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Japantown’s oldest business to be sold or closed, after 115 years of making mochi

The owners of Japantown’s oldest business are retiring, after generations of making mochi, reports KQED. 

Benkyodo owners Ricky and Bobby Okamura have fulfilled a 115-year-old family legacy by shaping 1,000 handmade balls a day since 1990 in the small shop on Buchanan Street, but have decided to call it a day at the end of the year. 

The mochi shop was opened in 1906 by Suyeichi Okamura, Ricky and Bobby’s grandfather, on nearby Geary St.. He named his place Benkyodo, meaning “affordable,” to let the community know their confections wouldn’t price them out. 

After celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2006, Benkyodo was chosen by Assemblyman Mark Leno of the 13th Assembly District as the recipient of the California Small Business of the Year award in 2008.

In 2017 SFGATE visited Benkyodo and reported on the “best, freshest mochi and manju in the city,” though advised readers to go early before popular and seasonal specialties are sold out for the day.

A fresh selection of the mochi at Benkyodo in San Francisco.

Douglas Zimmerman/SF Gate / Douglas Zimmerman


The brothers told KQED this week they plan on selling or closing the beloved restaurant after a tough year of shutdowns, like so many businesses in San Francisco’s Japantown.

The COVID-19 pandemic meant the store shuttered for only the second time in its 115-year history, the first time being in 1942 when the brothers’ grandparents and father were interned during World War II.

The 2020 closure, though, was only temporary, and the little restaurant was able to open again after two-and-a-half months. 

The brothers told KQED they hope to keep the business in the family after retiring, but no deals have been reached.

Benkyodo is located at 1747 Buchanan St. in San Francisco and is open Tuesday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.