Translated by Hilary Keyes
Make Delightful Japanese Sweets at Kanshundō in Kyoto!
Written by SakamotoAyako
Japanese traditional sweets (wagashi) are not only gorgeous but are delicious as well. Why not try making them for yourself at Kanshundō, Kyoto’s premier Japanese sweets maker?
When thinking of famous things in Kyoto, what does immediately come to mind? Temples, kimono, pottery... But aren't you forgetting wagashi (Japanese sweets)?!
The former capital Kyotois where the wagashi tradition still prospers, creating sweets for special occasions, for the Imperial household, the nobility and even for temples. Because of this, the Japanese sweets created in Kyotohave come to be known as kyōgashi (京菓子, Kyoto-style confectionery). Kyōgashi are prepared by making the raw ingredients into a paste then shaping and packaging it into shapes representing seasonal flowers and plants.
Using a spatula, a craftsman shapes the veins of a maple leaf wagashi. From Kanshundō Homepage
In other words, kyōgashi are not only delicious but they are a visual treat as well. With this combination of taste and beauty in mind, let's try making our own Japanese sweets.
Straight from the Artisan - Kyōgashi Workshops at Kanshundō!
We visited Kanshundō, a famous Japanese confectionery store found in Higashiyama, Kyoto.
Besides selling their seasonal wagashi, this shop also holds four lessons a day on how to make wagashi.
The wagashi classroom is found on the second floor of the shop, where one of the most important rules is to wash your hands thoroughly before starting. You will find at your seat a sheet with the instructions on how to make the featured sweets of that particular day, which will also be explained by an artisan from the store.
Here are the texts, featuring many pictures to make the contents easier to understand.
There are texts available in English, Korean and Chinese as well as Japanese, so there is little to worry about when it comes to making your own sweets.
The act of encouraging tourists to participate in Kyoto's unique culture was the incentive for these texts to be made available in a variety of languages. It is the dream of this store to show people just how fun it can be to make these delicious treats.
When we visited, the teacher was a wagashi craftsman with 50 years experience!
Because the teacher uses plenty of gestures while explaining the process, even beginners and people who can't speak a word of Japanese can learn to make beautiful kyōgashi.
"It's so much fun to watch as the raw materials change and take on the shape of seasonal flowers and plants."
Almost everyone that participates in this class can't help but think like this. Just how exactly does this change happen? Let's take a closer look.
This beautiful kyōgashi with its yellow and green gradient is made from mochi (sweet glutenous rice) wrapped around anko (sweet bean paste), and represents a green Japanese plum.
Let's compare the pictures from before and after!
It is almost magical that, by kneading, stretching and wrapping the ingredients, such a significant change can occur! Let's take a closer look at how the raw materials compare to the finished product.
From the warm orange color of this anko paste resulted the delicate petals of this azalea.
Just how do you go from this rounded square of ingredients to these beautiful seasonal treats? If you are interested in knowing the process, by all means please take part in the wagashi workshops at Kanshundō. You will be surely moved by the ideas and the skills demonstrated by the artisans.
After the class, you can enjoy the treats you made with a cup of matcha (green tea). The mellow anko paste turns into a gentle sweetness that spreads through your whole mouth and is a taste that you won't be able to forget easily. There is an unbelievable harmony between the bitterness of the matcha and the sweetness of the anko paste.
Without a doubt, you will surely enjoy the wagashi you make yourself as much as those that you buy in a store.
The Heart of the Artisan
By being taught directly by an artisan, it is possible to thoroughly experience the delicacy and the attention to details required to make wagashi.
"No matter how dexterous a person may be, it's impossible to improve yourself without practicing and training your skills every day. That is why, despite making kyōgashi for 50 years, I still believe I am an apprentice."
Those were the words of our teacher that day. With a teacher as fascinating as this, is it any wonder that so many people are interested in making and tasting kyōgashi?
If you want to get a deeper understanding of the history of Japanese confectionery and try your hand at making your own sweets, you should definitely check out the wagashi workshops at Kanshundō. And, if you want to participate in this great learning experience, be sure to make reservations 2-3 days in advance just in case.
Kanshundō Higashi Shop
Address: Kyoto, Higashiyama, Kawabata Shōmen Higashi Iru Chayachō 511-1 (near Toyokuni Shrine)
Hours: 9:00 - 18:00
Closed: Open every day except for New Years' Day
Menus in Other Languages: Text available in English, Korean & Chinese
Nearest Station: Keihan Kiyomizu-gojō station (清水五条駅)
Access: 5-minute walk down Kawabata-dōri, 3-minute walk east from Kanshundō Main Shop
Price Range: 2160 yen
Phone Number: 075-561-1318