Sweets you should try when you’re in Japan- Part 1

Ajari Mochi (Kyoto)

Ajari-mochi is a small cake with big history, with its origins appearing in the mid-19th century. Made by one of the most famous confectionary shops in Kyoto, “Mangetsu”, It is roughly the size of a burger bun and is filled with sweetened red bean. It is known as a type of “wagashi” which is a name for traditional Japanese confectionary. The outside is made from glutinous rice, sugar, and egg, so to be exact, Ajari mochi is a baked dumpling, even though by appearance alone it looks like a cake. Ajari-mochi is Best eaten with a hot cup of roasted green tea, the sweetness of the red bean and the sticky crust will surely be a delicious experience.

The name “Ajari-mochi” is a blend between “Ajari” and “Mochi”. Ajari are senior monks in Japanese Buddhism, and are known to wear conical straw hats, which the Ajari-mochi are aesthetically based on. Mochi is a term for any food made of glutenous rice, which is an ingredient for the Ajari-mochi’s crust.

 Ajari-Mochi on sale at Kyoto Station

Ajari-Mochi on sale at Kyoto Station

Ajari-Mochi is a very popular souvenir people buy in Kyoto. This is clear when you visit one of the many shops catered towards tourists in the tourism-focused city. Ajari-mochi is available in boxes of 5 or 10, and is available in many places, including some of the largest shops within Kyoto Station.

Osaka Imperial Hotel- Summer exclusive Matcha and Roasted Tea Cake Buffet

 A flyer for the event.

A flyer for the event.

Matcha is becoming more and more popular these days, with the likes of Starbucks and other café chains all-over the world featuring it in drinks. Macha is green tea which has been ground and directly dissolved into water or milk. So, preparing matcha is closer to brewing instant coffee, rather than brewing tea, as you do not usually directly drink the tea leaves with normal tea or coffee. Since you directly drink the tea leaves with matcha, it is naturally more nutritious than normal tea, which has given way to people touting nutritional benefits of matcha over other teas. Matcha usually needs to be whisked into the base liquid (usually water or milk), as unlike instant coffee (which is usually dry liquid coffee rather than finely ground coffee beans), it hasn’t been highly processed to be highly soluble.

Enough technical talk, I’ll move on to cakes. I happened to be in Osaka with my sweet-toothed daughter, when she suggested we go to a matcha-themed cake buffet event at the imperial hotel. These buffet type events and restaurants are quite popular in Japan, with many buffets with different themes being available. The event was a collaboration between the hotel and a Kyoto-based tea manufacturer called Fukujuen, and featured 15 kinds of cake, 5 flavors of ice-cream, 12 savory dishes, 3 variants of bread, and a fruit selection.

 When I took a seat, they served a glass of cold-brew green tea

When I took a seat, they served a glass of cold-brew green tea


 Left: Matcha, Right : Houjicha , Bottom:  Tencha

Left: Matcha, Right: Houjicha, Bottom: Tencha

Next, the variants of tea featured today were explained, then we were left to our devices.

The deserts were served in small portions, so you could try them all.



 A plateful of matcha treats!

A plateful of matcha treats!


 For those who tire of sweets: Most cake buffets offer normal food on the side too.

For those who tire of sweets: Most cake buffets offer normal food on the side too.

The bolognaise had a rather nostalgic taste, and the prawn pilaf was delicious!

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The beef consommé soup was great, served in a big bowl. Beef consommé isn’t something most people can make at home.

I couldn’t quite try everything, but what I did try was good. The buffet was held on the ground floor of the hotel, behind the lounge. The atmosphere was good, which is to be expected from a 5-star hotel.

Japan is a place home to many different confectionaries, both oriental and occidental. If you have a sweet tooth it might be worth a trip!

Narihito MatsunagaComment