The first owner trained at Toraya before moving on to start Syogetsu in 1916. The shop moved to its current location in 1988, specializing in making pre-ordered wagashi (Japanese sweets).
I couldn’t appreciate the taste of wagashi as a kid – all I thought of it back then was it’s simply a lump of beautifully packaged red bean paste. It was only due to my interest in matcha appreciation in recent years that made me relook wagashi.
Wagashi is often served with matcha. To balance the sometimes bitter finish of the ‘green tea espresso’, wagashi provides a suitable finish. It’s the same idea as having petit fours or Madeleine and coffee post a meal.
To be good at wagashi appreciation can be difficult, as it is about telling the subtle difference in the bean paste and its texture.
The shop was featured in a Japanese comic (美味しんぼ) where you can find plenty of descriptions on wagashi history and culture. Here’s a brief summary on what I have learnt:
The most important part of the wagashi is the bean paste filling; most commonly, the red bean paste. Historical reasons dictated why the red bean paste became the de facto filling, instead of other ingredients. Pastry like meat buns were popular in China during the Byodo period, but in Japan, since the Zen Buddhists are vegetarians, soy products were used to replace meat. So Fruits and dairy products were uncoomon in Japan so the red bean became their focus.
Using beans from the Tamba (丹波) area in Kyoto, it is kept at 10 degrees. The red beans have to be washed and dried a night before the cooking process. The beans are cooked in hot water twice to rid the bitterness. After the cooking, the skin is filtered off and what’s left is the paste. Water is added to the filtered paste and any floating residue on the surface is spooned away. The paste is then poured into a cotton bag where water is drained away.
The paste is cooked with sugar in a pot. The white raw sugar used for this is first melted in another pot before being added into the paste as sugared water.
The semi-finished produced is then placed onto a cloth inside a wooden framed box for 2-3 days where during that time the excess sugar will drip from the bottom. The sugar gives the red bean paste its required sweetness.
A good wagashi is expected to be smooth tasting without being too cloying, ending with a clean and pleasant aftertaste on the tongue. In this sense, the master of Syogetsu did his job well. I could easily eat 5 pieces of their wagashi without feeling I’ve had too much. Personally I think it’s superior to Toraya’s offerings.
The wagashi changes with the season. Roughly five choices are available through pre-order and a designated pick up time.
Address：6 Murasakino Kamiyanagicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto（京都府京都市北区紫野上柳町6）
Tel: +81 75-491-2464
Hours: 9:00am – 5:00 pm, closed on Sundays
Price: 2,180yen per box (5 pieces)