A typical sweet souvenir from Matsumoto could easily be shinmito from Kaiundo, baby cream puffs from Masamura, or metoba no tsuki from Okinado. Depending on the person, the favorite souvenir will vary, but Okinado’s metoba no tsuki (moon on the Metoba) is perfect for friends who miss their hometown Matsumoto or tourists who would like to reminisce about the landscape of the city. Other popular items include the kintsuba and seasonal sweets like kashiwa mochi and sakura mochi (see below in the recommended items section).
Okinado Kuranomise is located in “kura town” Nakamachi Street. It has two warehouses at the back of the shop: one that was built in the Edo period (17th-19th century) and another one built during the Meiji period in 1906. There is also a courtyard and all together they create a calm and healing space.
Okinado was originally founded in 1911 and Mr. Kiuchi, the current proprietor, is the 3rd generation owner. There is also another Okinado sweets shop, the Ekimae store, near the station which opened in 1978, but don’t confuse them with the Okinado restaurant, which is a classic western-style diner in Nakamachi!
One of the warehouses at Okinado is a gallery space showing Mr. Kiuchi’s favorite antiques, paintings, and ceramics. The other warehouse is filled with Okinado’s history as told through Japanese sweets. There, you will find a variety of traditional wooden molds used for Uchigashi and Ohigashi, and old sketchbooks with designs for custom-made sweets. Although they are valuable historical references, you are welcome to pick them up to have a closer look. Come and see for yourself these beautiful designs that will amaze and impress you!
The names of Okinado’s sweets are related to Matsumoto Castle
Most of Okinado sweets are named in relation to the castle, for example Tsukimi Yagura (Moon from the Turret), Goten Mochi (Palace Rice Cake), and Matsumoto-jo Kokuho Yokan (Matsumoto Castle National Treasure Sweet Bean Jelly).
So many of Okinado’s sweets have won awards at the National Confectionery Exposition since the Taisho-period in the early 20th century. Those old recipes have been preserved. The shop believes in making only handmade items and prefers to keep the number of shops to a minimum in order to maintain the quality of their products. While Okinado takes great care to preserve the old, the shop produces one new sweet every three years as it responds to new trends.
Mr. Kiuchi’s beliefs
Okinado has a “trip memories” book which customers can sign and write comments or put their photographs in. They have kept the book going for over 10 years.
Mr. Kiuchi believes that the good thing about having a small shop is being able to have direct contact with the customers, and whenever there is a chance, he strikes up a conversation with customers while serving free tea. He especially likes to share stories about Matsumoto Castle and places of interest with tourists. There are even regular tourist customers, such as those who visit Masumoto more than 5 times a year, or who stay longer than 10 days, who regularly come back to the shop to enjoy a chat with Mr. Kiuchi.
As Mr. Kiuchi puts it, “I think making the effort to have friendly interactions with customers helps create an attractive city where those interactions reverberate.”