As soon as you enter the atelier of wagashi asobi in Nagahara, you’ll probably notice a bucket of wooden molds used for making wagashi and some more on the shelf by the entrance. I realized some of the shapes like the Van Cleef & Arpels motifs and the Mont Blanc logo, and I could not help but ask the owner, Mr.Inaba about them. He explained to me that he had worked together with these international luxury brands, providing rakugan for their special events. And the bucket of wooden molds was a collection of wooden molds that he collected from former wagashi confections that are no longer in business. Mr.Inaba is very modest despite his success in the wagashi world. His sincere attitude towards wagashi is maybe what attracts so many people to his atelier.
The rakugan is a traditional Japanese confectionery that is made from sugar and powdered rice. It is a type of “higashi” which literally means “dried confectionery” and the amount of moisture is usually less than 15%. The ingredients are mixed together with a small amount of water, and is shaped by using wooden molds. It is then taken out of the molds and dried. As you may have noticed, the recipe for making rakugan is very simple. However, the ingredients as well as how it is made determines the taste of the rakugan, and is considered a confectionery that requires a high level of expertise.
The rakugan from wagashi asobi is not only beautiful, but very unique in flavor. You can choose from a variety of rosemary, hibiscus, chamomile, matcha (Japanese green tea), strawberry, yuzu and Japanese plum (available only in July-August). The choice will vary according to the season.
I must admit that I have never been a huge fan of rakugan, as they tend to be too sweet. However, the rakugan from wagashi asobi changed my view of rakugan. They are not too sweet, which brings out the best of the ingredient, and you can really enjoy the flavor of the herb/fruit. Although they are a type of dried confectionery, you will not think that it is – the second you place them on your tongue, they melt softly in your mouth, leaving with it a fruity aftertaste.
Of the four flavors (rosemary, hibiscus, strawberry and yuzu) that I tried, my favorite was the rosemary rakugan. It was the most unexpected flavor, but very refreshing and tasty. Rosemary is not something that is used for a typical wagashi, and neither are hibiscus and chamomile. But Mr.Inaba thinks out of the box. He does not put boundaries to what is Japanese and what is not. Instead, he seeks for the best ingredients and the best results.
One day, Mr.Inaba notices that there are actually lots of rosemary growing in the Tokyo neighborhood in pots and gardens (rosemary is quite easy to grow). And he is also reminded that Yatsuhashi, the famous confectionery of Kyoto uses Nikki, a type of cinnamon. So it was somewhat a natural choice for him to use rosemary for his rakugan. And it turned out to be a great match!! Whether you have tried rakugan before or not, I can strongly recommend you to try the rakugan from wagashi asobi that you can not find elsewhere!
You may also want to read about their dried fruit yokan which was featured previously on the blog – WAGASHI FAVORITES – dried fruit yokan from wagashi adobe
Address:1-31-1-101 Kami-ikedai, Ota-ku, Tokyo
TEL & FAX:03-3748-3539
Access: One minute walk from Nagahara station (Tokyu Ikegami line)
Turn left after exiting the station, turn right at the end of the road and walk 80m. The store is on the left side.
Opening hours: 10:00-17:00
Please check their website for holidays as they can be closed due to out of store events.
Herb rakugan (4 pcs.) available for 360 JPY
*Can be enjoyed for approximately 30 days.