As with many wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets), monaka might taste a little strange at first.

The mochi flour wafers are crisp, dry and flavourless (they've been compared to communion wafers) and come in different shapes, sizes and colours. Usually served in pairs, they are sandwiched together with a filling that isn't too wet or runny, which would make the wafer soggy.

Often served with tea, monaka are traditionally filled with azuki bean paste, but, nowadays, you can find them stuffed with ice cream, sweetened whipped cream, chestnut paste and even cream cheese. At the new Dominique Ansel Bakery in Tokyo, the pastry chef has created a dessert (only to be sold in Japan) that sees the monaka shell filled with green tea financier batter before being baked.

Susan Jung