In Japan, there are various kinds of Wagashi (和菓子) such as Dango, Yokan and Dorayaki which are loved by many. The Japanese confectionery till today has been influenced by the “Togashi (Tang’s sweets)” from China, “Nanbangashi” from Portugal as well as the “Seiyokashi (western sweets)” following the civilization and enlightenment. There are also many other local Wagashi like the Gohei-mochi (from Chubu region such as Nagano Prefecture and Gifu Prefecture), Zunda-mochi (from Miyagi Prefecture), and Uiro (from Aichi Prefecture).
Introduction of “Togashi” into Japan by Kentoshi (Japanese delegates to China)
In ancient times, “Mochi” and “Dango” were made from grains, but during the 7th~9th century, Kentoshi (遣唐使) coming back from China had introduced the Tang’s confectionery in Japan. These confectioneries were made by adding sweeteners into grains such as flour and rice flour, molded and then deep-fried. Many were for the enshrined deities. Then, when tea was introduced, “dim sum”, a kind of refreshment served during tea ceremony has widely spread. Among them are Senbei, Awamochi, and Yokan.
Introduction of Castella and other “Nanbankashi” into Nagasaki
In the 16th century, “Nanbankashi (南蛮菓子)” such as Castella, biscuits, bolo, Konpeito were introduced and further arranged, evolved and established in Japan. Then during the Edo (江戸) period, “Kyogashi (Kyoto confectionery)” of Kyoto and “Jyogashi” of Edo are born. Both Kyogashi and Jyogashi were at first for the consumption of upper classes such as the palace and court nobles, but gradually they became widespread among the common people. Also, along with the widespread of season festivals which were celebrated by the buke (samurai) and palace, like Hina Matsuri on 3rd March and Tango (端午) on 5th May to the public, Chimaki, Hishi-mochi, Manju have also spread across the country. Most of the Wagashi nowadays are said were created during the Edo period.
Introduction of Yogashi in Meiji Period and its influence on Wagashi
During the Meiji Period (明治時代), western confectionery (Yogashi) such as sponge cakes and biscuits were introduced into Japan, and it is said it has brought great influence on the development of wagashi. Especially with the introduction of an oven which are used in the making of Yogashi, “baked” wagashi like Kurimanju (chestnut bun) were created. Today, in Japan, confectionery is divided into 2 groups: “Yogashi” of sweets from Europe such as shortcakes, Mont Blanc, cheesecake, and cream puff, and “Wagashi” of sweets created in Japan like the Dango(団子), Yokan (羊羹) and Manju(饅頭).