The Difference: Mochi vs Dango vs Daifuku vs Manju

When you think of traditional Japanese sweets or “Wagashi (和菓子)”, what comes to your mind first?

In recent years, thanks to online stores, it is relatively easy to get Japanese confections even if you are not in Japan.

Besides, Japanese manga/anime may be helpful to know those sweet treats we Japanese commonly consume in daily life.

Therefore, you may have heard of the names of the Japanese foods “Mochi (餅)”, “Dango (団子)”, “Daifuku (大福)”, and “Manju (饅頭)” before.

Mochi vs Dango vs Daifuku vs Manju

These are the names of Japanese foods relating to sweet things.

But can you tell what kinds of foods are Mochi, Dango, Daifuku, and Manju? and how they differ?

For people who are not confident, this article will explain the difference.

Mochi (餅)

Mochi rice cake

First, Mochi is a plain white cake made from glutinous rice called “Mochi-Gome (餅米)”.

Traditionally, the rice is steamed and then pounded with a set of large wooden mortar “Usu (臼)” and large wooden pestle “Kine (杵)”.

Mochi only consists of glutinous rice without seasoning, so the rice cake itself isn’t a confection.

Besides, unlike Dango, Daifuku, and Manju, it is usually toasted or steamed before being used.

Cooked Mochi is very sticky and stretchy, for which reason, every year in Japan, some people (especially the elderly) choke on it and pass away.

The cooked rice cake is used in various dishes, both sweet and savory, like these, and those Mochi dishes are often eaten during the wintertime.

The quintessential sweet soup dish is “O-Shiruko (お汁粉)“, while the most famous savory soup is “O-Zoni (お雑煮)“.


Dango (団子)

Mitarashi Dango

Dango usually refers to a confection consisting of dumplings made from cereal flour. But it is also made from meat or other ingredients.

The Dango dumpling for sweets is typically made from non-glutinous “Uruchi (うるち)” rice flour.

As for the making, water is first added to the rice powder and kneaded to make a dough. The rice dough is then formed into small balls and steamed or boiled.

Unlike Mochi rice cake, the cereal dumpling Dango is not that sticky and often sweetened with sugar. They are typically skewered on a wooden stick and served with sweet stuff.

The Dango confection is available in many varieties, but among others, “Mitarashi Dango (みたらし団子)” is most commonly eaten. 

Made up of three to five lightly grilled, unseasoned rice dumplings on a wooden skewer, Mitarashi Dango is covered with a sweet soy sauce glaze.


Daifuku (大福)

Ichigo Daifuku

Daifuku, also known as “Daifuku Mochi (大福餅)”, is a small round rice cake filled with sweet Azuki red bean paste called “Anko (餡子)“.

It is a traditional Wagashi confection made from Anko wrapped in a thin layer of soft, smooth Mochi.

Since this rice cake is dredged with corn starch, its outer surface isn’t sticky compared to Mochi.

In modern times, Daifuku comes in various variants, and among others, “Ichigo Daifuku (苺大福)” is the most popular variety.

Ichigo Daifuku has a strawberry filling inside together with sweet bean paste, as “Ichigo (苺)” means “strawberry” in Japanese.


Manju (饅頭)


Unlike Mochi, Dango, and Daifuku, the main ingredient of Manju isn’t rice.

Manju is a traditional Japanese steamed bun (cake) made from wheat flour, baking powder/soda, and sugar, typically filled with sweet red bean paste or Anko.

As with Dango and Daifuku, today Manju is available in many types, and among others, “Cha-Manju (茶饅頭)” is the most common variety.

Cha-Manju is a brown Manju filled with Anko featuring its soft fluffy texture.


(Reference pages: Wikipedia 団子, 大福, 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.

4 Responses

  1. Bubba B says:

    This is the best explanation of the differences I’ve ever seen. Confused I am no longer.

    • Tomo says:

      Thank you for the comment!
      I sometimes review the details and if necessary I will add more information and improve the content.

  2. Pabie says:

    thank you for the info!

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