Wagashi are traditional Japanese sweets that are often enjoyed together with green tea. There are many different types of wagashi for every occasion and season. While I was in Kyoto I had the chance to make some for myself at a wagashi making workshop! This ended up being one of the most memorable experiences I had in Japan.
It was a small class consisting of about 10 people. We were given a pamphlet (English!), the materials and an apron before class began. Instructions were given in Japanese, but the class was very easy to follow with the instructor guiding us along the way.
We started off with the easiest bits, using cookie cutters to make decorations. We then rolled the brown dough into a ball.
We then shredded some dough using a woven basket, and finally assembled our first wagashi! It looked like an adorable little monster.
We then made an orange one, meant to resemble an autumn leaf. The workshop actually changes the designs of the wagashi being made during classes to reflect the season at that time.
The pink one was the most challenging- we were made to enclose pink dough in a layer of white dough. We then wrapped it in cloth and squeezed to create delicate folds, and then use wooden tools to carve petals.
And we were done! All this took a bit over an hour. We were then given green tea to enjoy with our wagashi and a box so we could take some home.
The instructor was extremely nice and friendly. Once we were done making our own, he demonstrated making wagashi with more elaborate and intricate designs and even gave me one as a present!
This was honestly one of my favourite experiences in Japan. I highly recommend the workshop, which gives a unique insight into one of Japan’s most prized traditions.
Interested? The workshop takes place at two locations, both of which can be found on their website, http://www.kanshundo.co.jp/museum/make/annai_e.htm, where you also have to make an online booking in advance. It’s a little tricky to navigate, but hey, if I managed to do it with no understanding of Japanese, so can you!
The location that I went to is next to Toyokuni Shrine, and is called the Higashiyama venue. Remember to select your preferred venue when making a booking!