NHK Educational
University of Tsukuba Library
Photography by Tadayuki Minamoto
Music by Motonori Saito
Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University
M. Rinne, Kyoto National Museum
Produced by NHK Educational Corporation