Back before there were cars, travelers walk or ride horses miles and days at a time to another city in Japan. Travelers would often make a pit stop at a Dango shop, order mochi on a stick, sit on the wooden bench covered with red cloth, and enjoy the break under a crimson colored umbrella to hide from the blazing sun.
While in Tokyo more and more shopping malls, western style cafes and afternoon tea places are taking over the city, there is a tiny little shop in the mist of the modern jungle that gives one a place to rest sore legs with delicious, traditional taste of Japan: Oiwake Dango.
Dango literally means rice cake/mochi on a stick. Dango is easy to eat, and often offered as afternoon tea snacks. I have passed by Oiwake Dango for several times but did not have time to stop in the past. I tried to find information about the shop online, and their website did not have their shop information (company history). Having a simple website with very little information can only mean one thing in Japan: They are traditional style and definitely does not need publicity to get their customers.
We finally had a chance to go to Oiwake Dango this trip after a long day of shopping for a stylish, good quality umbrella that is not $300-$500 USD dollars (That, ladies and gentlemen, is the price for an umbrella at Isetan Department Store).
Upon entering the sitting area of the store (In the back), we immediately noticed something…we seems to be the only ones under 30 in the store (everyone else are like in their 60s). With the traditional Japanese decorations, well dressed customers, and older crowd around us, we felt like we have to be in our best manners and not bother others around us. When the lady offered us the menu, I stared at it like a stone. There is not a single word of English, and most things do not have photos. I had to bring out my old trick: run outside the shop to take a photo of the food models at the window, and point to the dessert I want in the photo to the hostess.(she must have been laughing in the back >.<)
Then our dango came! The one on the right is mochi on a stick with red bean paste on top. The one on the left is mochi on the stick topped with sweet soy sauce. I loved the red bean paste dango because the paste is not too over powering like the ones sold in the supermarket. The rice cake has a subtle, yet lasting taste of the rice.Sweet soy sauce dango is rather unique, and it is an acquired taste for someone who is not expecting such a combination (soy sauce on sweet rice cake X_X ).
We also ordered a fruit dessert that includes :slice of sweetened apple, aprocot, cherry, banana, beans, kiwi, jelly,red bean paste, and sweet sugar sauce. The fruits are selected carefully by the shop to ensure the quality and the taste. It is a rather light, refreshing snack for those who is not into red bean soup or sticky rice cakes
For those who wants to try high quality dango but do not want to sit down, they have plenty of dango and flavored mochi box sets sold at the front of the store. I recommend eat those within 1-2 days since they do not have added preservatives, and the rice cake will get hard if you store them in the fridge.
Oiwake Dango Address: 東京都新宿区新宿3-1-22 (OR, you can go to the one at B1 level of Isetan Department Store/伊勢丹 in Shinjuku)
Oiwake Dango Website: http://www.oiwakedango.co.jp/index.html