One of the trips we wanted to take over the last two years was to Japan, however, that trip was canceled due to COVID (like so many people’s trips over the past few years). However, on our recent trip to Los Angeles, we got a real taste of Japan at the Fugetsu-Do Bakery Shop (315 East First Street, Los Angeles, CA) in historical Little Tokyo Japantown in downtown Los Angeles. The Fugetsu-Do shop has been operating since 1903, and is considered the oldest store in the neighborhood, and the oldest Japanese American business in the US!
The specialty of Fugetsu-Do is mochi, made from pounded glutinous rice flour shaped into single-bite balls. In the US, mochi are often popularly filled with ice cream. However, in Japan, the filling is usually red bean, or simply the mochi itself is served unfilled, and can lean either savory or sweet. Also available at Fugetsu-Do are manju, treats made from cake flour. At the helm of Fugetsu-Do is Brian Kito, third-generation owner, and master confectioner. Inside the shop, there are well-worn bakery cases filled with a myriad of multi-color mochi, which you can buy by the piece, or in prepackaged sets of enticing rainbow-colored wagashi confections perfect for tea.
Among these choices are some traditional flavors like inaka or habituai (filled with red bean paste) or kiku (filled with white bean paste). There are also more idiosyncratic and colorful flavors like peanut butter, blueberry, or mango. In the springtime, the pretty pink cherry blossom Sakura flavor is particularly popular, and often sells out quickly.
The texture of the mochi was amazingly smooth and chewy. We also liked the mix of traditional and more avant-garde flavors. The store accepts credit cards only over a certain amount, so you should bring cash. If you are not able to get to LA, you can even buy Fugestsu-Do mochi online. We are so glad we got to visit Fugetsu-Do, and taste a living piece of Los Angeles history. The stores of Little Tokyo were hit hard by the pandemic, so we encourage you to give them a visit as well (either in person or online).