Have you ever tried Japanese sweets? Those delicious and beautifully arranged creations made out of … sweet beans! Japanese sweets are not only the perfect match for a nice cup of (green) tea, but also healthier than the cake and pastries we eat in the West.
Steve Jobs favorite Japanese sweets!
If you want to try your first traditional Japanese sweets, you should visit the sweets shop “Akasaka Aono” – one of Apple legend Steve Jobs’ favorite.
Akasaka Aono first opened more than 100 years ago! Its main store is located in Akasaka, but the closest station is Roppongi station. Right at the entrance –you will find the seasonal specials; with seasonal ingredients these are usually very colorful and cute.
Not to forget about the “classics”. As I just said, many Japanese sweets are made out of sweetened beans called “azuki” (adzuki bean). First-timers often say that these bean-paste sweets are a little bit too sweet for their likely – my personal theory is, that because they probably haven’t had any green tea along. The bitterness of the tea neutralizes the bean paste’s sweetness. Very much like we have black tea with cream cake!
One type of popular azuki-sweets are called – “daifuku”, little rice cakes (“mochi”) filled with azuki bean paste. Just two words: sooooooooooooo good!
But Akasaka Aono is most famous for its “Akasaka mochi”. These rice cakes have brown sugar and bits of walnuts in them. They come in small boxes that are each wrapped – making them look like a little present. (Akasaka Aono was the first shop to wrap its mochi like this and is now known for this style).
Inside the wrap is a box with the mocha as well as „kinako“ powder (roasted soybean flour). You then empty the box on the wrapping sheet, dip the mochi into the powder… and enjoy!
The store manager told me that “Akasaka mochi” are very popular among Hawaiians. But not only Hawaiians enjoy Akasaka Aono’s sweets. Even Steve Jobs loved Akasaka Aono’s traditional Japanese sweets. After his death in 2010, it came out that a friend of Steve used to send him boxes of Akasaka Aono’s sweets all the way to the US over a period of six months. That’s how much he loved the taste of the non-oil and therefore very healthy sweets.
Are you ready for spinach and tomato sweets?
Another sweets shop I really enjoy is “Azabu Yasai Gashi” which translates as “Azabu vegetable sweets”. The shop is located close to the Azabu-juban shopping street area. Starting out as a garage shop, it only moved there two years ago. The owner was experimenting with traditional Japanese sweets and veggies. The result is great sweets that will surprise you.
How about shaved ice with celery topping or with spinach and matcha (= green tea powder)?
Since I live in Japan, every time my mum reminds me on Skype to eat my greens, my answer is: “YEEEEES!”
The celery tastes a little bit sour – kind of rhubarb-ish. Spinach mixed with matcha tastes like green tea (of course) with a hint of a green smoothie. If you like these, spinach and matcha flavored roll cake with a tomato cream filling should also be on your list!
And don’t forget to try the hot sweet potato paste with vanilla ice cream… and also oh, my God! The list of sweets I want to recommend just doesn’t end!
The shaved ice is sold only during the summer season but there are many other non-seasonal options like “dorayaki” – the ones Doraemon likes – as well as vegetable chips.
Both shops in this article have an eat-in corner. But their wrapped sweets also can be purchased for take-out or as a presents (please check the expiration date first). Even though shop staff might not speak fluent English, everybody assured me that they are really happy when foreigners come by. They are more than helpful trying to explain everything (using hands and feet).
With this huge choice of Japanese sweets at hand, which ones are you going to try?
11-9-7 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
8-minute walk From Akasaka station, Tokyo metro Chiyoda line
8-minute walk From Nogizaka station, Tokyo metro Chiyoda line
9-minute walk From Roppongi station, Oedo line
Ayabu Yasai Gashi
3-1-5 Azabu-juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo
80m away from Ayabu-juban station, Tokyo metro Namboku line and Oedo line