Hopping on over to Minamoto
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Stepping inside Minamoto Kitchoan at Ala Moana Center is like entering a secret garden of mouthwatering treats made fresh with real fruits from Japan.
The famous confectionery offers a wide selection of wagashi, or Japanese sweets, including candies, cookies, mochi and cakes. Each item is a masterpiece in taste and design — inside and outside, right down to its packaging.
Signature items include Fukuwatashi Senbei, a zigzag designed cookie with cream filling; and Shocola Mikasa, a fluffy chocolate pancake filled with chocolate ganache cream.
Especially popular during this time of year is Minamoto Kitchoan’s adorable Usagi-san ($24 for a 10-piece box). Perfect for Easter (March 27), the miniature cakes are shaped like usagi (the Japanese word for rabbit) and features a smooth exterior made of Japanese-style pound cake, and a lightly sweetened white bean filling and citrusy yuzu flavor inside.
According to manager Yayoi Akana, Minamoto Kitchoan introduced its Usagi-san in August 2014 for Japan’s Otsukimi or moon-viewing festival, during which images of rabbits pounding mochi on the moon are commonly seen.
“Usually we eat mochi while watching the beautiful moon during the mid-autumn festival, but Minamoto Kitchoan made these cute bunnies instead,” says Akana. “The rabbit symbolizes prosperity.”
Usagi-san is available year-round in limited quantities, but Akana says they prepared a lot more this season because of its high-demand last Easter.
Also a favorite during spring is Sakuranbo ($3.50 each, $21 for a six-piece gift set or $28 for a box of eight), available for a limited time through May.
This seasonal item features a whole Japanese cherry covered with lightly sweetened jelly. “It’s very refreshing,” notes Akana. “Once you put it in your mouth, you can feel the flavors of spring. The Japanese cherry is slightly sweet, and the jelly that covers it is made with white peach.”
Minamoto Kitchoan has more than 250 shops throughout Japan, and operates four factories there, plus a farm where they grow a variety of seasonal fruits. There also are stores in London, Taiwan, Singapore, Bangkok, New York City and Los Angeles.
The Ala Moana location (on Street Level 1, near Center Stage) opened in 2013 and is the only branch in Hawaii. Everything is made in Japan using high-quality ingredients and flown to Hawaii in limited quantities.
Ala Moana Center
1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu
Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.