I got to know about Wakasaimo from a friend who brought me this box of the most delicious steamed bun with sweet bean paste one afternoon. "A little treat from Hokkaido," she said. I later learnt that the little fragrant brown bun is made of specially selected wheat from Hokkaido that is flavoured with rich brown sugar and soy sauce and filled with Tokachi red beans. That was my introduction to this well-known sweets shop that was originally from a little town, Toyako in southern Hokkaido.
This afternoon, we found the Rusutsu branch of Wakasaimo by chance. Driving through Rusutsu, we noticed a brown, modernist building. "わかさいも" (Wakasaimo), the sign read. Amongst its more rustic neighbours, it would be hard to miss.
The architecture is a curious mix of Mario Botta and Tadao Ando – its expression resembles an institution more than a sweets shop. However, the formally extravagant yet spatially intriguing building could perhaps be described as a elaborate prelude to the sophistication and complexity behind the making of its sweets and the Wakasa buns. Or, to some, it is a gesture in celebration of a simple croquette/katsu meal, or a cup of coffee and a piece of cake one could have there.
[photo: © angelus novus]