Japanese Sweets-Making Experience

Japanese sweets “wagashi” have a long tradition in ancient Japan. Established in 1803, Kyoto-based Kameya Yoshinaga is among the most noteworthy practitioner of this unique Japanese culinary practice.
Japanese Sweet Master
Japanese sweets master making namagashi

History of Wagashi & Namagashi

“Wagashi” is the name for traditional Japanese sweets and can vary widely. “Namagashi” is a specific kind of wagashi most commonly associated with this practice and served at tea ceremonies. Namagashi is made with raw materials, the most prominent being rice flour and a sweet bean paste filling. They are delicately shaped by hand in beautiful designs that reflect the season. Some are popular and widely available in sweet shops across the country throughout the year, while others are only available regionally or seasonally.

In Japan, the word for sweets “kashi” originally referred to fruits and nuts, but with the expansion of the sugar trade between China and Japan, sugar became a common household ingredient by the end of the Muromachi period (1336 – 1573) due to the introduction of tea and the popularity of China’s confectionery and dim sum, the creation of wagashi really took off in Japanese culture during the Edo period (1603 – 1868).

Japanese confectionery in early summer
Early summer namagashi and tea

Namagashi-Making Class at Kameya Yoshinaga

Founded over 200 years ago in 1803 in the name of the prestigious confectioner, Yoshiya Kameya, Kameya Yoshinaga’s is one of the most well-known confectionery shops in Kyoto. The location in central Kyoto where the shop stands was chosen for its quality Akegai water. The better the water, the more the aroma of the bean paste and glutinous rice “mochi” stands out, creating a more refined and pure taste. You may even take some of this famous water home if you wish!

At Kameya Yoshinaga, you may enjoy group and private namagashi-making classes from one of their expert instructors. Though the instructions are exclusively in Japanese, it is simple enough to watch along and imitate your instructor, though you may wish to have your private Kyoto guide join your class so that they may translate for you. We feel this to be a fun, tactile experience for the whole family to enjoy! Most of the delicate sculpting work is done with your fingers, but you will also be provided with a smooth sliver of bamboo with a pointed end and a three-sided batton to assist in smoothing and shaping your treats. Just in case your tiny treats don’t turn out as beautiful as you’d like them too, don’t worry because they are sure to taste amazing! You may choose to bring your namagashi treats back with you or enjoy them at the shop with a cup of green tea.

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