Japan’s cherry blossom (sakura) season is world famous. Every year, the whole country awaits the arrival of the cherry blossom season with increasing anticipation. And, for those who cannot wait for the blossoms to bloom, many shops and restaurants prepare “sakura” related goods, such as drinks and sweets sold from the beginning of March. In this article, I’d like to introduce you the cherry blossom sweets from “Toraya” with a history of over 400 years.
A brand-new beautiful building
“Toraya” was founded in Kyoto in the 16th century and later became a purveyor to the Japanese Tenno (Emperor). Recently, the Akasaka store in Tokyo was rebuilt and reopened in October 2018.
The designer in charge was famous Japanese architect Hiroshi Naito who is known for works such as the “Chihiro Museum of Art, Tokyo” and the new “Ginza Line Shibuya Station” that is being built right now. No need to say: the building is stunning! It is made of wood with large windows, which makes the interiors appear warm and welcoming without being too overwhelming.
On the first floor and second floor of the building, you will find a shop area with area-limited items, such as Japanese sweets, as well as special products such as Tokyo Olympics related goods (the Olympics are next year!!). Toraya’s most famous product is “yōkan”, a thick, jellied Japanese dessert made of red bean paste, agar, and sugar.
By the way, you are free to take pictures inside the store. That’s really great because the displays are very cool!
Moving on to the third floor you will find the Toraya cafe. Right at the entrance where you sit to wait for your seats, you can watch the confectionery manufacturer work through a window. Interesting!
The café has large windows with a beautiful view overlooking the Akasaka Estate where the Japanese royal family resides, and the Toyokawa Inari Shrine that many celebrities visit regularly.
Japanese sweets heaven
At the café, the lunch set is very popular. However, my mission was to try the sweets, so these are the sweets I chose:
Akasaka-limited cherry blossom sweets “Sakuramochi” (with a real cherry tree leaf!), “Hatsuzakura” yokan sandwiched between yam dough, “Sadoji” white bean paste confectionery, cherry yokan, a dorayaki-style cake called “Zangetsu” with a hint of ginger inside…
After ordering I realized that I had actually chosen many sweets that weren’t related to “sakura”. Everything looked just too good.
Although it is difficult to explain the taste, the expression “taste of happiness” feels right well. The bean paste used in most of the sweets has a very refined sweetness that matches the slightly bitter tasting Japanese green tea very well.
“Sakuramochi” uses real salted cherry leaves. Therefore, there aren’t many places outside of Japan where you can try these typical spring sweets. Since most of the confectionery uses “raw” ingredients, you can’t take them home as a souvenir. It’s a Japan-only treat you shouldn’t miss!
(However, “yokan” is a great gift you can actually take home in your suitcase!)
When you visit Tokyo don’t miss these delicious pastries together with the beautiful architecture of the Toraya Akasaka store!
Toraya Akasaka Store
4-9-22 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
(The closest stations are “Aoyama-itchome”, “Nagatacho” or “Akasaka-mitsuke”)
Cafe opening hours:
11:00-18:30 (weekdays) Last order 18:00
11:00 to 17:30 (Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) Last order 17:00