The sweeter side of Japanese Culture
Japan is an excellent destination for a traveler with a sweet tooth. The variety of sweets available here is overwhelming, with plenty to choose from to satisfy even the most pickiest eater. Kyoto in particular is a great spot to enjoy the sugary side of Japanese cuisine, with the strong connections to the world of tea requiring only the best sweets to complement the bitterness of the city's famous matcha tea.
Wagashi (和菓子) is a Japanese word that covers a large variety of sweets, confections, and cakes. The most common ones in Kyoto are those seen in the picture above: Namagashi (生菓子), small balls of rice flour filled with sweet azuki bean paste. Within the namagashi family, the level of moisture and stickiness varies, and there are also some that are made with jellies, fruits, and nuts.
The variety of wagashi that you can try in Japan is not only limited by recipes and techniques, but also the seasons. Japanese culture has long celebrated the changing seasons through festivals, art, and food, but perhaps wagashi does it best. Each month, sweetshops offer new designs of wagashi based on the current season. Flowers, birds, fish, fruit, landscapes... all of these elements can be created by carefully shaping the wagashi to fit the season.
Visitors to Kyoto have a great opportunity to try their hand at making wagashi for themselves. KyoTours Japan can arrange for a 90 minute class to be added to your tour that will walk you through the basic techniques of making these little edible artworks. This workshop pairs up well our Half Day Kyoto Highlights Tour or Arashiyama Backroads Tour.
In this wagashi workshop, you will make a variety of four different types of seasonal sweets, from simple creations to more complex designs. It's not exactly difficult, but it can be a challenge to have your wagashi match the ones created by the professional leading the class.
After the class, matcha tea is served and you can taste a few of your own creations. The best part is that you'll make enough wagashi that you'll have some to take back to your hotel for dessert later in the day!
Check out the video below that we made to show off this fun experience:
Why visit this wagashi workshop during your KyoTours Japan tour? Not only is it difficult to make a reservation if you don't speak Japanese, the instruction from the chef is all in Japanese and the class moves quite fast. Luckily, you'll have your KyoTours guide at your side making wagashi with you to offer practical native English instructions and up-close assistance. This is a great opportunity to get a hand on feel for the traditional culinary art of Kyoto in an environment made accessible to foreign visitors thanks to KyoTours Japan.
This is a great activity for families with kids, as it's very hands on and will keep younger guests entertained. However, some patience and focus is required, and we are usually seated with other Japanese visitors, so kids can't get too creative in their designs and need to follow the instructions of the head chef. The workshop does not recommend this activity for children under 6 years old.
For everyone else, the wagashi workshop is a great chance to get off your feet during an otherwise busy day of touring Kyoto, especially in summer when an hour indoors with AC is a welcome break from the heat (works well in winter too when you need to defrost a bit).
Don't be fooled into thinking this is an activity for only cooks and kids. We've hosted couples, friends, partners, families, and everyone in between of all ages and they've all had a blast. If you like working with your hands, trying new experiences, and - most importantly - eating delicious sweets, this wagashi workshop is for you!
If you'd like to add a wagashi lesson onto your tour with KyoTours Japan, please let us know when discussing your travel plans with us or via the contact form below.
Wagashi Sweets Workshop
Duration: Approx 90 minutes
Price: 3,500 yen per person
This workshop is held at set times each day, and certain times and may not be available as requested.
Suitable for vegetarians.
Not advised for children under 6 years old.
Workshop experience can be booked for another day apart from your main tour with KyoTours Japan for if scheduling allows. Additional fees may apply.
Itinerary subject to change due to seasonal changes in hours, special events, transportation delays, weather, or other factors. Guests will be kept informed of any itinerary changes as they occur on the day of the tour.
Please read our terms and conditions for more information before booking.
For more info on wagashi or to ask about adding this experience to your tour, please use the contact form below.