The seemingly simplistic confectionery, known as wagashi, belongs to Japan’s most renowned art forms and in its essence represents Japanese culture and life. Like many art forms, wagashi-making is an effort of practice and instructions, two things you can experience yourself in some of Japan’s most renowned shops. In Kyoto you have the chance to do make tradition with your own hands at Kanshundo Honten.
Wagashi is an art form that combines the five senses to collaborate together to produce a wide variety of eatable pieces of art to enjoy to the fullest. The first is quite obviously, taste, by using bean paste made of beans, in particular azuki beans, and sugar the wagashi is given its distinctive hearty flavour while its redness is commonly associated with helping one’s health by warding off diseases.
The wagashi’s soft, moist or crispy texture again accentuate its freshness while its fragrant scent is very delicate and subtle. Its most striking sense is, of course, its appearance with its countless shapes, colours and designs inspired by other Japanese art forms, each piece of confectionery makes its own contribution to making this at first sight simplistic looking confectionary a feast for your eyes. The colours and designs are often related to the seasons or when using multiple wagashi, tries to represent a certain scene in nature. Although it may seem strange but the last sense is, in fact, sound as the lyrical names with their various association help complete five layers of sensual stimulation.
Trying a workshop in Kyoto
Throughout Japan there are renowned shops and some, such as Kanshundo Honten in Kyoto, offer you the opportunity to participate in a workshop yourself. The specific type of wagashi you can make at Kanshundo is known as “kyogashi”, which is the wagashi traditionally made in Kyoto. During the workshop you will make four types of wagashi of which one you can eat after the workshop with some delicious green tea and save the other two for another time. The confectioneries are themed by season, meaning that in autumn they tend to include a red leaf or a ripe persimmon while in summer they are bright green.
The most spectacular and difficult wagashi to make, at least in my opinion, is the so-called kinton type made from molding a small ball of bean paste and then carefully coating it with a different type of coloured mashed bean paste which has been strained by pushing it through a screen in a swift motion. Although wagashi-making is quite difficult at first it is truly a great experience for anyone to enjoy.
|Name:||Kanshundo Honten (甘春堂本店)|
|Address:||292-2 Kamihoritsumecho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0991, Kyoto Prefecture|
|Fee:||2,160 yen per person|
|Classes:||3 per day, reserve by phone or online|