Original Okinawa flavor fills No-Manju

Symbol “の” is drawn on each and every manju by hand.

No-Manju after the actual name Gibo Manju, is one of the most popular steamed pastres in Okinawa, having been around for more than a century.

The tasty sweet pastry has been loved by people for more than 100 years, with each manju wrapped in a fragrant leaf of galangal, a plant of the ginger family.  Each and every one of them is homemade.  No-manju is filled with plenty of sweet bean paste with good sweetness balance, and then steamed soft in a steamer with layers of leafs of galangal.

After steaming and before purchase, the bakery staff writes the character “の” on each manju by hand with red food coloring.  “No” of “No-manjyu” does not imply “Not”, but just stands for Japanese one character “の”.

Why the character “の”? The original story of the word “の” for manju is from “Noshi”, the written character “の” is substitute of “のし” which is auspicious decoration for gifts dating from ancient times in Japan. It can be seen at any kind of celebration party like a wedding, new born baby, new year, housewarming parties, and people give gifts with this decoration sign. And you know now why the character “の” is on top of manju.

Yes, people used to offer No-manju as a happy gift for Buddhist altars long ago, by writing a “の” instead of labeling a “Noshi” paper on it. On the other hand, they can serve it for you without the “の” character sometimes if you don’t want or if it is meant as a gift for Buddhist memorial services.

The shop and bakery is currently located at Kubagawa, Shuri, but it was originally within premises of Seikou temple in Gibo, Shuri, and thus the literal of “Gibo Manjyu” as a name.

The unique steamed pastry is popular and spreading the name throughout mainland Japan now. Many tourists from the mainland, and even foreigners staying in Okinawa visit Gibo Manju and buy it, so please notice, the number of No-manju available each day is limited, so if you visit late night, chances are they could be sold out. Some goods related to No-manju are popular now, like No-manju key-chains or cell phone straps.

The shop is close to Shuri castle, so it is easy to visit No-manjyu (Gibo manjyu) when you visit Shuri. To get to the shop, exit Okinawa Expressway from Naha exit and turn left up the hill towards Shuri, then turn right at the first traffic light near the top of the hill. Continue straight, passing under the monorail tracks overhead, and past Ryubo Department Store on the left. About 100 meters past Ryubo, turn left and the shop is on the left about 50 meters from the turn.