The dearth of sugar in the Japanese diet, (as one might expect) explains the total lack of confectionary creations in their traditional cuisine. This is plainly evident when examining their supermarkets and comparing them to their American or European counterparts.
However it is ironic that there is a superfluity of pastry & cake shops throughout Tokyo and Japan, importing delicacies of the West and then adding their own touch.
Rice flour, sweet bean paste and fruit are used liberally in their preparation, whereas pastry, butter cream icing and vanilla cream (the hallmarks of Western pastry) are not present at all.
From pastry shops to super markets you will find these mini-pancakes everywhere. About the size of your palm it consists of two pancakes with a filing of cream and a fruit in between, either strawberries, or red bean paste.
Taking the French Crepe to the next level, a Japanese crepe starts off with a thick (not paper-thin) crepe base, and then a layer of whip cream, a medley of fresh fruit and lastly a drizzle of a matching fruit syrup. It is then rolled into a cone and wrapped in heavy paper, usually pink.
Fruit arrangements can be anywhere from plain strawberries to layers of exotic fruit (kiwi, mango, etc) Being scarce and highly imported, the more exotic the fruit, the more expensive the cost will be.
A distinctive earthy taste, green tea ice cream can come either soft served or standard. Its flavour is complex and slightly bitter, the high sugar content of the ice cream helps to soften the harshness.
A relatively recent development, coffee jelly is exactly what it says it is. If you think of it as Jello, but coffee flavoured, you’re tracking.
Typically purchased in small plastic containers with foil covers, the consumer will peal off the top, take a spoon and just dig in. Alternatively you can pour in some half and half or milk to soften the taste. It already comes sweetened so adding sugar is not necessary.
Resembling miniature soccer balls, your average melon bread has a criss-cross lattice imprint on its surface. Melon bread (or melonpan as it is sometimes referred to) has a crispy outer shell followed by a soft sweet bread core.
Delicious as the name may be they are not in fact melon-flavoured. Some variations will have chocolate chips or other accents combined in the mix.
You can find melonpan freshly baked in pastry shop/bakeries or factory-made and packaged at the local convenience store.
Anpan is the staple sweet snack in Japan, simply a soft bread with a sweat bean paste core it has found great success since its original creation in 1875. You can find them pre-packaged at convenience stores or freshly baked daily in bakeries.
What it lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in delicate taste.
Not to be confused with Marunouchi (Tokyo’s most posh and impressive business/shopping district) Marumochi is a small doughy pastry made from refined rice flour. It is uncooked, malleable and squishy. Its center can contain a variety of fillings; most common is sweet bean paste.
About the size of a truffle, they are dusted with white confectioner’s sugar and placed in a wax paper wrapper.
The taste is mildly sweet and delicate. The sweet bean paste filling has a distinct taste and may take some getting used to.
Nothing traditional about it however, the Japanese are a huge fan of the Wests' "Strawberry Shortcake" It is easily the most eaten and popular 'cake' in Japan. And its not cheap, a small cake can cost you around $20 US, and one slice $5. Fruit being a premium, anything with fresh fruit is going to cost you a pretty penny. However its worth every penny, as they Japanese do pastry right.
Pastry shops abound in Tokyo. There is a chain "cozy corner' and you can find their shops at every JR Yamanote Station's vacinity. There you can find a wide assortment of Strawberry Shortcake and other cakes, fruit tart and more.