Oct. 25, 2021 UPDATE

Try making traditional Japanese sweets by yourself here in Kyoto

Have you ever wondered how traditional Japanese sweets are made? Sharing Kyoto's went to Yoshihiro's to find out!
Miya[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]

One of the signature Kyoto delicacies you will find is wagashi, or traditional Wagashi (Japanese Sweets) . Crafted through the expertise and skills of master confectioners, they are as beautiful as they are to eat. You must try these when you come to Kyoto. In this installment, we’re going a step beyond, and introducing a place you can actually make your own wagashi before eating them! The 75-minute course will see you being guided by an expert as you make your own sweet. So, just how does one make wagashi, anyway? Let’s dive in!

With excitement and anticipation, we made our way to the classroom!

The class is held at Yoshihiro, a famous sweets shop. It is just five minutes’ walk from JR Nijo Station and a similar five minutes by cab from Nijo Castle. The shop is tucked away on a side street just off the main road.

The shop from outside
The shop from outside

The first floor of the shop sells Japanese wagashi sweets. They say that the signature item is the dorayaki. They all look delicious!

A range of wagashi delights
A range of wagashi delights

We bought this dorayaki after the course
We bought this dorayaki after the course

After a brief wait, the workshop began. The classroom is located on the third floor of the shop, where we were greeted by rows of tables and chairs. The tables were outfitted with trays and special spatulas used for shaping the sweets. Wagashi craft is largely done through this spatula.

Confectionery is fun

Confectionery is fun – but difficult!

After thoroughly washing our hands, it was time to get down to business. We made two varieties – one styled after the yellow-orange persimmon and one resembling the purple Japanese bellflower. Both of them contained sweet red bean paste.
Unfortunately, it was impossible to take photos while working. Taking up the camera would be unhygienic. If you bring along a friend to spectate, you could have him or her photograph for you.
Using a premade sweet as a model, the confectioner showed us in great detail how to make it. Before long, we felt like artisans! But it’s actually pretty hard to make sweets, we found. However, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly, and the mood was one of gentle fun.
After a long struggle, our pieces were ready! First up is one made by Yoko.

The top is the sample sweet
The top is the sample sweet. The bottom is Yoko’s.

Wow! She’s a natural! The way she’s shaped the thin parts looks quite like the original. Next up is Miya’s work!

The bottom is Miya’s
The top is the model. The bottom is Miya’s.

This candy is a bit rough around the edges… The bellflower in particular is a bit wonky. Man, it was hard! After we finished, the confectioner showed us how the sweets are usually made. It was an exquisite performance of deft handwork!

Deft strokes make beautiful sweets!
Deft strokes make beautiful sweets!

a perfect wagashi was ready!
In an instant, a perfect wagashi was ready!

Leave it to the experts to produce such fine work. They put us to shame. At the end, we received a diploma of completion and had a commemorative photo taken.

Yoko smiles with her diploma
Yoko smiles with her diploma

Finally, you get to enjoy your sweet along with matcha tea, as well as the sweets they have for sale. You can bring your confection home, but I decided to eat it on the spot. It was somehow tastier, knowing that I’d made it myself!
Those 75 minutes were over in an instant. We really learned about the complexity of wagashi craft, as well as how fun it can really be. I’d love to give it a go again and make a cleaner-looking sweet!

A fine souvenir of the day!
A fine souvenir of the day!

A comment from the staff
This experience will reveal how even Wagashi (Japanese Sweets) that appear simple have a lot of expert technique applied to them. You'll adore creating your very own hand-made Wagashi (Japanese Sweets) !

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