Mochi ice cream inventor Frances Hashimoto dies of cancer

Frances Hashimoto, an influential business leader in LA's Little Tokyo neighborhood, who "fought to preserve the neighborhood's Japanese cultural traditions and who invented the popular fusion dessert known as mochi ice cream," has died of lung cancer. She was 69.

Hashimoto was born in a WWII internment camp in Arizona in 1943.

“She was an angel on earth,” her husband told the AP. “She always gave and gave and gave to the Japanese community.”

The fusion dessert she invented involves ice cream (in any one of seven flavors) nestled inside a soft, sweet, chewy-gooey rice cake pillow. Her Mikawaya USA brand mochi ice cream broke out of the "ethnic food" niche long ago, and is widely carried in mainstream American grocery chains like Trader Joe's, Safeway, Albertsons and Ralphs. You can also enjoy it at the Little Tokyo dessert boutique where she started it all, Mikawaya. I've noshed on the sweet treat there, and recommend you do the same when next in Los Angeles, in her honor.



  1. I love mochi ice cream. It’s the superior way to eat ice-cream with your hands.  Ice cream sandwiches have a tendency to leave cookie residue on your fingers.

  2. Those things can be quite successfully deep-fried. It’s like they come pre-battered. Crispy with a core of half melted green tea icecream. 

  3. I had no idea that mochi ice cream started right there. Any time my Japanese class in high school went to LT, they’d give us free mochi ice cream treats.

  4. Mochi is widely carried in Asian grocery stores as well. The green tea flavor is my favorite. My daughter is a mochi fiend. Surprised to hear it was invented in LA.

    1. Mochi itself (the sticky wrapper on mochi ice cream) is a traditional Japanese sweet. It’s made of sticky rice that’s kneaded for hours until it’s smooth.

      I don’t know how they manage to wrap it around ice cream. I’ve made red bean filled mochi balls, and we had to handle the mochi when it was still hot enough to be painful. You make a ball, squish it flat, and wrap it around a pre-frozen ball of red bean paste.

  5. So disappointing to hear. :( I’ll second the recommendation on a trip to Miyakawa. I’m sure they’re serving the same packaged frozen product that you buy in the store, but for some reason (maybe the temp they hold it at?) theirs seems much better. 

  6. I love mochi ice cream, but save it for special treats.  Where I live, that tray of 6 little scrumptious pillows is over $5.

  7. Sorry to hear of her untimely passing. That dessert is scrumptious. It’s a hard slog to succeed with a niche food product with a small product line, and it’s nice to see such a success  story knowing the additional obstacles she faced because of her circumstances. I’m sure she will be missed by all connected to her. Hopefully the company is in good hands and we all get to continue to enjoy her legacy.

  8. Yummy indeed. But too much plastic packaging for my liking. Anyone have a useful DIY project that makes use of the otherwise landfilled plastic?

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