Have you heard of Otsukimi (お月見)? A variation to the popular Mid-Autumn Festival, Otsukimi is a Japanese tradition celebrated during the full harvest moon in autumn in September. The word “Otsukimi” translates to "moon viewing" and is often associated with the imagery of rabbits, "usagi" in Japanese! According to Japanese folklore, a rabbit was brought to the moon and can be seen pounding mochi during a full moon.
Coincidentally, two of our Star Items in this month's Omiyage Box—Yokohama Milk Usagi & Matcha Kinako Beans—come from the maker Hamausagi (濱うさぎ), whose products are filled with rabbit motifs! Hailing from Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, we visited Hamausagi's main shop in Idogaya, Yokohama (2-minute walk from Idogaya Station) and spoke to Mr. Kiuchi (木内), Representative of Hamausagi, to find out more about the brand.
From rabbit-shaped snacks to rabbit-themed decorations. Photo by Sue Lynn
Tell us more about when Hamausagi was established and its origins.
It all began when my grandfather started a Japanese confectionery manufacturing business in the early Showa Period (1926). Hamausagi was founded in 1998, and the name of the company was created by combining the name of the place, "Yokohama", with the word “usagi", (rabbit in English). Rabbits are cute animals popular amongst women, who are the main consumers of sweets.
Hamausagi produces snacks with rabbit motifs. Photo by Sue Lynn
What is Hamausagi's representative product?
Last year alone, we sold more than 1 million pieces of "Usagi Mochi", which is a type of rice cracker coated in soy sauce. Other popular snacks that sold very well were the bite-sized okaki called "Tsuburayaki" (つぶらやき) as well as "Yokohama Milk Usagi" (横濱みるくうさぎ).
What sets your products apart from other companies producing similar sweets?
Unlike many similar products of other brands, our Yokohama Milk Usagi is unique in the sense that it is made with condensed milk. By using condensed milk, a refreshing sweetness spreads in your mouth.
Yokohama Milk Usagi. Photo by JAPAN RAIL CLUB
Oh, Yokohama Milk Usagi is one of our Star Items in JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s snack box this month! Tell us more about how this unique snack came about.
We had a difficult time achieving its current form, especially when it came to temperature control. Because condensed milk is used in the Yokohama Milk Usagi, we had to be sure to cool them thoroughly before baking to prevent them from turning soggy. Also, during the baking process, we reduced the number of sweets baked at one time, and we found a way to heat the sweets at a high temperature and in a short time to avoid the smell of burning. Thanks to this method, the Yokohama Milk Usagi are now smooth to the touch!
“We hope to see you soon at Hamausagi!” Photo by Sue Lynn
What are some initiatives or features of Hamausagi that you would want international customers to know about?
There are many Chinese people living in the Yokohama area; some of our employees are Chinese as well. They would help out with translations explaining the taste, expiration date, etc. of our products in detail for our Chinese customers, many of whom would purchase large quantities of our sweets for their neighbours or relatives back home.
That's very interesting! Can people purchase Hamausagi products overseas?
We have never exported our products overseas before. Therefore, we think that it is a very good opportunity to let international customers know about our products through JAPAN RAIL CLUB's snack box this time.
Hamausagi’s main store in Idogaya, Yokohama. Photo by Sue Lynn
Lastly, are there any attractions around Yokohama that you would want international tourists to know about?
The area around Yamashita Park is famous as a date spot. Yokohama Chinatown is also a popular spot.