If the store-bought anko has a lot of liquid, boil it off in a saucepan. Divide the paste into 16 equal pieces and shape into balls.
Rinse 2 cups of mochi rice and drain in a sieve.
Put the sugar in a bowl and mix with a tiny amount of red food colouring.
Put the mochi rice in the rice cooker along with 360 ml water and the sugar and food colouring mixture from Step 3. Mix together and cook as normal.
Once cooked, mash the rice lightly with a rolling pin, etc.
Spread the rice out on a baking tray and divide into 16 equal pieces.
Place 1 part of the rice mixture on top of some cling film and flatten it out. Add a ball of the anko on top and wrap the rice to the center.
Wrap in a sakura leaf and they're ready.
Story Behind this Recipe
I learned this recipe in a yakuzen medicinal cooking class and tried making a less sweet version.
Sakura leaves are supposedly good for coughs, relieving asthma and inflammation, bringing down fevers, in antidotes, and as hangover cures. They also supposedly work to increase blood pressure, help depression, regulate the stomach and intestines and stop diarrhea.
About 5 minutes before you cook the rice, place the sakura leaves in water and de-salt them. When wrapping the mochi, wrap the leaf so that the veins are showing.
If the rice cooker has a water level indicator for mochi rice, use that. If not, fill with water to just below the white rice line.