Manju: Types of the Japanese Wagashi Steamed Cake

Do you like Japanese sweets? If your answer is yes, there is a traditional Japanese confection you should know. The Wagashi I want you to know here is called Manju (饅頭).

Manju (饅頭)

Kokuto Manju or Cha Manju

Manju usually refers to a small round Japanese steamed cake filled with sweet bean paste.

The most common filling is sweetened Azuki red bean paste called Anko (餡子), but besides this, various things, such as custard or cheese cream, are used in Manju.


The origin dates back to at least the middle of the 14th century when the original Manju came from China, served at the tea ceremony of Zen Buddhism.

The Chinese steamed bun contained meat, and people in those days came to make their own using sweet red bean paste

because Japanese Zen priests couldn’t eat meat. The resultant steamed cake became the original form of the present Manju.


Manju Types

In modern times, Manju comes in many variations classified into several types based on the variety of dough, including the following eight popular types.

Types Main Ingredients Representative Manju
Cha Manju (茶饅頭) The dough is made from wheat flour, brown sugar, and baking soda. Onsen Manju (温泉饅頭), Kokuto Manju (黒糖饅頭)
Jouyo Manju (薯蕷饅頭) The dough is made from rice flour using the stickiness of grated yam. Kouhaku Manju (紅白饅頭)
Sake Manju (酒饅頭) The wheat flour dough is leavened with a yeast mash of sake called Shubo (酒母).
Yaki Manju (焼饅頭) The dough is similar to Castella sponge cake. Baked Manju.

Momiji Manju (もみじ饅頭), Kuri Manju (栗饅頭)

Soda Manju (ソーダ饅頭) The dough is made from wheat flour and leavened with baking soda.

Miso Manju (味噌饅頭) The dough is made from wheat flour kneaded with miso soybean paste and steamed. Minobu Manju (身延饅頭)
Kuzu Manju (葛饅頭) Jelly-like Manju made using Kuzuko (Kudzu arrowroot starch)
Mizu Manju (水饅頭) Jelly-like Manju made using Kuzuko and Warabiko (bracken root starch)

Representative Varieties 

Lastly, the ones listed below are four representative Manju varieties most often seen in daily life in Japan.

Onsen Manju (温泉饅頭)

Onsen Manju

Onsen Manju generally refers to Cha Manju sold at Onsen (温泉: hot spring) resorts. When Japanese people go on a hot spring trip, many choose Onsen Manju as a souvenir.

Kouhaku Manju (紅白饅頭)

Kouhaku Manju

Kouhaku Manju is a pair of red and white Jouyo Manju. We usually have this during celebrations because the color combination Kouhaku (紅白) is a lucky charm in Japan.

Momiji Manju (もみじ饅頭)

Momiji Manju

Momiji Manju is a Yaki Manju (Baked Manju) shaped like a maple leaf, as Momiji (もみじ) means maple in Japanese.

Kuri Manju (栗饅頭)

Kuri Manju

Kuri Manju is a Kuri (栗: chestnut)-like Yaki Manju, where egg yolk is brushed on the top surface to bring out a chestnut-like color, and its filling often contains chestnuts.

(Reference Page: Wikipedia 饅頭 )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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