Wagashi: ‘Eco-friendly’ Kinako Mochi

Eco Eco Kinako Mochi エコエコきなこ餅

Eco Eco Kinako Mochi エコエコきなこ餅
Miwa found this very unusual ‘Eco Eco Mochi’ the other day. The producer, Sentaro, whose tasty wagashi products we have reviewed a number of times on KyotoFoodie, explains that as this mochi uses the skins of azuki beans for flavoring, which are usually thrown out as waste, it is environmentally friendly mochi. This is the first ‘eco’ mochi that I had heard of, it was reasonably priced and very tasty!

What Makes Eco Eco Mochi ‘Eco’?
When koshian, fine azuki bean paste is made, the skins of the azuki bean are separated out. Monaka, another wagashi product also produces some waste in the form of crumbs. Sentaro puts the azuki skins and monaka crumbs to use to flavor the gyuhi-mochi in this novel product.

The azuki skins are completely unnoticeable in the gyuhi-mochi. They must be well pulverized before being added. The cookie-like monaka crumbs no doubt easily dissolve though.

The orange label on the package says in big handwritten characters, ‘Eco Eco’ (エコエコ) on the right side. This is quite original and startling to see on a wagashi package.

Sentaro’s Eco Eco Kinako Mochi: Package
Eco-friendly Kinako Mochi エコエコきなこ餅

Sentaro’s Eco Eco Kinako Mochi: Kinako Powder
Eco-friendly Kinako Mochi エコエコきなこ餅

Sentaro’s Eco Eco Kinako Mochi: Azuki Gyuhi Mochi and Kinako
Eco-friendly Kinako Mochi エコエコきなこ餅

Sentaro’s Eco Eco Kinako Mochi: Azuki Gyuhi Mochi and Kinako
Eco-friendly Kinako Mochi エコエコきなこ餅

How Did it Taste?
Gyuhi-mochi is very soft, this gyuhi-mochi was almost too soft. Getting it out of the box and onto a plate was a bit tricky. The mochi must be poured into the box when it is hot and then after it cools it is slightly scored into bite-sized pieces. Finally, kinako powder is sprinkled on top.

The taste was quite excellent. It had a taste that I am not sure what I could compare it to. To me it didn’t taste like azuki. It was a full-bodied kind of taste that you don’t get from other gyuhi-mochi.

The kinako powder that you see sprinkled on top is not made from soybeans as usual, but from kuro-mame, black beans. Rural Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures produce the most famous black beans in Japan. Black bean kinako powder is considered the best. This kinako was not sweet as is sometimes the case.

Azuki Gyuhi Mochi and Kinako Served
Eco-friendly Kinako Mochi エコエコきなこ餅

How Eco is It?
All in all, I thought that the taste was very good and the marketing angle even better. Traditionally, nothing goes to waste in Japan. This is especially true in anything related to food. I wonder if the azuki skins really would have ended up in a landfill — or garbage incinerator, as is the case in Japan. Or, would they be used for something else, even sold to another company that just makes things with azuki skins?

I did not interview Sentaro so this may well be something significantly more eco-friendly than other mochi. But, I doubt it.

The cost of energy (and food) in Japan is high, so very little waste is guaranteed. Packaging, especially of traditional and food related products, is another story though. By Japanese standards, the packaging of this wagashi was not excessive. I think that Japan could make additional progress toward greater environmental sustainability by reinventing packaging and wrapping. Wrapping is a very important part of Japanese culture. For example, more than just ‘put’ on, a kimono is wrapped and tied on.

The beauty and care of traditional Japanese packaging should not be lost, it is special and it is a feast for the eyes. However, this is one area that the Japanese need to do some kaizen (continual improvement philosophy) on. Not in terms of visual appeal, but in terms of environmental impact. This is something that Japanese businesses are excelling at all across the country. But when will the old shinise stores in Kyoto join the modern world and do their part?

One Response to “Wagashi: ‘Eco-friendly’ Kinako Mochi”

  1. Cori Petrowski says:

    This is very interesting indeed…

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