No trip to Japan is complete without enjoying Japanese sweets — the more, the better! Japan has a long tradition of dessert-making, from wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets meant to be served with green tea) to modern sweets that reflect the changing palates of Japanese people.
If you have a sweet tooth and happen to be visiting Kanazawa, then you’re in luck. Kanazawa has cafes and sweet shops that offer a variety of Japanese desserts. In fact, we’d say one of the best things to do in Kanazawa is to try out different local sweets.
And in Kanazawa, Higashi Chaya District is the sweet-tooth hotspot of Kanazawa. Keep reading to see our top five places to eat Japanese sweets and desserts in the Higashi Chaya District, as chosen by the local MACHIYA INNS & HOTELS staff!
So just what is the Higashi Chaya District?
A chaya is a traditional Japanese teahouse where geisha, female entertainers, would entertain nobility and wealthy merchants with conversation, songs, and dances. In Kanazawa City, geisha are often called geigi.
There are three historic teahouse districts in Kanazawa, which house the chaya. One of the best things to do in Kanazawa is to explore these teahouse districts, especially the Higashi Chaya District. It’s the largest of the three and was established in 1820.
The district has historic wooden buildings with lattice-work windows. Some are still teahouses, but most have been repurposed as eateries, cafes, and shops.
The bus ride from Kanazawa Station to the Higashi Chaya District takes about seven minutes, with four stops in between. If you’d rather walk, it’s a 20-minute walk from the station to the district.
We also recommend visiting one of Kanazawa’s other teahouse districts, Kazue-machi Chaya District. It’s nearby and can be visited on the same trip.
Some other stops you can add to make it a full-day trip are Kanazawa Castle, Omicho Market, and Kenrokuen Garden. These are all easy to travel to from Higashi Chaya District. If you’ve been wondering what to do in Kanazawa, now you have a whole list!
Mochiya Musubu is a cafe located in one of the oldest renovated machiya houses in the area! Machiya are traditional wooden houses found throughout Japan, and many of the machiya in Higashi Chaya District have been renovated into restaurants, cafes and shops. This particular cafe is an offshoot of Murakami, a historic and famous confectionary shop in Kanazawa.
As the name might suggest, mochi (glutinous rice cakes) is the specialty here. Try their shiratama dango (small mochi balls) or go with our recommendation: dora-pan. It’s a combination of dorayaki, a pancake-like pastry filled with sweet red bean paste, and pancakes.
They also offer warabi-mochi drinks here. Choose a latte (we love the kaga-bocha latte and strawberry milk latte) and they’ll add warabi-mochi and whipped cream to it. Warabi-mochi is a type of wagashi, similar to mochi. Unlike mochi, made with rice, warabi-mochi is made from warabiko (bracken starch) and covered in kinako. It adds a unique and chewy texture to the drink that we just can’t get enough of!
Both the design and the menu at Kingyo-an take inspiration from the Taisho-Roman period of Japanese history. There was a lot of European influence during this era. Both the exterior and interior of the cafe have a retro feel, with antique furniture and plenty of deep reds and browns.
There are three menu items we recommend here. First, try the white pancakes. These pancakes are inspired by a Taisho-era recipe, and you’d be surprised to hear it actually contains no sugar! The owner’s recommendation is to enjoy it with a bit of honey and butter.
Secondly, the purin (custard pudding), the most popular dessert here. If you’ve had Japanese purin, or pudding, before, you’ll find that this one is a bit firmer than usual. It’s served with a slightly bitter caramel sauce that perfectly suits the local Japanese palate.
Last but not least, Kingyo-an makes an amazing Haikara punch. This is a gelatin dessert with fruit inside, served floating in soda in a goldfish-shaped bowl. It’s sure to refresh you during your sightseeing, but be sure to take a couple of pictures first!
andKANAZAWA is a modest cafe on the outskirts of the Higashi Chaya District. It’s located in a traditional teahouse but the interior has been updated to have a retro-modern feel. They have a pink tea room that is practically made for taking photos! In addition to sweets, they also serve breakfast, starting at 9 am.
At andKANAZAWA, you can enjoy ohagi, also known as botamochi. It’s a type of traditional wagashi made with a sticky ball of rice wrapped in a thick layer of anko, or sweet red bean paste. They also serve soft serve ice cream with kinako (roasted soybean flour).
We recommend enjoying these Japanese sweets with kaga-bocha tea. Unlike regular tea that is made with tea leaves, kaga-bocha tea is made with roasted tea stems. It’s a specialty of Ishikawa prefecture, where Kanazawa is located, so it’s a must try for those wanting to try local favorites!
|Address||1 Chome-17-17-2 Higashiyama, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0831|
Breakfast served 9AM~11AM Saturday & Sunday only
|Holidays||Closed every Thursday|
Fumuro Chaya is a teahouse operated by Fumuroya, a fu-making shop in Kanazawa that has existed since the late Edo period. The interior of Fumuro Chaya is very nostalgic, with traditional tatami flooring that invites you to sit down and relax for a while.
Fu, the specialty of the shop, is a chewy wheat gluten dough that is often used in Japanese cooking. At Fumuro Chaya, they use boiled fu (nama-fu) to make their special shiratama dango. Shiratama dango is usually made with rice flour, not wheat, so this variety is quite unique in texture and flavor. The chewiness is so satisfying!
When you order the shiratama-nama-fu, it’s served with kinako, sweet red bean paste, and mitarashi (sweet soy sauce glaze).
Takamiya’s specialty is manjū. This is a Japanese dessert that is flour based, unlike the rice based mochi. An anko (red bean paste) filling is wrapped in dough, usually steamed or baked. At Takamiya, they make their manjū in the likeness of Hyakuman-san, the adorable tourism mascot of Ishikawa prefecture.
Takamiya’s manjū comes with traditional fillings like sweet red bean paste, as well as more unique fillings like matcha cream and tofu cheesecake. If you visit in spring, you can also try sakura bean paste manjū, made with sakura (cherry blossoms) and white bean paste.
During the summer, you can also try Hyakuman-yaki with ice cream fillings! Choose from milk ice cream, matcha ice cream, or chocolate ice cream.
Though you can get the sweets to go, we recommend eating inside the cafe and enjoying a cup of kaga-bocha tea or local Kanazawa coffee. The cafe is located inside a renovated machiya that’s been standing for more than 150 years!
|Address||1 Chome 1-2 Kannonmachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0838|
Weekends &Holidays 10:00~18:00
(may close early if they run out of Hyakuman-yaki)
|Holidays||Closed every Tuesday|
With amazing access to places like nearby Kanazawa Castle, Kenrokuen Garden, Omicho Market and more, Higashi Chaya District is the perfect addition to your Kanazawa vacation itinerary. Enjoy the beautiful historical architecture, do a little shopping, and be sure to stop by one of our recommended cafes for a sweet treat to take a break!