Manju: Types of Japanese Wagashi Steamed Cake

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

Manju (饅頭)

Kokuto Manju or Cha Manju

Manju usually refers to Japanese steamed cake filled with sweet bean paste. The most common filling of Manju is sweetened Azuki red bean paste called “Anko (餡子)“, but besides this, various fillings, such as custard cream or cheese cream, are used in Manju.


The origin of Manju dates back to at least the middle of the 14th century when the original Manju bun was transmitted from China and is said to have been served at the tea ceremony of Zen Buddhism.

Although the original Chinese-style steamed bun was stuffed with meat, Japanese people in those days came to make their own steamed buns using sweet red bean paste, instead of meat, because Japanese Zen priests couldn’t eat meat, and that ancient steamed bun is the original form of the present Manju.


Momiji Manju

In modern times, the Japanese Wagashi cake, Manju comes in many variations, which are classified into several types based on the variety of dough, including the following 8 major 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, 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, here are 4 representative Manju varieties that can most often be seen in daily life in Japan.

Onsen Manju (温泉饅頭)

Onsen Manju

In general, Onsen Manju refers to Cha-Manju sold at “Onsen (温泉)” hot spring resorts. When Japanese people go on a hot spring trip, many of us buy 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 it during celebration times, because the color combination of red and white Kouhaku is considered to be a lucky charm in Japan.

Momiji Manju (もみじ饅頭)

Momiji Manju

Momiji Manju is the 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 the Yaki Manju where egg yolk is brushed on the top surface to bring out a chestnut-like color, and its filling often contains chestnuts as “Kuri (栗)” means “Chestnut” in Japanese.

(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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