August 16, 12 | Hokkaido Likers
There’s a delicious treat in Sapporo which has been around since the Meiji era that even some locals don’t know about. It’s called “Yagani Mochi” or “Willow Mochi” and it’s sold exclusively at the JR Sapporo Station (Mochi is a pounded sticky rice cake). This historic Japanese confectionary, sold at Sapporo Station for over 100 years now, is made by covering a small ball of mochi in a thick coating of sweet red bean paste.
This treat was first cooked up in 1906 at “Kitama Shop”, a predecessor to the current Sapporo Station box lunch company “Tachiuri.” The recipe was brought to Sapporo from the maker’s hometown of Kanazawa.
In the early 20th century, many manufacturers sold confectionaries and other snacks at Sapporo Station, giving passengers a wide selection to choose from. You could find many varieties of treats including steamed buns made of mochi and red bean paste jellies. At that time confectionaries were just as popular among passengers as the current favorite, boxed lunch sets.
However, in 1943, war-time regulations saw the many individual manufacturers at Sapporo Station integrated into a single entity establishing the Tachiuri company. This name was then attached to all food stands located on the station’s platforms, and included today’s featured delicacy, Willow Mochi.
▲A photo of Tachiuri workers from the Taisho era (1912-1926)
Up through the 1920s Willow Mochi were tremendously popular, bringing in many customers from neighboring cities and towns. In summertime, during the Sapporo Festival (held regularly in June by the Hokkaido Shrine), over 1500 packs were being sold per day!
Willow Mochi are still a popular product and are sold in boxes of ten at food stands around the station. With deliciously sticky mochi made from Hokkaido’s own Hakuchou rice and colorful sweet bean paste produced in Tokachi, they’re the perfect thing for anyone in the station with a sweet tooth. Due to limited production they commonly sell out before noon, so be sure to buy them early!
In 2006 Willow Mochi celebrated their 100th year as a Sapporo Station staple, and they’ll likely be around much longer. A treat with this much history shouldn’t be missed by any visitor, so if you’re traveling through Sapporo be sure to pick up a box!
◇ Sapporo Station Tachiuri Company website
2 Kita 8 Jōhigashi, Higashi-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaidō
＊One box (10 pieces): 600 Yen
＊For more detailed information check out the book “Confectionery Graffiti in Hokkaido” by Toshinobu Tsukada.
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Tetsu)
(Taisho era photo taken from the second volume of the One Hundred Year History of the Hokkaido Railway)