Sakura-Ya: Munching on Mochi in the South Bay

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Sakura-Ya carries on Fujita family mochi and manju making traditions.

Mas Fujita and brother Yuki arrive every day at 4 AM to make mochi and manju from old family recipes. During the holidays, they begin as early as 2 AM. They learned their craft and dedication from father Masayasu, who opened Sakura-Ya in 1960, naming the Japanese confectionary in honor of the iconic Japanese cherry blossoms, sakura. They offer mochi, made from rice flour, and manju, made from regular wheat flour.

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Brothers bake and steam confections in the kitchen behind a decorative screen. Koi are considered good luck in Japan, so the Fujitas hung one in Sakura-Ya. Lucky for the fish it’s porcelain, since the brothers use its throat to hold pink roses.

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Mochi are traditionally filled with a sweet paste made from azuki beans, also known as red beans. Sakura-Ya’s specimens were no exception. The left side of the display case held four types of pillow-soft mochi: white, pink, Kinako (dusted with soy powder) and Yomoji – flavored and flecked with green tea. These manju were similar to fluffy steamed bao. White manju was just that, a steamed bun. Inaka was similar, but riddled with craters, revealing red bean within.

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The bottom shelf held five baked manju varieties. Imomanju and Kuri contained white lima bean paste. Ocha was filled with a blend of red bean and white lima bean pastes. Two variations of Maruyaki Manju were filled with red bean paste and alternately studded with chocolate chips and a single peanut.

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Sakura-Ya only charges a dollar apiece for their mochi, so I ordered one of each.

Mochi typically last three days, but they instructed me to eat Ohagi the day I bought it. The inside-out confection featured red bean paste on the outside and sticky rice on the inside. Orange mochi was a rectangle of orange-flavored mochi, with no filler.

The only items I didn’t buy were the kiku pancakes (since they were sold out) and the special variety of mochi wrapped in sakura that the bakery produces for Hina Matsuri (Japanese Girl’s Day), where people pray for girls’ happiness and health. If you’re interested, the holiday falls on March 3 this year.

For people who like red beans and don’t need desserts that lead to a sugar rush, Sakura-Ya is a great match with a meal at one of the many local Japanese restaurants, and a prime destination on its own.

Sakura-Ya: Munching on Mochi in the South Bay


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

We love your mochi and manju. I will be calling in an order on Tuesday for pick up on Thursday, 12/22/11. I hope that is OK.

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