Written by Hilary Keyes
Japan's Autumn Sweets - Traditional Snacks And Tastes Of The Season
Fall in Japan is known for its stunning displays of momiji, or maple leaves, and for hearty dishes like grilled saury, but what about sweets? Here are five of Japan's best loved autumn traditional autumn sweets.
Japan is well known for its domestic and international gourmet scene, with regional specialty dishes and desserts seeming to change practically from season to season. Sakura flavored sweets in spring, shaved ice and yatai foods in summer, sukiyaki and shabu shabu in winter - but what about the fall?
Autumn often means grilled saury, yakiimo (roasted sweet potato) and dishes featuring eggplant or chestnut to the Japanese, but there are also plenty of autumn sweets that begin appearing in stores as soon as a faint chill hits the air come September. Here are five popular traditional Japanese autumn sweets, that you can find in most supermarkets, convenience stores, and department stores.
1. Kuri Dorayaki
Kuri dorayaki are dorayaki with roasted chestnut added to the anko inside. The soft, pancake-like bun and sweet red bean paste taste amazing on their own, but the addition of roasted chestnuts to the mix makes these the perfect snack.
While you can find them in supermarkets and convenience stores, it's also a good idea to look for them at traditional sweet shops, especially while out sightseeing in the fall. Warm, freshly made kuri dorayaki taste heavenly, and are ideal strolling snacks in the fall.
Average price: from 150 yen (with tax)
2. Momiji Manju from Miyajima
Momiji manju are an incredibly popular souvenir from Miyajima island in Hiroshima prefecture, home to the UNESCO World Heritage site Itsukushima Shrine. These traditional sweets are maple leaf shaped dorayaki, filled to the brim with rich red bean paste.
While not a standard item available in Tokyo, during the fall at many department stores you will find different prefectural events, where popular souvenirs, foods, sake and other items are sold in limited numbers. If you're lucky, you may be able to find souvenirs from prefectures that you might not otherwise have time in your schedule to visit just yet too.
Average price: 348 yen for package of 8 (with tax)
*Larger packages range from 500-1500 yen, depending on number and retailer.
3. Dried or Salt Preserved Persimmons
Amaboshi, tsurushigaki, these are just two of the names for dried persimmons, another popular fall treat in Japan. These persimmons are picked when just about ripe, peeled and then either hung out to dry in the sunlight or in drying rooms, or preserved when ripe with salt. Both varieties are available in stores from late September onward, but can be somewhat hard to find after the fall.
Dried persimmons are very flavorful, and can also be used to make fruit cakes, or even chopped and added to fall salads as well. They're also great to have with a cup of warm sake too on a cool autumn night.
Average price: from 300-500 yen a piece or available in cartons
*Availability depends on location; prices vary.
4. Kurumi Mochi
Available year round in most supermarkets, kurumi mochi are walnut rice cakes, which either contain chunks of roasted walnut or a walnut and anko mixture surrounded by a soft mochi or jelly cover. These kurumi mochi by Baigetsudo are bite-sized and come in bags of 20, which make them great to share with a large group of people.
Unlike modern snacks, kurumi mochi aren't as sweet or chewy as you may have expected, which has made them popular with people of all ages for many years now.
Average price: 284 yen for a bag of 20 (with tax)
5. Freshly Made Seasonal Sweets
Aren't these cute? These are freshly made manju and mochi sweets available in supermarkets and department stores all around Japan. Available in a wide variety of flavors, including persimmon, sweet potato, and of course apple, these dumplings are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of hot green tea or hoji-cha (roasted tea). They aren't too sweet either, but are quite filling, which make them ideal when you want something to eat but aren't in the mood for an entire meal either.
Bunny-shaped manju or dumplings that resemble sweet potatoes are also popular treats specific to this season.
While the other items on this list have long shelf lives, including the momiji manju at up to two months, these freshly made sweets are usually only good for 2-3 days, so they are best purchased either right before your trip back home, or as a treat for yourself after a hard day spent sightseeing and appreciating the fall colors of Japan.
Average price: 198 yen for set of three (with tax)
* The flavors and number of dumplings in a set vary from shop to shop and are produced in a limited number every day.
When you find yourself looking for something sweet during your fall trip to Japan, make sure you give these or any of the other amazing autumn desserts a try!