Dagashi is confectionery aimed at children that can be bought for a small amount of money, such as pocket money.
Originally, in the Edo Period, dagashi were made with grains and thick malt syrup, eaten as a snack by ordinary people, and called "ichimon gashi" because of its low price.
In some local domains, when stored 'hoshi ii' (dried boiled rice) was disposed of, it was used to make dagashi, which soon became established as traditional local food and which is still sold today. In particular, Sendai Domain, Aizu Domain, Shonai Domain, and Nanbu Domain were well known for this.
Dagashi was named to mark the contrast with "jogashi", which were snacks of a higher quality, and in the Kansai area dagashi are also called "zatsugashi" (miscellaneous confectionery). In those days the ingredients for dagashi were limited and the use of expensive refined sugar was prohibited. The phrase 'the sweetness of dried persimmons' is associated with traditional dagashi and it is considered to be reflective of the period.
Traditional dagashi still sold today
Kokusen, kankanbo - Hida dagashi
Karinto- origin of Banshu dagashi
Kurobo - brown sugar-flavored bar
Karume yaki - confectionery imported by early European traders
Konpeito, produced by such companies as Maruta Food Inc. The shape with bulges is made by rolling coarse sugar and showering granulated sugar water in a large spinning tub for several days, but considerable skills are needed to correctly adjust the speed of the rolling, otherwise the shape would become round.
Most of the dagashi sold today can trace their origins back to the Meiji Period but many of them were developed after the Second World War; there are many kinds, which are made to be fun to choose and not to bore kids. Some of them contain a chance to win a small gift, and this is one of the reasons they are popular among kids.
Stores selling dagashi are called "dagashiya"; please see the related article for more details.
Recently, due to the rising cost of food, the bankruptcy of several small and medium sized dagashi makers has been reported in the news.
Dagashi are seen not only dagashiya that carry low priced candy, but also in convenience stores, large shopping malls and supermarkets these days.