Translated by Richard Perkins
Dagashi (Popular Sweets) - Japanese Encyclopedia
Written by ニコ
Dagashi are a type of treat that differ from the upscale Japanese sweets known as wagashi, which are often served in tea ceremonies. Dagashi are designed with kids in mind and can be bought for as little as 10 yen a piece!
What Are Dagashi?
Dagashi are a type of sweets that differ from the upscale sweets that one enjoys at a tea ceremony or may find in their room at a top class hotel or Japanese inn. These are sweets designed with kids in mind that can be bought from as little as 10 yen.
Dagashi date back to the Edo period (1603-1867) and were originally made using a variety of grains along with a type of thick malt syrup known as mizuame. In a number of regions, a type of dried boiled rice used as emergency provisions known as hoshi is used. Often referred by their regional types such as sendai dagashi, hida dagashi, banshu dagashi, nanban dagashi, and so on, dagashi are a type of sweets that are still enjoyed in Japan today.
However, nowadays, as mentioned above, when talking about these types of sweets people usually refer to not just the regionally made varieties, but often refer to the ones that can be enjoyed pretty much anywhere. So when most Japanese people hear the word dagashi, they tend to think about the regional types along with the standard varieties.
In areas where shopping arcades from long ago are still up and running, there are often stores there known as dagashiya that specialize in dagashi. When visiting Japan, it's a good idea to see a dagashiya and to try some dagashi too. Let’s have a look at dagashi as well as the dagashiya that sell them.
Dagashi That Have Remained Popular in Japan!
First, let's take a look at some of the most popular dagashi that you can find at pretty much any okashiya (a store specializing in Western style sweets) or dagashiya in Japan.
Dagashi from Long Ago
The vivid colors are what make the konpeito (pictured above) so appealing.
Dagashi are derived from Japanese sweets known as wagashi, which are traditional sweets such as mochi or other dishes often served in tea ceremonies. They both enjoy a long history in Japanese cuisine.
These are a type of sweet that are made by mixing and kneading together kinako (soybean powder) and mizuame.
This is a type of fried wheat dough sweet that is coated in molasses. The sweetness will leave you wanting more, and once you start eating them you’ll find it difficult to stop.
This is a type of baked sweets from Japan’s southern most island of Kyushu; it tastes like black sugar and is known for having a particularly savory and delicious smelling aroma.
This is one of the many sweets made entirely out of sugar. Coming in a variety of vivid colors, this sweet has an interesting, uneven surface texture, and looks almost like a toy.
Relatively New Dagashi
Ramune (a type of Japanese soda) flavored sweets.
Dagashi are quite nostalgic for many Japanese people, but there are also some that are still relatively new. Among these new treats are a variety of sweets and snacks such as ones that taste like instant ramen. Many of these new arrivals are sweets that don’t exist in the wagashi lineup.
These sweets in a can come in a variety of different flavors. This may be a relatively new type of candy, but this is a brand that has been loved in Japan for over 100 years.
This is one of those melt in the mouth sweets that leave you feeling refreshed. There are a number of companies that have designed their own versions of these sweets.
This is a snack that tastes like a small cup of instant ramen. Just add boiling water and you've got a snack with a playful side.
This is a squid snack that has been flavored with vinegar. This is a popular item that’s even sold at convenience stores.
A Bell Sponge Cake
These round sponge cakes are sprinkled with sugar and eaten using skewers. They've got a simple sweetness to them and are even enjoyed by children.
Other than the sweets listed above marble chocolates, potato chips, popcorn, crackers and so on are all standard snacks and sweets that they also sell in small bags.
Where Can You Buy Dagashi?
If you are looking to buy dagashi, a dagashiya is the place to go. If you go to an area where an older shopping arcade exists, there’s a chance that you’ll be able to find a dagashiya. Having said that, these types of dagashiya are typically run by elderly men and women, so if you are not confident in your Japanese abilities, you may have trouble communicating with them. Furthermore, most dagashiya like this do not have websites, so finding one can be somewhat tricky. For those of you that want to investigate the area where you’re traveling by yourself, or those who want to communicate with the locals in Japanese or by using body language, then visiting a dagashiya like this may be just for you.
Older stores are not the only places that sell dagashi; some of the latest shopping centers have stores selling these treats as well. For example, in the Decks Tokyo Beach in Odaiba in Tokyo, there is Odaiba Itchome Shopping Arcade. Inside this space, that is made up to look like it was from the Showa period, there is an old-fashioned dagashiya.
Here you can experience an recreated version of a traditional dagashiya. Many types of dagashi can be purchased at supermarkets, convenience stores, and shopping malls, but the nostalgic experience of shopping in a true dagashiya is a must for those interested in Japanese culture.