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I believe that many people get confused with the terms okashi（お菓子), dagashi (駄菓子), and wagashi(和菓子).
In this article, I will explain what the difference between the three is and will also introduce you to the most popular products from all three categories of sweets/snacks.
What is Dagashi(駄菓子)?
Dagashi refers to the cheapest type of sweets/snacks on the market and is similar to the penny candies in America. The term dagashi comes from the words “駄” ("da"/ futile) and “菓子” ("kashi"/snacks) and the sweets have been around since the Edo period.
All the dagashi are cheap and have a very colorful package. The treats sometimes come with a surprise and are mostly aimed at children.
Because they are so cheap, the kids can afford to buy them with their pocket money. The prices are between 10 yen and 200 yen and some of the most popular ones are Umaibo, Karinto, Ramune, and Kabayaki.
Dagashi can be bought from specialty stores called "Dagashiya" and the treats come in various flavors, that being one of the reasons why Dagashi snacks are so loved by both children and adults.
Kabayaki, especially, is a good example of dagashi that works for all generations. It has sweet, spicy, salty, and even sour flavors, and adults love pairing it with a good beer or sake.
What is Wagashi(和菓子)?
The term Wagashi is derived from the words “和”/wa(Japanese) and “菓子”/Kashi(snacks).
Wagashi are traditional Japanese sweets and most of them are made with azuki bean paste.
The most popular wagashi sweets are mochi (rice cakes), daifuku (mochi stuffed with red bean paste), anmitsu(jelly cubes), dorayaki(two mini pancakes with red bean paste inside) and dango(sticky dumplings).
Wagashi sweets look aesthetically pleasing and whenever seasons change, the arrangement of the Japanese sweets changes, too. The sweets are a good pair with Japanese tea and besides the beautiful appearance, the taste is unique and delicious.
What is Kashi/ Okashi(お菓子)?
Okashi is the Japanese word for confectionery, snacks. Dagashi and wagashi are all a type of okashi(snacks, candies, sweets).
Some of the most popular okashi(snacks) are Pocky, Kit Kat, Royce Chocolate Potato chips, Tokyo Banana, etc.
I hope the explanations above clarify the terms of okashi, dagashi, and wagashi and that you got a better understanding of their meaning.