Japanese cuisine is highly acclaimed internationally for reasons such as being "healthy", "high-quality", and "beautiful". But are you familiar with wagashi, Japan's traditional sweets?

Japanese sweets primarily use anko (sweetened azuki bean paste) made by simmering azuki beans with water and sugar, as well as mochi (pounded sticky rice). Since plant-based ingredients are the focus, wagashi tends to be healthier than Western-style desserts. 

With a subdued sweetness that pairs well with Japanese tea, sweets like taiyaki (fish-shaped cake with anko filling), daifuku (mochi wrapped around anko), and dorayaki (pancake-like patty with anko filling) are particularly popular among foreign visitors - over 90% who try them say they're delicious.

Since these Japanese sweets don't keep fresh for long, they can only be enjoyed in Japan. When you visit, be sure to indulge in authentic wagashi from the source. In this article, I'll introduce some recommended Japanese sweets restaurants and shops that I love!

Types of Japanese Sweets

Wagashi can be broadly categorized into three types: namagashi (fresh), han-namagashi (semi-fresh), and higanashi (dry). This is based on their moisture content - namagashi contains over 30%, han-namagashi 10-30%, and higanashi under 10%.

Namagashi, like Swiss rolls or cream puffs, only keep for 1-2 days. The popular dorayaki falls into this category.

Han-namagashi, comparable to pound cakes or macarons, can last 3 days to a week. 

Higashi, with very low moisture content like candies, chocolate, or biscuits, can be preserved for 1-3 months. Senbei (rice crackers) are a higanashi example.

This time, I'll mainly introduce namagashi - the freshest Japanese sweets that must be eaten on the day of purchase for maximum deliciousness, only available in Japan!

Recommended for Daifuku

Ginza Kanra

Ginza Kanra
Source: Tabelog

One Japanese sweet you must try in Tokyo is daifuku - mochi stuffed with anko. At Ginza Kanra, you can buy delicious daifuku.  

Their mame-daifuku (mochi with salted boiled edamame and anko) is highly recommended - the perfectly chewy mochi with edamame paste, paired with the not-too-sweet anko, is heavenly. The contrast between the soft mochi and crunchy edamame is addictive.

The seasonal ichigo (strawberry) daifuku made with white bean anko is also sublime!

They only do takeout, and sometimes sell out by evening, with the mochi hardening later in the day. So it's best to come early and eat the daifuku as fresh as possible for maximum deliciousness.

Ginza Main Store 
- Address: 6-2 Ginza Corridor Street, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
- Closed: Open year-round (except New Year's)
- Tel: 03-3573-2225
- Hours: Weekdays 10am-8pm, Weekends/Holidays 11am-7pm  
- Website: http://www.kanra.co.jp/index.html
- Reservations: No
- Payment: Credit cards (Visa, Master, JCB, Amex, Diners), e-money (transit IC cards like Suica, iD, QUICPay), no QR code payments

Ginza Akebono

Ginza Akebono
Source: Official website

Ginza Akebono, founded in 1948 amid post-war ruins in Ginza, is known for its chunky mame-daifuku packed with delicious anko.

They also offer seasonal fruit daifuku that are a treat - especially the ichigo daifuku only sold in the afternoon at their Ginza main store from December to April. The large, juicy domestic strawberries wrapped in mochi and anko are at their peak flavor in February-March.

Their senbei (rice crackers) like the nori cheese sandwich and cheese okaki are also addictively good, perfect for souvenirs with their longer shelf life.

Takeout only, but they reopen for sales at 2 pm if they sell out in the morning, so no need to worry.

Ginza Akebono Main Store
- Address: 5-7-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo  
- Closed: None
- Tel: 03-3571-3640
- Hours: Mon-Sat 10 am-9 pm, Sun/Holidays 10 am-8 pm
- Website: https://www.ginza-akebono.co.jp/
- Reservations: No 
- Payment: Credit cards (JCB, Amex), no e-money, PayPay QR code

Recommended for Dorayaki

Kame Juu Confectioners

Source: Tabelog

Just a 2-minute walk from Asakusa Station, Kame Juu is a wagashi shop with a nearly 100-year history. Their signature dorayaki, praised by many Japanese as the "best dorayaki of their life", is a must-try. 

While dorayaki is typically two pancake-like patties sandwiching anko, Kame Juu's handmade pancakes are fluffier than average with an amazing texture. The anko filling has just the right sweetness, and each generously sized dorayaki is satisfyingly hefty. You can choose between two types of anko - azuki bean paste or white bean paste for different flavors.

Their “shofu” (steamed cake with brown sugar) and “karinto” (brown sugar-coated snack) are also recommended.

It's super popular, so expect 40min-1hr waits on holidays, but weekdays are more manageable. Cash only, takeaway only. Go early as they can sell out.

- Address: 2-18-11 Kaminarimon, Taito-ku, Tokyo
- Closed: Irregular  
- Tel: 0338412210
- Hours: 10am-7pm
- Website: -
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/1008841528/
- Reservations: Can reserve 2-3 weeks in advance for weekday pickups by phone during operating hours.
- Payment: Cash only


Source: Official website

While famed for their castella (sponge cake), Bunmeido also sells delicious dorayaki.

Their popular Mikasayama dorayaki is a simple but beloved Japanese favorite - its fluffy pancakes and refined sweet anko are a comforting, delightful pairing. Mikasayama mini dorayaki are smaller yet keep fresh for up to 30 days from production, making great souvenirs.

Their Nihonbashi main store has a cafe serving pancakes made from the Mikasayama batter.

Bunmeido's castella, originally adapted from Portuguese and Spanish recipes to Japanese tastes, is also worth trying - its simple ingredients create a perfectly balanced, not-too-sweet delicacy. Be sure to sample their dorayaki along with this classic Japanese treat.

Nihonbashi Main Store
- Address: 1-13-7 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
- Closed: Irregular (check website's "Store" updates)
- Tel: 03-3241-0002  
- Hours: Weekdays 10am-6pm, Weekends/Holidays 11am-6pm
- Website: https://www.bunmeido.co.jp/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bunmeido_tokyo/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bunmeidotokyo/
- Reservations: For cafe, reservations accepted weekdays after 2pm
- Payment: Credit cards (JCB, Amex), e-money accepted

Recommended for Taiyaki

Taiyaki Sharaku

Source: Tabelog

Taiyaki are fish-shaped cakes made by filling a pancake-like batter with anko in a sea bream-shaped mold. The sea bream is considered lucky in Japan. Their adorable look and deliciousness make taiyaki a beloved snack found at malls across Japan. Many foreigners enjoy them too - over 90% of visitors say they're tasty!

Taiyaki Sharaku in Asakusa is a famous shop frequently featured on TV. Their freshly-made taiyaki have a crispy, thin outer layer packed with premium anko - absolutely delightful! Their snack-sized portions are perfect for eating on the go. It's takeout only, but they have 4 seats out front.

Cash only. For maximum freshness, it's best to time your visit when they're baking a new batch rather than getting pre-made ones that may have gotten soggy. They also sell anko drinks.

- Address: Capital Plaza Asakusa 1F, 3-9-10 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
- Closed: Mondays, irregular (check Facebook/Instagram) 
- Tel: 03-3873-3453
- Hours: 10:30am-6pm
- Website: http://taiyakisharaku.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/taiyakisharaku/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/taiyakisharaku/ 
- Reservations: No reservations (call ahead for large orders)
- Payment: Cash only

Taiyaki Hiiragi

Source: Official Twitter

Taiyaki Hiiragi's taiyaki takes 30 minutes each to bake to a fragrant, crispy outer shell densely packed with perfectly sweetened anko. Many say these are the best taiyaki they've ever had, and I wholeheartedly agree!

Their seasonal "taiyaki soft" from April to October is especially popular. The taiyaki is plunged into a cup of soft-serve ice cream, and the appearance is astonishing.

Taiyaki are made-to-order, so you'll get a number and wait around 10 minutes. Takeaway only, but you can enjoy your taiyaki at the seating out front or a nearby park. 

Check their Twitter for stock/closing updates, as they sometimes close as early as 4 pm when they sell out. You can also order ahead by phone to skip the wait. Even if it cools off, you can simply reheat for the fresh-baked taste.

- Address: Ebisu Urban House 1F, 1-4-1 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
- Closed: Irregular  
- Tel: 03-3473-7050
- Hours: 10am-7pm
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/taiyaki_hiiragi
- Reservations: Accept phone reservations
- Payment: Credit cards (Visa, JCB), e-money (transit IC cards like Suica), no QR codes

Recommended for Kakigori & Soft Serve

Kuriya Kurogi

Source: Tabelog

Kuriya Kurogi is a popular upscale kakigori (shaved ice dessert) shop in Ueno. Unlike regular shaved ice, their fluffy ice is topped with rich, flavorful toppings for an elevated dessert experience. The regular size is quite large, so the small is recommended. 

I highly suggest the “mitarashi kakigori” - cheesecream, brown sugar syrup, and condensed milk top the ice, with walnuts and anko inside. The blend of flavors and textures is divine for sweet tooths.

It can get insanely crowded in July-August's peak, once having a 180-person, 7-hour wait! Other seasons are more manageable. No reservations - get a numbered ticket at the shop and wait your turn, or use their LINE for queue updates. Just note if you take over 15 mins after being called, you'll be skipped. One order per person only.

- Address: Parukoiya 1F, 3-24-6 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
- Closed: None
- Tel: 03-6284-2796
- Hours: 10am-9pm
- Website: -
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kuriya.otona/?hl=ja
- Reservations: No reservations
- Payment: Credit cards (JCB, Visa, Master, Amex, Diners), e-money (transit IC cards, Rakuten Edy, nanaco, WAON, iD, QUICPay), QR codes accepted

Kanmi Okame

Source: Tabelog

Kanmi Okame is a cafe specializing in anko-based Japanese sweets in addition to oden (hot pot) and other savory dishes.

My recommendation is the “Zao Anmitsu” - sweet simmered azuki beans topped with vanilla soft serve and brown sugar syrup, an original dessert. The buttery golden kidney beans used are larger than azuki, simmered to a velvety texture that pairs beautifully with the ice cream. The soft-serve zenzai with mochi is also scrumptious.

Their plump, subtly sweet ohagi (sweet rice balls) are also popular.

English menus make it foreigner-friendly. It's a hit spot with potential 2-30 minute waits, but service is quick.

Yurakucho Store
- Address: ItochiA Plaza 1F, 2-7-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo  
- Closed: Mondays (Tues if Mon is a holiday)
- Tel: 03-3211-0585
- Hours: 11am-8pm
- Website: http://www.kanmi-okame.jp/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kanmi_okame/
- Reservations: No reservations  
- Payment: Credit cards (Amex, JCB), e-money, QR codes accepted

Wagashi like taiyaki, daifuku, and dorayaki have been beloved by Japanese people for centuries. As you saw, their delicate flavors from simple yet quality ingredients like mochi, anko, and fruit are what make these Japanese sweets so special.

The cute fish shape and taste of taiyaki are crowd-pleasers for foreign visitors. Daifuku's unique chewy mochi texture is also adored. And thanks to the fame of the anime character Doraemon's love for dorayaki, many overseas are already familiar with this pancake-like dessert filled with perfectly balanced sweet anko.

Be sure to indulge in these Japanese sweets that can only be fully savored in Japan during your visit! Let me know if you need any other Tokyo food recommendations.