Akafuku-mochi: A Tasty Adzuki Treat Enjoyed in Ise Grand Shrine for 300+ Years
Anko is a paste made from the red adzuki bean and could be called the very backbone of wagashi, the traditional sweets of Japan. Japan is rare among the countries of the world for using the adzuki bean as a confectionary base, and as a wagashi on par with Kyoto’s own kyogashi, today we’d like to recommend you akafuku-mochi (lit., “lucky red rice cake”). These superb sweets have been sold for over 300 years in Mie’s Ise, a popular tourism destination as home of Ise Grand Shrine. Ref: Photo
The sale of akafuku-mochi, the specialty sweet of Ise, got its start in 1707. It’s a species of wagashi where the sweet adzuki paste is put directly on top of the mochi rice cake (ankoro-mochi), and the sweet itself is so exceptionally soft that if you tilt the box even a little bit the structure of the confection just may fall over.
Shape-wise, akafuku-mochi is characterized by the three furrows that run along its top. This pattern represents the flow of the Isuzu River, which snakes around Ise Grand Shrine, and the white mochi beneath is symbolic of the stones that line the riverbed.
The Akafuku Head Store
Located in Mie Prefecture’s Ise City, the headquarters of the Akafuku company are well worth the visit for the architecture alone. Housed in a Meiji-era building that’s been preserved carefully for 130 years, this historical head store opens at 5 AM every day, a traditional protected and passed down the generations unchanged. Information: Map
Though akafuku-mochi is the most famous of Ise’s sweets, there is another type of wagashi you must try if you head to Akafuku. Called “tsuitachi-mochi” (first-of-the-month rice cake), we find its origin in an ancient tradition of the Ise area, where people would travel to Ise Grand Shrine early in the morning on the 1st of every month to give thanks for the good fortune of the month before and to pray for health in the coming month. These mochi were made for the worshippers who came on the first of the month. Attention to the four seasons is an important part of Japanese culture, and you’ll find that the types of tsuitachi-mochi offered vary with the season. For example, the mochi in April is flavored with cherry blossoms and the one in October with chestnuts.
*Please note that tsuitachi mochi is sold only on the first of the month and is unavailable the rest of the time.
If you find yourself wanting to have a truly tasty wagashi rice cake, akafuku-mochi is among our most confident recommendations. Your best bet is to make the trip to Ise Grand Shine, head over to the Akafuku head shop, and try both their tsuitachi-mochi and akafuku-mochi for yourself. Even though quantities are limited and release irregular, akafuku-mochi is also occasionally sold in the department stores of Tokyo, so if you’re lucky enough to catch sight of those characteristic three furrows, make sure to grab them up before they disappear! These delicacies don’t have a long shelf life and are best eaten right away, so make sure to try them while you’re still in Japan.