The Asakusa area of Tokyo, which is a hugely popular tourist destination, has many long-established stores selling wagashi Japanese sweets. This time, we introduce four recommended shops to stop by at while seeing the sites.
1. Funawa's Imo-Yokan
This is the signature product of Funawa, a famous shop for wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) that was established in 1902. Satsumaimo sweet potatoes that are peeled individually by hand are steamed and made into a paste, to which sugar and a little salt are added. The paste is then hardened in a mold. No coloring agents, preservatives, or flavoring is added, so the simple, natural flavors of the ingredients come through. It is popular among people of all ages for its natural sweetness and moist texture, so be sure to give it a try.
Sample price: Box of five Imo-Yokan (648 JPY (incl. tax)).
2. Tokiwado Kaminariokoshi Honpo's Kaminari-Okoshi
Kaminari-Okoshi is a famous sweet that a wagashi store with a history of more than 200 years has been making since the time of its establishment. It is now renowned nationwide as a wagashi that represents Asakusa and Tokyo. Rice that is steamed into mochi (a stretchy ball of pounded rice) is puffed up by roasting, mixed with sweeteners such as starch syrup and sugar and hardened. The name Kaminari-Okoshi comes from Kaminarimon, an iconic gate in Asakusa. Kaminari-Okoshi is popular as a lucky sweet as the word "okosu", means to "raise" as in raising one's stature. It is characterized by a light, crunchy texture and a sweetness that is not cloying and is sold in various flavors, including sugar, matcha (green tea), and almond.
Sample price: Jo-Isobe Mix of Three (Matcha) (40g x 3 bags 432 JPY (incl. tax))
3. Kozakura's Karinto
Karinto is a standard wagashi with a faint sweetness and crunchy texture that has a sense of nostalgia for the Japanese people. Kozakura is a store specializing in karinto.
Karinto is made by mixing flour with white sesame seeds and yeast, resting the dough for 3 - 4 hours then forming it. It is then deep-fried in vegetable oil and covered by hand with melted sugar. There is a wide selection of flavors, including maple syrup, kinako (soybean flour), ginger and yuzu citrus, with variations in taste and appearance. All the karinto sold at Kozakura is prepared that same day. The items pictured are the colorful, sesame-flavored Yumeji (thin), and Furusato (dark and thick) made with brown sugar from Okinawa.
This shop started as a high-end ryotei restaurant which presented karinto as gifts to patrons, so its presentation, including the packaging, is highly refined. The Japanese-style wrapping with cherry blossom petals depicted on an eggplant-color background has beautiful design that will be a welcome gift.
Sample price: Yumeji Furusato Assortment (120g x 2 bags 756 JPY (incl. tax))
4. Kameju's Dorayaki
Kameju, which has a history of over 90 years, is a popular shop with lines forming every day. Its signature product is the Dorayaki (a red-bean pancake sandwich), of which 3,000 are made each day.
Kameju's Dorayaki is prepared by frying a batter of eggs, sugar and flour in rounds and sandwiching sweet bean paste in them. It is has been a popular baked good among people in Tokyo since the Edo Period.
The Dorayaki at Kameju has the perfect balance between the soft, pancake-like fried batter and moist, homemade bean paste with a delicate sweetness. It is prepared by skilled craftsmen who purposely cook it to have grill marks on the surface. There are two types: The Kuro-an with a paste made of azuki beans from Tokachi in Hokkaido and the creamy Shiro-an made with a paste of small kidney beans.
Sample price: Dorayaki Kuro-an (324 JPY (incl. tax) each)
The Asakusa area in Tokyo is also full of many attractive sightseeing spots. Be sure to stop by at the shops introduced here when visiting.
*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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