Lately there's been a Japanese food boom around the world, and something that's been attracting attention is wagashi, or traditional Japanese sweets. Wagashi have a history of more than a thousand years. They have a wide variety, ranging from very simple treats to artisanal masterpieces that represent the seasons. Here are 4 wagashi shops to check out when you're in Tokyo.
Gunrindo, near Gokokuji Station on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line, is a wagashi store that's received attention thanks to its mame-daifuku (170 JPY (incl. tax)), a type of sweet in which anko (azuki beans boiled and mashed with sugar into a sweet paste) is wrapped in mochi that has whole beans in it. This mame-daifuku is so popular that it was chosen as one of Tokyo's top three daifuku. The sweetness of the tsubu-an (anko in which the beans aren't completely mashed) and the slight saltiness from the peas in the soft mochi makes for a perfect harmony of flavors. It's so delicious that after you eat one you'll want to reach for your second. This mame-daifuku is so popular that wagashi fans from all over the country come to the store, meaning there is usually a line. However, this is still a wagashi you should try. The store closes when supplies run out, so make sure you get there early!
In Tokyo, if you mention dorayaki, the first name on everyone's lips is Kuromatsu's main branch, Sogetsu, just down the hill from Higashi-Jujo Station's south exit on the JR Keihin-Tohoku Line. Dorayaki is a wagashi made of two soft, round castella-like pancakes held together by anko. This store has been beloved by locals for more than 80 years, and offers a variety of wagashi including yokan (red bean jelly), monaka (a wafer filled with anko), dorayaki, and nama-wagashi (a type of wagashi that has a high moisture content and is usually made with anko). In their Kuromatsu Dorayaki (100 JPY (excl. tax)), they use lots of brown sugar, honey, and eggs to create a fluffy pancake that goes well with the high-quality sweet anko. The light aroma and gentle taste of the honey is extremely popular. It's reasonably priced so many people buy it as souvenirs, and many people buy it almost every day. It usually sells out around 5:00 pm, so if you go to the shop, make sure to get there early. Please try it!
*The dorayaki in the back of the photo is Kuromatsu Dorayaki.
2. Kuromatsu Main Branch Sogetsu
If you want to eat delicious mame-daifuku and monaka, go to Mizuho in Harajuku. The mame-daifuku at this store (216 JPY (incl. tax)), is another one of Tokyo's top three daifuku. Their rich koshian (smooth anko) is wrapped in the soft mochi studded with red peas that give it a perfect saltiness to create a flavor that is in perfect balance. When it sells out the shop closes, so if you want to get the mame-daifuku, make sure you get there before noon. The monaka (141 JPY (incl. tax)) has many hidden fans. It's also made with koshian and it goes perfectly with the fragrant, crispy wafer. Definitely pick it up if you get the chance!
Edo-fu Okashitsukasa Nihonbashi Nagato, in Nihonbashi, is a well-established wagashi store that has about 300 years of history. They offer a huge variety of wagashi, and the most recommended among them are the Kuzumochi (890 JPY (incl. tax)) and their hannama-mochi (3,000 JPY (incl. tax) for the special small box), a type of wagashi with a water content of 10-30%. Their Kuzumochi is made with anko using kudzu starch and mochi made with bracken starch and then covered with lots of kinako (soybean) flour to create a chewy treat that melts-in-your-mouth. The hannama-wagashi can keep for a week, so it's perfect for souvenirs. The cute box holds colorful, pretty wagashi so that you can enjoy various flavors and textures without getting tired of them. You can enjoy a luxurious tea-time with these sweets.
4. Edo-Fu Okashitsukasa Nihonbashi Nagato
These well-established, popular shops are extremely popular. You should stop by and pick up a snack that intrigues you to make even better memories of your trip.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.