Most people know that “kibidango,” a kind of dumpling made from millet, is one of the most popular souvenirs from Okayama.
But there are also some other goodies there.
One is “Ote Manju,” a little manju filled with Azuki bean paste.
This small sweet is really popular with not only the locals, but also with people from outside of Okayama.
And you can taste it warm and freshly made at the factory, where there is also a direct sales shop.
Ote Manju has a 180-year-history
The company was established in 1837, and has been producing this sweet for more than 180 years.
The main store was close to the Ote-mon Gate of Okayama Castle, therefore, this manju was named “Ote Manju.”
The feudal lord of the period loved it so much, that this taste and tradition has been passed down to the present.
I visited the factory, which is about a 15-minute-drive from the main store (the factory is not open to the public) .
Find fresh and warm Ote Manju!
The factory is filled with the sweet-smelling aroma of Azuki bean paste!
The filling is called “Koshi-an,” a strained bean paste made with Azuki beans from Hokkaido and a specially made white granulated sugar.
This Koshi-an is put in a thin wrapping of dough, and steamed.
Ote Manju is a basic “sake-manju,” a type of traditional manju made with Japanese sake.
Here they come!
The Ote manju is now in front of me, has just been steamed and is obviously fresh!
The scent of amazake (a sweet drink made from fermented rice) drives me crazy and I cannot wait to taste one!
There is a store next to the factory, with a space inside the store for eating sweets.
Ote manju has a surprisingly reasonable price, at 76 yen apiece.
The plum blossoms decorating the package are in honor of the name of the 2nd owner’s wife, Ume (which means “plum” in Japanese).
She had to run the company after the early death of her husband, and managed to overcome a financial crisis.
Therefore, the plum blossoms were designed for the package to praise her merits.
Refined taste and low calories!
The manju is filled with Koshi-an, and the taste is not too sweet, but rather a delicate and refined taste.
Each one has only 95 calories, so you do not have to worry about your diet!
If you are lucky, you might still be able to feel the warmth of the freshly made manju!
This is a special experience you get by visiting the store right next to the factory.
The timing will be different depending on circumstances, but 8:30 am, when the store opens, is definitely the right time to get them freshly made!
Local people buy these manju as daily sweets, so we can see that they have been loved for a long time.
At home, I recommend baking it in a toaster oven for a few minutes, so you can enjoy the crispy texture.
Otemanju Inbe-ya Omachi Factory
Address／201-1, Omachi, Naka-ku, Okayama-shi, Okayama
The nearest station／JRHigashi-Okayama Station
Photographs and text by Noriko Matsumoto
Noriko Matsumoto Setouchi City, Okayama Prefecture - Photo-writer. I used to be a wedding photographer, but now work freelance doing mainly family portrait photography. I also give photography lessons for women at a culture center. I will introduce everyone to the lesser-known charms of Setouchi. http://norikomatsumoto.com
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