Ono-san stands behind the counter protesting in rapid Kyoto dialect that she couldn't possibly be photographed today because she's not wearing a kimono.
Her small traditional style shop with a discrete "noren" (door curtain) continues to survive in the shadows of a large apartment building . Situated on busy Sanjo street, Ono-san serves locals and tourists alike in her friendly and modest manner. The shop sells "Ohagi", soft cakes made from pounded rice covered with sweet red bean paste or sweet soybean powder. Ohagi are meant to be eaten with green tea, their sweetness perfectly offsetting the bitterness of the tea.
Ono-san and her husband (he stays hidden out the back) have been running this shop and making ohagi, manju (baked sweet red bean cakes) and soba (buckwheat) cookies, by hand, for over 60 years. She always patiently explains all the flavours available - yuzu (citrus), sweet red bean, sweet white bean, black sesame - and when you've made youčre choice she'll usually throw in an extra flavour for free. She happily gives a lot away.
Every day Ono-san stands behind the counter watching locals and tourists pass by. Most passersby stop in for a chat and it's not unusual to meet a Gion tea house proprietor having a gossip with Ono-san. "I like it that the neighbourhood people come every day and I can see the neighbourhood is changing. I think it's becoming more sophisticated!", she says.
Often a tourist from Tokyo, clutching a guidebook and looking for the Heian shrine, will wander in and sigh, "It's a real Kyoto shop", as they buy omiyage (souvenirs) to take home. Ono-san is far too modest to agree that her shop is well-known but quietly admits that it is listed in a few Kyoto guidebooks and promptly tries to give me a bag of soba cookies.