Momiji Manju: A Taste of Japanese Autumn

  • 2 min read

Momiji Manju: A Taste of Japanese Autumn

When many travelers I know visit Japan, they tend to plan a spring trip to enjoy the brief (and sometimes unpredictable) sakura and ume blossom season. While that’s among the prettiest times of year to visit, fall in Japan has its own unique beauty to be experienced. As summer begins to wind down and the first chills of the not-so-distant winter start to settle in, the leaves of the many trees across Japan begin to change color. This brings with it a cozy vibe similar to what some of us might be used to, including autumn-inspired treats.

Of all the fall transformations, one of the most beloved in Japan is the change of the maple leaves, or Momiji in Japanese. Changing from green to stark red and orange, it is a quintessential symbol of fall.

As such, when traveling throughout Japan, you’re bound to find various treats inspired by (or even made from) Momiji. While the season may be brief and the fall colors quick to change, these treats help to preserve the fleeting time that comes once a year.

Momiji Manju: A Taste of Japanese Autumn

One of the most iconic of these fall-inspired treats is Momiji manju. Unlike steamed manju, a Chinese bun, Momiji manju uses a castella, cake-like batter that makes them sweet and fluffy. Regular manju are usually filled with savory meats, while Momiji manju are baked and contain a sweet filling. These maple leaf-shaped treats are traditionally filled with sweet bean paste and toasted to a golden brown, not unlike some of the true fall colors you’re likely to see around Japan. Nowadays, however, you can even find them made with a variety of fillings from chocolate to matcha and custard cream.

The person we have to thank for the invention of this treat is Takatsu Tsunesuke, a wagashi artisan, who created the sweet for a ryokan, or Japanese inn, on Miyajima Island in 1907. The Hiroshima Prefecture artist inspired a multitude of Momiji-shaped treats throughout the prefecture, so much so that Momiji Manju became a symbol for Hiroshima.

Hiroshima isn’t the only prefecture with a famous Momiji treat! When traveling to Osaka in the Fall, make sure to try tempura maple leaves, a sweet crunchy twist that includes a real taste of Momiji.

Momiji Manju: A Taste of Japanese Autumn

Traveling to Japan in the Fall is not only a beautiful experience, but also a very delicious one!


About the Author:

Kevin KilcoyneKevin Kilcoyne
The spark that lit Kevin Kilcoyne’s interest in Japanese culture began in elementary school through a friendship with his then classmate Keisuke. Since then, that passion has evolved and bloomed to encompass more than just video games and manga, leading Kevin to live in Japan as a participant of the JET program. During his time in Japan, Kevin sought out as many foods as he could, the experiences and taste memories lingering long after they had gone. Now he is forging a path to link his passions for Japanese food, history, and visual culture and is planning for his return to live in Japan once again. For now, you can find Kevin on Instagram (@waruishouten) where he posts his photography and illustration work. Keep an eye out for more posts and updates as Kevin delves more deeply into his passions for writing and food!

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