community, otsuchi, small business, yomiuri shinbun

Local specialty heartens tsunami victims, yomiuri, 1/24/12

OTSUCHI, Iwate–A confectionery shop has reopened in the town of Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, with its speciality “sake monaka,” salmon-shaped wafers filled with sweet bean paste, delighting local residents.

The shop Osakaya Kashiten was reopened by 35-year-old Hisashi Osaka, whose family has owned the store for three generations.

“The response by locals was beyond our expectation,” he said. “We’re glad so many people were waiting for the return of our monaka.”

Osakaya Kashiten began selling sake monaka as its speciality about 40 years ago, in recognition of salmon fishing, which was one of the town’s major trades.

A local housewife says the taste of the 15-centimeter long wafer harmonizes perfectly with the white sweet bean paste filling. For decades, it was popular among residents as a gift and a sweet to eat after a meal.

But production of the sake monaka stopped when Osakaya Kashiten was destroyed by the March 11 tsunami. The shop was being run by Hisashi’s 67-year-old father, Takeshi, who was swept away by the tsunami after taking shelter in the nearby town office. His death was confirmed five days later.

After his father’s death and the devastation of the town, Hisashi lost hope to reopen his family’s shop. But Hisashi changed his mind after he learned that the salmon-shaped mold used to make sake monaka wafers was available from a manufacturer.

To much fanfare, Osakaya Kashiten reopened at a local temporary shopping center.

On its Dec. 17 reopening, locals lined up outside the store before it opened for the day.

About 800 sake monaka priced at 130 yen were prepared for the reopening and all were sold by early afternoon.

They have remained popular, with the number sold each day exceeding pre-disaster figures.

Hisashi said he felt happy when speaking to customers who congratulated him on the shop’s reopening, or consoled him on the loss of his father.

“I’ll do my best to ensure sake monaka becomes an indispensable local product,” he said. “I want my father to feel safe while watching the shop from heaven.”
(Jan. 24, 2012)

About liz

from the u.s., recently moved from kobe to sendai, japan, researching community-based housing recovery after disaster.

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