So you’ve sampled sushi, soba, tempura and tonkatsu, but Japanese cuisine ain’t all about the savories, Susan. Tokyoites also loves a sweet treat – and no, we aren’t talking touristy Harajuku crepes or the latest fad flavoured popcorn. These are the real deal Nippon counters and cafes globe-strutting sweet tooths need to know about.
Kuriya Kashi Kurogi
Iron Chef Jun Kurogi makes artisanal takes on wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) to order in this strikingly sticky Kengo Kuma-designed caff. In winter and spring it’s all about the signature warabi mochi, a dark shiny jelly served with toasted soy and matcha, or on hot days take the chilled kuzu-kiri sweet noodles.
University of Tokyo Hongo Campus, 7-3-1 Hongo Campus, Bunkyo-ku, wagashi-kurogi.co.jp
Tucked in a nondescript Ginza building is this modern take on a classic ‘Onkashitsukasa’, the candy stores once favoured by the imperial court. Designer Shinichiro Ogata is responsible for the elegant wood n’ white aesthetic – swish straight to the counter for takeaway tempters like white sesame and beans balls, coconut jelly squares and seasonal persimmon mochi (all perf packages in colourful paper boxes), or settle in the salon for a Nippon take on afternoon tea.
1-7-7, Ginza, Chuo-ku, higashiya.com
Feel like something a little less fancy? Little sib Higashiya Man in Aoyama specialises in humble manju, aka freshly steamed sweet buns stuffed with bean paste fillings.
3-17-14 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku
Nimble-fingered amezaiku (confectionary sculptor) Shinri Tezuka hand-works scissors and molten sugar into the most ameshin-gly realistic goldfish, frogs, cats and candy cranes. Visit his itty-bitty Asakusa workshop (1/F, 1-4-3 Imado, Taito-ku) to see how it’s done or take a class, if you just want to buy zip to the Solamachi store (4/F, Tokyo Skytree Town, 1-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida-ku).
The name is a mouthful, and so are the famed Italian-inspired Navona cakes at this Jiyugaoka stalwart. Whipped cream is sandwiched between two biscuits of fluffy light castella sponge – go for the seasonal sakura and cherry flavour when available.
1-15-12 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku, navona.co.jp
When you’re wagashied out and wanting something western hit the backstreet shop of patisserie power player Hidemi Sugino. It’s been drawing lines for more than a decade with its pretty French petit fours, including the renowned Ambroisie chocolate mousse – only ten are made per day and they disappear faster than a toupee in a typhoon. Try your luck on a weekday morning or come later for other lovely little layer cakes like the Neo, with a liquid mango center and basil sponge base, or the sinful Tartelette au Caramel Passion.
3-6-7 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku
For more of the sweetest spots around Tokyo nab a copy of our Tokyo Guide…