A Little History of Japanese Sweets

A Little History of Japanese Sweets


Classbento Team

A typical Japanese bakery will have wagashi. In fact, they won’t just have wagashi. Most likely, they will have many, many types of the bite-sized sweet Japanese treats. As you peruse your options, it will be difficult to pinpoint just one tantalizing option: there are small, soft green balls, dense, chocolate-like squares, intricately molded hard candies, and more, all delicious and delicate and exciting.

 

After deliberating for a long time between the wide selection, you may just have to sample more than one. Don’t worry if you don’t find your favourite treat on your first pass. Japanese sweets are available at virtually every Japanese establishment in Australia, including restaurants, department stores, food carts, and convenience stores (1). Make sure that you have an open mind and a cup of green tea with you as you begin your wagashi journey.

japanese wagashi sweets

To understand wagashi, you must first learn the ancient art of tea ceremony.

 

You’ve probably heard of Japanese Tea Ceremony, a practice that automatically conjures up images of delicate tea sets, the precise and talented movements of a tea master, and the serene greenery of a tea garden. Historians have written a great deal about this highly structured and difficult-to-learn cultural practice, from its introduction to Japan in the 700’s to today’s tea ceremony revival in younger generations. Everyone can agree that tea ceremony holds a special place in Japan’s national identity, invoking pride in citizens and absolute awe in tourists.

 

What you may not have heard, but will be excited to learn, is that tea ceremony has a sweet secret: Wagashi, or Japanese sweets.

 

This facet of tea culture deals specifically with the sweet accompaniments to green tea, made up mostly of sweet bean pastes and rice flour. They come in an endless variety of colors, shapes, tastes and textures, and have become a cultural staple in their own right.

 

Dessert-lovers and cultural enthusiasts alike are anxious to sign up for Japanese confectionery classes, in which students learn the preparation method and serving technique of the tasty morsels. Try making your own sweet treats with ClassBento's friendly and expert teachers, or dive deeper into a workshop that focuses on Japanese arts and culture.

 

Once you’ve signed up for your beginner’s course, you may want to brush up on your Japanese tea history before your first class. Here are a few key things to remember about this special practice:

 

•       In the 14th century, tea ceremony was created by Zen Buddhists as a religious practice emphasizing the four integral notions of harmony, respect, purity and tranquility (2). Because of this, tea ceremony is a fundamentally spiritual practice and has retained sacred status for seven centuries.

•       The most important name associated with tea ceremony is Sen Rikyu (3), a tea master who set the standard for tea ceremony by codifying the entire process, from the technical process, to the utensils, to the setting. He is credited with developing the notions of wabi (a commitment to simple, everyday living) and sabi (an aesthetic tendency towards the old and worn.) The overall intention is to find beauty in ordinary objects.

•       Tea masters dedicate their entire lives to perfecting their craft, and a full tea ceremony can last up for four hours, with multiple renditions of green tea, a meal, sake tasting, and wagashi (4).

 

Now that you have a foundational knowledge of the main show, let’s pivot to one of the key players of the ceremony: wagashi.

 

Wagashi can be broken down into three separate categories - togashi, tenjin and nanban-gashi - each with its own taste and cultural history(5).

 

•       Togashi is the rarest form of Japanese confectionery and is made from the kneading of wheat flour or bean paste into various shapes. It is then deep-fried and has a long tradition of being served at aristocratic banquets.

•       Tenjin is the type most closely associated with tea ceremony as it was introduced with by the zen buddhists who popularized the custom. It is characterized by jellied and bun-like sweets, although traditional versions were more savory than sweet.

•       Nanban-gashi was radically different from other forms of wagashi when it was introduced by Portuguese immigrants in 1543. Unlike its savory relatives, this unique form utilized sweet ingredients and eggs, which were previously uncommon on the islands.

 

If such distinctions are not enough, wagashi gets more complicated - and more exciting! For, the creation of Japanese sweets are not simply shaping sweetened bean paste into random shapes. Instead, each wagashi creates a balance of the senses which enhances its role as part of the Zen Buddhist’s tea ceremony(6):

 

•       Sight - each wagashi is perfectly crafted to be aesthetically pleasing and thought provoking

•       Taste - wagashi is a showcase of its natural ingredients, allowing the person tasting the treat to admire traditional Japanese crops such as beans and grains

•       Texture – the sweets come in a vast variety of textures, from soft to crispy to light to dense

•       Scent - a key aspect is subtlety - in fragrance, especially. Each morsel compliments the other scents of the ceremony, like the all-important green tea

•       Sound - wagashi invoke an auditory response as a result of its unique and significant labels. Many refer to natural elements or traditional poetic works

 

When sifting through all of the information, you may feel a little bit overwhelmed. This is normal; tea ceremony and Japanese sweets boast of long and meaningful histories that are difficult for foreigners to understand.

 

But wagashi can be a beautiful and accessible hobby, in which students learn about and gain an appreciation for an incredibly complex culture while also exploring the creative process of wagashi-making.

 

As a student of wagashi, you can benefit just by learning the basics, or you can fully lean into the practice, tapping into an extensive and well-established tradition of sweet-making.

 

References:

 

(1)  japan-guide.com

(2)  mightyleaf.com

(3)  britannica.com

(4)  shibuiswords.com

(5)  kikkoman.com

(6)  toraya-group.co.jp




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3 to 8

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3 to 15

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location_on Parramatta

10 to 40

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4k

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location_on Parramatta

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label $90

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Pizza Making Class for Kids (10-16 Years)

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location_on Parramatta

10 to 40

label $49

4k

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Team Building Cooking Class

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12 to 32

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11k

Greek Cooking Class

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1k

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location_on Newstead

12 to 40

label $75

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location_on Newstead

10

label $35

1k

Kids Pizza Making Class (7+ Years) - Gold Coast

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Broadbeach

10

label $35

3k

4.4 stars (298+)

Pizza Making Class - Gold Coast

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Broadbeach

12 to 40

label $75

3k

4.4 stars (298+)

Raw Vegan Cooking Class: Easy Dinners Recipes

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Margate

10 to 40

label $150

16k+

2k

Raw Vegan Brunch Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Margate

10 to 40

label $150

16k+

2k

Raw Vegan Meal and Dessert Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Margate

10 to 40

label $150

16k+

2k

Mozzarella Cheese Making Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Sydney

10 to 50

label $89

24k

33k+

Fresh Pasta and Italian Meatballs Making Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Sydney

10 to 50

label $89

24k

33k+

Pasta Masterclass

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Sydney

10 to 15

label $109

33k+

24k

Hand Made Gnocchi Making Class and Sangria

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Sydney

12 to 50

label $89

33k+

24k

Team Building Event - Japanese Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Bondi Junction

10 to 40

label $133

4k

Arancini and Pasta Making Class Plus Aperol's

date_range Contact for details

location_on Sydney

10 to 16

label $99

33k+

24k

Winter Warmers Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Margate

10 to 40

label $150

16k+

2k

Moroccan Cooking for Mindfulness

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Bondi Junction

5 to 16

label $185

1k

1k+

Pasta Lovers Masterclass: Valentines Edition

date_range Contact for details

location_on Sydney

1 to 10

label $119

33k+

24k

Food as Medicine Masterclass

date_range Contact for details

location_on South Melbourne

1 to 40

label $350

7k

8k+

Corporate Healthy Cooking Challenge

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Byron Bay

10 to 40

label $275

7k

8k+

American Smoking Cooking Class

date_range Sat 16 May, 11:30am

location_on Narrabundah

1 to 30

label $145

3k+

4.8 stars (154+)

Christmas BBQ Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Narrabundah

10 to 25

label $130

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

Private Pasta Battle Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Sydney

16 to 40

label $99

24k

33k+

Group Pizza Making Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Sydney

12 to 40

label $89

33k+

24k

Flaming Cheese Wheel and Wine Experience: Dee Why

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Dee Why

1 to 100

label $35

24k

33k+

Flaming Cheese Wheel and Wine Experience: Brisbane

date_range Runs regularly

location_on South Brisbane

1 to 100

label $35

14k+

13k

Flaming Cheese Wheel and Wine Experience

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Surfers Paradise

1 to 100

label $35

5k+

4.0 (4)

Pasta Making Masterclass

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Cammeray

5 to 12

label $120

5.0 (3)

Team Building Italian Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Cammeray

6 to 16

label $110 - $135

Two Day Intensive Cooking Class: Food as Medicine

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Byron Bay

1

label $2997

7k

8k+

Private Food as Medicine Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Byron Bay

1 to 2

label $275

7k

8k+

Cocktail Making Class and Eats: Aperitivo Hour

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Sydney

10 to 40

label $69

5.0 (6)

24k

Pizza Making Class with a Margarita

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Sydney

12 to 40

label $89

5.0 (14)

24k

Japanese Osechi Vegan Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Queens Park

2 to 6

label $110

5.0 (1)

Female Hormonal Health Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Brooklet

10 to 40

label $450

2k

Spanish Tapas Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Brooklet

10 to 40

label $285

2k

Superfoods Cooking Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Brooklet

10 to 40

label $275

2k

Pasta Making Class with Cannoli and Cocktails

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Sydney

1 to 12

label $109

33k+

24k

Koji Making Master Class

date_range Wed 10 Jun, 10am

location_on Umina Beach

1 to 6

label $120

Miso Making Class

date_range 6 May

location_on Umina Beach

1 to 7

label $95

Lebanese BBQ Cooking Demonstration Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Murrumbeena

10 to 80

label $60

20k

19k+

Lebanese Classics Cooking Demonstration Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Murrumbeena

10 to 80

label $60

20k

19k+

Italian Cooking Class - Ligurian Cuisine

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Cammeray

5 to 12

label $159

Pomegranate Madness Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Murrumbeena

10 to 40

label $60

20k

19k+

Middle Eastern Cooking Demonstration Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Murrumbeena

10 to 40

label $60

20k

19k+

Modern Middle Eastern Cooking Demonstration Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Fairfield

10 to 80

label $60

20k

19k+

Flaming Cheese Wheel and Wine Experience: Gasworks

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Newstead

1 to 30

label $35

13k

4.0 (2)

Japanese Knife Sharpening Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Chatswood

1 to 10

label $77

BBQ Christmas Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Centennial Park

10 to 24

label $130

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

Burgers and Beers Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Willoughby

10 to 14

label $99

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

Cheese Making Basics Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Brisbane

1 to 24

label $60

4.6 (8)

30k

Simply Japanese (Intensive): Beginner + Matcha

date_range Sun 10 May, 10am

location_on Neutral Bay

1 to 15

label $280

4.7 (7)

4k

Japanese Favourites (Intensive): Gyoza + Sushi

date_range Sat 11 Jul, 10am

location_on Neutral Bay

1 to 15

label $280

4.8 (8)

4k

Japanese Ramen and Sushi Cooking Class (Intensive)

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Neutral Bay

10 to 15

label $280

4.7 (7)

4k

Vegan Indian Cooking Class

date_range Contact for details

location_on Macquarie Park

2 to 4

label $150

40k

5.0 (1)

Japanese Fermentation (Intensive)

date_range Sun 26 Jul, 10am

location_on Neutral Bay

1 to 15

label $280

4k

Superkids Sushi and Sweets Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Neutral Bay

10 to 15

label $225

4k

Gut Healing Japanese Cooking Class (Intensive)

date_range Sun 24 May, 10am

location_on Bondi Junction

1 to 15

label $280

4.7 (7)

4k

Japanese Ramen and Gyoza Cooking Class (Intensive)

date_range 28 Jun, 30 Aug

location_on Bondi Junction

1 to 15

label $280

4.7 (7)

4k

The Art of Indian Cooking

date_range Your choice of time

location_on North Ryde

1 to 4

label $150

40k

3k+

Making Dumplings Cooking Class

date_range Mon 3 Aug, 6pm

location_on Rozelle

1 to 12

label $144 - $169

5k+

4.6 stars (62+)

Home Preserving Basics Class

date_range Thu 11 Jun, 6:30pm

location_on Brisbane

1 to 40

label $55

19k+

30k

Summer BBQ Class for Teens (12+ Years)

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Neutral Bay

10 to 15

label $125

4.6 stars (177+)

1k

South American BBQ Cooking Class

date_range 2 May, 23 May

location_on Willoughby

1 to 14

label $130

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

South American BBQ Cooking Class

date_range 3 May, 28 Jun

location_on Hawthorn

1 to 20

label $130

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

South American BBQ Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Nulkaba

10 to 30

label $130

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

Japanese Health Geek (Intensive)

date_range Sun 23 Aug, 10am

location_on Sydney

1 to 15

label $280

4k

How to Make Dal Cooking Class: Know Your Lentils

date_range Your choice of time

location_on North Ryde

1 to 4

label $150

40k

3k+

Mexican Cooking Class: Terrific Tacos!

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Neutral Bay

10 to 15

label $115

4.6 stars (177+)

1k

Pasta Making Masterclass

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Barangaroo

10 to 20

label $99

7k

4.3 stars (295+)

Seafood Dishes Cooking Class: Sassy Seafood

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Neutral Bay

10 to 15

label $135

4.6 stars (177+)

1k

Olive Oil Tasting Experience

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Main Ridge

10 to 200

label $12

12k

9k+

Farmers Lunch Experience

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Main Ridge

5 to 200

label $65 - $72

12k

9k+

Sustainable Farm Tour Plus Lunch

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Main Ridge

10 to 200

label $75

12k

9k+

Farmers Lunch and Eagle Pass Experience

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Main Ridge

5 to 200

label $90 - $97

12k

9k+

Farmers Lunch and Hot Springs Experience

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Main Ridge

5 to 200

label $145 - $151

12k

9k+

Sausage Making Class Plus Lunch

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Main Ridge

1 to 40

label $180

12k

9k+

Paddock to Plate Cooking Experience

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Main Ridge

2 to 10

label $250

12k

9k+

Team Cooking Class: Farm Cook Off Team Challenge

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Main Ridge

20 to 100

label $400

12k

9k+

Beer and BBQ Cooking Class

date_range Sat 20 Jun, 11:30am

location_on Narrabundah

1 to 25

label $145

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

Dumpling Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on East Brisbane

10 to 30

label $75

Pasta Making Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Main Ridge

1 to 50

label $180

12k

9k+

Wood Fired Pizza Making Class

date_range 25 Apr, 30 May

location_on Main Ridge

1 to 50

label $180

12k

9k+

Butchery Class

date_range 2 May, 27 Jun

location_on Main Ridge

1 to 50

label $180

12k

9k+

South American BBQ Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Bunya

10 to 20

label $130

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

South American BBQ Class

date_range Sun 24 May, 11:30am

location_on Centennial Park

1 to 24

label $130

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

Italian Cheese Making Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Comes to you

10

label $100

1k

1k+

Halloumi Cheese Making Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Comes to you

10

label $110

1k

1k+

Mediterranean Cheese Making Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Comes to you

10

label $125

1k

1k+

Cheese Making Course: Intensive

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Thornlie

6 to 12

label $450

4.9 stars (59+)

3k+

BBQ Cooking Class for Corporate Teams

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Mitchelton

10 to 80

label $120

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

BBQ Cooking Class for Corporate Teams

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Hawthorn

10 to 80

label $120

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

Masterchef BBQ Challenge for Corporate Teams

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Mitchelton

10 to 100

label $130

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

Masterchef BBQ Challenge for Corporate Teams

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Hawthorn

10 to 80

label $130

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

Corporate Olympics BBQ Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Mitchelton

10 to 80

label $145

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

Corporate Olympics BBQ Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Hawthorn

10 to 100

label $145

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

Dumpling Making Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Alphington

6 to 16

label $125

Burrata and Bocconcini Making Class with Bubbles

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Comes to you

10

label $89

1k

1k+

Halloumi Making Class with Bubbles

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Comes to you

10

label $89

1k

1k+

Meat BBQ Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Narrabundah

10 to 30

label $130

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

Seafood BBQ Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Narrabundah

10 to 25

label $145

4.8 stars (154+)

3k+

Piroshki Cooking Class: Russian Pies

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Sandringham

6 to 10

label $100 - $110

Vegan Pasta Making and Vegan Dessert Class

date_range Contact for details

location_on Newstead

10 to 15

label $89

13k

Cinco De Mayo Cooking Class

date_range Sun 3 May, 3pm

location_on Newstead

1 to 20

label $89

13k

Italian Cooking Class for Mother’s Day

date_range Sun 10 May, 3pm

location_on Newstead

1 to 20

label $89

13k

Truffle Cooking Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Newstead

1 to 20

label $109

13k

Handmade Pasta Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Bondi Junction

5 to 15

label $125

1k

Rainbow Pasta Class

date_range Sun 12 Apr, 9am

location_on Bondi Junction

1 to 15

label $125

1k

Whole Grain Pasta Class

date_range Sat 2 May, 9am

location_on Bondi Junction

1 to 15

label $125

1k

Gluten Free Pasta Class

date_range Sat 9 May, 9am

location_on Bondi Junction

1 to 15

label $120 - $130

1k

Plant Based Cooking Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Neutral Bay

10 to 15

label $125

4.6 stars (177+)

1k

Wagashi Dessert Making Private Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Katoomba

1 to 3

label $100 - $125

Matcha Vegan Dumpling Cooking Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Katoomba

1 to 3

label $70 - $85

Pasta Making Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Surry Hills

1 to 20

label $95

4k

Sushi Making Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Riverton

8 to 25

label $65

Cheesemaking Masterclass: Brie and Fetta

date_range Sat 23 May, 10am

location_on Fitzroy

1 to 40

label $140 - $150

30k

19k+

Dumpling Making Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Redfern

5 to 8

label $135

6k


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V48I01Z33L 34c052b7f77f35dccea660a6ce51910d -33.790 151.270 production Sydney NSW AU sydney melbourne brisbane adelaide perth canberra