I think it’s no secret that Japan (日本) is famous for its vast food options. But it goes beyond that, the country also offers a wide variety of sweets to choose from. The traditional type is Wagashi (和菓子) and comes in dozens of flavors and varieties. Typically, people eat them in small, round shapes together with a bowl/cup of green tea.
You can enjoy this combination at the many tea houses that you can find throughout the country, often inside of gardens (Tokyo’s (東京) Rikugien or Hamarikyu Gardens for example). The bitterness of the tea and the sweetness of the Wagashi go very well together.
Besides Wagashi there is another popular sweet which I’m sure you know as mochi or rice cake in English. This, too, comes in different shapes, mainly having various levels of smoothness.
Other than the many traditionally created sweets Japan also houses ones that are also readily available in the west, i.e. chocolates, cakes and pastries.
If you want to have a taste of various Japanese sweets even without or before coming to Japan, I recommend getting one of these Japanese candies and snacks assortments. They are good value for money and provide a good mix in flavor. As there are so many different things to taste, you will never get bored of it!
Note: This link is an affiliate link from which I earn a small commission should you purchase anything. There are no additional costs for you.
Below I’ll give you a list of some sweets available in Japanese convenience stores (konbini, コンビニ) or supermarkets. I’ll start with some traditional ones:
Namagashi is the most common type that I already briefly described above. It often has a flower shape and is made out of rice flour. You will usually find these at tea ceremonies our at tea houses in aforementioned gardens.
Dango is my absolute favorite type of Wagashi. They are small, steamed dumplings that are skewered on a stick, much like Yakitori (焼き鳥). They come in various flavors, you will often see a combination of a green, pink and white Dango on one stick. Other than that, there are different sauces that you can get along with them. I recommend a sweet sauce and to eat them while they are still hot. One of the best street foods in my opinion!
Some of you might know this sweet from the popular anime (アニメ) series Doraemon, where it is often seen. It consists of sweet bean paste that is between two pancake patties to resemble a sandwich. Delicious!
This is one of the most popular varieties, distinguishable through its fish-shaped batter. Inside, you can find sweet bean paste most of the time, although other fillings such as chocolate or even cheese are popular as well. Be careful when eating this as the inside is incredibly hot and you can easily burn your tongue (been there, done that!)
Daifuku mainly consists of mochi (soft rice cake) and the filling is usually red bean paste. There are many varieties, my favorite one being the strawberry version.
Yokan is a small and sweet candy bar that has a similar texture like jelly. Sugar and kanten agar are often main ingredients, coming with flavors of various tea and black sugar. From the outside, you might mistake this as a normal chocolate bar or even chewing gum.
These are small round pancake-like buns. Bakers usually bake and steam them and give them a sweet filling, e.g. sweet bean paste or cream.
As you can probably tell by now, sweet bean paste is a main ingredient in Japanese sweets. This makes them a little “healthier” compared to just having some sugary mass like many western sweets.
And now onto some others that I’m sure you’ve heard of:
Now, Kit Kat is not a sweet that is originally from Japan, but it is hilariously popular here. I’m sure you’ve heard of the dozens of different flavors from standard, strawberry cheesecake all the way to Wasabi. They have elaborate packaging as well, just as you would expect it in Japan. There are many Kit Kat stores throughout the country, make sure to visit some for awesome souvenirs!
Melon Pan (Bread)
Melon Pan or Melon bread is easily my favorite sweet here in Japan. It’s very simple: baked batter which is sweetened up with sugar and is shaped up like a melon. Sometimes they even add a hint of melon flavor in there. The melon pan that you can get at a 7-11 or other convenience stores is already pretty good, but nothing beats freshly baked handmade ones from a local bakery or a street stand. One such stand can be found near Sensoji temple in Asakusa (浅草), Tokyo. Highly recommended!
Pocky is a well-known sweet not just in Japan but also in Europe for example. Here, it is sold under the name “Mikado” though. It’s a thin bread stick that is covered in various flavors, most commonly chocolate or strawberry. You can find Pocky in pretty much any convenience store and supermarket. Its bag-size packaging makes it the perfect snack for travelling.
Takeaway on Japanese Sweets
As you can see, there is a wide variety of sweets available in Japan. This list is not even close to everything, I just gave you the most popular ones as well as my personal favorites.
Besides typical Japanese sweets, you can expect to find foreign stuff as well, especially in stores that only sell sweets and snacks (yes, they exist). Be prepared to pay a little more for those though, as they are mostly not produced in Japan.
I hope I could give you an idea of what to expect in Japan in terms of sweetness. Enjoy your adventures!
If you found this article useful, please consider sharing it with your friends and family, it would mean a lot to me!
In my next post I am going to talk about the mobile Internet options in Japan, mainly Pocket WiFi and SIM cards!
See you there!