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Release | Takako Chiba

“Banana Manju” from Ikeda-Cho in Tokachi is a long-seller souvenir in Hokkaido with 114 years history

十勝池田町よねくらのバナナ饅頭

 
“Banana Manju” is one of the most known long-seller souvenirs from Hokkaido which came out in 1905 and will celebrate the 114th anniversary in 2019. There is a souvenir with the name banana in Tokyo, too. However, “Banana Manju” from Ikeda-Cho does not use bananas for the ingredient. What?
 

Table of Contents

- What is “Banana Manju” from Ikeda-Cho in Tokachi Region, Hokkaido?
- “Banana Manju” does not use bananas for ingredients?
- I went to the “Banana Manju” factory
- I tried “Banana Manju”

 

What is “Banana Manju” from Ikeda-Cho in Tokachi Region, Hokkaido?

Ikeda-Cho is located a little east from the center of Tokachi Tokachi Plain in Hokkaido. 
 
To Ikeda Station, it takes about 2hours and 40 mins via JR express train from Sapporo Station and about 16 mins from Obihiro Station. If you would use a car, it takes about 2hours and 50 mins from Sapporo IC to Ikeda-Cho via Dotou Expressway. 
 
Ikeda-Cho has celebrated its 110th anniversary of the establishment of the town in 2008 and has a long-seller confection which continues from 1905. 
 
That is “Baana Manju.” 


十勝池田町バナナ饅頭▲Banana Manju
 

Those from outside of Hokkaido and young generations in Hokkaido might be wondering with many questions now; Why banana in Hokkaido? Why banana in Tokachi? Banana and manju? 
 
On the other hand, older generations and people who live in the Tokachi area must be thrilled to see this in Hokkaido Likers’ article; “Wow! That brings back memories!” “I love this!” “Banana Manju is the iconic food from Ikeda in Tokachi Region!”
 
I visited Ikeda-Cho to look for the signature souvenir from Tokachi in Hokkaido, “Banana Manju.”  
 

“Banana Manju” does not use bananas for ingredients?

The yoshoku restaurant located in front of JR Ikeda Station “Yonekura,” manufactures and sales Banana Manju. 

 
JR「池田」駅の目の前にある洋食レストラン「よねくら」▲The yoshoku restaurant “Yonekura” is located in front of JR Ikeda Station.  
 

The idea of “Banana Manju” came from ekiben - station bento box. 
 
“Yonekura” started to stand and sell ekiben in 1904, when Ikeda Station opened. 
 
At that time, the founder of Yonekura thought; “We sell ekiben really well. Then, if we develop souvenirs, people would be happier.” 
 
At that time, bananas were uncommon in Japan and also very expensive. It was only a few years since the importing of banana to Japan had started. 
 
Most people had never seen or had a banana before, and he tried to develop something so that people can have delicious bananas at a reasonable price. As a result of his hard work, he came up with “banana flavor.” 
 
To tell the truth, “Banana Manju” does not use banana fruit in the ingredients at all. 
 
They just use banana essence, which means, the aroma of banana. 
 
And “Banana Manju,” which wrapped white bean paste with castella style dough, like taiyaki but making it into the shape of a banana, was born in 1905. 


昔のバナナ饅頭の包装紙 ▲The old package of “Banana Manju.”  
 

Banana Manju became extremely popular as soon as they started selling with ekiben and it instantly became famous as the souvenir from Ikeda Station. 
 
Since then, Banana Manju has been loved by people as a souvenir from Ikeda-Cho for 114 years. 

I went to the “Banana Manju” factory

The factory in the restaurant Yonekura, located in front of JR Ikeda Station, manufactures Banana Manju. 
 
They call it a factory, but they don’t have anything massive; the factory is tiny with one Banana Manju manufacturing machine.  
 

よねくらのバナナ饅頭工場

 
I felt the sweet smell of banana in a second I entered the factory. 
 
They usually run the machine one to two times a day to produce 200 boxes (each box contains 8 pieces). In the busy season, they sometimes run three to four times. 
 
They used to hand-bake Banana Manju with brass molds in the past, but they mechanized it in the 1960s to 1970s. 
 
That machine is not yet digitalized and runs with motors. However, the simple structure makes them easy to maintenance. They can do maintenance by themselves for most times. 
 

バナナ饅頭の生地を注入する▲Pouring the dough to the molds.
 

バナナ饅頭にあんを入れる▲Putting pastes. 

 
Pour the dough into the molds, put pastes and bake one side, flips automatically, and takes about 7 minutes to bake the other side to finish. 
 

バナナ饅頭の両面を焼く

 
They put pieces into the box after carefully removing surplus parts stretched out from the molds. 

 
出来たけてのバナナ饅頭


バナナ饅頭の箱詰め 


They throw away small extra parts. 
 
I told them that you should turn them into the foodstuff. They told me that they had asked farmers if they can use them. However, since the dough includes sugar inside, they had to give up making use of it. 
 

I tried “Banana Manju”

Would I feel banana flavor although they don’t include banana in the ingredients? Can I notice banana only with the smell? You are curious how it will taste, right? 
 
Well, let me try. 
 
I first got surprised by the aroma of banana appeared when I opened the box.  
 

箱に入ったバナナ饅頭▲It does not look organized, but this is intended to express pieces of bananas. 

 
This might make everyone feel this manju’s flavor is banana. 
 
When I had a bite, gentle sweetness from castella dough and the paste spread and because the banana aroma is mixed with the flavor, I felt as if banana fruit is incorporated into the paste.  
 

十勝池田町のバナナ饅頭アップ
 

However, as I have been telling many times, they do not use banana fruits. 
 
According to the fourth generation Hiroyuki Yonekura, “It is just like an ordinary sweet baked good if you pinch your nose. I guess the shape and smell and the name ‘Banana Manju’ makes everyone feel the manju taste like banana.” 
 
The castella style baked goods with white bean paste inside, but with the slight banana smell. 
 

お皿に盛りつけたバナナ饅頭
 

Their recipe and the shape has not changed since 1905. 
 
“Banana Manju” will have the history with 5 eras: Meiji, Taisho, Showa, Heisei, and the new era starting in 2019. 
 
“We have been manufacturing Banana Manju without making any change, so we will continue like that in the future, too.” The fourth generation president told me. 
 
“Banana Manju” does not usually appear in Hokkaido exhibitions, etc. 
You can purchase Banana Manju at restaurant Yonekura in front of JR Ikeda Station, Ikeda Wine Castle, etc. You can also find Dosanko Plaza in Sapporo Station and souvenir shops in Obihiro Station, too. 


十勝池田町のバナナ饅頭の箱▲620 yen for 8 pieces, 1,240 yen for 16 pieces. (Both include tax) You can also order a large amount with a reservation in advance.  
 

Although it’s a product for souvenirs, you can have “8 pieces of Banana Manju with milk” (620 yen) at restaurant Yonekura.  
 
You should definitely try one of the most famous long-seller souvenirs from Hokkaido with over 100 years of history!  
 

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