As the weather warms up and the cherry blossoms bloom, we start to see unique and delicious spring-themed traditional Japanese sweets known as wagashi. Here are seven different types of wagashi that you must try!
1. Kanto Region Sakura Mochi
One of the season’s most popular and favorite spring wagashi is sakura mochi! It consists of light pink colored glutinous rice with sweet red bean paste filling, also known as azuki bean paste. This wagashi is also wrapped around a pickled cherry blossom leaf. Specifically, the Kanto region uses shiratamako, a glutenous rice type, as the mochi ingredient. Their sakura mochi also looks different, having a tiny pink pancake rolled over the red bean paste.
2. Kansai Region Sakura Mochi
A different type of sakura mochi but consisting of similar ingredients, the Kansai region uses domyojiko, a different type of glutenous rice that is steamed, dried, and ground. You can even partially see the grains on the mochi!
3. Uguisu Mochi
Uguisu mochi is a wagashi named after the famous samurai Hideyoshi Toyotomi around 1580. It’s a rice cake made from glutinous rice, filled with red bean paste, and covered with roasted green soybean flour, called uguisuko. This treat is typically in a unique oblong shape matching that of a Japanese bush warbler or uguisu. This treat represents early spring.
4. Hanami Dango
Are you getting ready to view the cherry blossoms? Well, make sure you get some hanami dango! Hanami means flower viewing, usually associated with cherry blossoms. This wagashi is also made from glutinous rice; each color has its own flavor: pink is cherry blossom or shiso flavor, white is yuzu flavor or a plain flavor, and green is mugwort or matcha flavor. Also, each color has its own meaning: pink is the color of cherry blossoms, white is the color of the remaining snow, and green is the color of fresh greenery.
5. Hina Arare
Hina Arare is a rice cracker, some coated with sugar, while others coated with soy sauce, ultimately making this a sweet and salty treat. Hina arare is very popular during a holiday called Hinamatsuri, also known as Girl’s or Doll’s Day. Hinamatsuri is celebrated each year on March 3rd for the health and happiness of girls, dating back to the Edo period between 1603 and 1867. During this holiday, they also display some traditional Japanese dolls.
6. Hishi Mochi
Hishi mochi is another wagashi associated with Hinamatsuri. The name, Hishi, means diamond, which describes this mochi’s shape. The shape also represents fertility. Depending on the region, they could come with additional colors like yellow or red! But, typically, they have a pink, white, and green color, which could respectfully symbolize a flower image, a snowy image or prosperity of offspring, and a fresh green image or health.
7. Kusa Mochi
Kusa mochi was a snack eaten before the Heian era (794 to 1185). Before the Heian period, it was traditionally made with glutinous rice kneaded with jersey cudweed. However, since the Heian era, they started to use Japanese mugwort instead due to its capability to boost fertility, and it’s a known medical food. Since the Edo era, it has begun to be used for Hinamatsuri as a gift offering.