[Wagashi (Japanese Confectionery)]

Beautifully colored "jo-namagashi" are full of a sense of the season. These sweets, which are displayed like precious treasures in the showcases of Japanese confectionery shops, delight our eyes with their various shapes and designs, and at the same time play a role in enriching our tea time. Jo-namagashi, also known as "nerikiri," are so-called "kacho-fu-getsu" (flower, bird, wind, and moon) confections that depict the changing seasons and beautiful natural scenery of Japan, and were developed after the Edo period (1603-1868).

The history of Japanese confectionery can be traced back to the Jomon period, when wild berries and fruits were eaten as snacks, and the original form of confectionery is thought to have been created by baking berry powder. In the Yayoi period (710-794), rice cakes and dumplings began to be made, and eventually in the Heian period (794-1185), sweets with elegant names such as "tsubaki Mochi" and "aosashi" appeared in "The Tale of Genji". During the Heian period, sweets were mainly made to be presented to the Imperial Court.

In the Muromachi period (1336-1573), "chanoyu," or tea ceremonies or tea ceremonies as we know them today, became popular mainly among samurai communities. Later, when Sen no Rikyu, who was active from the Warring States period to the Azuchi-Momoyama period, established a style of tea ceremony called "wabicha," confections for tea ceremonies were developed. Records show that confections made during this period were different from those of today, such as kombu (kelp), roasted chestnuts, small potatoes, persimmons, and rice crackers, but they underwent a major change with the spread of sugar to the general public.

Around the middle of the Edo period (1603-1867), the 8th shogun, Tokugawa Yoshimune, encouraged the production of sugar, which led to a dramatic increase in domestic sugar self-sufficiency. Kyoto-based confections and Edo-based confections developed their designs in a friendly competition, and gate towns and castle towns across the country also developed their own regional wagashi, and many of the wagashi eaten today were introduced to the world during the Edo period. Wagashi of the Edo period were beautifully designed with the delicate aesthetic sense of the Japanese people, which can be seen in confectionery sample books such as "Onmushigashizu."

Wagashi with motifs of kacho-fu-getsu, or scenes from stories, seem to contain many stories and scenes, even though they are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Please enjoy them with your favorite containers according to the image you get from the design or the brand name of the sweets.

Appi Urushi Studio's Tsubaki Plate
Azmaya's Hime Fork
Miyamoto Shoko's Japanese Cocktail Stick
Yama No Katachi's Akebia Plate

https://dl.ndl.go.jp/pid/2551487/1/30 (National Diet Library Digital Collection)