Cook Momiji Manju in Miyajima, Hiroshima




Miyajima, a “shrine island”

Miyajima, literally translates to “shrine island, ” a common name used to call Itsukushima Island, which locates on the Seto Inland Sea in southwestern Hiroshima prefecture.  It is well known for its beautiful Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.  The beautiful harmony of the shrine’s great Torii gate, mountains, and the sea has mesmerized many visitors from all over the world.   The Tori gate looks like it’s floating in the water at high tide, and it’s known to be one of Japan’s three best views.  

After you land on the island, try to take a look at the Torii gate and Itsukushima shrine multiple times during the day.  At low tide, you can walk all the way up to the Torii gate.  At high tide, the Torii gate looks like it’s floating in the water.  At sunset, you will be in awe of the beauty of the view.  

Miyajima is an island full of activities.  If you want to go trekking, there are three different 2-hour hiking paths available on Mount Misen, the island’s holy and highest mountain.  If you're going to learn about the island’s history, you can go to the Miyajima Folk Museum.  If you want to take a break from touring around, you can pat the people-friendly deer roaming around all over the island or go to the Miyajima Public Aquarium where you can hold starfish and pet penguins.   If you want to see more historic buildings, you can go to Gojunoto (Five-Story Pagoda), Shingon Buddhist temples Daisho-in and Daiganji, or the largest building on the island Toyokuni Shrine.  

If you want to appreciate their local food to the fullest, Miyajima is famous for their oysters and Momiji Manju, a favorite snack.  

Momiji Manju, the most popular cake

Momiji Manju
The other food that they are famous for is the Momiji Manju, a maple-leaf shaped cake.  

Originally, the cake was only filled with smooth sweet bean paste, but over the years the variety of fillings available increased.  Now they have mashed sweet bean paste, sweet white bean paste, green tea, cheese, chocolate, chopped up apples, custard cream and other fillings available.  

The sponge cake on the outside comes in different tastes too.  There are cakes with black bamboo charcoal, those that are icecreams, ones that are deep-fried, and ones that have chocolate icings.  There are 20 shops in Miyajima, each with their recipe and own variety of flavors. Among them, the deep fried Momiji Manju on a stick are becoming increasingly popular and has become the trend.   While the traditional Momiji Manju can be bought in stores in Hiroshima city, the deeply fried Momiji Manju can only be bought in Miyajima.  So don’t forget to give it a shot while you are there!

Try making your own Momiji Manju!

You can experience making your own Momiji Manju at the Miyajima Traditional Crafts Center for only 756 yen.  The process is simple.  First heat up both sides of the maple shaped pan, pour the butter into the pan, place sweet bean baste/chocolate in the middle, then pour the butter on top again and close the lid.  After frying both sides of the pan, you rotate it and try it again while keeping track of time.  

After carefully pulling the cakes out of the pan, you can try putting them in little packages using a machine.  That way you don’t necessarily have to eat it on the spot, but could take it home with you or put it in your bag for later.  Usually, the pan allows you to make two cakes at once.  Anyone older than five years old can try making this treat.  Why not experience making the delicious cake as something you can only experience on the island?

For those of you who are interested in arts and crafts, the Miyajima Traditional Crafts Center also displays Miyajima’s traditional works such as engraved trays, tea utensils and clay bells, which are for sale.  You can also experience creating your own Shakushi (rice scoop) for 400 yen and Miyajima carving for 1,900 yen from instructors who will help you with your creation.
Although how Momiji Manju was first made is not clear, one of the major beliefs is that it was made in 1906 by a Japanese confectionary chef in Miyajima. It is said that he created it in an image of the beautiful maple trees of the island’s Maple valley park, a famous spot for enjoying the foliage.

The word “Momiji” translates to “maple tree” as well as “foliage.”  200 maple trees are planted in Maple valley park, and they change to a beautiful crimson in autumn.  This is one of the best spots to go to if you want to see maple leaves turn color without much hiking.  Usually, autumn arrives in Miyajima at around mid-October and lasts for two months.  

Photos of Momiji Manju

How to visit?

The shortest way to go from Tokyo to Hiroshima is by air (approx. 90 minutes).  Take a domestic flight from Tokyo to Hiroshima Airport and then a limousine bus to JR Hiroshima Station (about 1 hour).  Take the Sanyo Honsen Line from JR Hiroshima Station to JR Miyajimaguchi Station.  Walk to the Miyajimaguchi ferry port and ride the ferry for about 10 minutes.

1165-2 Miyajima-cho Hatsukaiti-shi, Hiroshima 739-0505 (Miyajima Traditional Crafts Center)
Tel:+81-829-44-1758 (Miyajima Traditional Crafts Center)

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