Author: Illya Maxwell
Summer is right around the corner and the days are already sweltering here in Austin, Texas! Ice cream—especially in mochi form—has been our tried and true method of keeping cool during the summer. Today, we’d like to share the unlikely story of mochi ice cream and the credit owed to one incredible woman.
- Who Invented Mochi Ice Cream?
Frances Hashimoto (1943-2012) was the creative visionary responsible for the invention of mochi ice cream. In 1910, Frances’ great uncle Ryuzaburo Hashimoto founded Mikawaya, a traditional Japanese confectionery located in Los Angeles. Frances’ parents, Koruko and Haru Hashimoto, helped with Mikawaya’s operations but were forced to discontinue their business in 1942 due to the forced internment of Japanese-American citizens under U.S. Executive Order 9066. Despite her later successes, Frances was born into these extraordinarily tumultuous circumstances when Japanese-Americans faced tremendous discrimination. With her family relocated to Poston, Arizona, Frances was born in 1943 in the internment camps. Ultimately, the family’s time there was relatively short-lived, and the Hashimoto family returned to California and resumed business after WWII.
In 1970, Frances Hashimoto took over, expanding the confectionery business across Little Tokyo. Creative by nature, Frances was constantly experimenting with Mikawaya’s menu and in the late 1990s, Frances had the idea to place a scoop of ice cream in the center of soft mochi; mochi ice cream was born! Her delicious invention saw immediate success and this now ubiquitous treat can be found at groceries like Asahi Imports!
In addition to her culinary contributions, Frances became a prominent community leader in Los Angeles. She oversaw many building projects, community meetings, economic plans, and Japanese festivals. Frances also encouraged non-Japanese merchants to participate in community events and festivals. Frances passed away from health complications in 2012 at 69 years old, but her impact on food culture can still be traced today. After all, mochi ice cream is one of the most common introductions to Japanese food in the United States!
- Why Combine Mochi and Ice Cream?
For Frances Hashimoto and many other Japanese citizens growing up, mochi was a familiar snack made and sold by many Japanese families. This sweet rice cake made with glutinous rice flour is also one of Japan’s oldest traditional foods, with its history reaching back into the Heian period (794-1185). By coupling ice cream—something familiar to most Americans—with the Japanese confection, mochi, Frances provided an approachable avenue to explore wagashi. Her spontaneous fusion of culture that represented her Japanese American experience has since become a beloved treat around the world. Traditional flavors found in wagashi such as matcha, black sesame, yuzu (Japanese citrus), ume (Japanese plum), and azuki (sweet red bean), exist as mochi ice cream. Non-traditional mochi ice cream flavors include, but certainly aren’t limited to, vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and cookies & cream.
- Mochi Ice Cream and Asahi Imports
As the days march on into summer, consider making a trip to one of our two Austin locations to pick up some mochi ice cream! We offer a wide variety of mochi ice cream, and for folks with dietary restrictions, we offer both dairy-free mochi ice cream with coconut milk and gluten-free mochi ice cream.
Endo, Ellen. “Mikawaya CEO Hashimoto Passes at 69.” Rafu, November 6, 2012. https://rafu.com/2012/11/mikawaya-ceo-hashimoto-passes-at-69/.
“Our History: Mikawaya Mochi Ice Cream.” Mikawaya, September 9, 2020. https://www.mikawayamochi.com/our-history.
Watanabe, Teresa. “Frances Hashimoto Dies at 69; Little Tokyo Leader, Mochi Ice Cream Creator.” Los Angeles Times, November 7, 2012. https://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-xpm-2012-nov-07-la-me-frances-hashimoto- 20121107-story.html.
Figure 4. https://www.instagram.com/p/CRRrgZRHRf1/