Cotton candy may be the must-have item offered by food stalls at summer festivals throughout Japan, but it's the yakimanju here in Gunma that you cannot do without. The soft texture, the aroma coming from miso-based sweet sauce being char-grilled, and oven fresh taste make yakimanju taste out of this world. Yakimanju are so popular in Gunma that nowadays you can get yakimanju-flavored potato chips, rice cookies, candies, and even gelato.
Yakimanju was said to have been made for the first time by the founder of a yakimanju store in Maebashi in 1857. They have been popular among ordinary people and over time became a specialty of Gunma. Because its cold climate in winter was good for raising wheat, Gunma has been a major producer of high-quality wheat in Japan. With such a background, local delicacies using wheat flour such as okirikomi or soup noodles, yakimochi or roasted buns, and yakimanju were made and eaten on a regular basis by both upscale and working-class families.
It's a little difficult to make yakimanju at home in today's kitchen environment. People usually buy them at specialty stores. According to a yakimanju book published by the Gunma prefectural government, currently 83 stores in Gunma roast and sell yakimanju. Each of the yakimanju stores has its own recipe for making sauces and roasting buns. Explore them and find your favorite.
Coinciding with Isesaki Hatsuichi or the day of the first sale of Daruma dolls of the New Year in Isesaki, a festival featuring yakimanju will be held on January 11 at 14:00. It's called Joshu Yakiman Sai or Gunma Roasted Bun Festival. It's a Shinto ritual at Isesaki Shrine to roast and dedicate four giant yakimanju, 55cm in diameter. (Right photo)
On the same day but different venue, a do-it-yourself roasting yakimanju event will be held from 16:00. The first 250 people will get to roast yakimanju with red-bean paste.