I’ve noticed a lot of tea practitioners are very interested in tea sweets. I can see why, as, well, who doesn’t like eating sweets? When I was first introduced to chanoyu in my tropical homeland, we had the same sweet every time. It was a truly delightful sweet too, unlike anything I had eaten before. However, I then moved to Japan and we had three different sweets every okeiko! I had never even imagined there could be such bounty. Thus, I thought it might be nice to share some of the sweets with you my dear readers. I can’t say I am much of an aficionado. Nor do I travel much so most the sweets will be rather local. But I hope my small effort can still cause you pleasure and envy.

Heso no Omanju cut in half

Gosei: Shinya
Gomei: Navel Cakes (Heso no O-Manju)
Type: Wagashi
Ingredients: Azuki, Sugar, Egg, Wheat Flour, Mizuame, Shortening, Milk, Chlorella Extract, Salt, Trehalose, Emulsifier, Leavening, Flavouring

It is hard to tell from photographs, but this manju has the impression of Hokkaido with a dot in her very centre on top. Shinya is a local sweet shop located nearly exactly in the geographic centre–that is, the navel–of Hokkaido.
The outside of the manju is dark and spongy, somewhat similar to the dough of dorayaki. The inside is filled with red bean paste. Shinya also makes varieties that replaces the red bean paste with a custard or chocolate cream filling.
You might notice it is made with mostly “western” ingredients like eggs, wheat, milk, and shortening. Hokkaido only really became part of Japan comparatively recently in the Meiji Period. At that point in time, Western science and culture was all the rage and thus Hokkaido was largely settled with the help of foreign advisors on the Western model. This included many dairy farms, and thus many places in Hokkaido are famed for their dairy products, like milk and butter. And of course this influence is also seen in our local sweets.

Notice the outline of Hokkaido on top

The Heso no Omanju still in its package, which features a sumie drawing of a navel and four children showing their navel.

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