I took a trip out to the nearby city of Hitachiota here in Ibaraki Prefecture. I spent the day visiting a number of different shrines and gardens, as well as a museum located inside a historical building that used to serve as their city hall.
Just as I was approaching the gates of my last shrine for the day, I was struck by this incredibly sweet smell wafting out of a tiny little sweet shop. The building was very conveniently located right beside the entrance to the shrine, and I couldn’t help but wander in right away. Apparently, the delicious smell was coming from a freshly steamed batch of miso manju. They were so fresh that the storekeeper hadn’t even had time to get them out yet! He actually went into the back to get one for me straight from the steamer.
Miso manju are a type of steamed bun with a light fluffy texture and a really pleasant molasses or maple like flavor. The batter has brown sugar and miso (soybean paste) in it, giving the outer layer a distinct color and taste. Inside, the bun is filled with sweet red bean jam. So simple, but absolutely delicious!
The little shop had a whole array of other freshly baked traditional sweets, as well as nostalgic snacks and candies that have apparently been sold in Japan since the mid 1900’s. Even just being inside the store itself was like travelling back in time!
After I had my fill of sweets, I finally made my way over to the shrine. Just like everywhere else I visited that day, it was so peaceful and serene. Unlike a lot of the shrines and temples in more urban areas of Japan, a lot of Hitachiota seems to be relatively undiscovered by tourists so it was almost dead silent. Such an amazing day!