If you ever visited the food section of a Japanese department store, you might have been overwhelmed by the impressive amount of Japanese sweets and like me, you might not have any ideas what they taste like.
During my latest trip to Kyoto, I went on a wagashi pilgrimage all over town to sample what is considered some of the best and the freshest.
Kyoto is an amazing town and it’s the mecca for anybody looking to eat unique sweet. We visited 3 shops during our 3 days trip just to make sure we didnt spoil our appetite with too many sweets.
Our first stop was Tsuki Mochi Ya Nao Masa, a shop founded in 1804 which we stumbled upon by chance. The specialty at Nao Masa is warabi mochi and trust me, you want to eat this stuff!
Warabi mochi is a jelly like subtance made with bracken (fern) root starch. The jelly is brownish, very soft and gooey. The ball of warabi is then covered with kinoko which is roasted soy flour.
The combination of the two at Nao Masa is an experience hard to describe. The texture is divine and the taste is beyond anything I ever tasted in Japan. I actually ended up going there twice!
It is possible to eat in the shop, there is a bench.
The second stop was a place called Fuka which specialises in fu-manju. Fu is also known as gluten and it’s a specialty of Kyoto.
My wife called ahead and asked the people at Fuka if it was possible to eat fresh fu-manju and they told us to come over the main shop and they would prepare for us on the spot.
Fuka has a shop in the Nishiki market in the center, but if you want the super fresh stuff, you will have to make the trek to the mothership of fu-manju.
Fuka is located in a residential are and housed in a very old building. The entrance of Fuka has a small tatami area just outside of the factory where it is possible to sit and enjoy this unique wagashi.
The fu-manju is wrapped in a bamboo leave which gives this unique sweet an interesting taste.
The center of the manju is made with anko and the fresh fu has a very unique taste which I have a very difficult time describing.
Fuka is unique and something you will have to experience for yourself.
The last shop we visited was Futaba to taste their kuromame(black beans) daifuku. Futaba is VERY popular and by 8h30 AM, there was already a pretty respectable line in front of the shop.
The black beans are almost savoury while the anko filling is sweet and the mochi is smack in the middle. The combination is certainly an eye opening experience.
Out of the 3 places, Futaba was not my favorite since I like wagashi to be a bit sweeter.
We ate our daifuku by the river which is across the road from Futaba which is certainly a nice way to enjoy a morning snack.
These are a very small sample of what is available out there. Eating sweets in Kyoto is a nice way to discover the town and discover places very dear to the heart of the locals.
If you see a big line, don’t hesitate a second, just join in.
Tsuki Mochi Ya Nao Masa
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