Ikeda town is an agricultural town located in the east of Tokachi. The Yonekura company was a company involved in selling dry goods and groceries during the Meji era. However in in 1904, the Ikeda railway station (JR Ikeda Nemurohonsen) was opened. Yonekura then decided to start selling railway lunch boxes or 'Eki-ben' as they are known in Japan.
Although originally only selling lunch boxes, fresh sweets, usually made from bean paste or 'manju', were becoming popular in the Honshu area. (Honshu is the main island of Japan). Thus the company decided to try its hand at creating and selling these kinds of products. After some trial and effort the "Ikeda Banana Manju" was born!
This is essentially a sponge cake filled with at sweet bean paste. This sweet was made in the shape of a fried banana. The sponge cake creates the 'skin' and the manju creates the 'banana'. These sweets however actually contain no banana at all! This is due to the fact that when first created bananas were exceptionally rare and therefore expensive at that time in Japan. (They do however have a banana taste as banana essence is used in the manju.)
The banana manju sweets were an instant hit and a best selling product, a sales team of six to seven girls were employed just keep up the supply to customers at the train station! Initially all the sweets were handmade but supply could not keep up with demand so the process was mechanized in 1948.
Now over a hundred years since banana manju were first sold they have continued their popular success and are a favorite Hokkaido / Ikeda town souvenir. So when in Hokkaido be sure to grab a box of these Meji era sweets!
◇ Yonekura, Ltd.
1-27 Odori, Ikeda
TEL : 015-572-2032
★ Box ¥ 600 (contains 8 pieces)
* Further details (Japanese) -
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Tetsu)