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A Japanese Sweet Shop that has survived for a hundred years, in Little Tokyo.
Yes, you read that right.
This year, Fugetsu-Do celebrated being in business for a hundred years…a freakin’ century.
The only question is how did they do it.
You might recall, that following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States Government thought it as a good idea to lock its Citizens of Japanese Ancestry up in Concentration Camps. Nowhere was this felt more than in Los Angeles. The site of the original Japanese American National Museum was one of the embarkation points for a lot of Japanese headed to…God only knows where.
This isn’t my photo. This one was taken by Jack Iwata. (Gift of Jack and Peggy Iwata, Japanese American National Museum [93.102.102])
Still, what happened to Fugetsu-Do? How did they survive the four years of the war.
Well, they didn’t.
According to the Fugetsu-Do website The Kito Family (who owns the store) had to report like everyone else. They were given somewhere between four and fourteen days to do it. The Kitos liquidated their inventory, and then…closed up shop. The family was sent to Heart Mountain in Wyoming. Word quickly spread that Roy Kito, the Interned Owner, was a Pastry Chef. All the sudden, the other Internees were handing over their sugar rations to him to let him work his magic for their collective benefit.
But the war finally ended, and the Kito family returned home. Of course, some individuals suggested that the Kitos not return to their old location for fear of…what? Reprisals? Anger?
No, they decided. That was their shop, and they were going to open it again.
Good for them.
And good for us, because Fugestu-Do is a Los Angeles treasure. Scratch that, it’s a National Treasure. Yeah, sure it’s a symbol of endurance and perseverance through challenging and unsettling times…
…but they make, really good Mochi.
Now, Mochi is…well…why don’t I turn to the Fugestu-Do Website for the answer:
Mochi is a Japanese confection, found usually in the shape of a small, round rice cake which can be eaten with condiments such as Kinako (roasted soy bean flour), Manju (sweet red bean paste), soy sauce dip, and seaweed. Traditionally, Mochi is made by pounding steamed glutinous rice in a large wooden mortar, called the Usu, with a wooden mallet called the kine. Mochi-tsuki is the Japanese term for the old-style method of pounding the steamed glutinous rice used to make Mochi.
The sticky dense mounds of rice are made from Mochigome, a sweeter stickier type of rice, different from the steamed rice eaten every day. Mochi was originally made as offerings to Kami (gods) at shrines. This offering was then cut into small pieces and given to people for good health and fortune. Later, the Mochi came to be eaten on various festive occasions and during the Heian Era (794-1192), it became an integral part of the New Year.
Done right, it’s always a soft, chewy, sweet treat. Needless to say, they always do it right at Fugestu-Do.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Whatever…the hell…you want. You really can’t go wrong with anything. I’m a bit of a Mochi fan, so anything with Mochi is getting my dollar. There are a few baked goods on sale as well. But still…point is, you can’t go wrong.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: That being said, there are some caveats.
Americans, while being a fat and occasionally portly lot, are used to desserts with a hell of a lot of sugar in them. Asians not so much. With ingredients like Red Bean or Lychee, they tend to let the ingredient provide the sweetness.
Allz I’m saying is that if you go in expecting and overpowering Sugar rush with your dessert, you may be in for a shock. Me personally, I like the fact that both Chinese and Japanese not super sugary sweet. They’re sweet enough.
PARKING: We do have a Little Tokyo Parking Map, but know going in: you need to find a lot, and that lot is going to cost you at least $7 bucks. Unlike a majority of Downtown Los Angeles (that nest of vipers and thieves) the prices in Little Tokyo remain fixed.
315 E. 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: (213) 625-8595
Monday-Thursday, Sun 8 am – 6 pm
Friday-Saturday 8 am – 7 pm