Japanese confectionary shop 稲豊園 Tōhōen in Gifu prefecture is known for selling cute and unique cakes for the New Year. These are 饅頭 manjū, one of the most popular Japanese traditional confectionaries.

Tōhōen's manjū are filled with 餡子 (anko | sweet azuki bean paste) and wrapped in a soft skin made from flour, rice powder, East Asian mountain yam, and buckwheat. Usually, manjū are round, but this shop’s new year manjū aren't the shape that you usually expect them to be.

Look at these cute manjū!

What an adorable rabbit shape! The shop sells cute animal-shaped manjū during the Year-End and New Year season inspired by 干支 (eto | Chinese Zodiac sign) for the coming year, and 2023 will be the Year of The Rabbit.

The shape is already unique, but the product name is also funny. It's いつもそバニー itsumo sobanī | “Always at your side”) which is a clever pun: そばに soba ni means "at your side" or "near you" in Japanese, while the katakana バニー banī, for "bunny," is recognized as an alternate term for "rabbit" (although the native Japanese words 兎 usagi and 子兎 ko-usagi are more commonly used for "rabbit" and "baby rabbit," respectively).

The bunnies have three different variations, and each one has a different flavor as well.

The rabbit on top has a hair accessory and a surprised expression. The filling inside is chunky red bean paste. The one in the middle with the carrot hair accessory and sleepy expression is filled with smooth red bean paste. Finally, the winking rabbit is filled with red bean paste flavored with mandarin orange! If you look carefully, you'll notice it has a mandarin orange stuck to its forehead.

Smooth red bean paste and chunky red bean paste are fairly standard fare when it comes to red bean paste, but mandarin orange red bean paste is very rare. I was born and raised in Japan, so I’ve had many opportunities to enjoy manjū. Nonetheless, I’ve never tried that before. This is a very unique product!

The package and the design are very colorful. The illustration of the happy rabbit is very fitting to celebrate the new year!

A box of three will cost you 1,250 JPY. The snacks have a very short expiration period of only seven days. They're available from both their shop in Gifu Prefecture as well as their online shop. Preorders started on December 8th, 2022 and the actual sale period will be between December 28th, 2022 and the end of January 2023.

Why not celebrate the New Year in 2023 with a cute and modern take on the traditional manjū and the animal zodiac sign from this 120-year-old Japanese sweets shop?


By - Mochijapa (Ayano Irizuki).