Fukuoka is reputed to be the birthplace of manju in Japan. Shoichi Kokushi, the founder of the Shoten-ji Buddhist Temple near Hakata Station, studied in China during the Sung Dynasty and brought what he learned back to Japan. One of the things he learned was the recipe for manju. More recently, another famous Japanese confection made only in the summer was created here — Hakata Minazuki.
It was developed by the New Fukuoka – Hakata Wagashi Development Society. The latter was formed by members of the Fukuoka City Wagashi Union which is this year celebrating its 60th anniversary. They worked together to create a new Japanese pastry that would still be enjoyed in 100 years, and the fruit of their efforts was the Hakata Minazuki. It was launched in 1999, which means this year marks its 12th birthday, and many people have been looking forward to the start of sales this summer. The confection is made with adzuki beans and bracken powder, and is wrapped in a blade of bamboo grass. It comes in different flavors, including matcha tea and milk.The name “Minazuki” is the traditional word for June under the old calendar. In Kyoto, the custom has evolved of eating Minazuki on June 30, the halfway point of the year, to help make it through the summer months.
Hakata Minazuki will be available for purchase during the Nagoshi Taisai festival, which will take place at the Sumiyoshi shrine in Hakata Ward on July 30 and August 1. The traditional summer festival of Nagoshi is held at Sumiyoshi Shinto shrines throughout the country to pray for safety from illness and disasters during the season. Incidentally, there are 2,129 Sumiyoshi shrines in Japan, and most of them are next to the sea. The shrines in Osaka, Shimonoseki, and Hakata are known as the three great Sumiyoshi shrines of Japan.
The member shops of the Wagashi Development Society in Fukuoka City will also sell the confection until July 31. Try some—it might help you survive the summer heat!
Originally published in Fukuoka Now magazine (fn139, Jul. 2010)