Release | Yuki Konishi
Okashi-no-Masaoka protects Hokkaido’s “Chinese Bun” at Memuro-Cho in Tokachi Region
Have you heard about “Chuka Manju (Chinese Bun)”?
It might be a stupid question to ask Hokkaido Likers readers. Chuka Manju is different from standard Chinese buns with red bean paste or pork. This is what we call Chuka Manju (Chinese Bun) in Hokkaido!
This crescent-shaped Japanese dessert with plenty of red bean paste inside is what we call “Chuka Manju (Chinese Bun)” in Hokkaido.
I visited “Okashi-no-Masaoka,” in Tokachi Region’s Memuro-Cho, who is famous for Chuka Manju.
Chuka Manju has been loved for a long time - carefully homemade one by oneMasaoka is a long-standing Japanese and Western confectionery with 102 years of history. It was established in 1917.
▲They sell 100 kinds of Japanese and Western confections throughout the year.
I discovered pictures from old times.
It’s the president Nobuyuki Masaoka’s job to bake Chuka Manju. He cooks the dough one by one on the old copper plate, quickly but carefully.
He let me watch his work.
▲The eggs and part of the flours used for the dough are sourced in the Tokachi area. He is pouring the dough into elliptical shapes.
▲Then he puts smooth red bean paste, made with red beans sourced in Tokachi and sugar sourced in Memuro. He only bakes one side of the dough.
▲When the dough is ready, he closes the dough while it’s hot to put red bean paste in between the dough. The dough is crunchy at first, but it becomes soft gradually as it absolves moisture from red bean paste.
▲This is the picture from another angle. He uses the frame of the sieve to make the crescent-shaped curve.
▲The color looks nice! He was so fast from pouring the dough to shaping them. Chuka Manju has plenty of red bean paste in the thin dough. Just having one piece is quite filling.
Another name of Chuka Manju was “Funeral Manju”: The history of Chuka ManjuBy the way, why do we call this Japanese confection “Chuka Manju” in Hokkaido?
The fourth generation and the son of Nobuyuki told me. There are many theories:
One of them is that Chiyo, who was the maid leader in the current Nagano Prefecture, created the confection during the Edo Period. Because her name was Chiyo, it was first called “Chiyoka Manju,” and somehow, it turned to Chuka Manju at a certain point.
Another theory is that the dough made with flours, sugars, and eggs are often called “Chuka Dough” and it turned into Chuka Manju.
I did some research and found similar confections in areas outside of Hokkaido, too. Why do people in Hokkaido enjoy the confection “Chuka Manju” for a long time?
“Chuka Manju was often used for ceremonial occasions until the Showa Era. Especially, Chuka Manju was often chosen as presents given in return for funeral offerings and Buddhist services for the dead. At that time, not only us but also other confectioneries offered order production of Chuka Manju.”
Yes, Chuka Manju’s other name is “Funeral Manju.” During the Showa Era, many kids got delighted when their parents brought back Chuka Manju in a box.
“However, we can’t accept refunds for Chuka Manju. It is difficult to expect how many boxes they customers have to prepare, especially for the funerals. So, refundable products such as tea, seaweed, and cookies became the standard for presents given in return for funeral offerings instead of Chuka Manju.”
Chuka Manju, which required order production, disappeared gradually at confectioneries in Hokkaido, including Masaoka.
“We tried demonstration sales of Chuka Manju at a festival at Mitsukoshi Department Store in Sapporo 22 to 23 years ago from now. I assumed that not many people feel good about it because Chuka Manju is associated with funerals and Buddhist services for the dead. However, it turned out totally different. Many people wanted Chuka Manju; they felt nostalgic. We did the demonstration sales four years in raw and discovered that there are quite many people who wait for the once in a year opportunity to buy Chuka Manju. Then we had the conclusion that we must make it a standard product at Masaoka.”
Since then, Chuka Manju has become the signature product of Masaoka. People buy Chuka Manju for various occasions now. Some people visit the store to buy it for teatime snacks. Others order for a large amount. “We are thankful to our customers.” The president Nobuyuki Masaoka smiles.
They did “Chuka Manju Election” in 2018. Customers voted for the flavors they would like to try. Masaoka made the winner, custard cream, into a seasonal product.
Chuka Manju has passed down to the next generation in the new era, Reiwa. The natural flavor lets us feel the good old times of the Showa Era.
▲Chuka Manju is 300 yen per piece. They accept orders from other prefectures by FAX.
Text / Hokkaido Likers writer Yuki Konishi
Photo / Hokkaido Likers photo writer Minako Takada