So after cousin Q placed his name on the waitlist for Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice Bowl, we walked a few doors down to Fugetsu-Do Sweet Shop.
The Kito family has operated the confectionery since 1903, making it the oldest business in Little Tokyo. Read about how the shop grew along with Little Tokyo at the turn of the last century, the Kito family's attempts to continue making mochi while interned at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming during WWII, and how the old-fashioned decor reminds many Japanese Americans of their past. The family also claims that Fugetsu-Do founder, Seiichi Kito, created the fortune cookie. Whereupon afterward it was copied and mass-produced by Chinese American David Jung, who popularized it.
Brian Kito, the third generation of the family to run Fugetsu-Do, still makes the mochi and sweet red bean paste filling by hand. Mochi is made by pounding steamed glutinous rice in a large wooden mortar with a wooden mallet. Mochi were originally made as offerings to gods at shrines. Afterward, the offering was cut into smaller pieces and given to people for good health and fortune. Mochi became popular during the Heian Era (794-1192) when it was served during the New Year.
Mochi were displayed on both windows of the shop entrance.
Don't eat these! They're either plastic, or hardened and old.
Notice the well-worn floor of the shop. Owner Brian Kito was going to remodel it until he heard from many Japanese Americans who returned and said they liked that the shop was exactly as they remembered. One woman even had wedding photos taken there because her grandmother had recently passed away and she had many fond memories of all the times her grandmother took her to Fugetsu-Do for a little treat.
Look beyond the front counter of all the packaged goodies and you'll see...
These are special sakura mochi, wrapped in cherry leaves. They're only available now during cherry blossom season, which usually runs from late March until April. These were my favorite. The leaves had a very faint briny taste, reminiscent of pickled grape leaves, which contrasted well with the subtle sweetness of the red bean paste filling.
The yellow one tasted like lime and the aforementioned sakura cherry leaf mochi. The others all had sweet red bean filling (the dark one with the pink flower is inside out). The mochi were incredibly soft. I liked it a lot, but maybe that's because it reminds me of my mom's Vietnamese banh hong. Mommy lovingly folded 23 rose-shaped pink banh hong for my 23rd birthday so these mochi brought back nice memories for me.
How can you pass up such pretty and cute food still made by hand? Mochi are 95 cents each. $1 for the cherry leaf one because it's special. :) Get it while you can, I think sakura season is just about over.
Fugetsu-Do Sweet Shop
315 E. First St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Sunday-Thursday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.