Manju (Bun stuffed with filling) (饅頭)

Manju is a cake steamed with fillings such as azuki-bean paste wrapped in the cake dough which flour is kneaded into. It is one of the Japanese traditional confectionery. Manju (饅頭) can be written as "万十", "万頭", or "曼頭" in Chinese characters.


The Japanese manju originated in two routes. One is that it was introduced to Japan when Join RIN came from China along with Zen monks in 1349. At that time, Rin came up with the idea of serving the manju as a tea cake eaten with tea for Zen Buddhism. It is said that manju stuffed with azuki bean filling was created because original manju was stuffed with meat (eating meat was prohibited in Japan while it was not originally prohibited by Buddhism). After that, Rin resided near the Kango-jinja Shrine in Nara and opened a shop called Shiose which gained popularity. As an event of the Bon (the Festival of the Dead), August 1st is called a lid of cauldron and is also Manju Day. Join RIN has been enshrined in the Rin-jinja Shrine on the premises of the Kongo-jinja Shrine and worshiped by confectionary makers.

The other route is that Shoichi Kokushi who was educated in Southern Sung introduced manju production techniques in Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture in 1241, nearly 100 years before Rin introduced it to Japan. It is said that Shoichi built the Joten-ji Temple of the Rinzai sect in Tsujinodo (present Hakataekimae 1-chome) and taught a manju recipe to a teahouse owner who was always kind to him when he went around Mt. Aratsu, to the west of Hakata, for takuhatsu (a traditional form of begging, common to Buddhist monks in Japan). At that time, he gave the teahouse owner a hand-written signboard saying "omanju dokoro (place to eat manju)", which is now possessed by Toraya Kurokawa in Akasaka, Tokyo. The manju introduced in Nara is "kusuri-manju" using baking powder and the other in Hakata is "sake-manju" using amazake (sweet mild sake).

After the manju took root in Japan, various types of manju was made by exercising various ingenuity in methods of making bean paste and cake dough.

Chinese-style buns originated in traditional mantou such as ma lai gao are classified into chuka-man (Chinese steamed bun). In China, present mantou refers to a kind of steamed breads without bean paste or filling in it. Buns stuffed with fillings are called bao zi. According to the lore, the dish of mantou originated in the historical fact that a flood subsided after a kneaded flour dough stuffed with mutton and pork, which imitated a human head was thrown into a river in order to change the custom of sinking a human head into a river for human sacrifice to stop floods when Zhuge LIANG, the prime minister of Shu in the Sanguo Zhi (History of the Three Kingdoms) was on his way back from southern expedition to attack Meng HUO in the third century. This story is talked a lot, however, because it is mentioned in books such as the Shurei inshokubu, the Vol. 2 of the "Jibutsukigen (similar books of China)" written by Cheng GAO and the "Yin hua lu (因話録) (Anthology of Essays and Short Stories)" written by Sanyi ZENG (曾三異), and then became well known for the episode in the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" which was later written during the time of the Ming dynasty. In fact, it was written as "瞞頭" at first which means to deceive deities to make them believe that is a real human head, pronouncing "mantou" as well. Afterward, the mantou was eaten after enshrined at the altar because throwing it into a river was wasteful, and therefore a big mantou imitating a human head got smaller and smaller. It is also said that it was written as "蛮頭" meaning a head of the Southern barbarian because the Southern tribe was called Southern barbarians in terms of Sinocentrism.

Manju dough variations


It is a cake with bean paste filling wrapped in the dough made from flour, brown sugar, and baking powder. It is also called oshima manju or onsen manju. Rikyu manju and usukawa manju are one of the cha-manju. It is popular as a snack and a gift at tourist spots (especially hot spring resorts).


It is a moist cake steamed with fillings such as bean paste wrapped in the dough into which rice powder (grated yam powder or finer rice powder) is kneaded with the help of the stickiness of grated yam. Yam used includes tsukuneimo (Chinese Yam) (Kyoto), yamatoimo (Japanese slimy potato) (Kanto region), and iseimo (Japanese yam) (Chubu region). It is one of the omogashi (main sweets) used for tea ceremony. It is called Shiose manju from the legend that it was made by Join RIN in the Nara period, taking the name of the shop owned by his offspring.


It is a cake with bean paste filling wrapped in the flour dough which is fermented with yeast mash (yeast cultured in rice malt). It is also called Toraya manju. "Sake-manju" looks like an-man (bean-paste bun) in Nagano City, and Nagaoka City in Niigata Prefecture. It has a flat shape with a brand on it in Sakai City, Fukui Prefecture, while it looks like a cha-manju in Ogaki City, Gifu Prefecture. Shapes, tastes and recipes vary with regions.

Shio-manju (Buns using salt in place of sugar)


It is one of the baked confectionery with bean paste filling wrapped in sponge cake dough. It includes tou manju, Momiji manju, kuri-manju, Chidori manju (Fukuoka), and emulsion. Influenced by western confectionery and Chinese sweets (moon cakes), it was developed after the Meiji period. Some manju are baked in an oven (which are called oven mono) and others are baked on a cast-iron pan (which are called hiranabe mono or hira mono). In addition, there are manju (Cheese manju in Miyazaki Prefecture) similar to western confectionery using pastry, biscuit dough and scorn dough. There are some other manju made by unique production techniques, such as Ikkokko in Nagasaki and Wakasaimo in Hokkaido.


It is baked with egg yolk applied onto the dough to look like chestnut skin. The filling is white bean paste, but syrup for stewing chestnuts or chestnuts themselves are used for it.


It is an unbaked Japanese summer sweet with bean paste filling wrapped in the transparent dough made from powdered arrowroot. It is called suisen manju. It is usually eaten directly on a plate, but sometimes it was dipped in cold water. The name of "mizu-manju" is well known in Ogaki City, Gifu Prefecture, but the name of "kuzu-manju" is generally well known nationwide.


It is an unbaked confectionery with bean paste filling wrapped in wheat starch in place of flour dough. In many cases, it is wrapped in bamboo leaves. It is simply called namafu.


It is a steamed cake made out of kneaded flour dough mixed with miso paste. Minobu manju is one of the miso-manju. Sweetness of bean paste is well harmonized with pungency of miso. Around Hosoe and Inasa in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, black bean paste is wrapped in flour dough mixed with brown sugar, and this type of cha-manju is called miso-manju (or miso-man). This is because the color is similar to that of miso.

Manju for events

Auspicious event: Kohaku manju (red and white buns with bean paste filling) and sake-manju. In Reihoku region, Fukui Prefecture, a manju-throwing ceremony is performed at the end of the wedding ceremony.

Mourning: Kasuga manju, aoshiro manju (green and white buns with bean paste filling) (Kanto region), kishiro manju (yellow and white buns with bean paste filling), oboro manju (a regular round manju stuffed with azuki-bean paste except that its very thin covering is peeled off after it is steamed) (Kansai region) and chuka manju (Hokkaido). It is called soshiki manju (funeral bun).


Basically, a wide variety of fillings can be contained in the manju, and manju baked on an iron-cast pan such as Momiji manju has many varieties in particular because it is easy to stuff manju with filling.

Manju variations


It is a secondary product made by deep-frying or batter-frying manju like tempura. The sake-manju is often deep-fried, and the Momiji manju and cha-manju sometimes are deep-fried. Dried manju is sometimes deep-fried at home to make it tasty again to eat.

An-pan (a round soft bread with azuki bean jam in its center)

Tsukisamu anpan

It is local baked confectionery with azuki-bean paste wrapped in the moon cake-like dough.


It is a local sweet of Gunma Prefecture. It is bamboo-skewered sake-manju (with or without bean paste) which is roasted by basting it with sweet miso paste like dengaku dish (simmered miso paste on food).

Ningyo yaki (Doll ware cake)

Oyaki (flat baked flour or buckwheat flour bun stuffed with red bean paste or vegetable filling)

Oni manju (steamed cake with sweet potato on it)

Kincho manju

It is a local sweet of Tokushima Prefecture made by Hallelujah Seika Co., Ltd. (confectionary makers) based in Tokushima Prefecture. It is a manju with bean paste and chestnuts in it. The maker sells sponge cake manju with custard in it.

Honnoji manju

It is a sweet made by Kishu Wakayama Surugaya Co., Ltd.

Momiji manju

It is a local sweet of Hiroshima Prefecture.

Ethiopia manju

It is a local sweet of Konan City, Kochi Prefecture.

Miyako-man (Sponge cake with white bean paste in it)

Roken mantou (Steamed yeast bun with filling)

Narikin manju

It is a sweet of Nogata City, Fukuoka Prefecture. Basically, it is similar to dorayaki (pancake sandwiching azuki-bean paste in between).

Chidori manju

It is a sweet of Fukuoka Prefecture. It is baked manju with hard surface like cookies and a mark of a plover branded on it.


It is a sweet of Fukuoka Prefecture. It is a baked manju which is shaped like a chick.

Shoro manju

It is a sweet of Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture. The name originated from the shape looking like truffle.

Horaku manju

It is a sweet of Minamata City, Kumamoto Prefecture, and a type of manju called imagawa yaki in the Kanto region. It has a round shape with either white or black bean paste filling mixed with honey. The headquarters of the Horaku manju maker is in Kumamoto City, but its subsidiaries are in various places in the Kyusyu region, such as Fukuoka, Kagoshima and Miyazaki and sell the manju under the same brand name.

Senryo manju

It is a sweet of Kumamoto Prefecture. It is also made in Shimane Prefecture. It is shaped like koban (former Japanese oval gold coin) with the letters of "千両" (1000 ryo) branded on the top face and white bean paste in it.

Keitoku manju

It is a sweet of Kumamoto Prefecture.

Kajiki manju

It is a local sweet of Kajiki-cho in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Tsuru manju

It is a sweet of Izumi City, Kagoshima Prefecture.

Banana manju

It is a banana-shaped sweet with banana paste in it, which is embossed with an English word, "BANANA".

Manju in Okinawa

It is sold in Naha and other cities in Okinawa. It is seasoned with Spanish Jasmine. It is larger than Japanese manju.

Chuka manju

Although it generally refers to chuka-man (Chinese steamed bun), in Hokkaido, it refers to a sweet with bean paste filling wrapped in the pancake-like dough (chukadane "中花種" in terms of Japanese traditional confectionery) made from flour, sugar and egg. The Chinese characters for chuka, "中花" was changed into "中華" and then the manju started to be called chuka manju.

[Original Japanese]