Abekawa Rice Cakes
Abekawa rice cakes (Abekawa mochi) are a type of Japanese snack made out of pounded glutinous rice and kinako flour (1). They are small, round, and bite sized, sometimes served with a lump of red bean paste or with a large lump of sugar (2). Kinako flour is flour made from roasted soybeans, sometimes with added sugar and spices.
History of Abekawa Rice Cakes
Abekawa rice cakes have been a popular sweet since the Tokugawa period, when Tokugawa Iyesu ate them along the Tokaidō. At the time, they were presented to him as a gift. The golden kinako flour was meant to represent the gold that could be found upstream in the Abekawa river (2). This part of the Abekawa river is located in Shizuoka, just 55 mile southwest of Tokyo along the Tokaidō (3). Shizuoka and the Abekawa River are both located near the Iconic Mt. Fuji, which can be seen clearly from the city on most days.
Today, there are still at least three Abekawa rice cake shops located near the Abekawa River, near the Abekawa Bridge. Abekawa rice cakes can still be enjoyed there in the traditional way, served fresh and with green tea (2). They are also popular in Fuchū and other famous stops along the Tokaidō (1). Sometimes, they are sold in boxes made of paulownia, also called a “princess tree” (2).
Abekawa Rice Cakes in Shank’s Mare
In the novel Shanks Mare, Yaji and Kita are given a box of Abekawa rice cakes when they stop for the night in the Abekawa-cho. Abekawa-cho is a pleasure district located next to Abekawa Miroku. The box receives little fanfare, and is given as a gift after Yaji and Kita procure prostitutes for the night. The next day, they turn down street vendors selling the same thing, because they have had their fill (4).
Previously on their journey, they encountered another similar kind of rice cake. In Okitsu, they order “bean flour dumplings” from an old woman on the side of the road, only to discover that they are not covered in kinako, but covered in bran. This makes them quite sick and they give the leftovers to a dog (4).
Greve, Gabi. “Abekawa.” Edo – Tthe Edopedia. Daruma Museum, 17 Oct. 2015. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.
“Abekawa Rice Cake.” Go! Central Japan. Central Japan Tourism Promotion Association, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.
“History of Shizuoka.” History of Shizuoka. Paradise on Earth, n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.
Jippensha, Ikku, and Hiroshige Andō. Shanks’ Mare, Being a Translation of the Tokaido Volumes of Hizakurige, Japan’s Great Comic Novel of Travel & Ribaldry. Tokyo: C.E. Tuttle, 1960. Print.
Contributor: Georgia Horstman