Nothing fills my heart and soul with a greater rush of emotion that finding a new sweet shop and asking questions to the staff about every single one of their products. It’s wonderful, it’s fun (for everyone I hope) and I learn so much. Enter Kuyama・熊屋 a shop from Nagasaki, with the nicest staff and really unique sweets. On top is a brown sugar mochi and the shiny pink ball is a strawberry jelly case around a cream and white bean paste interior. I went late in the afternoon when there was only a little left in terms of selection or room in my stomach. I will go back next week without fail.
This is another from Suzuya, a famous (in the world of Japanese sweets) shop in Wakayama prefecture. On a bus ride after our pilgrimage hike, my friend who is well accustomed to my sweet tooth sent me a link for this place she had happened to find close by. I was so excited, how lucky to just happen across this place! Their signature item is called Deluxe Cake and it is really delightful and even by my standards, fairly sweet. It is a sort of cake that sandwiches a white and red bean jam paste that is wrapped in white chocolate. Definitely not for every day, but it is amazing. Fun fact, the heir to the Japanese throne, Prince Ashikino and his then wife Princess Noriko were served these cakes when they visited the area.
The cutest yuzu yōkan filled tiger to ring in the year of the tiger. The sweet pancake was nice and chewy and the yuzu flavour was incredible, a nice change from the classic red bean.
I pickup up this castella in Nagasaki when I was there a little while ago. It was nice and dense but not too sweet. Castella is very popular all around Japan but it most famous in Nagasaki. It obviously has Portuguese influence and is not what come to mind when you think of wagashi. I also re-stocked my favourite matcha, but I might have to switch to iced matchas pretty soon.
Rounding out the month of June, or in the ancient Japanese calendar Minazuki, where this sweet gets its namesake from, I got this one from Takashima・高島屋菓子舗. I really encourage you to look at the pictures in the link, its in a very old school covered wet market alley that mainly sells produce, fish, tea and coffee and of course sweets. I love these types of places, they are always fun to explore and the quality and prices are usually much better than major supermarkets.
It’s a beautiful day out so I went outside so I get could get a view of my growing beans. To try something different, I had bought the matcha flavoured minazuki instead of the typical azuki because I am no stranger to that one! As usual its all wrapped up in a bamboo leaf. It was really a lovely change, even if having iced matcha with a matcha flavoured sweet is a little funny. It had little azuki beans throughout the jellied matcha and a really smooth taste.
A picture perfect mint mizu yōkan・水羊羹 from Tugi. Like I’ve said before, chilled mizu yōkan is one of my favourite summer treats, very very smooth, jellied red bean paste that’s nearly the texture of a pudding. Adding a minty fresh flavour was a first for me, and a perfect patio dessert.
Another unbelievable wagashi from Tugi, this time their classic ‘Black’ flavour, which is creamy chocolate, wrapped in red bean paste with walnuts and dusted with coconut. Served chilled with some iced matcha on a summer day is pretty alright. Everything about Tugi is really breathtaking, even their packaging.
The cutest package wrapped in a bamboo leaf from Sanshodō・参松堂. This is another sweet using amanatsu・甘夏, a sweet, Japanese citrus fruit. When you open the leaf, the wooden pick holding it together becomes the fork. Its a wonderful little citrus-y jelly with red beans sprinkled throughout. I can’t wait for more of these!
Mini Japanese lesson! It’s about sweets, it’s important. Sweets are sometimes called kashi・菓子. There are different ways, but that is one of them. Putting another character (in our case, the character: 和) the sound is changed to ‘gashi’.
The ‘wa’ in wagashi・和菓子 refers to Japanese style. (It is also the same character in Reiwa・令, the current Japanese age. It is now year 3 in Reiwa, it began when the previous emperor absconded and his son ascended. Anyway!) The vast majority of the sweets I write about are wagashi. The ‘yo’ in yōgashi・洋菓子 refers to western style. Think cookies, cupcakes, whatever.
This super cool minazuki・水無月 from Rabbit Moon・兎月 is a unusual combo of the both! This is actually a Fukuoka original as I learned. A jellied sweet wrapped in a bamboo leaf, usually red bean or matcha flavour traditionally eaten in the summer. The flavour of mine? French salted caramel! I’ve never tried anything like it, it was so good, I will eat many more this summer I’m sure.
We are into the rainy season over here, which has definitely led to less hiking but no lack of sweets. The skies are always a little grey but at least still bright. This pretty iris wagashi is from Rabbit Moon・兎月 again. There’s a chance the sun will come out this weekend so I’m crossing my fingers to get out of the city a bit and seem some flowers out in their natural habitat because hydrangea season just started. Here’s hoping!