Diving Deeper

Tsuwano’s Specialty Genji-maki Cake|源氏巻


Genji-maki is rolled cake, with red bean paste filling and a sponge cake (castella) roll, baked together. There are more than 10 confectioneries making this cake in Tsuwano, and while the base concept is the same, every shop has its own special touch to it, creating many different types of Genji-maki.

There is also a shop on the main street called Chikufu-ken, where one can make Genji-maki for oneself.

GPS: 34.469606, 131.774979  

Site: http://www.tikufu-ken.com/

The shop is on the main street, and the make-your-own-cake part of the shop is open on days when the SL Yamaguchi (steam locomotive between Shin-Yamaguchi and Tsuwano) is in operation, from 13:00 to 15:00 (exactly when the SL is in Tsuwano). The steam locomotive usually runs on weekends from March to November (with exception of 2-3 weeks at the end of June beginning of July). 


Everything is prepared for the visitor, one only has to pour out the dough, carefully shape the anzu sweet-bean paste onto the baking dough to the right size.  


After that the Genji-maki is rolled, not with hands, as it is too hot, but with small spatulas. 


The finished product, cut into one-bite pieces. Forgive me for the sloppy photos, but with hands sticky with the sweet-bean paste, and everything happening so fast, I could take artistic pictures. It was fun, doesn’t take too much out of the short time in Tsuwano, and you walk away with sponge-cake, picture and a memory.


The story of the Genji-maki

Genji-maki (cake) is a local speciality with a history going back a few hundred years. There is a legend telling the story how the last daimyou’s (domain lord) wife gave the name to this sweet-bean paste cake.

During the Edo period (1600-1868) the wives and children of the domain lords of Japan, were ordered by the Shougun to live in the capital (Edo), as hostages. They were the guarantee that the domain lords don’t rise up against the capital. Around the time the Edo shogunate ended, these wives and children were allowed back to their home. Some of the wives have never visited their land before, as they married at an early age, without leaving the capital. This was the case with the wife of Tsuwano domain’s last domain lord.

After the bustling Edo, the move to a rural castle town like Tsuwano had a toll on the lady, and she was seen being depressed quite often.

When a wealthy merchant heard this, he brought many gifts to the first lady of the domain. Among the many delicious sweets and cakes, the lady liked a simple cake the most, was a anzu (sweet beans) filled rolled sponge cake. When the me merchant asked the lady to give a name to the cake, the lady said that the purple anzu makes her remember a part of the Genji Monogatari, a famous ancient tale from Japan. The merchant was surprised to hear that the young lady is knowledgeable and fond of the ancient tales, and decided that the cake should be called Genji-maki (maki meaning roll, or scroll).

For more information about the SL Yamaguchi or the Genji-maki making experience, contact the Tsuwano Tourism Association at tsuwanok@tsuwano.net

(the Tourism Association can also give information about English tour guide and interpreter services)

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