Wagashi, or traditional Japanese confectionery, is said to encompass the essence of Japanese culture through its beauty and artistic aesthetic. Typically made with an, a bean paste made from azuki beans and sugar, the sweets are moulded into beautiful shapes representing the changing seasons or nature.
Whether it be an afternoon treat with tea or a gift for someone, wagashi are a delicious way to satisfy one’s sweet tooth. And the experience is even sweeter if you go through the trouble of crafting your own.
To make the task less daunting, we enlisted in a wagashi-making class to see just how challenging it is to create these edible beauties. Showing us the tricks of the trade was chef Shiho Sakamoto, who leads wagashi workshops around Tokyo every month.
Our task was a pretty little number called ame yadori or ‘shelter from the rain’, which is simply made from shiro-an (white bean paste), koshi-an (smooth azuki bean paste), and small purple and blue accents which are reminiscent of the season’s hydrangeas during the rainy season.
Step by step we were guided through the basics, starting with weighing the appropriate amounts of an and rolling it into small balls just smaller than the size of a golf ball. Next, we flattened the white paste required to cover the gozen-an and then put the smaller ball inside while wrapping the white paste evenly around it.
The next step was placing the small bits of coloured bean paste around the ball. This step is entirely up to you: you can put as much or as little colour around the ball as you please – basically whatever you think looks good.
Last was the fun part – placing the ball inside a damp white cloth, we strategically twisted the ball inside, giving the wagashi its unique, raindrop-like shape. And out came our cute little confection that we’re proud to call our own.
This particular workshop took place at Syunpuan, a quaint little tea shop in Kagurazaka where we were able to enjoy our handmade wagashi alongside a traditional cup of matcha as a nice way to end the class. Satisfied with our final result, we wouldn’t hesitate to attend another workshop to learn the secrets behind other types of wagashi.
Overall, the whole process was surprisingly simple, but mastering it would clearly be another story. Above all, it won’t hurt to handle everything with a little tender, loving care.