Japanese confectionery in Fresno honored for 100 years of treats (video)

The Fresno BeeJune 7, 2014 

A tasty piece of Fresno's history was honored this weekend for being a keystone of Chinatown for nearly a century.

The honors were bestowed on Kogetsu-Do, a small shop whose name means "Lake Moon" in Japanese, where owner Lynn Ikeda pumps out delightful, handmade Japanese treats daily.

Ikeda, 59, starts her work days at 1 a.m. and usually doesn't head home until after 5 p.m. She's done this for 30 years.

The family-owned confectionery has weathered a lot since it opened in 1915. Its first owners, Ikeda's grandparents, were corralled into an internment camp in Arkansas for two years during World War II. Most Japanese-Americans who lived on the West Coast wound up in camps.

On Saturday, a large American flag hung in front of Kogetsu-Do during a plaque dedication ceremony held by E Clampus Vitus members in Maj. James Savage Chapter 1852, which covers Fresno and Kings counties.

"So many people who've lived here for most of their lives really don't realize there's a thriving Chinatown -- and Lynn's family has been a part of that for the past 100 years," said Skip DuRand, "patriarch" of the James Savage chapter and a board member for Chinatown Revitalization Inc. "I think that's a testament to the American way of preserving what you've come to work all your life for, and we're just here today to recognize that."

While this is actually the shop's 99th year, the historical group tries to dedicate at least one plaque each year and was eager to honor Ikeda, DuRand said.

Kogetsu-Do managed to remain in continual operation since 1915 thanks to the foresight of then-owner Sugimatsu Ikeda, who entrusted the shop to a Chinese family until the Ikedas were allowed to come home from the Arkansas internment camp.

The confectionery has been passed down through the family since, and is now in Lynn Ikeda's care. She's created 30 varieties of Japanese pastries known as "manju." A popular variety, "mochi," is a sweet rice cake with a sticky consistency, filled with a flavorful paste, such as red bean, lima bean, fresh fruit or pie filling. She also makes traditional Japanese snow cones with handmade syrup and a scoop of ice cream.

She uses the same equipment as her grandfather did to create the delicious morsels.

"A lot of people say when they come in here and look around it's like going back in time," Ikeda said of her shop at 920 F St., between Kern and Tulare streets.

To make her mochi, she drives out to Koda Farms in Dos Palos once a year to pick up fresh rice.

"She always gets the best of the best ... that's what I love," said friend Carol Seabury. "It's not quantity, it's quality. And she's very humble. She gives back so much to the Japanese community here in town."

Unfortunately, making these traditional Japanese foods is a dying art, Ikeda says. As far as she knows, her shop is the only one in the Central Valley that makes manju and mochi from scratch daily. The shop is closed Wednesday and Thursday.

Has she ever thought of making bigger batches -- at least occasionally -- to save herself the trouble of starting work at 1 a.m.?

No, she says with a smile, her customers like it better fresh.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386, cgeorge@fresnobee.com or @CarmenGeorge on Twitter.

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