musings travel

Around the World in 80 Days: Day 21, Japanese Sweets

One thing I extra special appreciate about Japanese people is that they understand if you add sugar to anything it transforms into something marvelous.  Don’t believe me?  Ok, take the avocado for example.  Granted, it took a long time for me to warm up to avocados (back in the day when I was picky about eating stuff) but now I find avocados, just as they are, delicious.  I think they’re better when turned into guac, but do you know what happens when you add sugar?  Four-dimensional time bending, that’s what.  I’m a fan of, and have made for myself, both avocado pie and avocado shakes.  If you’re a lover of avocados you should give one of these magical mergers a try.

So… pretty much every Japanese sweet I’ve come across is made of either rice, beans, or beans and rice.  Unusual choices but we’ll go with it.  Occasionally you’ll get wheat flour substituted for the rice flour.  I did run across some miso (fermented bean paste) ice cream at the soy factory, but I have not tried it yet.  I like miso, so I’m totally gonna try it.  I’m surprised I haven’t seen any fish flavored sweets.  OH – there is also a seaweed algae sweet.  You may have inadvertently had some yourself at some point in time.  It’s called agar and it’s a gelatin-like thickener.

Let’s look at some sweets I’ve eaten!

This sweet has a soft, airy outer pastry like the texture of the starch-based packing peanuts they make these days.  Maybe a little softer than that.  What do you mean you haven’t eaten one?  Next Amazon package y’all get I expect you to go to town.  Inside… drum roll… bean paste.  This was grocery store bought.  I bought it because it was pretty.  Decent.  Probably won’t buy again. 4/10

This one was wheat flour on the outside and bean paste inside.  The flour based coating reminds me a lot of the flour cookie part of a fig newton.  The twist is that it’s got some sort of chestnut inside too. Not bad. I bought it because it looks cool and I like the writing on it.  5/10  Would buy again if I was hungry.

This sweet seems to be the agar jelly wrapped around bean paste.  This one is Raquel’s.

This one is mine.

What it looked like.  That reminds me.  I’ve had questions about my regularity.  I seem to be doing fine.  Thank you all for your concerns.  This wasn’t my favorite nor Raquel’s.  3/10  Would not buy again.

I really wanted to like these.  I saw them on a Japanese show and they looked so good to me.  These are called dango and they come with a few different toppings.  They were coated with a sweet soy sauce and I also had some with a sweet black sesame paste on them.  The little balls are mochi, which I normally like, but the texture of these were too soft and sticky for me.  I think these are a popular street festival treat.  3/10, but I would give this another try if made fresh.

Melon pan!  This is a moist, sweet bread that tastes like honeydew melon or cantaloupe.  They are roughly a dollar a piece and I’ve already eaten about 10 of these.  My friend Mina bought me a couple from a train station in Tokyo (that’s a good thing).  This one had a cream filling in it. 8/10  Buying regularly.

This one is similar to the one above with the chestnuts.  Wheat flour outside, bean paste inside. Meh. 4/10  Probably won’t buy again.  Pretty though.

I think these are either wabarimochis or regular mochi covered in toasted soybean flour.  Wabirimochi is made from bracken starch instead of rice.  The consistency was just like the rice based mochi I have eaten.  It came with a dipping sauce.  It could be caramel, could be sweet soy sauce.  It wasn’t bad!  7/10  Would buy again.


This is the reason Yasuko brought her foam cooler to fill up at the sweet shop in Higashichichibu.  This is a chocolate daifuku.  Sweet rice dough (mochi) wrapped around sweet bean paste and a little cream in these.  We’ve had strawberry, green tea, custard, this one, and there are two more waiting.  I am rationing them out.  The first night when I ate the strawberry one, I split it 4 ways with 3 other people.  It made all of us freeze, emit sounds of pleasure, and our eyes rolled back into our heads.  Score another one for Yasuko!  10/10  Would trade a kidney for.

This was also from the sweet shop that Yasuko took me to.  It was in the freezer and didn’t have enough time to thaw before I ate it.  I was in a hurry to get to the soy factory.  So this would be like a cream puff with the outside as soft, sweet, light pancakes.  It was lovely and probably would taste a lot better when properly thawed. 8/10  Would buy again.

I agree.

The local sweets lady encouraged me to try this sweet potato sweet.

Wonderful.  Firm and moist like a cross between a muffin and a cheesecake.  HEY!  OMG!  NO BEANS OR RICE?!?!  9/10  Definitely will buy again!

This is rice dough.  Mochi.  It’s firm.  It’s sweet.  It’s pink.  I can’t get my translator app to tell me what I’m eating so I don’t know what flavor it is.  The Japanese have something called “Spring” flavor or “Sakura” which I suspect it may be.  I bought one from a grocery store a few towns away and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Next time I was near the store I bought 3 more.  9/10  Buying again.

This is a daifuku handmade with love from the local sweets lady.  My friend Raquel and I went in to a nearby sweet shop the other day when we needed a little work break and bought some of the sweets above.  We asked for daifuku and the lady spoke to us in 99.9% Japanese.  I pulled out my phone and got a little of what she said.  She said she didn’t have daifuku but to come back the next morning.  Later I speculated to Raquel that she was going to hand make them especially for us.  When we came back to pick them up I asked her if she made them and it was true.  For the love, the sweetness of the sweets lady, and her handmade daifuku, I give it a 7/10.  Will give her my money again.

For more reading: Japanese Sweets.



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