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AD!Venture 2017.02.02 A Story of Manju ―  Part 3:  The Noneman Epic

A Story of Manju ―  Part 3:  The Noneman Epic

While chewing a bite-sized Noneman, thinking about a Japanese historical drama about Sakamoto Ryoma (the one featuring Masaharu Fukuyama, who looks just like this friend I had once, right down to the stiff, awkward posture), I debated taking a second treat. That was when I discovered the booklet in the manju box.
 

Opening the booklet, I found a poem…

 
“What is None Manju?
The easy to eat, single bite
Melt in your mouth thin outer shell
Refined sweetness and pleasing homemade feel…
The only ones to achieve this is
Our pride, you see, “Hamaguchi None Manju””

 
And an history, skipping through the hardships of decades like the tick on a clock’s second-hand…
 

 
*********
(The following is paraphrased and then some.)

 
After the Meiji Restoration, Samurai Jyutaro threw away his sword, went to None, and set up a sweets shop. His inheritor, Yasutaro, took over the shop in late Meiji and kept the business alive by bravely traversing the rocky terrain of Cape Muroto to peddle sweets on the shore and the surrounding towns. Unfortunately, while Yasutaro had been talented at his confectionary crafts, he also suffered from an unfortunate case of early death.

 
In a strange sort of premonition-like foresight, Yasutaro had prepared a record with all the secrets of his art before he died. The third generation inheritor, Takeshi, used this as record as a precious guide. Even though he was only yet 15 at the time, Takeshi rose to the challenge, with Yasutaro’s record in hand, and worked hard for many years. This did not prevent the war and its shortages from briefly closing its doors, but in Showa 23 (1948), Takeshi once more took up his trade.

 
Only two years later, in 1950, a great blessing befell upon the Hamaguchi sweets shop: the emperor came to visit the Tosa area (old name for Kochi) during his postwar tour of Japan to greet his subjects. By the grace of the Yamada House’s lady head-of-household (we can only assume these were very important, or else very lucky people), Takeshi was presented with the grand opportunity of presenting his sweets to his majesty himself.

 
From then, the sweets were patronized by not only the emperor, but the crown prince and the royal family on their occasional tours through Tosa. The shop gained popularity as a famous confectionary of the area.

 
The fourth generation, under inheritor Masao, saw an expansion of the business into Kochi City in Showa 39 (1964). And, although their market had expanded, Masao made sure they maintained their unembellished traditional flavor (or so it is written).

 
Under the fifth generation, (whose inheritor’s name is probably Shinji), in Heisei 10 (1999, and I’m finally alive during some of this epic!), they put out a shop by the unique 2.7 kilometer-long flower-strewn road through Katsuhara (known as 桂浜花街道, but with no apparent English name).

 
AND, in Heisei they just keep racking up honors:

 
Heisei 13 (2012), at the Tosa City Omote Sanke (School of Tea Ceremony) Convention, the shop was named the single-most place to purchase souvenir confectionaries.

 
Heisei 14 (2013) saw a repeat of history as there were opportunities to present the sweets to the current royal family; presented to Prince Akishino and his wife at the Kochi National Yosakoi (traditional dance) Summer Tournament; to the royal couple at the Fall Tournament; to the crown prince and his wife via “Yosakoi Pick”.

 
************

 
Color me a different sort of impressed.

 
But, swallowing my bite at last, I couldn’t help but to wonder:

 
Where was the mention of the Sengoku Era?
Where was mention of Sakamoto Ryoma, who died before the onset of the Meiji Era?
How did this line-up with Shacho’s story?

 
I flipped to the back.

 
Question Is it true that you’ve served sweets to traveling daimyo during the Edo Era?
Answer No, we have no written records that say anything like that, nor has that been part of our (unwritten) tradition. For starters, there was no shop that made Noneman during the Edo period.”

 
Well. That was rather final.

 
So, the Sakamoto Ryoma connection had been…a pretty cool story, I guess.

 
I grabbed a second manju. At least, in all this, I had learned the following: Noneman is, as had been promised, really good. And if nothing else, it had been fun pondering over this “New Year manju” mystery.

 
Now…who was going to tell Shacho?


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