Huge portions and a unique, original manju make this restaurant a must-visit in the area!

A number of U.S. military bases are scattered throughout Japan, and quite a few are within commuting distance of Tokyo. Yokota Air Base, for example, actually lies within the city limits in the town of Fussa, albeit on the very fringe of northwestern Tokyo. There’s a thriving restaurant community just outside the main gate, where servicemen and women and their families can enjoy some of Tokyo without straying too far from home, and where local Japanese staff who work on the base can stop for a bite to eat for lunch or on the way home at the end of the day.

One of those restaurants, a mainstay of the area, is Niramanju, a Chinese restaurant just a stone’s throw away from the main gate. Our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma found Niramanju while walking around the area, and after some investigation, discovered it was the origin of the “nira manju”, a steamed bun made with garlic chives. Knowing this, and charmed by the restaurant’s retro vibe, Masanuki just had to go in.

The place was bustling with customers and nearly all of the seats were full. A table for four was clear, so Masanuki tried to sit down there, but the staff redirected him to a six-person table that had just opened up. Masanuki had no idea why they thought to seat him alone at a six-person table in the middle of the lunch rush, but that’s what they wanted, so he went along with it.

Then a party of five Americans in uniform arrived, and Masanuki began to feel awkward as he watched the staff ask them to wait outside. Perhaps the waiter would ask Masanuki to switch tables after all? Or would they seat the party of five at his empty table of six? Masanuki wasn’t sure he was brave enough for that.

Nothing came of it, so Masanuki decided he was just going to eat. Since he was at the birthplace of the garlic chive manju (steamed bun), he ordered a set of two (638 yen [US$4.89]) and the “Beef Steak Fried Rice (Medium)” (1,188 yen). The manju arrived first, and they looked insanely delicious.

When Masanuki tasted one, he was delighted to find plenty of shrimp, garlic chives, and bamboo shoots packed into a soft and fluffy steamed bun. It had texture and tons of flavor, which Masanuki wholeheartedly appreciated. It was so good that it didn’t need any sauce or dressings. “So this is the original garlic chive manju!” he sighed happily.

Next arrived the Beef Steak Fried Rice. It was huge, espeically for a “medium”-sized dish. It must have been an American medium, Masanuki figured, but he could not deny the power of the “big-portioned powerful stamina” energy this Fussa dish was giving off. He was not surprised to see the Americans around him eating it too.

It was super rich, just as rich as it looked. A flavor packed with power. The abundant beef paired with the soft fried rice provided the perfect blend of rich and mild, so Masanuki found it easy to wolf down. Maybe this is what he’d needed, what his body had wanted for lunch, and he enthusiastically devoured it.

He was completely satisfied, and the pineapple candy he received after paying the bill was a nice touch.

So if you find yourself in Fussa walking along the street leading up to the base, definitely consider stopping at Niramanju for a meal. It’s not far from Route 16, which leads north to Saitama and south to Kanagawa, so it’s pretty easy to access by car too. And while you’re in the area, try and see if you can spot some “shake and fries” patches!

Restaurant information:
Niramanju / 韮菜万頭
Address: Tokyo-to Fussa-shi Fussa 2218
Open 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m. (Monday-Thursday), 5 p.m.-10 p.m. (Friday, weekends, and holidays)

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