Just when we thought things couldn’t get any more startling at Yachiyo’s most unique sweets shop, this happened.
About a year ago, we went out to the town of Yachiyo in Chiba Prefecture, Tokyo’s neighbor to the east, to visit a very unique shop called Maboroshido. Maboroshido is a dagashiya, a store that specializes in old-school, inexpensive Japanese sweets, and elderly owner Yasuko Murayma decided to adapt to the contactless sales needs of pandemic protocols by manually operating vending machines (and a puppet) so her customers could get their snack fixes.
We recently made the trip to Yachiyo again to see how Maboroshido is doing these days, and also to try out a new dessert that’s both tempting and terrifying: the Sonohashi Inishie Crepe. Sonohashi is the name of the neighborhood where the shop is located and Inishie is Japanese for “ancient,” but the vocabulary word to really be aware of here is the crepe’s star ingredient: inago, or locusts!
The closest train station to Maboroshido is Yachiyo Midorigaoka, but from there it’s more than 30 minutes on foot to the shop. You could hop on a bus, but even then the closest stop is still a 10-minute walk to the store, so instead we opted for a short-term rental bike from a depot near the station.
After about 20 minutes pedaling down country road, we arrived at Maboroshido, passed through the gate, and made our way to the crepe stand.
Sure enough, there was a sign for the locust crepe, complete with a shadowy outline of one of the bugs.
And yes, the crepe is made with whole locusts used as a topping. Sure, there’s also whipped cream, brown sugar, matcha green tea powder, and even a bit of gold dust, a not-unusual accent in fancy desserts in Japan. But make no mistake, this is a dessert where you’re going to be acutely aware that you’re eating locusts, especially if you ask for “extra locusts, please” like we did for an additional 100 yen, bringing the total cost of our crepe to 550 yen (US$4.20).
As we waited for them to make our crepe, we looked over the sign again, which explains that back in the old days, there was a custom of eating locusts in the Sonohashi area, where they were boiled in soy sauce for a sweet (by the standards of the time) treat. The practice has now pretty much faded from local eating habits, but the locust crepe is an attempt to fuse the old and the new desserts, as well as cute and uncute ones.
After about five minutes, our locust crepe was ready!
It’s definitely got an impactful appearance, but aside from the shock value, everything is pretty artistically arranged. There was no point in beating around the bush, so we made an entire locust our first bite.
Our brave taste-tester, Kohei, was sort of worried about how the texture would be. With no frame of reference, he wondered if it would be painfully hard or splinter into sharp edges as he bit it. To his pleasant surprise, though, it was crunchy but not overly brittle. Honestly, texture-wise it was a lot like the corn flakes that are commonly put into crepes and parfaits in Japan, and the locust crunched on his teeth then melted in his mouth.
▼ There are more locusts inside the crepe too.
Another pleasant surprise? The crepe tasted great, and paired excellently with a fresh-brewed coffee prepared by Maboroshido’s owner’s daughter, Atsu.
▼ We went from this…
▼ …to this in no time flat.
Since we’d come all the way here, we wanted to say hi to the owner, Yasuko. Of course, since nothing is done in the boring, conventional way at Maboroshido, we were directed to the “No Matter How Far Away Door.”
▼ Legal disclaimer: The No Matter How Far Away Door is a separate entity from Doraemon’s Anywhere Door.
We opened up the No Matter How Far Away Door, and then…
1年前に取材させていただいた、千葉県八千代市の駄菓子屋『まぼろし堂』さんに再訪したら、異次元に進化しすぎてて、完全にトリップした……。 pic.twitter.com/LOvbXbe4wm— 薄毛ライター耕平☆ロケットニュース24 (@kouhey_rocket) March 12, 2023
…it was like we’d found a passage to another dimension!
Or maybe it was a passage to another time? After we made our way to the other side, we found ourselves in the sort of dagashiya that used to be common in Japan 50-plus years ago.
And sure enough, that’s where we were reunited with Yasuko, which felt like we were visiting our countryside granny.
With pandemic protocols being peeled back, Maboroshido is back to operating in its normal capacity of direct contact with customers. It’s still a very unique place under “normal” conditions, though, and definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Oh, and don’t worry…
…they have crepes without locusts too.
Maboroshido / まぼろし堂
Address: Chiba-ken, Yachiyo-shi, Sonohashi 116-3
Open “from around 1 p.m. to about 7 p.m. or so”
Closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays (may change depending on national holidays or holidays for the local elementary school)