On a rainy afternoon in September, I decided it was time to go out and try some classical sweet desserts in Japan. Anmitsu and mitsumame are 2 types of desserts from Tokyo that have been around for quite a long time.
Mitsumame is the oldest of the two, originating in the Edo period (1603-1868). However, the current type of mitsumame was created in a dessert shop called Funawa in Asakusa in 1903. It is agar jelly (translucent jelly made from red algae or seaweed), boiled azuki beans, apricot (and other fruits in particular mikan and pineapple), rice cake (most often shiratama dango) with on top sweet syrup. Anmitsu was created in 1930 (this time at a shop called Wakamatsu in Ginza) and is actually the same as mitsumame, but with sweet bean paste (anko) added on top. It has a wider fame than mitsumame and shops will likely advertise anmitsu over mitsumame.
Left is mitsumame, right is anmitsu
You can eat these desserts at many shops all over Tokyo and all over Japan. I chose to eat them at Imojin, a local shop in Nezu with a good reputation that is very popular with locals. The shop is extremely clean and does not feel old at all, but it has been around since 1912. Apart from anmitsu and mitsumame, this shop also serves ice monaka (sold from the window on the right of the entrance as take-out, it is ice cream – vanilla or anko – inside a small crisp wafer), kakigori (flavoured shaved ice, available in summer) and many more items, making it an all-round place to satisfy your sweet tooth. And all at a rather low price, mostly below JPY 500.
The simple interior of the shop
There are various ways to make anmitsu/mitsumame, Imojin makes it in a particularly “showa style” (Showa period 1926-1989). What I mean by this is that they stick to the recipe they have used for decades. For example, many places use fresh fruit in this dessert, which evidently makes it more tasty. At Imojin, however, they are using canned fruit as they always did. Secondly, at many place where you eat anmitsu, they add a nice scoop of green tea ice cream. However, this was not in the original recipe, so they keep it simple with a regular scoop of vanilla ice cream if you order the “Cream Anmitsu”.
One warning though, this dessert is sweet, very sweet. While I eat a lot of (Belgian) chocolate, I had to adjust quite a bit to this level of sweetness. Enjoy!
2-30-4 Nezu, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Nezu Station – 5 minutes walk (Chiyoda line)
Opening hours: 11:00-19:00 (last order 18:40). closed on Mondays.
Budget: below JPY 1000, many desserts below JPY 500. The take-out ice monaka sells for JPY 120 (available as take-out from the window on the right hand side).
When to best visit? All year round
Why visit? A wide variety of Japanese sweets in a store popular with the locals