San Francisco’s 115-year-old sweet shop Benkyodo Company will close permanently at the end of March, according to its website. Take this as your reminder to buy some of their famous and delicious mochi treats before they’re gone!
Suyeichi Okamura opened the first Benkyodo Company in 1906 just after the earthquake, making it one of Japantown’s first businesses. It’s now helmed by his grandsons Ricky and Bobby, who are now both in their 70s and overdue for a well-deserved retirement.
The legendary Japantown outpost has been providing “confections that win affections” for decades, save for when founder Suyeichi Okamura and his family were sent to an internment camp in Colorado in 1942, as told by KQED. Okamura asked his Chinese neighbor to watch over the business while he was gone, and after 3 years living in the harsh camp conditions, he returned to discover his shop had miraculously survived. Eventually he passed the sweet shop on to his family members, who have continued to diligently handcraft over 350 pounds of mochi daily.
The Okamuras had hoped to find a buyer to take over the Benkyodo by the end of 2021, but the plan had always been to retire regardless. “One thing I won’t miss is getting up at 3 o’clock in the morning,” Ricky Okamura told KPIX.
“My grandfather and father would be proud that we were able to continue for this long,” said Bobby Okamura. “…thank you to all our customers for being so loyal all these years. We tried our best and did our best.”
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made by pounding glutinous rice into a paste and molding it into a desired shape with various stuffings. Traditionally it is filled with red or white bean paste, but the Okamuras also create mochi with flavors like peanut butter, strawberry, mango, and more seasonal options. They also make manjū, which is similar to mochi, but flour-based rather than rice-based. KQED reports that the shop churned out around 1,500 handmade sweets daily before COVID. That number has now decreased to about 1,000 pieces and fewer flavors.
Benkyodo Company is located at 1747 Buchanan St in San Francisco. Their hours are Tuesday-Saturday 9am-3pm (or until sold out). Consider stopping by before they close at the end of March for your last chance to enjoy these legendary treats!
Featured image: Shelley Z. via Yelp