The beauty of Japanese cuisine is in its wide variety of ingredients and cooking methods. The various ways of preparing the many different categories of ingredients combine to create healthy, nutritionally well-balanced meals. Here is an introduction to some of the principal categories of Japanese cuisine. Once the characteristics of each category are understood, Japanese cooking can be more fun and healthier.



Enjoy traditional Japanese sweets and contemporary Western-style sweets

The dessert served at the end of a meal and sweet refreshments are roughly classified into two categories: wa-gashi and yo-gashi.

Wa-gashi are traditional Japanese confections, which often beautifully express a highlight of the season. The most common ingredients in Japanese sweets are an (sugar-sweetened paste of cooked azuki beans) and rice flour. Typical wa-gashi include dango (dumplings), shiruko (sweet red bean soup), manju (cakes with bean paste), ohagi (rice balls coated in an) and senbei (rice crackers).

Yo-gashi refers to Western-style sweets, which were first developed in the Meiji era (1868-1912) in Japan. The characteristic ingredients of yo-gashi are cream, butter, and eggs. Cakes, pudding, jelly, ice cream and chocolate are typical yo-gashi.

These days, many kinds of Western-style sweets are made with wa-gashi ingredients such as matcha (green tea powder) or azuki beans and are aptly named wa-sweets.

related recipes


224kcal / per person

An-pan is a Japanese original bread prepared with the dough stuffed with red bean paste. It was inspired by the sake-manju and invented at a bakery in Tokyo at the beginning of the Meiji era.

Soy Milk Chocolate Jelly

102kcal / per person

Japanese style dessert made with soy milk. Soy milk has been getting attention as it has the highest bioavailability of all soy bean products and is rich in potassium, magnesium, and isoflavone, which help prevent osteoporosis and menopausal symptoms.

Broad Beans Chakin

62kcal / per person

Chakin is a shape of food made by wrapping the ingredients with cloth or plastic wrap. This is only 62 kcal and a source of dietary fiber, of which you may not get enough.

Mitarashi Dango

92kcal / per person

Dango is a small ball prepared by kneading rice flour with water. There are a variety of dangos. Mitarashi dango is said to be named after Mitarashi Matsuri held in Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto. It refers to dangos dipped with sauce and grilled.

Kabocha Squash Shiruko

141kcal / per person

Oshiruko is a soup of cooked red beans with sugar, served with shiratama-dango or chestnut compote. This is a quicker recipe that uses kabocha squash instead of red beans.

Matcha Chiffon Cake

171kcal / per person

A Japanese-style cake with green tea, which is also popular overseas.

Two Types of Ohagi

175kcal / per person

Ohagi is a traditional sweet prepared with rice. It is said to be named after the blooming flowers of Japanese bush clover. It is a custom to offer ohagis to a family Buddhist altar before eating during the Higan or equinoctial weeks in spring and autumn.

Kinako Ice Cream

106kcal / per person

One of the typical Japanese style desserts with the combination of a Western dessert and a Japanese ingredient. Kinako is a roasted soy bean powder and contains quality protein.

Lotus Root Dumplings

213kcal / per person

Japanese style sweets are supposed to be tough to make. But in this easy dessert recipe, you just cook lotus root batter on a frying pan.