March 15, 2010
By Gwen Muranaka, Rafu English Editor
Mikawaya celebrated its 100th anniversary with, what else— mochi. From traditional manju to mochi ice cream, the Little Tokyo confectionary has found success taking a traditional Japanese dessert and transforming it with a uniquely Japanese American spin.
“It was my parents’ wish, to provide traditional Japanese pastries in Los Angeles and by doing this they would continue the celebrations of traditional Japanese holidays such as girls day with sakura mochi, Boys Day with kashiwa mochi and New Year’s with kasane mochi,” said Frances Hashimoto, president of Mikawaya USA.
On Monday evening, Mikawaya hosted a celebratory dinner at the Kyoto Grand Hotel and Gardens in Little Tokyo. Among well-wishers included George Takei, who emceed the event, Consul General Junichi Ihara and Councilmember Jan Perry.
Mikawaya first opened at 365 E. First Street in Little Tokyo in 1910. Haru and Koroku Hashimoto purchased the business in 1925 and ran it until 1942 when they were incarcerated at Poston relocation center, where Frances was born. (Poston Block 26-13-C) They returned in 1945 and reopened the shop in Little Tokyo.
Hashimoto took over in 1973 and under her husband Joel Friedman’s stewardship, Mikawaya has expanded to include five retail stores, a bakery, a warehouse and an ice cream manufacturing facility. The company is also opening a new 100,000 square foot facility in Vernon that is designed to meet the increasing demand for Mikawaya’s products and will be the headquarters for new product research and development of frozen desserts.
“Although my dad passed away in 1958 and my mother lived to be 101, her greatest joy was to work at the retail store and talk to customers and friends,” said Hashimoto. “Tonight I would like to say I am proud to carry on that tradition and with my husband Joel and a great crew who are Mikawaya family also.”
Friedman explained that the new emphasis on low-sugar desserts has been a challenge and opportunity for Mikawaya. He also introduced son Ryan, as the fourth generation of the pastry company.
Friedman presented the company’s latest inventions—mochilato, gelato wrapped in mochi, and mochiquitos, a dessert topping— emphasizing that Mikawaya’s goal is to make mochi as “commonplace as apple pie.”
“The trend among many dessertmakers is to try to make better-for-you desserts. While it may sound like an oxymoron it is in fact not only happening but is producing some interesting ideas and opportunities,” said Friedman. “Mikawaya is working very hard at finding new ways at bringing to our current customers and hopefully new customers products that they want or will want in the future.”