The word 'wagashi' derives of 'wa' meaning Japanese and 'kashi' meaning sweats.
Wagashi is often enjoyed with matcha as the bitterness of the matcha helps compliment the sweetness of the confectionery. It's reflective of the seasons and is often very delicately and intricately crafted.
Shoeidoh, a well-respected wagashi brand of Ichinoseki, produces famous confectionery souvenirs such as Tamura no Ume (mochi with a jellylike plum sauce inside which is wrapped in an aoshiso green perilla leaf) and Gomasuri Dango (a delicate mochi with a rich sesame syrup inside).
(images taken from Shoeidoh's website)
Today, I would like to introduce you to their main branch which is about a 10min walk from JR Ichinoseki Station (West Exit). As you walk in, you will see counters decorated with delightful seasonal desserts and a Japanese Garden which you can admire from their cafe space. Aside from Tamura no Ume and Gomasuri Dango, some exciting sweets include wasanbon, a treat that is exemplifies the texture and taste of well-refined sugar and 'Kohaku', a Shoeidoh brand jelly confectionery. The inside is a lot like a jelly-bean and the outside is a little crispy. Aside from being able to purchase these exemplary Japanese sweets as souvenirs or trying something from their cafe menu, you can also try your hand at making wagashi.
Wagashi Making Experience
The store is more than happy to show you how to make wagashi (booking essential, details below). A class is 1500yen per person for a 30 minute lesson, which includes tea (if you want matcha, it's 2000yen). We made two types of 'nerikiri' seasonal sweets made of bean paste and mochi flour. Here is our experience.
1) You will be asked to wash your hands on arrival and be guided to a table set up with all your wagashi needs.
2) The teacher will demonstrate how to make the wagashi. For our lesson which was in March, we made a plum blossom and spring lawn.
3) After the demonstration, you will be able to try your hand at making them yourself. The teacher will follow along with you.
4) Once you have made your creation, you have the option to eat them with some tea or take them home.
We went as a group of four which was just right. The experience can be held up to 15 people (and as little as 2 people), but if you would like to have the teacher walk you through it at a comfortable pace, ~4 to us seemed like a perfect number. During the lesson, you will be able to experience many wagashi techniques. The teacher makes it look so easy but don't be disheartened if they don't turn out the way you want them to on your first try. We enjoyed comparing our creations and adding our own special touches. Lessons are only available in Japanese, so knowing some basics would be useful.
Homepage (Japanese): https://www.shoeidoh.co.jp/
Wagashi experience (Japanese): https://www.shoeidoh.co.jp/?mode=f2 Address (main branch):〒021-0893 岩手県一関市地主町３−３６