Mar 10, 2018

Häagen-Dazs can’t convince me of Japanese dessert: New Hana Mochi series

American ice cream maker Häagen-Dazs released an upgrade of their “Hana Mochi” ice creams across Japan late last month. The glamorous packaging of the new tubs is clearly working its magic to the extent that I opted, on this occasion, for the new flavors over reliable standards like vanilla and some kind of cookies and cream. But what about what’s going on inside?

Let’s get this straight, early doors; I’ve always been of the opinion that Japan, at its traditional core, has little to offer the world when it comes to dessert. (And I feel the same about breakfast, too.) The county’s bizarre obsession with finding a way to combine anything it can with azuki paste is probably the root cause of my frigid relationship with the nation’s sweets, and in this new offering from Häagen-Dazs the same thing is happening again.

Häagen-Dazs’ “hana mochi” series made its first appearance in Japan back in 2015 which saw the ice cream maker combine its smooth ice cream with the gooey, sticky form of rice that is mochi.

In January this year the company announced an upgrade of the series to go on sale late February. Keeping things litteral, Häagen-Daz have labelled it, the “Shin-Hana mochi” series ( 新・華もち), delivering two ‘new’ tubs filled with ice cream and ‘wagashi,’ and promises of elaborate Japanese sweetness.

First up, 華もち “桜あん” - Hana Mochi ‘Sakura-an’

What you’ve got here with Häagen-Dazs’ ‘Sakura-an’ is cherry blossom-flavored ice cream (I think it’s got some raspberry going on) wrapped in a gooey layer of mochi, topped with ‘an,’ a thick sauce that is a few good stirs away from becoming jam.

According to a Häagen-Dazs press release the Sakura-an displays its glamour (hanayakasa / 華やかさ) from the get go, as soon as you open the lid. I’ll leave you to make your own judgement on that from the images in this post.

Taste wise, out of the two tubs, this was my favorite. For Häagen-Dazs it’s all about the balance of sweetness and saltiness. For me, however, I kind of like the sakura flavor of just about anything. It’s like a sweeter version of raspberry, a fruit which is common as muck back home but hard to find in Japan, so it’s nice to be reminded of it come cherry blossom season.

Throughout the ice cream there are layers of the ‘an’ which are nice, but the mochi wrapping is a bit too gooey and clingy for me, having the texture and appearance of some kind of stomach-churning membrane from a sci-fi flick.

華もち “栗あずき” - Hana Mochi ‘Kuri Azuki’

The Kuri Azuki has the same layer of mochi covering some very grainy ogura (a kind of azuki bean) ice cream layered with a chestnut sauce, the whole thing topped with that red-bean paste that the Japanese so inexplicably love, this time with added bits of chestnut.

Honestly, the Kuri Azuki only served to reaffirm my belief that Japan, or traditional Japan, knows nothing about dessert. The Hana Mochi tubs are supposed to be about luxury and glamour but for me, red-bean paste has always taken on the appearance of something that the cat hocks up onto the carpet every now and then. And all that chestnut / azuki graininess does a disservice to the typically smooth Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

Give me ‘cookies and cream,’ or some kind of fruity sharpness any day of the week and I’ll file the Kuri Azuki under Japanese novelty and leave it at that.



Traveler, surfer, and scribe. Based in Tokyo for six years.


  • genkidesu

    on Mar 10

    I actually loooove Japanese sweets...maybe more so than sweets back home! Give me all the red beans (although now that cat puke analogy is making me queasy!)

  • Tomuu

    on Mar 11

    @genkidesu Ha ha! Sorry about that, perhaps a little harsh! I don't know, I just can't seem to get to grips with the traditional desserts over here. That said, the red bean paste has grown in appeal if it's paired with the right things -- I quite like it inside a nice, thick mochi -- but breads, ice creams don't work for me.