The wondrous world of 'wagashi'
The word 'wagashi' derives of 'wa' meaning Japanese and 'kashi' meaning sweets.
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 showcase 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. Alongside Tamura no Ume and Gomasuri Dango are some exciting sweets such as wasanbon, a treat that exemplifies the texture and taste of well-refined sugar and 'Kohaku', a Shoeidoh brand jelly confectionery. The texture is like that of a jelly-bean with a crispy sugar crust on the outer layer. Aside from being able to purchase these incredible treats 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 1650yen per person for a 30-minute lesson, which includes tea (for matcha, it's an extra fee). 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. (Update, I also went in November of 2023, and we made chrysanthemum and mandarin!)
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 for up to 15 people (and as little as 2 people). 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.
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