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A Guide to the Classic Japanese Sweet “Dango”: Mitarashi, Anko, Shoyu, and More Flavors Explained!

Dango are a classic Japanese sweet that's well known among Japanese people. They are readily available not only in local Japanese confectionery stores, but also in convenience stores and supermarkets. This article introduces basic information about dango as well as some great shops to try them at!

What Are Dango?

Dango are made by steaming balls of rice flour (regular rice flour, not mochi rice) kneaded with hot water. They are served on bamboo skewers, usually with three to five balls on each skewer.
Dango have a long history, originating from the "danki" that were brought to Japan from China about 1,300 years ago. "Danki" were balls of boiled, kneaded rice flour that were made as offerings for Buddhist altars. They evolved into the form they are today—served on bamboo skewers—about 400 years ago.

Types of Dango

Types of dango readily available in stores include an dango, mitarashi dango, and kusa dango.
An dango are dango covered with "an" (red bean paste made by mashing cooked adzuki beans and sweetening it with sugar). The sweetness of the an make them perfect as snacks. Mitarashi dango are recommended for those who don't have a sweet tooth. They are dango covered in a viscous, soy sauce-based sauce. There is a little sugar added to the sauce, giving it a sweet and savory flavor that goes perfectly with the dango that has just a hint of sweetness.
Kusa dango, which are made by mixing the leaves of a plant called "yomogi" (Japanese mugwort) into the dango themselves, have a refreshing flavor and are great on their own or with an.
Pink dango are colored with food coloring, so the flavors are the same as white ones.
Because dango are made with regular rice, one skewer has about 130 calories—enough energy to sustain you if eaten instead of breakfast!

An dango

Mitarashi dango

Recommended Shops in Tokyo

Kototoi Dango (Tokyo Skytree Station)

First up is Kototoi Dango, a famous shop with an eat-in area that is within walking distance of the popular tourist destinations Tokyo Skytree and Asakusa.
The shop's namesake "Kototoi Dango" are soft dango wrapped in three different kinds of an: white an made with white kidney beans, regular an made with adzuki beans, and a yellow miso an. Dango with miso an are rare, but the aroma of the miso and the delicate sweetness of the white kidney beans go perfectly together! These dango are not on skewers and can either be taken away (1,380 JPY and up for a pack of six) or enjoyed on site (720 JPY for three with tea), so be sure to try them.

Kototoi Dango (Tokyo Skytree Station)

5-5-22 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

Azuma (Asakusa)

This shop is popular for its "Freshly-made Kibi Dango" (350 JPY for five skewers). The dango for this sweet are made with a grain called "takakibi" (sorghum), and they are topped with a sprinkle of aromatic kinako (roasted soybean flour). The freshly-made dango have a gentle, rustic flavor. The "Omiyage Kibi Dango" (650 JPY for 10 skewers; refrigeration required) that you boil at home before eating are recommended as gifts.

Azuma (Asakusa)

1-18-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Dango Available at Supermarkets and Convenience Stores

If you want to try some dango before going to a specialty store, look for them in a convenience store or supermarket. For example, Yamazaki Baking Co.'s dango are about 100 JPY for a pack containing mitarashi, an, and tri-color dango. They are available at the convenience store, Daily Yamazaki, and at supermarkets.

Dango Available at Supermarkets and Convenience Stores

If this article piqued your interest, be sure to try the traditional Japanese sweet, dango. They are easy to get and a great way to experience the appeal of Japanese sweets.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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