Japanese Sweets & Desserts

Before I came to Japan I didn’t know much about Japanese sweets, as I associated savoury foods like ramen and sushi with Japan.

But sweets are really popular here, and like other types of food in Japan there are lots of sweets that are specific to certain seasons and regions (so it would be impossible to cover them all in this post!).

There are quite a few to cover so I’ve split them into categories – Traditional japanese Sweets & Modern Japanese Twists.

I’ve included more information below the video 😊

Traditional Japanese Sweets & Desserts:

These tend to have quite a subtle sweetness, such as:

  • Wagashi – a traditional type of Japanese sweet which are usually made from mochi (a doughy Japanese rice cake), adzuki bean paste and different kinds of fruit. By the way mochi can be a serious choking hazard, especially for children and older people so be careful, so take small bites and chew it well if you are going to try it.
  • Namagashi – the type of wagashi served as part of Japanese tea ceremonies (and I’ve written this blog post about green tea and matcha in Japan which talks about these ceremonies in more detail). Namagashi are usually made from fruit jelly, or sweet adzuki bean paste and these are made into pretty designs like flowers and leaves.
  • Daifucho – circular mochi filled with sweet adzuki bean paste.
  • Ichigo daifuku – a variation of daifucho which has a strawberry in the middle; this was really at food stalls while we were in Japan.
  • Yuki Ichigo – sponge cake with a strawberry and cream which is wrapped in mochi.
  • Dango – 3-4 mochi dumplings on a stick, these can be different flavours or coated in syrup or sesame seeds.
  • Sakuramochi – a sweet pink type of wagasi which is covered with a sakura or cherry blossom leaf, this is sold during cherry blossom season.
  • Taiyaki – a fish shaped cake that is usually filled with adzuki bean paste. This is this also quite common at food stalls and is based on the shape of Japanese Sea Bream, which is thought to be lucky in Japan.
  • Kakigori – a Japanese dessert made of flaked ice which is flavoured with condensed milk or syrup – it reminds me of a snow-cone.
  • Daigaku Imo – candied sweet potato which means “university sweet potato” in Japanese, as these were popular with university students who also used to sell these to make money. They are very tasty!
  • Melonpan – a Japanese sweet bread, which tastes a bit like brioche and is covered in a layer of cookie dough. It isn’t traditionally melon flavour but it’s name comes from it’s appearance as it looks like a Japanese cantaloup melon. I’m definitely a fan!
  • Castella – a Japanese sponge cake which is famous in Nagasaki. This is similar to madeira cake was actually brought to Japan by Portuguese sailors in the 16th century.

Modern Japanese Twists:

In contrast to the subtle sweetness of traditional Japanese desserts, I’ve found that a lot of modern desserts that are popular in Japan are really sweet and pretty massive in size! Many of these are twists on Western or European desserts.

  • Honey Toast – basically a massive slab of bread topped and filled with honey, ice-cream, syrup and other toppings like fruit and nuts.
  • Furutsu Sando  – this ‘fruit sandwich’ is also usually filled with cream, I’ve seen these sold in most convenience stores.
  • Japanese Soufflé Pancakes – a tower of tasty light and fluffy pancakes! We had to book a timeslot to order to try these but it was definately worth it, they were delicious!
  • Japanese Ice Cream – there are some quirky flavours like: matcha, wasabe, bitter melon, miso, sesame and squid ink!
  • Themed Desserts – these are often cute animal designs, or sakura (cherry blossom) themes, and there are loads of matcha and green tea flavoured sweets, cakes and desserts too (which I cover in this post about green tea and matcha
  • Japanese Donuts – there are quite a few american donut shops, some sell donuts with animal faces on them etc.  The first food I ate when we got to Japan was a black donut which wasn’t very nice – I’m not sure if it was bad chocolate or squid ink/charcoal or something!
  • Choco-fries – fries covered in cream and chocolate, I haven’t tried this but I’m curious about them!
  • Kureipu (crepes) – these are pretty much EVERYWHERE, usually sold as a street food filled with fruit, syrups and cream.
  • Fruit on a stick – this can be candied or fresh fruit, and is also commonly sold at food stalls.
  • European desserts – Baumkuchen (German ring cakes) are also sold in most cafes, in Okinawa you can also get a purple sweet potato version. Italian desserts like Mont Blanc cakes (called Monburan in Japan) and brioche con gelato are common as well. Quite a few places that sell Pastel de Nata (devine Portuguese custard tarts!).
  • Japanese Jellies – this is a popular texture in Japan. You can get coffee jelly, pieces of whole fruit in jelly and a type of jellied yoghurt (which I’m not a fan of!).  Cheesecake and flan are also quite popular.
  • Japanese Chocolate – kitkats are very popular and they come in loads of different flavours including: matcha, miso, baked potato and cough drop! ‘Melty kiss’ is another popular brand of chocolate (what a name!), this is made by the Meiji company which is Japanese and it also comes in lots of interesting flavours. 

My Favourites:

The subtle sweetness of traditional Japanese sweets has really grown on me, so I like most of the sweets make from mochi and adzuki bean paste. But overall my favourite traditional Japanese is yuki ichigo (sponge cake with a strawberry and cream which is wrapped in mochi), it is delicious!

Out of all the modern Japanese sweets and desserts I’ve tried, I think the Japanese soufflé pancakes were my favourite, especially as they were nice and light compared to some of the desserts we had which were a bit sickly and just far too big (especially the honey toast!).

If you visit Japan I would definitely recommend sampling some of the tasty sweets and desserts on offer 😊

If you are interesting in finding out more about food in Japan then check out:

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