Wagashi (Japanese Confectionary)

Spring Semester Japanese Traditional Arts V
2 credits

Instructor: Toru Ota

Wagashi (Japanese Confectionary) image

Course Description

It would not be an exaggeration to say that culture begins with food. This courses examines sweets, which occupy a special place in food culture. Kyoto-style sweets or kyogashi are thought of as a traditional Japanese food, but a glance at Japan’s history, beginning with the first envoys sent to Tang Dynasty, China, reveals that these sweets were formed through a mixture of native Japanese culture and outside cultural influences during the various periods of open international negotiations and closed national isolation and/or turmoil. In addition, basing our study on the essence of sweets, we will explore the question of why Kyoto-style sweets, so representative of traditional Japanese sweets, developed in Kyoto, then reconsider the traditional culture of each participants home.


The course will look at the following:

  1. What is the essence of sweets?
  2. Analysis of the historical, geographical, societal and religious characteristics of Kyoto sweets
  3. The relationship of sweets and leisure activities
  4. An examination of the relationship of sweets to red-light districts, the source of the modern rise of entertainment culture
  5. Focusing our cultural exploration of sweets on the tradition of “mochi” (rice cakes) , emphasizing “Ozoni” (a traditional New Year’s soup made with rice cakes), and on the geographical region of the East Asia Evergreen Forest (from the dried sweets of Nepal to the northern Indian state of Sikkim, Bhutan, the north-eastern Indian state of Nagaland, Thailand, Laos, the Yunnan province of China, and western Japan) we will identify Japan as part of Asia and Kyoto as part of Japan.
  6. Experience the formal food culture of the tea ceremony as based on the making of the radically different varieties of tea ceremony sweets.
  7. Course will include hands-on experience in making Japanese sweets.

* A maximum of 25 students are accepted into this course.

Grading Criteria

Research paper

Text Books

Toshi Kenkyuu・Kyoto/ Urban Studies・Kyoto


Kaiseki to Kashi, Sadogaku Taikei, published by Tankosha Kashi no chaji o tanoshimu, published by Tankosha

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