Wagashi: Kyoto Daimonji Namagashi

Kyoto Daimonji Namagashi 大文字 生菓子

Kyoto Daimonji Namagashi 大文字 生菓子
More Daimonji! The biggest of the big characters of the late-summer mountainside bonfires is ‘dai’, literally ‘great’ or ‘big’. Here it is on a sweet, soft and chewy tea ceremony confection.
大 (dai) on Namagashi
Kyoto Daimonji Namagashi 大文字 生菓子

The curved line of darker blue is the slope of the mountain and the lighter blue is the sky with gold leaf as stars. Mountains and night sky are not very blue, I am not sure about the color scheme here. Perhaps the blue is intended to convey ‘summer’, as in clear blue skies. An alternative theory would be that the blues in this namagashi look cool, so it provides some psychic relief to the sultry summer heat of the season.

About the taste, this namagashi tastes like nearly every other the incorporates sweet bean paste and mochi.

Now it occurs to me that some foodies may find a conundrum with namagashi because while the motifs, shapes, colors and so on are countless, the taste is always the same. Visually, namagashi should be on a seasonal and/or cultural theme, and this is very rich and varied. (Tea ceremony namagashi article) The taste is intended to balance the bitterness of maccha and is always the same. In a country where development of products and food happens at a dizzying pace, it could seem odd to many that the taste of namagashi doesn’t develop.

What do you think?

To read about Daimonji in greater detail, please see this article.

大 on Namagashi
Kyoto Daimonji Namagashi 大文字 生菓子
Notice the azuki bean paste ball inside wrapped with mochi.

大 on Namagashi
Kyoto Daimonji Namagashi 大文字 生菓子

Daimonji Namagashi Served
Kyoto Daimonji Namagashi 大文字 生菓子

Dai – 大
Kyoto Gozan Okuribi Daimonji Yama 五山送り火 大文字
Peko took this photo this year (August 2008).

Dai – 大
Kyoto Gozan Okuribi Daimonji Yama 五山送り火 大文字
This is a photo from a few years ago, you can really see the smoke at this angle.

9 Responses to “Wagashi: Kyoto Daimonji Namagashi”

  1. kat says:

    I was reading “Untangling my Chopsticks” and if I remember correctly the namagashi is for the eyes not necessarily the palate that is probably why they all taste similar. Also, because they are usually served at tea ceremony, the tea is the star of the show 🙂 I could be wrong…

  2. Peko Peko says:

    hi kat,

    You are correct. That is the idea.

  3. diva says:

    it seems like namagashi is something very traditional and should it change, it wouldn’t be what it is then. i love the fact that the look and shapes are constantly changing though! and the blue colour really appeals to me. suppose that should make the tea ceremony all the more beautiful and regal but yet withstanding the movement of time and always being what it is?


  4. diva says:

    ..i was just typing as i was rationalizing it in my head – and then i hit send! sorry peko for chatting breeze. lol

  5. I was there so many years ago for Daimonji. What memories.

  6. lin says:


    This is so beautiful.
    As far as a variation on flavours for this treat, there is a place in Himi city, Toyama ken, next to a little river that selle the most exquisite daifu (?) : the outer coating is like in the picture, then a marzipan like mochi, followed by a very thin coat of chocolate in dark and white with a whole strwberry in the centre. No anko! I cna hunt through my notes somewhere and find you the exact place if you like.

  7. Bentoist says:

    That is a beautiful piece of confectionery, and so exquisitely wrought too. I would find it hard to eat something like that.

  8. Momo says:

    Wow.. I wish I were there!
    the mochi looks beautiful as always and was probably equally as tasty!
    I know we couldn’t do the blaze in S.California.. too many wildfire threats and dry grass!!

  9. […] for information for a book on Japanese manners that I’m translating at work.  I came on this interesting post about namagashi, beautifully decorated rice cake and sweet bean paste sweets that are often served during the tea […]

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