HIGASHIYA man – Discover a world of wagashi, one bite at a time

By Ben Davis

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The unknown, the unexpected and the peculiar – new experiences in unfamiliar surroundings forge some of our most memorable travel stories. Within the vast and varied world of Japanese cuisine, traditional sweets (wagashi) are built upon the subtle combination of distinctive ingredients, many of which remain uncommon – if not unknown – outside of Japan. Tucked into the side of an orange-gold tiled building at the top end of Omotesando, HIGASHIYA man is a shop with a counter’s worth of Japanese sweets – all the better for visitors who like to try “one of everything”.

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When creating HIGASHIYA man, Japanese sweets maker HIGASHIYA sought out an unlikely location in Minami Aoyama with the hope of bringing the charm of a neighbourhood sweets shop to an area dominated by high end fashion and luxury retailers. Taking its name from the humble manju – sweet buns with a filling of smooth bean paste – the shop’s sleek interior and quality goods have seen it settle in comfortably alongside the likes of neighbouring fashion labels Issey Miyake and Comme des Garçons. Each and every morning, several varieties of manju are steamed in preparation for the store’s first customer, who often arrive as the doors open at 11am, if not a touch earlier.

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Rain or shine, you’re likely to encounter warm manju being passed out the window from morning through night, along with seasonal treats that are ready to be eaten as you stroll along Aoyama’s slender streets. The winter menu includes an original take on shiruko, pairing the velvety red bean soup with a wafer stick and fleck of butter, while in the warmer months you can enjoy ice monaka – vanilla ice-cream and red bean paste sandwiched between two crisp wafers. Aside from the takeaway window, the store also boasts a rotating selection of namagashi – small batch delicacies delivered fresh each morning – along with immaculately packed boxes of one-bite snacks such as brandy jelly wrapped in a ball of savoury mashed chestnut.

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Whether you’re familiar with Japanese sweets or are sampling mochi (rice cake), anko (red bean paste), yomogi (Japanese mugwort) and other ingredients for the first time, the store’s original creations carry a balance of flavour, texture and beauty that defies their petite appearance. And so when hunting for presents or picnic treats, HIGASHIYA man is a must-visit destination for wagashi both familiar and peculiar, simple and extravagant.

-Where: 3-17-14 Minami-Aoyama, Minato
-When: 11am-7pm
-Website: http://www.higashiya.com/shop/man/




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About Columnist

Ben Davis
Editor of Thousands Tokyo

Ben is an editor, consultant and photographer who has been based in Tokyo since 2010. Following a stint with local farmers in the Japanese countryside, he now works as Editor of Thousands Tokyo, which sees him happily spend most days (and nights) exploring the world’s biggest city from the ground up.