Hands on Activity/Wagashi making in Kyoto
The attraction of Kyoto isn’t based solely on its temples and shirnes. Among Japanese sweet lovers, Kyoto is well known for its many old fashioned confectionery shops and many of the artform like cakes at the shops serve to fascinate the tourists. Most of these pretty moist cakes, “wagashi” or “jo-nama-gashi” in Japanese, are handmade but how are they produced? What is the secret of their sensitive colors and shapes? If you have any such questions, please participate in the hands-on activity of “Wagashi making” at “Yatsuhashi-an & Shisyu-yakata.”
In this activity, you don’t have to make the cakes from scratch. Participants make three different cakes which are called “Chrysanthemum,” “Dayflower,” and “Rolled Leave” by shaping prepared nerikiri paste. These cakes imitate plants and are well known among Japanese of all generations.
As a participant, I cut, colored and then kneaded the nerikiri paste with the help of an on hand instructor. The process was enjoyable and it reminded me of playing with clay in my childhood.
Learning how to use the tools was also fun and it was my own first experience of using scissors to shape chrysanthemum petals and a pallet to imprint the patterns seen in nature produced by the veins of leaves. During the activity, I often stopped working to check the tools as I was so excited to be using “professional tools.” At the same time, I realized the difficulty of a form of confectionery production that simply cannot be mechanized.
When finished, it is OK to take away your handmade cakes in a provided box but please keep in mind that Japanese moist cakes are delicate and their relative usability is very limited.
By savoring the colors and shapes of your own work, you will only appreciate more the shops and craftsmen in the Japanese confectionery industry.