Wagashi are unique sweets with more than 300 years of history

Wagashi are unique sweets with more than 300 years of history

Wagashi, Japanese traditional sweets, have unique history and developed with limited influence from typical Western sweets. Nowadays Wagashi are added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Let’s learn its unique and interesting history together! φ(・ω・ )



First confections were fruits and nuts in ancient Japan

First traces of sweets making in Japan date back to back to Yayoi period (300 BC–300 AD), when first mentions of Japanese sweets in form of just fruits and nuts, such as persimmon and chestnuts, were found. In those times without the techniques for processing food, the sweetness of fruits would have felt like a special blessing, which is perhaps why they were distinguished from staple foods. These were the first examples of snacks and treats In Japan.



Later, the drying of fruit in the sun and the grinding of fruit for preservation came into practice. It’s said that the Dango originates from the practice of grinding fruit into a powder and soaking in water to remove harshness before rolling into a dumpling shape and cooking.

Related post: what is dango? the 5 most popular types of dango


The creation of first Mochi

Before long, Mochi—said to be Japan’s oldest processed food—was created. As it was made from rice, which at the time was more important than any other food, Mochi was treated as a divine creation. The legacy of this can be witnessed in Japan’s important traditional events where Mochi is often eaten or presented as an offering.

Related post: what is mochi? a beginner’s guide to mochi


The influence of confections from China

In the 7th century, confectionery methods from China were introduced. Compared to the simple processing of grains, this produced distinctive confections of superior taste, appearance, and manufacturing. It is said that this had a huge influence on Japanese confectionery.

In addition, sugar was imported in this period (around 750AD). However, as sugar was very valuable at the time, it was used in medicine rather than for confections.


Wagashi was developed together with Japanese tea ceremony

During Edo period (1603-1867) Japanese agriculture productivity and knowledge improved significantly. During that period Japanese tea making ceremony developed significantly, and as Wagashi were crucial part of tea ceremonies at that time, demand for Wagashi improved greatly as well.

Many kinds of Wagashi were invented and became very popular during that period. At the end of Edo period, Wagashi was perfected into the style as we know today.




Because of its uniqueness, Wagashi was added to the UNESCO World Heritage

Generally, Wagashi are very different from Western sweets because through most of its history Japan was isolated country with very limited influence from neighboring cultures. Western sweets began to spread in Japan only in the 19th century (Meiji Restoration). Nowadays Wagashi officially recognized one of Japan’s intangible heritage as approved by UNESCO in 2013.


Matane! (in Japanese, means “see you soon!”)

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