Traditional Japanese Treats Throughout the Year

With only a month left of spring, we are sad to say goodbye to all the amazing Sakura-themed desserts. However, the transition of seasons means Japan is making way for even more incredible sweets! Each season boasts a unique selection of traditional treats that capture the essence of the time. Let’s embark on a delicious journey through the year:

Coto Academy is a Japanese language school located in Tokyo and Yokohama. With its small class sizes and flexible course schedule, we ensure the students find their community here in Japan and learn practical and useful daily-life Japanese by focusing on conversational practice.

A Quick Jump To…

Spring (Haru – 春):

Sakura Mochi (桜餅): The undisputed king of spring snacks, these soft pink mochi cakes are filled with sweet anko (red bean paste) and often wrapped in a pickled sakura leaf. Look for them at convenience stores or traditional wagashi shops.

Photo by Ayako Kidokoro

Ichigo Daifuku (いちご大福): These delightful treats feature a whole, fresh strawberry nestled within a soft mochi shell and sweetened white bean paste.

Hishimochi (菱餅): Diamond-shaped mochi cakes in vibrant hues of red, white, and green, symbolizing the renewal of spring.

Photo by Shizuka Ryokan

Summer (Natsu – 夏):

Kakigori (かき氷): Looking to beat the heat? Kakigori is the way to go; finely shaved ice piled high and drenched in colorful syrups. Look for Kakigori stands at festivals or try them at specialty shops.

Photo by Jason Brock

Anmitsu (あんみつ): Imagine a Japanese sundae! Anmitsu is a beautiful and delicious combination of agar cubes, sweetened red bean paste (anko), seasonal fruits, and shiratama (白玉, chewy rice flour dumplings). It’s often drizzled with a sweet black syrup called kuromitsu (黒蜜) for added flavor.

Photo by Namiko Chen

Mizu Yokan (水羊羹): A light and refreshing jelly dessert made with agar-agar. It comes in a variety of flavors from black bean to fruit! Perfect for a cool summer treat.

Photo by Namiko Chen

Autumn (Aki – 秋):

Mont Blanc: While not originally Japanese, these decadent chestnut cream cakes have become a beloved autumn tradition. Find them at cafes and pastry shops throughout the season. Angelina is a patisserie in Paris that famously invented this cake, and lucky for you, there’s a shop location in Tokyo!

Photo by Yummy Bazaar

Kaki no taruto(柿のタルト): Delicate tarts filled with sweet and juicy seasonal persimmons. Persimmons are the national fruit of Japan, so when they’re in season, you can find a bunch of delicious options for persimmon-themed sweets!

Photo by Fiona Uyema

Tsukimi Dango (月見団子): Dango dumplings in white, yellow, and red, offered during the Tsukimi (moon viewing) festival in autumn. Sometimes they even come in cute shapes like little bunny rabbits! 

Photo by Norie 

Winter (Fuyu – 冬):

Dango Zenzai (ぜんざい): When you think “Dessert,” you may not think soup; however, this sweet red bean soup with chewy mochi dumplings is a very comforting winter dessert. 

Taiyaki (鯛焼き): Although you can find Taiyaki around most of the year, they’re usually served hot in winter. These fish-shaped cakes are filled with sweet red bean paste and are a popular street food during the colder months.

Photo by Namiko Chen

Amazake (甘酒): This warm, sweet sake made with fermented rice is a traditional winter beverage with a low alcohol content. Amazake is packed with nutrients and beneficial enzymes from the fermentation process, which is thought to boost the immune system – a welcome defense against winter chills.

Photo by Annisa

Beyond the Treats:

This is just a glimpse into the vast world of seasonal Japanese treats. Exploring local markets, visiting traditional wagashi shops, and venturing beyond convenience stores will open you up to a new level of delicious discoveries. Japan has so many incredibly creative patisseries, so keep your eye out for unique culinary experiences each season!

Where to find:

While you can find some version of most of these treats at convenience stores and grocery stores like  7-Eleven (セブンイレブン), Lawson (ローソン), and FamilyMart (ファミリーマート). If you’re looking during the off-season, try these places:

Keywords to Remember:

  • Haru: Spring
  • Natsu: Summer
  • Aki: Autumn
  • Fuyu: Winter
  • Sakura: Cherry blossom
  • Mochi: Rice cake
  • Anko: Red bean paste
  • 団子 Dango: Rice dumpling
  • 和菓子 Wagashi: Traditional Japanese sweets
  • かき氷 Kakigori: Shaved ice
  • 月見 Tsukimi: Moon viewing
  • ぜんざい Zenzai: Sweet red bean soup
  • 鯛焼き Taiyaki: Fish-shaped cake
  • 甘酒 Amazake: Sweet sake

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