Sunday, October 5, 2008

Mochi Chocolate

Day seventy-six: Mochi Chocolate


Furuya is a traditional Japanese confectioner with a small empire of shops famed for high quality ingredients and a knockout black sesame dango, which they have have been cranking out in more or less the same way for sixty years. But when the company decided to spin off a more contemporary brand they didn't focus on particular ingredients or techniques; Koganean started with a product designer, four essential colors (red, black, green, white), two shapes, and a manifesto:
"Simple is stylish.
'A circle' and 'the square' that are the origin of confectionery.
It is the simple taste to make the material alive.
A stylish package.


All of which adds up to a sweetshop that it not so much modern as post-modern, a single self-conscious outlet in the basement of Shinjuku's posh Mitsukoshi department store where gleaming hard-edged surfaces are embellished with display sweets seemingly laid out using a laser guide: it's wagashi as haute decor. As a exercise in minimalist branding it seems pretty attractive to confectionery consumers I don't often see in prettier or cuter shops. In the fifteen minutes I spent there I saw several stylish young couples buying each other treats and a slick guy in skin-tight black clothes, indoor shades, and a massive silver belt buckle shaped like a crocodile (a wrestling prize maybe?) dropping over a hundred dollars on a gift box.

As strict as they appear in their geometric simplicity, the sweets themselves exhibit a playful hybridity. Cubes of yokan bean jelly come in peanut butter or stawberry, and other sweets incorporate salt, cheese, and, as here, chocolate.
Made of pounded rice wrapped around "straight up chocolate" (a sort of stiff fondant), mochi chocolate was envisioned as "Japanese spirit and Western learning".

Koganean has an attractive English language website at

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