Mochi ice cream maker Frances Hashimoto — credited with popularizing the frozen novelty — died Sunday of lung cancer at her Pasadena home. She was 69 years old.
Born in Arizona in a World War 2 internment camp, Hashimoto moved to Los Angeles, and in 1970 took over Mikawaya, a Little Tokyo-based confectionary business owned by her family since 1910.
She began expanding the business, and introduced Mochi ice cream, a round, pounded rice cake-covered creation now carried by a number of U.S. supermarkets.
What started as a single shop is now a $13 million per year business, according to the Associated Press. Some sources credit Hashimoto or her husband, Joel Friedman, with inventing the treat, says AP. Others credit the South Korean company, Lotte, with being the first to come up with the idea.
Hashimoto was also known for her civic leadership and Little Tokyo preservation efforts. In September, the City Council voted to name a plaza in her honor. The dedication of Frances Hashimoto Plaza will take place next week.
She is survived by two sons and a sister. On the Mikawaya website, a small photo leads the following message:
In rememberance and loving memory of Frances Hashimoto,
President and CEO of Mikawaya.
This website will be temporarily suspended until Sunday, November 11, 2012.