The image conjured up by wagashi, Japan’s traditional form of confectionery, is of a luxury that goes back centuries — a decorative indulgence for aristocrats sitting down to contemplate life and beauty during a tea ceremony.

According to the Tokyo Wagashi Association, however, the first wagashi was likely a simple mochi dumpling. It was during the Edo Period (1603-1868), when conflict gradually gave way to more peaceful pursuits, that the sophisticated sweets gained their reputations. With refined sugar imports and new innovations, the culinary form continued to evolve during the Meiji Era (1868-1912).

Today, there are many types of wagashi — baked, steamed, pan grilled, jellied, dried — and variations, from simple mochi balls and manju buns to decorative nerikiri bean-paste concoctions and artistic higashi dry sweets.