Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Ask a Japanese person, "What is the most famous Japanese confectionary that is sold in Miyajima?" For sure, everyone would name the same confectionary, and that is of course Momiji Manju. Momiji manju is a maple-leaf shaped Japanese baked confectionary and is enjoyed by many tourists that come and visit Miyajima and Hiroshima area. Since it is so great both in taste and appearance, it is the most popular manju in Japan!
There is a very interesting story about how the Momiji manju became the representative souvenir of Miyajima. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), Hirofumi Ito (The first Prime Minister of Japan) frequently visited Miyajima. During one of his visits there, he saw a pretty girl's hand and said, "Your hand is like a maple leaf!" An Okami-san (female owner of a ryokan) who heard him say this came up with the idea of making a maple leaf shaped confectionary to a man named Tsunesuke Takatsu. Soon, the first momiji manju was created and sold at Takatsu's store in the small island of Miyajima. Although this story has not been proven to be true, but many long-established momiji manju shops believe in this story. Thus the tradition has been passed on for many generations.
Today, as you walk across Omotesando (a small shopping avenue) in Miyajima, you will see a lot of momiji manju shops. Some have transparent walls that allow tourists to see how momiji manjus are being made. Unlike the early years, where momiji manjus were hand baked one by one, momiji manjus today are mostly created with large machines exclusively for momiji manjus. It is extremely interesting to watch the fluffy momiji manjus coming out of the machine. In some stores you can buy a freshly baked momiji manju that just came out of those machines! The fluffiness of the dough and the sweetness of the anko are extravagantly brilliant! Pop one into your mouth and you will sure see why momiji manju is chosen by many as the most popular manju of Japan!
Other than anko, there are many other interesting fillings for momiji manjus. For example there are custard crème, cheese, chocolate, green tea, sweet chestnuts, sweet potato, mochi, almond and more. Depending on which store you visit, you can taste unique flavors of momiji manjus so why not go for a try. Usually momiji manjus are around 70 JPY to 100 JPY so it is very easy to purchase them.