Akafuku   赤福

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A taste of happiness

This old teahouse for pilgrims visiting Ise became immensely famous for its sweets. It gave its name to the akafuku mochi, the local specialty.

Akafuku is where visiting tourists come for a break in Ise, the shop front an old facade of blackened wood, topped by a sign with two characters written in golden letters: aka 赤 (red) and fuku 福 (happiness).

A 300 year old recipe

Founded in 1707, the shop was one of many tea rooms catering to the pilgrims who came to Ise to pray to the sun goddess Amaterasu. It is located in Oharaimachi, a busy street filled with shops and tourist traps. But if Akafuku remains popular today, it is because of its specialty: akafuku mochi

This literal "red rice happiness" consists of two pastes: rice (mochi) and red azuki bean (called an). The manufacturing process has not changed for 300 years: the mochi is steamed then pounded by pestle, then the bean paste is added. You can always visit the workshop and watch it being made, through large windows you can see busy blue-uniformed workers operating the antique red stoves.

A tribute to Isuzu

As is often the case with desserts made of mochi and azuki, the akafuku is tender, melt in your mouth, and the color of bean paste - more purple-brown than red. However, it takes its name from a Japanese proverb teaching that a red heart - meaning "sincere" - always gives happiness to others.

Finally, its shape is closely linked to Ise Shrine, which stands a few hundred meters away. The three small peaks of the candy represents the course of the sacred river Isuzu, which flows under Uji Bridge. Inside, the white mochi evokes pebbles littering the riverbed.

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