The sweet art of gift-giving
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By Maria Kanai
Sharing gifts with others is an important part of Japanese culture, where the presentation of an artistically wrapped omiyage is a symbol of respect and value. At Minamoto Kitchoan, this tradition is upheld with gourmet Japanese sweets known as wagashi, flown directly from the prefecture of Okayama. At this confectionery shop, the aesthetic appeal is just as important as the gift itself, setting Minamoto Kitchoan apart from other stores.
Shocora Mikasa ($3.60 per piece) is one of the most popular treats, says store manager Yayoi Akana. Similar to the Japanese pancake treat known as dorayaki, which usually is filled with a red bean paste, Shocora Mikasa instead has a rich chocolate ganache cream filling, ensconced between two small, light chocolate pancakes.
Another ideal gift is Kasutera ($10 for half box), a sponge cake with European origins and a signature dark-brown top layer. People believe that Kasutera was introduced by Portuguese missionaries to Nagasaki prefecture. Made with simple ingredients — sugar, flour, eggs and starch syrup — the Kasutera has an airy texture and tastes sweeter than most Western sponge cakes because you can eat it without extra cream or frosting.
Founded in 1947, Minamoto Kitchoan now has more than 220 stores in Japan. The Honolulu branch opened in September 2013 and the store has found a loyal customer following with locals and tourists alike.
“We do our best to introduce Japanese culture to customers in our store, whether it’s through the decor or the sweets themselves,” says Akana. “Although we have seasonal treats for major holidays like Mother’s Day,
Children’s Day, and the recent Christmas Day or New Year’s, the art of gift-giving can be all year long.”
Ala Moana Center
1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu
Monday-Saturday,9:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.