Our sweet-loving reporter falls in love with a delicacy that’s been enjoyed by the people of Gunma for hundreds of years.

Our Japanese-language reporter Takamichi Furusawa is a proud son of Gunma Prefecture, and there’s nothing he loves more than introducing friends and colleagues to its specialties. And there’s one hidden gem in particular that, despite being beloved by Gumna people, is barely known by anyone outside of the prefecture: yaki manju.

You may be familiar with manju, the traditional Japanese bun-like steamed cake with a adzuki bean filling, but yaki manju is quite different. For a start, yaki manju (or ‘roasted manju’), as the name suggests, aren’t steamed, they’re pierced with skewers and roasted over charcoal. Yaki manju also don’t have any filling, and instead are smothered in a rich, sweet miso sauce.

They’re a unique and delicious Japanese treat that have been enjoyed by the people of Gunma since the Edo period (1603-1867), yet are virtually unheard of by those outside of the prefecture.

For Takamichi, this was beyond belief, that Gunma’s most beloved delicacy was unknown throughout the rest of the land was simply unacceptable. So, on behalf of the citizens of Gunma, Takamichi decided to throw down the gauntlet and invite one of Tokyo’s most notorious sweets-loving men to taste test some yaki manju.

If that man could admit that yaki manju was undeniably delicious, it would surely be a victory for the Gunma Empire.

That man was…

… none other than…

…the one and only…

Mr. Sato, who arrived at Gunma’s Takasaki Station full of gusto and boldly declared to Takamichi, “Show me all your yaki manju! I wanna eat!”

But Takamichi was undeterred by Mr. Sato’s high spirits, and coolly replied, “Don’t act like you know what yaki manju is, you so-called ‘gourmet reporter’!”

▼ “But don’t worry. I’ll make sure you learn!

So the two of them set off to a local cafe that was well known for selling a variety of yaki manju, Cafe Takasaki Jiman.

Unbeknownst to Mr. Sato, this cafe had been carefully selected by Takamichi to ensure his ultimate victory, as not only do they have delicious yaki manju (as seen on the top row of the above photo), Cafe Takasaki Jiman also offers age manju (deep-fried manju).

“This will be perfect,” Takamichi thought to himself. “I’ll catch him off guard by letting him try the yaki manju, and then follow up with a devastating final blow with some age manju! There’s no way he’ll recover! He’ll forever be a prisoner of the Gunma Empire!”

So, basking in his gloriously villainous plan, Takamichi ordered Mr. Sato a standard yaki manju skewer, which cost 210 yen (US$1.45). Even before he’d taken a bite, Mr. Sato was already pretty excited.

Mr. Sato: “So this is Gunma’s specialty, huh? It smells good! And it’s on a skewer, awesome! I’m gonna dive right in!”

▼ *chomp*

▼ Mr. Sato: “… itshh shooo good….”

Takamichi: “How is it, Mr. Sato? Are you enjoying Gunma Prefecture’s speciality? It’s so delicious, isn’t it?”

Mr. Sato: “Damn… I really underestimated how good this would taste. I have to admit it; it’s delicious! The fluffy dough goes so well with the sweet and sour miso sauce. It’s so good!”

But Takamichi had also secretly ordered Mr. Sato a kinako (roasted soy bean) age manju, which happened to be Takamichi’s absolute favourite. Like yaki manju, age manju doesn’t have any fillings either, but the texture of the mildly sweet roasted soybean flour mixing with the dough is irresistible.

As luck would have it, the age manju had just arrived at their table. It was time for Takamichi to deliver a knock-out punch to Mr. Sato’s taste buds.

Takamichi: “Mwahahaha…. oh look, Mr. Sato! I ordered us one more manju! You should definitely try this one too.”

Mr. Sato: “Y-you monster! I wasn’t done eating the yaki manju… oh… but this one looks so delicious…”

Takamichi: “Heh heh heh… what’s wrong? You have such an ecstatic look on your face!”

Mr. Sato: “It’s just… I love roasted soy bean and… I… can’t stand it any longer!

▼ *chomp*

Mr. Sato: “T-this…. this is the best manju I’ve ever had!!”

Takamichi smiled. This was a victory for him and also a victory for the people of Gunma.

Takamichi well and truly defeated Mr. Sato, but if you’d like to see if you can face off against the deliciousness of yaki manju, head on over to Gunma Prefecture. It’s perfect for this time of year when the weather is starting to get a bit chilly. And while you’re there, be sure try out some of Gunma’s other specialties, like the best udon in all of Japan.

Restaurant information
Cafe Takasaki Jiman / CAFE高崎じまん
Gunma-ken, Takasaki-shi, Yashima-cho 46-1, Takasaki OPA 7th floor
群馬県高崎市八島町46-1 高崎オーパ7F
Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (last order at 10 p.m.)

Images ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]