Today, we’re taking you to Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo neighborhood. It’s warm, full of life, full of yummy Japanese food, and of course, full of Japanese culture. The business that stands out here is Fugetsu-Do. It’s the oldest confectionary shop in Little Tokyo. The Kito family has been running it since 1903! That’s almost 117 years. So, what are they selling? Let’s find out.
Fugetsu-Do is known all over Los Angeles, America, for its mochi. Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made from mochigome, a short-grain glutinous (sticky) rice. Glutinous rice is majorly grown in Southeast Asia, Northeastern India, and Bhutan. Mochi is traditionally eaten on Japanese New Year and other auspicious occasions.
To understand why Fugetsu-Do has so much cultural significance, we must understand the Kito family tree and timeline of shop ownership.
1903: Seiichi Kito arrives in the United States (US) and opens a Fugetsu-Do shop.
1957: Roy Kito inherits the family business from his father Seiichi.
1980: Brian Kito takes over the shop from his father Roy.
In December 1941, when the Japanese attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, the US government became upset with the Japanese in the country and forced them to stay in prison camps away from Little Tokyo. Little Tokyo almost became a ghost town at that time. The Japanese were only given American food and limited ingredients in the camps. The Japanese craved something that reminded them of their home.
Fortunately, they discovered that Seiichi Kito was a master mochi maker. They gave all their sugar and rice to him so that he could make mochi for them. After the war, Seiichi and Roy returned to Little Tokyo to reopen Fugetsu-Do and continue the tradition of making and selling mochi. Eventually, Brian became interested in the family business and decided to take over.
Till today, Brian uses his grandfather Seiichi’s original mochi recipe. Glutinous rice is steamed every morning and turned into a sweet, chewy ball. Then it is stretched and stuffed with yummy fillings. The authentic mochi is stuffed with red bean paste.
But, of course, Brian has put an American spin on mochi and added new flavors like peanut butter, chocolate, fruit, and rainbow mochi. He wakes up at 6 in the morning, goes to his sweet little shop, allocates work to his employees and son Korey, and makes 1,000 pieces of mochi every day!
It takes almost 10 years for one to perfect the art of making mochi. Brian has been doing this for 44 years now! He’s the mochi king. He hopes his son, too, will continue to show interest in the same and take over Fugetsu-Do after him.
We are already drooling over the thought of having sweet, squishy, yummy mochi in our mouth!