NamagashiNamagashi is the name used for sweets served during Japanese tea ceremony. This cultural practice is all about harmony, peace and hospitality so it comes as no surprise that a lot of effort is put into the appearance of these sweets. There are different forms of namagashi and each tea ceremony master will choose which ones to use, but most of them are made out of either mochi or fruit jellies.
DaifukuDaifuku are probably the most well-known traditional Japanese sweets, even though many foreigners simply call them mochi. In their most basic form they are sticky rice cakes filled with anko, but of course there are many seasonal and local variations. Ichigo daifuku are wrapped around a whole strawberry, matcha daifuku are mixed with green tea powder and ume daifuku will surprise you with a plum in their middle.
DangoAt least as popular as daifuku are dango, the small mochi balls sticked on wooden skewers. Even though the dough itself can be combined with different ingredients, most dango get their unique taste depending on what is put on top of them. One popular version is an dango where the widely loved sweet red bean paste is combined with the suble taste of the mochi. Equally popular are the three-colored hanami dango and goma dango, a bitter and salty version with black sesame paste.
DorayakiDorayaki can be described as the Japanese version of pancakes. Two delicious patties are covered in red bean paste and stacked on top of each other. Unlike most of the sweets on this list, dorayaki are best served hot and eaten immediately.
ArareNot all Japanese sweets or snacks look like small cakes and are made of mochi. Arare is similar to senbei, Japanese rice crackers, but consists of lots of tiny pellets that supposedly should look like snow pellets. Arare can be sweet or savory and is often consumed as a snack together with drinks or for celebration of the Japanese Doll Festival on March 3.
KuzumochiJapanese are known for having seasonal meals that will either cool you down or warm your body up. Kuzumochi are served chilled and eaten during the summer to help you fight the heat. These small white cubes consist of kuzuko, a starch powder made from the root of the kudzu plant. They are topped with a traditional Japanese sugar syrup and kinako, roasted soybean flour.
ManjuWhat do you get when you combine a daifuku with baked pastries? Probably something close to manju, the small Japanese cakes that consist of flour, rice powder, buckwheat and a sweet filling. This sweet is popular with people who like the taste of mochi, but are not big fans of the sticky texture. Traditional manju are filled with anko paste, but they can also be combined with matcha, fruits or other flavors.
WarabimochiThis is another mochi treat that is really popular during the hot summer months. Warabimochi resembles jelly in consistency, but is made from the starch of special fern plants found in Japan. This does not only give this sweet its unique texture, but also sets its flavor apart from most mochi-based sweets. They are usually covered in kinako powder.
SakuramochiLast but not least we have a beautiful pink mochi that is especially popular during hanami, the viewing of Japanese cherry blossoms during spring. The main component, once again, is a mochi rice cake filled with sweet anko paste, but sakuramochi is special due to its pink color. It is wrapped in a pickled sakura leave that you eat together with the mochi.
This concludes our small excursion into the world of traditional Japanese sweets. Their beauty often lies in the simplicity as these snacks consist of a handful of main ingredients. And while it is certainly true that some of them might seem to be very similar, their textures and tastes still differ greatly. Some wagashi are only eaten on specific occasions and help making special moments even more special. Have you ever eaten any of these sweets or do you want to try some of them? Let us know in the comment section down below.