Try saying THAT ten times fast.
Bobbyjudo made a video last week introducing the Japanese concept of “meibutsu”. Almost every town, city, village in Japan, has a “meibutsu” (名物) , something famous that they believe “defines them.” If you’re American, think of New York Cheesecake, or Australia’s Vegemite. It’s kind of like that, but on a wider scale. Absolutely everywhere, every little town, place, has a “meibutsu”, no matter how insignificant the town itself may be.
Hiroshima-yaki is an example of Hiroshima’s “meibutsu”, it’s different from regular okonomiyaki in that it has a fried egg on it? Hirosima is famous for “kaki”, or oysters, too. When Ryuhei and I stayed in Hiroshima last weekend, we made a point of trying Hiroshima’s famous Hiroshima-Yaki. (It’s a popular thing for Japanese tourists to do, almost every Hiroshima-yaki restaurant in downtown had a line up.)
But to be completely honest I’ve never really been a big fan of Okonomiyaki (I’m going to hell), partly because I’m not big into sauces or mayonnaise. Maybe I had a bit of a CANADIAN bias going on, but for me, the most exciting “meibutsu” of our trip was the Momiji Manju of Miyajima.
Miyajima is known for its gorgeous scenery and in the fall, the Japanese Maple’s leaves turn bright red and yellow, and the Japanese go crazy for that kind of thing. Nature is beautiful right? Well as it turns out, nature is also marketable.
Momiji Manju is a type of 和菓子, traditional Japanese sweet, that I can only describe as a maple-leaf-shaped pastry that’s filled with bean paste, custard cream, or sometimes cream cheese. But the craze doesn’t stop there, you can buy Momiji Manju shaped plush toys, and even Momiji cheese cake, which is just regular cheese cake, with a maple leaf design on the top?
For the girl who has everything, Momiji Manju FLAVORED Ramune Drinks. The yellow sign is boasting that it’s a 話題. “Wadai” means “hot topic”, so they’re basically boasting that this is a hot item right now. Personally, I feel a bit skeptical. It would make sense to make maple-flavored drinks, but why would you make a drink that tastes like a pastry that’s shaped like a maple leaf? I hate to say it, but only in Japan? The deer on the poster is a nice touch I guess, the text by his butt says, “Well, just give it a try!”
Ryuhei and I made a point of trying Momiji Manju in several different locations in Miyajima. We tried deep-fried Momiji Manju at the Highway Service station in Miyajima, but it was dry and kind of unsatisfying. Our favorite, by far, was the Fujiya Cream Cheese Momiji Manju we bought on the island. Mine was filled with Blueberry Cream Cheese, and it was excellent.
But what was particularly interesting to me, was the way that Momiji Manju is made. On the island of Miyajima, you have the opportunity to watch from the window, as a bunch of robotic arms methodically turn cake-batter into these delicious maple-shaped confections. Maybe I’m just dork, and get excited when machines do things that humans used to do, but I could have stood at this window and watched this process for hours. Although I’m sure that the employee, whose job was to place the filling in each manju manually, didn’t share my sentiment.