I’m sure there are lots of people who say "Matcha is good, but what I really like are the sweets." The sweets served with tea are not only visually appealing but also play an important role in enhancing the flavor of the tea itself.
However, you should know that during the Warring States period when Chanoyu started, sugar was extremely valuable and the colorful cakes that are used in tea ceremony today didn’t exist. According to the records of the tea ceremony at that time, the main sweets used in tea ceremony were manju, yokan, and mochi. They also used fruits and boiled konjac as well. It is said that Rikyū preferred his own invention called "funoyaki," which was made by baking dumpling wrappers and spreading miso on it.
Colorful sweets in the shape of seasonal flowers first appeared in tea ceremonies from the middle of the Edo period. With the increase in sugar distribution, they started to make colorful and creative sweets, starting in Kyoto and quickly spreading to other cities. As the colors and shapes of sweets continued to diversify, they started giving each sweet a special kind of name. In Chanoyu where seasonal aesthetics are highly valued, tea confectionery has become an essential element that adds color to the tea ceremony- not only as a tasty dessert but also as an extension of the seasonal design and decoration.
As demand continued to grow, large confectionery companies started creating illustrated candy catalogs to make it easier for customers to order based on the theme of the tea ceremony. In the catalogue by the Owari Tokugawa family, each sweet is drawn in full color and detail, with the name and list of ingredients included. The shapes vary from flora and fauna to natural scenery, showcasing the confectioners' impressive skills. Some of these catalogues can be viewed in the Hōsa Library located next to the Tokugawa Art Museum. So if you’re interested, please go and see for yourself.
There are still many confectioneries in the tea-loving area of Nagoya. Ryoguchiya Korekiyo, founded in 1634, is a long-established shop that used to serve sweets for the Owari Domain. There is also the Yagoto store designed by Masao Nakamura, famous for his research on Sukiya-zukuri architecture, and the Higashiyama store designed by Kengo Kuma. You can enjoy tea with each shop's unique sweets, so why not drop in between strolls?