Leaving The House: Hanabishi・華菱 and Shofuen・松風園

I have been waiting for a chance to go to Hanabishi・華菱 since I saw they opened a last year. They sell incredibly beautiful daifuku with pieces or fruit and white bean paste wrapped inside. You are meant to bisect the daifuku bu cutting it with a red piece of string. The store is immaculately designed but still has a sense of fun.

They only have take-away so I went back to Shofuen・松風園 to have some tea and eat in the park. We had the honeydew melon and Muscat green grape. They sell out constantly and it’s easy to see why, they were some of the best fruit daifuku I’ve ever had, I immediately wanted to go back and try more.

Back inside at Shofuen tea house I got a sticker in celebration of Hina Matsuri・雛祭り, or Girl’s Day later in March. The house was decorated with the traditional dolls and was really special to see.

Mochi Day: The Best Day of My Life

beautiful little red bean mochi

I went to Togetsu a few minutes after 6:00pm, their seasonal closing time which I had forgotten about. The man who owns the shop saw me checking the time from inside and he ran out to tell me that from now until the end of the year they were only selling mochi, and of course kagami mochi. He tells me to wait and runs back inside. When he comes back he gives me these and apologizes for the shops seasonal change and tells me to come back tomorrow. Through tears of joy, I say yes.

Cut to the next day. I come back as promised and they really have changed everything for the new year! Its all mochi, all outside! The smell is incredible, the aroma of fresh mochi can be caught a block away. I’m already over the moon.

My Japanese abilities are humiliatingly bad, but I try to ask how to prepare the kagami mochi at home, for me to eat. It came out, however, as how is it made, at the shop. To my absolute shock and joy, the woman goes to the back and talks to the same man that gave me the mochi yesterday. He tells me to come to the back so I can have a tour of the shop and see how it is made!! This is just about the most busy time of year imaginable for them. I cannot believe it as 4 wagashi makers who have been making these neighborhood sweets and snacks and traditional customary foods show and tell me how the mochi is made. Truly cannot overemphasize, this is my Disneyland. I am so happy I cannot speak or take a picture.

This is already the best day of my life. But then. He asks if I would like to make my own. To say I made it would be a bit of a stretch because, well. These people have achieved a perfect product through a perfect system and technique. But I was involved and that means so much to me.

I was so so so happy to take home by beautiful baby kagami mochi. On new years I will turn it into zenzai or ozoni. Or both. I really can’t believe how lucky I was to benefit from his kindness and generosity. Every time I look at it it brings me so much joy. Japan, the neighborhood, and this shop have the most elegant, precise, intricate and immaculate items, but sometimes simple is special too.

Winter Strawberries

Japan is very focused on having highly seasonal food items. A personal conspiracy theory I hold is that because of the lack of natural winter fruits (citrus aside), it was just randomly decided to put strawberries in winter. They are all, always grown in greenhouses and you can go strawberry picking there. Except you can’t bring them home. You pay for a time slot to walk up and down the raised boxes of strawberries stuffing your face and gorging on strawberries dipped in condensed milk until you feel sick.

It’s… definitely an experience. This leads to the massive, bizarre popularity of Japanese Christmas cake (strawberry shortcake?) but more importantly: ichigo daifuku・いちご大福. Another one from Togetsu, this one is very delicate with white bean paste, my favourite combination.

Sweet & Simple

White bean shiso daifuku

Shiso is one of my favourite Japanese flavours, especially in sweets. It is often added to make umeboshi but I’ve seen it used a lot of a basil replacement in recipes. It’s really fresh and peppery and a little sweet.

One of my favourite sweet shops in my old neighborhood had a green shiso manjū that I would buy in bulk so I was overjoyed to see Togetsu has a super lovely purple shiso white bean daifuku.