Places for Wagashi 和菓子 in Okinawa

和菓子 wagashi: Japanese style sweets

製菓 seika: confectionary

Another post that has been sitting in my drafts folder for way to long. So here it is.

There are many types of wagashi. Here in Okinawa, it is difficult to find ones that are nearly as intricate, beautiful, and delicious as the mainland, but there are some places where very nice wagashi can be found. Here are a few of my “not-to-be-missed” spots:

  1. Usagi-ya うさぎや: literally the rabbit shop. This place is lovely but easy to miss, located on the busy road Rt. 34 in Ginowan. There are flags outside that say どら焼き (dorayaki) on them, but otherwise the store front is fairly unassuming and might not catch your eye. The sweets here are absolutely lovely. You can find many types here.    Closed!
  2. Chinen seika wagashi shikisai 知念製菓和菓子「四季彩」: Chinen Japanese confectionary “Shikisai” (4 seasons) is larger shop located in the Shuri area (there is also a second smaller location as well). This place is a very nice location to look for seasonal wagashi.
  3. Shirobara (chain confections store) 白バラ: literally, “white rose.” This is a nice chain shop which makes it convenient since there are multiple locations. There typically is not a lot of variety of just wagashi as it is also a patisserie shop, but some seasonal items come and go. The main location is here:
  4. Miyabi Teahouse. Read about their ohagi and dorayaki in a separate post here. I recommend trying these traditional sweets with green tea in their relaxing teahouse.
  5. 羊羊 Yoyo An Factory: Japanese sweets confectionary: here you can find daifuku and dorayaki, be sure to try them with a bowl of matcha! *Update: they also carry a few more Japanese sweets items now.
  6. Wa Cafe Nodoka: 和カフェ和花: these are sort of “modern” dorayaki, try these with a bowl of matcha, you will not be disappointed.

Special Mention: Suehiro Confectionery 末廣製菓 in Makishi market area. They have a mix of items, mostly more Western or Okinawa sweets, but some Japanese confections mixed in as well. I wouldn’t expect to find any actual fancy wagashi, but may be worth a stop if you are in the Makishi area.

Of course, if you go to the Ryubo department store in Naha, you may also be able to find several of these in one location; some are local and some may even ship in from the mainland.

Hanabiramochi: 花びらもち

Hanabiramochi 花びらもち is a type of wagashi, specifically a type of namagashi (click here for more info on types of wagashi). It is eaten during the New Year, especially at the first tea ceremony of the year. The meaning of 花びら hanabira is “flower petals,” so it is flower petal mochi. How can anyone resist something called flower petal mochi?

I purchased this sweet little mochi while traveling in Kyushu right before the New Year. I have never tried hanabiramochi before now, but it looked delicate and pretty that it seemed like I must. The shop counter in the department store I purchased from was full of various Japanese sweets to complement the New Year, and honestly I wanted all of them, but settled for just the hanabiramochi.

So what is inside? The white colored mochi outside is flat and round then folded in half, The pink color shows through in the center then fades to white at the edges. There is a piece of long, thin, sweetened gobou ごぼう (burdock root) in the middle which sticks out both sides of the mochi. The sweet bean filling is made from the pale mung beans (the pink is usually just food coloring). 

Overall? Pretty good, but I admit the gobou is a bit strange in there.



Wasanbon, sweets to go with tea: 和三盆

千菓子 higashi: dry wagashi, dry sweets (no or little moisture so they stay good longer). This is the generic term, which can include a few different types (including rakugan 落雁 used for Obon offerings). These are the opposite of namagashi which are made fresh and have a lot of moisture content.

和三盆 wasanbon: a type of Japanese fine grain sugar used to make wagashi. This term is also used for the small sugary shapes that are served with tea melt in your mouth.

I visited a shop here in Naha called 知念製菓 和菓子 四季彩 Chinenseika Wagashi Shikisai. The kanji 製菓 seika means confectionary, and 和菓子 wagashi means Japanese sweets. I wanted to pick out some cute confections to serve with tea sometime. The shapes and colors are often seasonal, with a few year-round standbys. These sweets are basically just pure sugar with some added color, contrasting perfectly with the bitterness in tea. If you buy them individually, each little sweet is 70yen at this shop (though if you buy a bag of the same shapes, you save money on the per piece price). I like variety and did not need many, so I chose a few individually that I liked.


address: 〒903-0804沖縄県那覇市首里石嶺町2-260-1

Types of Wagashi: 和菓子

A short introduction to “wagashi,” meaning Japanese sweets. There are many types, so let me review a few of the common ones. This focuses on Japanese sweets not Okinawan sweets, though it is possible to find most of these in Okinawa. Many of these are the perfect accompaniments to tea, especially matcha 抹茶. I will try to make posts about each of these individually at some point, but for now here is a brief description of each.


Nama-gashi 生菓子: these are fresh, delicate sweets, only lasting 1-2 days. The fillings, shapes and designs vary by the seasons and regions. If you click on the link, you can find out a little bit more about them in my previous blog post, and some places to find them.

ice cream daifuku
My stuffing my face with ichigo daifuku

daifuku 大福soft mochi wrapped around sweet bean paste or other fillings, covered with a light dusting of starch to keep them from sticking together. A popular type of daifuku type is strawberry (ichigo 苺). You can even find ice cream filled daifuku in the freezer of most conbini.

dorayaki filled w/matcha cream
dorayaki (top), ohagi w/sesame (bottom)

dorayaki どら焼き: 2 light, sweet “pancakes” typically with red bean paste in between. Do not mix these up with hotcakes ホットケーキ which are western and serve with syrup.

ohagi おはぎ: cooked glutinous rice with red bean paste (or sometimes other toppings such as sesame or kinako) on the outside. Typically served during Autumn. The Spring version is called botamochi.


dango 団子or だんご: small pieces of steamed mochi dumplings, often served on a stick. Hanami dango 花見団子 is a very popular type, with color of pink, white, and green. Sometimes served with toppings such as mitarashi dango (sweet shoyu), goma (black sesame seed), anko (red bean paste), etc.


manjuu 饅頭 or まんじゅうsmall “buns” that are either steamed or baked, filled with sweet bean paste or other sweet filling. Manjuu encompasses many different types of buns, so you will see a lot of variation. The one above is a stuffed pastry manjuu from an onsen town.


taiyaki たい焼き: fish-shaped pancake-like pastry with filling, traditionally red bean, but many flavors can be found such as custard, kinako, chocolate, and more.


youkan 羊羹: sort of sweet, firm, jelly-like confection made from sugar and agar (kanten かんてん). Travels well, so it is often a popular omiyage.

monaka 最中 or もなか: a wafer shell filled with sweet bean paste; the shells can come in different shapes and sizes. A popular modern variation of monaka is filled with ice cream, easy to find at the conbini! (I do not seem to have a picture of this one! mmm maybe that means it is time for a snack…)

sakura mochi among the sakura blooms.

sakura mochi (Kansai-style) 桜餅: mochi rice dyed pink and sweetened with red bean paste inside, wrapped with a sakura (cherry blossom) leaf. It is traditionally eaten in spring during sakura season and Girls’ Day (March 3rd). You can eat the leaf or not eat the leaf; from I have heard there is no actual rule regarding this, though the leaf is edible– don’t let anyone tell you are doing it wrong!

warabi mochi

warabi mochi わらび餅: jelly-like, similar to mochi, but made from warabi (bracken) starch. It is a little chewy and soft. It is usually covered in kinako or matcha powder.


higashi 干菓子: known as “dry sweets,” or sweets with little to no moisture content. Sometimes this is a glutinous rice flour, sugar and starch mixture or a wasanbon sugar pressed in molds to form dry sweets. Rakugan 落雁, used during ceremonies and obon, also fall under this category.

Other special types:

Mizu manjuu 水まんじゅう: “water” manjuu made with kuzu, popular in summer!

Hanabiramochi: specialty namagashi named flower petal mochi, often served during the first tea ceremony of the New year.

Akafuku Mochi: 赤福餅: a type of namagashi from Ise.

A few of the wagashi I came across in Kanazawa (there are so many more, but these are the ones I managed to capture pictures of before nomming):



Miyabi Chaya Nakamoto: みやび茶屋仲元

茶屋 chaya: tea house

Miyabi Teahouse Nakamoto みやび茶屋仲元 is a small tea house located in Okinawa city, off a back alley from Rt. 330 past the Rycom mall. You might not realize it exists, unless you recognize the hiragana for dorayaki どらやき on a purple flag in the alley and then think to follow it down an even more narrow alley to a parking lot leading to what appears to be an unmarked house except for the Okinawa City Omotenashi (おもてなし “hospitality”) flag outside the door.

Anyhow, it is a teahouse, leave your shoes at the door and enter the tatami room; during lunch they have some light meals, and during tea time you can order tea, coffee, ohagi, dorayaki, hot zenzai, and Okinawa ice zenzai. My quest in coming here was mainly to try the ohagi おはぎ.

Ohagi is named for the autumn flower, hagi (bush clover). In spring, this same dessert is called botamochi ぼたもち which is named after the spring flower, botan (peony). It is most commonly eaten during the Autumn and Spring Equinoxes.

Ohagi is sweet mochi rice with an azuki bean paste around the outside, although there are variations. This place had kinako (roasted soy flour) outside with anko (red azuki bean paste) inside, sesame outside with anko inside, as well as the typical anko outside and anko inside kinds. My husband and I ordered an ohagi set and a dorayaki set to share between us, so we ended up with 1 of each type, plus 2 dorayaki, and 2 matchas. What a nice experience. The owners were surprised to see Americans (at least by themselves and not accompanied by Japanese), and asked us how we found out about it and where we were from, etc. I explained about the Okinawa cafe book I purchased awhile back from the bookstore. The menu is in Japanese, but it seemed like the wife spoke some English, so I would not worry about trying this place out if you have trouble with Japanese language.



open 11-6 Wed-Sat (closed Sun, Mon, and Tues)


Famous “No” Manjuu in Shuri: のー饅頭

The の “no” character is short for “noshi” のし or 熨斗,  which is a ceremonial origami fold used to express good wishes or good fortune, usually attached to gifts. It is seen at any kind of celebration like a wedding, new baby, New Years, housewarming… people give gifts or money envelopes with this decoration on it. 

ぎぼまんじゅう Gibo Manjuu in Shuri sells special manjuu まんじゅう (steamed buns) with the no character painted in red, known as no-manjuu のー饅頭. The manjuu are only 150yen and come out piping hot, enormous and packed with subtly sweet red bean paste. They are wrapped in sannin サンニン (also known as gettou 月桃 in Japanese or shell ginger in English) leaves, so you have the slight fragrance reminiscent of Ryukyu sweets. It is delicious and absolutely filling. It is highly recommended to visit and try these manjuu!

Although the shop is currently located at Kubagawa in the Shuri area, it was originally by the Seikou temple in Gibo (another area of Shuri), so the name is Gibo Manjuu since the business is over a century old. The number of manjuu sold each day is limited, so be sure to go early!

address: 〒903-0807 沖縄県那覇市首里久場川町2丁目109


Mizu manjuu: 水まんじゅう

水まんじゅう mizu manjuu literally translates to “water dumpling.” Sometimes they are also called “kuzu manjuu” くずまんじゅう.

Mizu manjuu are a popular summer time treat because they are served chilled. The outside is made from kuzu starch (arrowroot 葛) which gives it the translucent effect. The inside filling which you can see through the outer layer is either azuki paste or a fruit-jelly paste with white bean. The taste is so refreshing, perfect to balance the hot summer days. And the outer appearance is so cute and delicate.

The ones in my first picture are matcha 抹茶 and raspberry ラズベリー. The second picture is shikwasa シークワーサー flavor. The third picture is a really creamy and tangy sour cream flavor, no bean paste used.

In Okinawa, you can find these at Shirobara confectionary (白バラ洋菓子) which has a few locations throughout Okinawan main island. Just copy and paste into Google Maps to find the closest to you. I have also seen a few at SanA grocery store during summer.




Wagashi: 和菓子

Wagashi are Japanese sweets. For now, I will digress from Okinawa related topics and focus on Japan.

和 wa is used for “Japanese” and 菓子 kashi means “sweets” or “confections,” but it can also sort of just mean candy or snacks. So 和菓子 wagashi are Japanese style sweets. 洋菓子 yougashi means Western style confections.

I am lucky that here in Okinawa there are a few very nice wagashi shops. One of my favorites is called Usagi-ya うさぎや on Route 34 in Ginowan, not too far from my university. By the way “usagi” is such a cute name, it means “rabbit” in Japanese. The や ya after it just means “shop” or “store.”

Wagashi overall encompasses many types of sweet, but below are some examples of my favorites, called Nama-gashi 生菓子 which are “fresh sweets.” So delicate, fragrant, artistic. I posted here about some of the different types of wagashi.

Some have anko あんこ (sweet azuki bean paste), some have other seasonal flavors (such as chestnut, sakura) or maybe just a white bean paste. The shapes are always so beautiful and usually related to the time of year; this is year of the monkey, so during the new year I purchased a monkey, a bamboo, and plum blossoms. Other times there will be matsutake mushroom shape, maple leaf, ginkgo leaf, sakura… always amazing.

I hope everyone can enjoy a taste of Japan.

Address for Usagi-ya: 1 Chome-6-2 Ganeko, Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture 901-2214